On the Pacific Standard magazine, Rick Paulas looks into the mistery behind John Titor, self proclaimed time-traveller who started posting on the Internet claiming to be from the future -- even predicting the end of the world -- until, one day, he disappeared. Hoax or Time Traveller?
In late 2000, that person signed onto the Internet.
A poster going by the screennames TimeTravel_0 and John Titor on a variety of message boards, beginning with the forum at the Time Travel Institute, claimed he was a soldier sent from 2036, the year the computer virus wiped the world. His mission was to head back to 1975 in order to snatch-and-grab an IBM 5100 computer, which had the necessary equipment to fight the future virus. (His detour to the year 2000 was simply to get a little R&R while visiting his three-year-old self, ignoring every fabric-of-time paradox rule from time-travel stories.) Over the next four months, Titor responded to every question other posters had, describing future events in poetically-phrased ways, always submitted with a general disclaimer that alternate realities do exist, so his reality may not be our own. In between dire urgings to learn first aid and stop eating beef Mad Cow was a serious threat in his reality Titor provided a number of technical specs regarding how time travel worked, with overly complex algorithms and grainy, hard-to-make-out photos of his actual machine. (Which, yes, of course, was an automobile: a 1987 Chevy Suburban.) He even showed off his cool futuristic military insignia.
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 home. He was never heard from again.
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