Leturgey Musings and Goings On

These are some of my writings...from events going on in the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance and elsewhere, to observations from the rest of my decidely unformulaic life.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

John Titor: The First Cyber Legend

[This is my cover story, which ran in The Front, dated August 1, 2005]

John Titor: The First Cyber Legend
By Tom Leturgey

Time travel. An entire sub-genre of Science Fiction is dedicated to the theory, from the original Star Trek crew traveling back to take on Germans, to Marty McFly’s repeatedly visiting Doc Brown’s 1955, to H.G.’s Wells’ tracking Jack The Ripper in 1979’s "Time After Time," (also starring Doc Brown’s wife, Mary Steenburgen).
But seriously, there are folks in our current time who claim to have seen the future.
In late 200 and early 2001, a self-described military man (a few describe him as a member of a militia) who dubbed himself "Time Traveler Zero" wrote on Internet posting boards and purported being a temporal displacement driver in the service of "Temporal Reacon" from 2036.
Time Traveler Zero, who also identified himself as John Titor, said that he had originally traveled back to 1975 to retrieve a particular IBM model portable computer. The computer, model 5100, was needed by his leaders in his society to retrofit computers when UNIX code fails in 2038. The computer was actually manufactured in Rochester, Minnesota before the days of portable laptops. John mentioned that the 5100 was built with the ability to translate computer languages, thus it is a valuable tool in 2036.
As the story goes, Titor was the chosen for the mission because his grandfather was an IBM engineer who had a hand in building the computer in Rochester and John was able to convince him to hand it over. Apparently tickled by the experience or perhaps sent on follow up missions, Titor may have returned in 1998 around the time of his actual "modern day" birth, and then again for a peculiar "pop in" to his parents in Florida, and his "two-year-old self" two years later. It’s unsure whether Titor stayed with his parents during his move recent mission, but Internet postings say that the time traveler liked to take his toddler self on car rides.
That’s also when his wildly cult-popular Internet postings, highlighted by remembrances of a 2015 thermonuclear World War and Nostradamus-like predictions began.
Reading through dozens of archived "chats," Titor writes in the most abstract terms, largely to an accepting, non-critical flock. Less than six months after the postings started, Titor claimed that it was time for him to leave our "worldline" and return to 2036. The Internet chats abruptly stopped, but not before inspiring fans and followers to wax poetic about their blossoming folk hero. Type John Titor into Google’s search engine and you’ll find 54,700 entries; 185,000 on Yahoo.
More about that to follow.
According to a quick scan of bigyellow.com, there are only five Titor entries registered in our nation’s telephone books, none in Florida and none in Minnesota. The five that are listed are relegated to the Northeast. Based solely on the volumes of predictions attributed to John Titor in the past four years, every modern-day Titor has answered their phone at 2:00 in the morning and fielded a call asking for John. Assuredly, any Titor in Florida would have had their phone number de-listed the day after John started chatting online.
Just like any other good story, from Sasquatch encounters to maps to D.B. Coopers’ money, the John Titor tale has certainly hit a chord with the George Noory crowd. Even some who have chronicled the story seem to question the validity of the time traveler. "It doesn’t matter whether John Titor was real, or his story true. His tale boggles the mind, whether he was who he said he was, or an astoundingly resourceful trickster," says one online poster.
Supporters say Titor provided schematics, diagrams, photographs, and documents from his service in a "Temporal Recon time travel unit" in 2036. They add that the visual aids can be "laughed at or marveled at (or both)."
Compare those assertions to Titor’s actual writings and you’ll have vastly different takes on his contributions.
While threads of Titor’s original postings have largely been wiped off the Internet, fans continue to share what they can still find in their personal archives, and continue to add to an absurdly prolific legacy.
Recently, the fansite Johntitor.com was down, but in late July, it suddenly returned with lots of links and news related to the infamous time traveler. According to the website, in June, a professional dancer named Caitlyn Carradine performed an interactive ballet dance honoring both Titor and time traveling in southern California. Six dates featuring the Mira Sorvino lookalike were scheduled with general admission tickets selling for $10 a piece, but according to the theater’s website, no one who wanted to enjoy ballet was turned away due to lack of funds.
The following review for the performance was posted: ""...your show is outta the box... Truly, for so many reasons, an unforgettable and deep experience. ... Your dance is an aurora pressed against a shiny black night!"--Van Dyke Parks, maverick composer, musician, producer extraordinaire!"
Another boasted: ""... Carradine just might be the future. ... keep an eye on this one. She's going to grow rapidly."-Molly Freedenberg, Senior Arts Writer, VCRepoter."
Titor is in esteemed company—in August, Carradine is scheduled to perform: "Mr. Entertainment: A One-Woman Ballet Tribute to Sammy Davis, Jr."
Some of Titor’s remaining posts are both awe-inspiring as well as staggering in their simplicity and naiveté. When a woman named Pamela asks him about life a scant 31 years in the future, Titor as Timetravel_0 responds, "I remember 2036 very clearly." If Titor was gone for only six months on that most recent visit, why would he say "remember" about half-a-year-ago his time?
Titor answers questions like a space alien would, on holiday to the planet with only a vague understanding of our culture and ways of life. When asked about meeting "himself" while on a time travel mission, he retorts, "There is a saying where I come from....Every possible thing that can happen or will happen has already happened somewhere." The use of the phrase "where I come from" indicates either a poor choice of words or a slip of self-awareness. Regardless, it’s socially and grammatically awkward.
Titor’s explanation of everyday 2036 actually sounds like a biblical tale, "The people that survived (the war that killed three billion people) grew closer together. Life is centered around the family and then the community. I can not imagine living even a few hundred miles away from my parents. There is no large industrial complex creating masses of useless food and recreational items. Food and livestock is grown and sold locally. People spend much more time reading and talking together face to face. Religion is taken seriously and everyone can (multiply) and divide in (their) heads."
The tone of Titor’s writings is largely simple, and pastoral in a way. "Personally, I believe spiritual awakening is difficult," he wrote. "Why? I think God wants us back but the road we have to haul is no picnic. Maybe he’s a little angry for some reason."
He continues, "I think the world is seductively clever in its presentation. ‘It’ wants us to stay here and it distracts us from God by creating want, greed and four or five other motivations. Our goal should be to; yes, have faith and do good deeds but also look past that and have the wisdom and knowledge to realize that this place, this world, this universe is not really our home. The question I ask myself is not can I get to God, it's am I prepared for what will it be like when I get there."
When he was asked about what it’s physically like to travel through time, Titor responded, "The unit has a ramp up time after the destination coordinates are fed into the computers. An audible alarm and a small light start a short countdown at which point you should be secured in a seat. The gravity field generated by the unit overtakes you very quickly. You feel a tug toward the unit similar to rising quickly in an elevator and it continues to rise based on the power setting the unit is working under. At 100% power, the constant pull of gravity can be as high as 2 Gs or more depending on how close you are to the unit. There are no serious side effects but I try to avoid eating before a flight.
No bright flash of light is seen. Outside, the vehicle appears to accelerate as the light is bent around it. We have to wear sunglasses or close our eyes as this happens due to a short burst of ultraviolet radiation. Personally I think it looks like your driving under a rainbow. After that, it appears to fade to black and remains totally black until the unit is turned off. We are advised to keep the windows closed as a great deal of heat builds up outside the car. The gravity field also traps a small air pocket around the car that acts as your only O2 supply unless you bring compressed air with you. This pocket will only last for a short period and a carbon sensor tells us when it's too dangerous. The C204 unit is accurate from 50 to 60 years a jump and travels at about 10 years an hour at 100% power."
Simply put, the guy’s either ridden in a time machine that for some reason has operational windows that may malfunction and flood the cockpit with scorching flames, or he can spin a Sci-Fi yarn of Josh Whedon proportions.
By February and March, 2001, less than six months before the tragedies of September 11, Titor was writing about a more simplistic life, hoarding drinkable water, riding horses and bicycles instead of automobiles or sport utility vehicles. With less than a year before the World Trade Centers would fall, Titor didn’t even hint more specifically about the impending "War on Terror" or his on "Hell’s Kitchen" World War that was looming just around the corner.
Some supporters say that Titor dropped hints.
Hogwash, read the archives.
His history lessons beginning in 2004 warns of a United States "Civil War" that comes about due to the installment of a police state. While modern activist groups may draw comparisons to a "police station" and the President Bush-lead Patriot Act, a "Civil War" between blue and red states continues to look unlikely. Even so, some observers couldn’t help but notice that Titor started his Internet postings not long after the disputed 2000 Presidential elections, and the role Florida had in its outcome.
Other "chilling" predictions couldn’t have been more wrong.
In a little-documented 1998 stay, Titor reportedly wrote two faxes to then-weeknight Coast to Coast AM radio host Art Bell. The second fax urged Bell to reconsider his opinions concerning "Russians" who supposedly save "millions" of Americans, yet is the genesis for the next World War. In the other, Titor warns of mayhem caused during the Y2K turn of the Century. "Y2K is a disaster," Titor wrote (editor’s note: Titor’s misspellings of several key countries have been corrected). "Many people die on the highways when they freeze to death trying to get to warmer weather. The government tries to keep power by instituting Marshall Law but all of it collapses when their efforts to bring the power back up fail. A few years later communal government system is developed after the constitution takes a few twists. China retakes Taiwan. Israel wins the largest battle for their life and Russia is covered in nuclear snow from their collapsed reactors."
Those who revere him say he predicted epidemic mad cow disease and Chinese space flight, just to name a few. And perhaps disappointing to the environmentalist Global Warming crowd, Titor says, "the ice caps are not melting any faster than they are now," and despite a cataclysmic thermonuclear winter only a decade away, "there is also far less smog and industrial waste in 2036."
In 2003, the most recent Internet prediction tracker poster blindly attributed a number of Titor’s politically-charged prophecies as being irrefutably correct, including a charge of "no Weapons of Mass Destruction were found in Iraq." In actuality, the official conclusion that WMD’s could not be currently found in Iraq was released in 2004. In any case, the "prediction" cannot be considered groundbreaking.
In addition, Titor was evidently front-and-center on that "Pope Benedict XVI is the Anti-Christ" bandwagon, along with dozens of other conspiracy crazies. Supporters also believe Hillary Clinton will be President in 2009.
And because of the "upcoming Civil War," sports fans shouldn’t be anticipating Olympics games anytime soon. Titor fans, without any source material whatsoever, say there won’t be another games until 2040.
Oddly, supporters interpret Titor’s political leanings in different ways. They champion both liberal ideas and hard right conservative ideals. They say the "new" Constitutional Congress in 2020 will adopt an "old published vision circa 1770’s." But they also claim that Civil liberties will be reduced, and that "the Middle East will always be a problem."
To be fair, Titor seemingly came alive when people online asked him about the specific scientific and/or mathematical genesis of time travel, "Time travel is achieved by altering gravity. This concept is already proven by atomic clock experiments. The closer an observer is to a gravity source (high mass), the slower time passes for them. Traveling at high speeds mimics this effect which = the twin paradox of faster than light travel. However, this type of gravity manipulation is not sufficient to alter your world line. The basic math to alter world lines exists right now. Tipler first described a working "time machine" through his theory of massive rotating spheres."
He continued, "Certain types of black holes also exhibit the "time travel" abilities of Tipler cylinders. Kerr was one of the first to describe the dual event horizons of a rotating black hole. As with Tipler's cylinders, it was possible to travel on a "time-like" trip through a Kerr black hole and end up in a different world line without being squished by the gravity of the singularity."
Some fans and followers say he "presented a credible theory and description of time travel, both how it works, and how he does it. He clearly depicts the prevailing thinking, from Stephen Hawking to Philip K. Dick, on alternate worldlines and the mutability of time."
Titor’s paperback, "A Time Traveler’s Tale" is available on the fansite, as well as other websites for a reasonable $14.99. Recently on eBay there were two "John Titor" items—a Terminator 3 kid’s watch and a plain packaging envelope that was supposedly used by a lesser-known time traveler—apparently Titor’s name continues to have cache with the collectibles crowd.
Titor’s name continues to come up on both George Noory’s and Art Bell’s overnight talk shows and Hustler Magazine ran a story on the legend earlier this year. Rochester, Minnesota’s Post-Bulletin was scheduled to print a story about Titor’s doom and gloom declarations, but the online link has since been removed. Someone claiming to be Titor’s modern-day mother sent a meticulously hand-written letter to the johntitor.com website, announcing the Hustler and Post-Bulletin nods. The letter is written with old-world cursive in perfectly straight lines, even though the paper itself doesn’t have lines, and it is signed, "John’s Mother." In other words, it could have been written by anyone.
The biggest question concerning John Titor—if he ever existed remains—what happened to him? If he’s around in our modern time, he’d most likely be getting ready to start the third grade in Florida. Due to his cyber visits and the overall popularity of the Internet, an 8-year-old John Titor couldn’t exist without a name change. Does he take his name back after he graduates college and before entering the military?
Tabloid journalists would quickly pair Titor up with Bat Boy to battle Fidel Castro’s genetically-enhanced sharks that have bet set loose on Floridian (Titor’s home state) swimmers and would be hot on the trail of the most likely already-dead Osama Bin Laden.
Or if Titor got back into his time machine, there’s always the chance that he could have left a window open and returned to a different parallel universe. In one of his posts, Titor noted that, "getting back to my ‘proper’ universe is tricky but possible. Yes, another jump would take me to a different family." Could he have also landed back home and found that his superiors weren’t happy with Internet chats? Could he have been fired from the project and continued to languish in a vastly unspectacular 2036? Will John Titor ever come back, or has the Internet "exploded" into such an all-encompassing venue that he would not be able to conduct a mission without triggering a fan homage?
The cyber legend that is John Titor simply isn’t breathtaking enough to be taken seriously. Nor is it blatantly bad enough to be considered an outright hoax. The author was smart enough to weave an interesting narrative, but read between the lines and you’ll see a backstory is full of holes. Supporters have conveniently taken splinters of ideas and turned them into copius volumes, all shoe-horned around their own particular agenda.
Perhaps the phonetic reversal of Titor’s last name, Rotit, or "Wrote-It" at least gives supporters something to read online in the present…and future.