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Room 101


Timeslip: Is Time Travel Possible?

Recently, my old interest in 'ghosts' and what might best be described as the "pure paranormal" has been somewhat reawaken by watching the complete series of Ghost Hunters on DVD. I'm referring to the excellent British scientific documentary series from the mid 1990s, of course. Not the terrible (but undoubtedly far more successful) American reality TV show of the same name.

In hindsight, it was probably over-the-top melodramas like the American Ghost Hunters and its many British counterparts (full of people just screaming in the dark) that put my hitherto strong interest in the grip of a sleeper hold in the first place. Anyway, while my rekindled interest in 'ghosts' and the like lasts, I thought it might be a good idea to write up some paranormal type pieces for Room 101. So, this fortnight (in what might become the first in a paranormal trilogy of articles) we're going to examine probably the strangest, but no doubt also most absorbing of paranormal happenings ... the "timeslip" or time travel experience.

Put simply a "timeslip" is an alleged paranormal phenomenon in which a person, or even group of people, seem to somehow travel through time via apparently supernatural (as opposed to technological) means. Now, admittedly, the whole notion sounds like it was ripped straight from the pages of a Doctor Who script. Time travel, naturally, has been a stable of science fiction and fantasy ever since H G Wells wrote the Time Machine.

Before we dismiss the possibility out of hand, though, perhaps it's worth remembering that a wide range of highly prestigious theoretical physicists and other scientists (both past and present) have gone on record with some very strange ideas about the true nature and behaviour of the fourth dimension.

It was no less than Albert Einstein, remember, who first laid down the foundation for the theoretical possibility of time travel with his famous "special theory of relativity." One of the very strange (but now proven) consequences of special relativity being that time slows down as you approach the speed of light, stopping completely for anything able to travel at light speed. Which, of course, logically implies that time might conceivably run backwards if you were somehow able to travel faster than light.

Further, the theory that time could run in reverse might sound ridiculous but that's exactly what Steven Hawking suggests might be the fate of us all in his excellent book A Brief History of Time. In the bestseller, the "smartest man alive" not only speculates that our expanding Universe might eventually begin contracting but, further, that if this "Big Crunch" ever really does take place it's perfectly possible that time might start reversing too. Strange as it sounds, we might all one day be forced to live our lives again. Only this time backwards!

Back to the timeslip phenomenon. There is no question that some of mankind's greatest intellects have taken the theoretical possibility of time travel very seriously. However, as discussed, only in the most extreme circumstances imaginable. Such as travelling at superluminal velocities or the Universe imploding. But what about in our daily lives? Is it possible to go round a strange corner and walk into another time and place?

Amazingly, there are many accounts of sane and credible people who believe this is precisely what has happened to them. One of the most well publicised cases, in Britain at least, is that of the Simpsons and the Gisbys.

The 1979 incident featured prominently in a memorable episode of the ITV television series Strange But True? In the programme (now being regularly shown in the UK on the Paranormal Channel) the two English couples described how while traveling through France en route to a holiday in Spain they stayed the night at a strangely antiquated hotel. Bedding in somewhat basic rooms they were a little unnerved to discover no glass in any of the building's windows, only wooden shutters that closed from the outside.

It wasn't just the building though, all the people they met (everyone from police officers to locals) seemed strangely old fashioned too. Dressing almost as if they had just stepped out of the 19th century. In fact, everything even the knifes and forks everybody ate with seemed outdated. Not being able to speak much French, the English couples couldn't ask about it.

Putting all the strange anachronisms down to simply being in rural France and impressed by the mere 18 francs their stay had cost them, the four decided to look for the same hotel again on their return journey. However, this time, despite searching for several hours, they were unable to find it again. What more, when they returned home they were puzzled when all the photos they had taken there turned out blank. As if the hotel and its inhabitants had somehow simply vanished, disappearing even from their film negatives.

If Simpsons and the Gisbys really did, as it seems, travel back in time about a hundred years or so though: why did their hosts accept 1970s style currency? Assuming the foursome didn't just invent their story (though why would they?) it would seem to suggest there could be a lot more to this type of experience than one might first imagine.

Any serious student of the paranormal, of course, could come up with a whole range of incredible suggestions. Perhaps we're dealing with god-like Tricksters playing games with mortal men for their own childish amusement? However, before we begin to speculate perhaps it would be wise to briefly consider another well known case first.

There are plenty to choose from but easily the most credible involved no less than the great philosopher and psychiatrist Carl Jung. According to the famous thinker, while traveling through Italy in the 1930s he visited the tomb of a Roman Empress in Ravenna. Impressed with the remarkable beauty of the mosaics depicting maritime scenes in an eerily pale blue light, he discussed them with his companion for about half an hour and, on leaving the mausoleum, even tried to purchase postcards of them. Surprisingly though there weren't any.

Some time later, Jung asked a friend visiting Ravenna if he could obtain pictures for him. It was only after seeing them that he finally learned the truth. The mosaics he had seen and discussed in great detail were totally different to the mosaics now decorating the mausoleum. However, they did exist once but had been destroyed in a fire some 700 years previously.

So what is going on? Jung was personally convinced that his consciousness had somehow traveled back in time to when the mausoleum had been first constructed, 1400 years prior to his visit to Ravenna. As discussed earlier, time travel is thought by scientists to only be possible in the most extreme of circumstances. However, what if the laws that govern nature are different to the laws that govern the mind? If so, then maybe it would be possible for consciousness (free of the limitations of the laws of physics) to travel through time much more easily.

Further, many timeslip witnesses report strange bouts of depression or unease just prior to or at the start of their experience. Perhaps this indicates that the mind is indeed involved in some key way. The theory would definitely explain why the Simpsons and the Gisbys weren't able to get any photographs. Which brings us back to the question of why their French hosts didn't make a fuss about their modern money? Maybe they simply saw money from their own era. Unless scientists someday break the light barrier or maybe even develop a "science of the mind" though, it's impossible to ever know.

Richard Thomas, BoA UK Correspondent and Columnist.

Time Slips on Wikipedia
Carl Jung on Wikipedia
Strange But True: Time Slips (Part 1 of 2)
Strange But True: Time Slips (Part 2 of 2)
Ghost Hunters: Ripples in Time (Part 1 of 3)
Ghost Hunters: Ripples in Time (Part 2 of 3)
Ghost Hunters: Ripples in Time (Part 3 of 3)

Richard Thomas is also a columnist for Alien Worlds magazine. Check it out !

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