Time is indifferent. It moves along on a forward trajectory with no regard to what you want, like slowing down when you’re on vacation or speeding up when you’re at work. It doesn’t care that with each ticking second that passes, you move one step closer to death and it has no regard for your past mistakes to offer you second chances. Is time real or something man made up? Can it be manipulated somewhere in the universe or is it unmalleable? Basically is time-travel possible?
ORIGINS is written and produced by award-winning author Jaimie Engle.
My all-time favorite movie is Back to the Future (and yes, that includes parts 2 and 3). I love the concept that someone can go back in time and make things right. It’s pretty much my job as an author: to build worlds and insert characters who mess up a lot, then I go in and restore order and balance. My first novel is about a boy who travels from my hometown back to 1485 England to rescue King Richard’s nephews from the Tower of London. When I learned about their story, I felt so bad for them and I wanted to offer them a second chance from the reality they experienced. My book gives me that chance until the day when time travel is a reality.
Time travel presents possibilities and limits simultaneously. In other words, you can’t travel through time because time is indifferent. It moves forward and doesn’t stop or slow down. But if life is a result of choices, coincidence, fated moments, and just plain luck then there are truly infinite worlds and universes with billions of different time lines. That’s one of my favorite parts of Back to the Future 2, when Marty and Doc travel to 1985 after fixing the future only to discover that Hill Valley is now the gates to Hell. They can’t go forward in time to make things right, since they are on an alternate time line from everyone else. They must go back to where the lines were spliced and work their way up through time from there. Of course they utilize the Grandfather Paradox, as evident in Marty’s siblings (and his hand) disappearing from existence. Think Terminator for a clearer picture: go back in time and kill your parents or grandparents and you’ll cease to exist. Or kill someone else’s and change history, like in Looper.
Another time travel story that blew me away was Stephen King’s 11/22/63. This was actually my first King novel and I’m hooked! The brilliance of a time portal in a restaurant pantry, the idiosyncrasies of the restaurant owner carrying the best beef at 1950s prices, and even the way you always enter the past at the same place, on the same day, at the same time kept me turning pages. I’m also a closet JFK conspiracy theory addict, so adding this string to time travel was like adding sprinkles to ice cream. Does it get any better? Ironically though, the portal in 11/22/63 opens in 1958, which is just 3 years after the Back to the Future timeline of 1955, a note that Doc makes in this quote:
“Unbelievable that Old Biff could’ve chosen that particular date. It could mean that that point in time inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance, almost as if it were the temporal junction point of the entire space-time continuum. On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence.”
Comparing the dates to King’s novel, is it a coincidence or a cosmic significance? Is it possible that there’s a weak joint or fissure in time in the late 1950s?
Albert Einstein believed time was relative to the beholder; an illusion, not a constant. Referred to as the “fourth dimension” it adds direction to the three-dimensional arena of space, which includes length, width, and height. Now Einstein’s theory dictates that time speeds and slows depending on your relation to something else. Take for example a tennis ball on a train. If you were to throw a tennis ball in the air on a train moving 60 miles per hour, the length that ball will travel increases in direct proportion to the distance the train traveled while the ball was in the air. If someone standing on the platform threw a tennis ball at the same moment, that ball wouldn’t travel nearly as far. It would move slower because the person throwing the ball would take more time to travel the same distance. Now, you add gravity to the mix, and things begin to get fun.
When an object with a mass sits on the space-time fabric, it leaves a dimple or bend behind. This curve is what makes gravity exist. So take an astronaut in space and bring him home and he’s actually slightly younger than his or her “twin” who stayed behind on Earth. This is because of time dilation, the effect of gravity on something or someone in space relative to the observers on the ground. It’s pretty awesome to think about it that way…that “time travel” happens but just not in a DeLorean. If you were able to travel around the Earth fast enough, long enough, you would experience very little aging while those left behind might age dramatically. To them, you would have time travelled. To you, you would just be feeling quite a bit of jet lag.
One possible scientific approach to time travel is the idea of wormholes. Other science based theories include Astronomer Frank Tipler’s Infinite Cylinder theory, passing near a black hole, and cosmic strings which lie either in infinite lines or loops. Still, my favorite is the good old time machine (and a wonderful Wells classic whether you read the book or watch the films.) Now, I’m not well-studied in this area, so please no nasty comments on where my theories have gone awry. I’m fascinated by the mere possibility that we could one day travel through time to multiple universes or just even the end of our own universe. I don’t believe for a second that time travel is real, but rather the wonder of a prospect that we could enter different strings of the fabric of time where alternate realities are taking place. That captivates me to no end.
And while it may be impractical or even impossible, when has that ever stopped people from believing in it? Let’s take a look at some real life cases of claimed time travel:
John Titor claims to have built a time machine out of the back of his Buick. His mission was to return to 1975 from 2035 to find an IBM 5100, the first 55 pound “portable” laptop. His story erupted on chatrooms in 2000, and when he was asked why he was here, he replied he was on a layover, like one would expect when flying. Another man named Eugene Helton, a.k.a. Von Helton or “Patient 1164,” actually has photographic evidence that he travelled to 1857, 1916, and to Germany in 1945. Perhaps they are real pictures. Perhaps they are his Doppelgangers (a topic for a future podcast). I’d like to believe they’re him, but sometimes even hard evidence isn’t enough. In 1901, two schoolteachers visiting the Versailles Gardens named Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain claimed they left the grounds and crossed a bridge. There they entered a “time slip” and witnessed dozens of travelers wearing 1700s style clothing. They returned the following day with their claims and, when skeptics went to search out the bridge they’d crossed, it didn’t exist.
How about time travelling from the comfort of your own home? Father Pellegrino Ernetti invented the Chronovisor, a television-like device that shows historical events upon request. The Father did admit to faking the whole thing upon his deathbed, but I would love to get my hands on a Chronovisor. Anyone selling one on Ebay? Remember the time portal in the pantry? Well, Hakan Norkdvist swears he found a tunnel while fixing his kitchen sink that delivered him to his 70 year old self. What makes his story unique is that he filmed it with his cell phone, focusing on the similar tattoos between himself and his future counterpart, but failing to explain why his future self was so much taller and why they didn’t resemble each other in any other way. Besides, if I went into the future and still had cell service, the least most interesting thing to capture for posterity would be me. I’d be out filming every inch of everything I could, and doing it all through Facebook live, just to be safe.
A man named Andrew Carlssin is the very reason why time travel is bad. He used the concept to make more than $350 million bucks after claiming he came back from the year 2256, with knowledge of how to cure AIDS, where to find Osama Bin Laden, along with complete precognition to investment markets, secrets he would gladly share if he could go back to his ship. Now, I’m not sure where the money came from, but maybe he had one of those sports almanacs for stocks and bonds.
Archaeology seems to go hand in hand with time travel. Here’s a pretty interesting one that reminds me of Michael Crichton’s book Timeline. In 2008, Chinese archaeologists uncovered the undisturbed coffin of a 400 year old Si Qui tomb. Only inside they found a watch with the time frozen at 10:06 and the word “Swiss” clearly engraved on the backside. A very similar plot twist occurs in Timeline, although this novel came out in 2003 nearly five years before the tomb was discovered. Pasko Kusman, a Macedonian archaeologist wears multiple watches that he believes are time portals. One ports him to the Bronze Age, one to the Neolithic Age, one to the future, and one actually alerts him to gold. I think this story is my favorite and I would love to utilize the concept of time traveling watches to find gold. Maybe a steampunk pirate style tale. What do you think?
This final story is about a car driving down Highway 167 carrying two businessmen in 1969. It was a beautiful fall day and the air blew crisp. The men, L.C. and Charlie, had just finished their business in Abbeville, Louisiana, and were driving north to Lafayette. Up ahead on a curve beneath the canopy of branches that clasped as arms overhead, a mint condition antique car came into view. As they neared, they read the license plate which stated only 1940, so the two men assumed it was travelling to or from a nearby car show. As they passed the immaculate vehicle, they noticed a beautiful young woman behind the wheel, her hair pinned in a bob, her lips stained with bright red lipstick, and she wore a sleeveless V-neck dress, reminiscent of the 1940s style. Beside her, sat a small child in shorts and a white button-down shirt with short sleeves. The whole package, from the car to its occupants, reeked of 1940s era flare.
The men assumed the car’s owner was role playing or getting into character, until they passed her and she looked out her window. Her bright blue eyes screamed panic and confusion, and the two men instantly grew concerned. L.C. asked the woman if she needed help and she nodded through her closed window. He indicated that she should pull over and Charlie drove the car in front of her then parked on the shoulder. Only the woman didn’t follow. In fact, the woman, the child, and the car had vanished into thin air, an impossibility with no roadway but Highway 167 in either direction for miles. Where had she disappeared to? To make matters worse, moments later a second vehicle pulled up alongside the businessmen to tell them that he had watched them pull over and then he too had witnessed the old car vanish right before his eyes.
I’m Jaimie Engle and you’ve just discovered ORIGINS.
ORIGINS is a bi-weekly podcast that shares the story behind legends and lore, where myth and science meet; written and produced by me, award-winning author Jaimie Engle of The Write Engle. If you like stories with a supernatural slant, I happen to write them. In fact, I have a new book releasing this summer. It’s a collection of my supernatural, humor, and historical short stories titled The Toilet Papers: Places to Go, While you Go. Please follow on all social media @theWRITEengle. I follow back. As always, subscribing, liking, and sharing this podcast is your greatest compliment. Thank you. And finally, if you’d like to stick around you can hear a sample from Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light, published by Beacon Audiobooks and available on Amazon.
# # #
Music by Ferruccio Busoni http://www.musopen.org