JOHN TITOR A TIME TRAVELER'S TALE: INC, THE JOHN TITOR

A person named "John Titor" started posting on the Internet one day, claiming lớn be from the future and predicting the kết thúc of the world. Then he suddenly disappeared, never to be heard from again.

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This is our planet’s bleak future: a second Civil War splinters America inkhổng lồ five factions, leaving the new capital based in Omaha. World War III breaks out in năm ngoái, starting with Russia & the U.S. trading nukes và ending with three billion dead. Then, khổng lồ top it all off, a computer bug delivers where Y2K sputtered, destroying our world as we know it. That is, unless an audacious time traveler successfully traverses the space-time continuum khổng lồ change the course of future history.


In late 2000, that person signed onlớn the Internet.


On March 24, 2001, Titor offered his final piece of advice (“Bring a gas can with you when the car dies on the side of the road”), signed off forever, and returned trang chủ. He was never heard from again.

Today, everything posted online gets a healthy dose of skepticism. Let's Hotline it the Post-Snopes Era. We've been conditioned lớn suspect everything.

IN 2003, TITOR FAN Oliver Williams—some may want to lớn put “fan” in quotation marks, simply because of the numerous unsubstantiated theories that Williams himself is/was Titor—launched JohnTitor.com, which tracks Titor’s predictions and offers a compendium of all of his 151 posts. In 2004, members of George Mason University threw together a multitruyền thông rochồng opera based on Titor. A summary of the tale at io9.com garnered over 103,000 hits in 2011. And, according lớn IMDB, a feature-length film about Titor is in the pipeline. What seemingly should have sầu been dismissed as a four-month hoax, the work of some nerd killing time at his boring temp job, somehow turned inlớn a phenomenon.

Since the beginning of the mysterious posts, Art Bell's popular late-night radio program “Coast khổng lồ Coast AM,” a nationally-syndicated show that covers pretty much everything that'd fit comfortably inlớn an episode of The X-Files, has been the go-khổng lồ place for all things Titor. George Noory, who replaced Bell in 2003, has continued carrying the torch, devoting entire episodes lớn the ongoing mystery, fielding inane questions from callers & somehow answering with a straight face. (Examples: “Is there any way that Titor could be a godsover, sent as an angel, to warn us?” và “Do you think there's any possibility he was a space alien? I'll hang up and listen.”) In 2006, a lawyer named Lawrence Haber, who claimed to lớn represent Kay Titor, a woman alleging to lớn be John's mother, contacted Noory. An interview followed between Noory và Kay—with Haber acting as a phone go-between—and it ended up answering, well, pretty much nothing at all.


After that episode, the show intermittently tracked Titor's proposed timeline, looking at current events lượt thích tea leaves, possible harbingers of a nuclear armageddon. But as the false predictions piled up—while many of Titor's descriptions are vague enough to lớn be considered “not yet disproved,” he did also claim there would be no Olympic Games after 2004—the tìm kiếm for Titor shifted from “Is this real?” lớn “Who deceived us?”

IN 2003, THE JOTP Hà Nội Titor Foundation, a for-profit Limited Liability Corporation, self-published John Titor: A Time Traveler's Tale, which is essentially a bound copy of the message board posts. (Used copies of this are currently going for $130 a pop on Amazon.) The Italian investigative TV show Voyager took up the case in 2008, hiring a private eye to lớn locate the folks behind the LLC, & a tìm kiếm led back to the aforementioned Lawrence Haber, who was listed as the company's CEO. An investigation by amateur sleuth John Hughston, who also goes by the name “Razimus,” uncovered a mysterious P..O. Box in Celebration, Florida, belonging to lớn the LLC. A group of friends with some downtime between gigs at their production company checked out the P..O. Box themselves but found nothing worthwhile. At some point, JohnTitorFoundation.com was created, offering some kind of nonsensical secret code khổng lồ digital passersby. And just a week ago, Hughston released another video—this one 40 minutes long—in which he names Haber’s brother, Morey, as his prime suspect by using a side-by-side analysis of phrase-usage, which, lớn be kind, is not exactly a slam dunk.


(Weirder side note: In 2004, a computer engineer named Marlin Pohlman filed a patent for a time travel machine that “back-engineered” concepts in the Titor posts. This started another round of speculation that Pohlman, himself, was the original Titor poster. Last March, he was arrested for drugging & sexually assaulting four women.)

The tìm kiếm for Titor, then, has become more convoluted than Oliver Stone taking on the 9/11 conspiracy. A new piece of information comes out, a tech-savvy kid with some time to kill sees it, decides to lớn give sầu the puzzle a shot, and on & on it goes, the cycle never reaching an over. The trail burns hot, the trail goes cold, but the trail never disappears. There have been countless blog posts và armchair investigations—a Google tìm kiếm for “John Titor solution” bounces bachồng with 325,000 results—but nothing’s come close khổng lồ finding a worthwhile solution. An itch in the bachồng of the throat remains, unscratched.

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But why?

The Titor legend persists because no one ever claimed lớn be behind it. Now that we won’t be fooled, we need an answer. It’s the Zeigarnik effect; when something’s not wrapped up, it preoccupies our memory.

LAST MONTH, BRIAN DUNNING, a writer & producer specializing on the subject of skepticism, devoted an entire episode of his aptly-named podcast Skeptoid to lớn the John Titor phenomenon, less focused on who it might have been và more about that question: why does something without any merit still have legs as an urban legend?

“Now that the number of unsubstantiated claims on the Internet is somewhat larger than the factorial of the square of all the large numbers ever conceived separated by arrow notation,” said Dunning on his podcast, “it would be a lot harder lớn achieve John Titor's celebrity.”


Today, everything posted online gets a healthy dose of skepticism. Let's hotline it the Post-Snopes Era. We've been conditioned—from everyone having access khổng lồ Photocửa hàng, to Punk'd and Jackass, to found footage films, to lớn big budget viral sale campaigns, lớn emails from faux Nigerian princes offering a portion of their riches if we simply sover them our bank tài khoản number—lớn suspect everything. Every video of a cát performing a spectacular feat is met with at least one commenter decrying “FAKE!” The Titor story, from a time when we were all so innocent, a time that was less than 15 years ago, came right before things started to change.


And the Titor legkết thúc persists, in part, because no one ever claimed lớn be behind it. Now that we won’t be fooled, we need an answer. It’s the Zeigarnik effect; when something’s not wrapped up, it preoccupies our memory. Our skepticism needs a các buổi tiệc nhỏ responsible, a grand designer that allows it to lớn make sense. When we find out—think the wizard behind the curtain in Oz, or whoever Jacob was supposed to be in that final season of Lost—the mystery ends. No one has claimed Titor, so the story continues.

There are some obvious connections for conspiracy theorists—the fracturing of governments, underground bunkers—but, for everyone else, there’s this: time travel stories are freaking cool. “This is a superpower that everyone would love sầu to lớn have,” said Dunning. “We all want John Titor lớn actually be from the future.” Who among us didn't spend idle moments of our youth wondering about flying cars & hoverboards, or what life was lượt thích baông chồng in the Old West. In fact, when I asked Hughston, the sleuth blogger, why he was initially drawn khổng lồ Titor, he said that he'd been “a big tín đồ of time travel since about 1985,” the year Bachồng to the Future was released.


But there's also a much easier explanation. “The John Titor story is popular,” Dunning said, “simply because that happens to lớn be one of the stories that became popular.” If Titor wasn't leading conspiracy-minded White dudes in their post-graduate years of boredom and confusion down a rabbit hole of mystery, something else would. It's Urban Legkết thúc Darwinism. Among all of the hoaxes, Internet rumors, ghost stories, & Satanic voices you can hear if you play the vinyl backwards, some have sầu to lớn become popular. Might as well be Titor.

There is one other (distant, remote, nearly scientifically impossible) possibility, though.

“ONE OF THE KEYS khổng lồ cracking the Titor question,” starts an gmail by someone who goes by the name Temporal Recon, “is to just allow for the possibility that time travel very well could be true.”

The great thing about time travel: the story cannot be refuted. If events don't happen as the traveler says, that's because the traveler changed the timeline. “Many never even get off the ground in their retìm kiếm due khổng lồ this very limiting view,” T.R. said. “They simply don't believe that the human race will ever conquer time. 'Ever' is a very long time, Riông xã.”

There's a particular point-of-view that seems khổng lồ evolve sầu within every amateur Titor investigator I encountered. As the puzzle fails to lớn be solved, when no serious candidates present themselves, the goal of locating the hoaxster morphs ever so slightly, allowing in the possibility that maybe, just maybe, time travel could be real. “Look, of course John Titor didn't travel through time,” they’ll say, only to lớn dramatically shift with the addendum, “but let's say he did.”


If you squint hard enough—and forget about the last four Olympics—things will always begin khổng lồ resemble what you want to lớn see, especially when reality’s only a minor quibble.

I mean, couldn't the political differences that continue khổng lồ separate America into red states và blue states be precursors lớn the Second Civil War?U.S.–Russian relations have sầu been kind of strange lately, haven't they?The history of 2015, when Russia and the U.S. nuke each other inlớn oblivion, is still yet to lớn be written!

Then T.R. writes a sentence that haunts me, one that will no doubt tip me over the edge on a course to lớn try to solve sầu the mystery, khổng lồ locate the poster, or maybe a precocious kid now armed with a learner's permit who once met his future self. Graphs & charts will mass, blanketing my small studio apartment, where I'll only need a bare mattress in the corner, a pizza on the way, & a computer with browser tabs parked on obscure pages of note, set khổng lồ auto-refresh. Friendships và relationships and family will drift into the ether; there are only so many hours in the day. Hands will blister, fingers will ink-stain, eyes will learn khổng lồ scan for men in blachồng suits, or white coats, or some combination thereof.