One of the greatest time travel mysteries of the modern era is that of John Titor, a real-life time traveler who may or may not have existed. His story is one that could have only existed in the early days of the internet, before everyone could be Googled in a matter of seconds. The saga of John Titor may be the greatest hoax ever, but out of various time travel stories, Titor's contains some eerily realistic elements - so much so that it may make you question your beliefs about time travel and the multiverse. Is time travel real? People have been asking that question since before H.G. Wells published The Time Machine in 1895, but real time travelers, if they exist, rarely make themselves known. That’s why John Titor is such a special case.
The only tangible proof that exists outside of John Titor’s message board posts are time traveler photos. If you’ve never read about the time-hopping mystery of John Titor and his '67 Corvette, this is the perfect primer to get you ready to fall down the rabbit hole. Titor’s story has twists and turns that rival any John Grisham novel, and once you learn about the man who drove through time to the Gulf Coast, you’ll want to know more about this guy who apparently just wanted to save the world.
Who Is John Titor?Photo: 12 Monkeys / Universal Pictures
In the early days of the web, an internet user calling themselves "TimeTravel_0" began posting on the message boards of the Time Travel Institute. Over the course of multiple posts, TimeTravel_0 revealed he was a soldier from the year 2036, and he was trying to warn people about oncoming civil and nuclear wars that would supposedly cost millions of lives.
In 2001, TimeTravel_0 joined the forums of Art Bell and began using the name John Titor. Bell hosted a paranormal radio show called Coast to Coast AM, on which he had read several faxes reportedly sent by Titor.
Why Did He Travel Back In Time?Photo: The Time Machine / Warner Bros.
According to Titor, he was sent back in time to pick up an IBM 5100, which his grandfather had helped design. Supposedly, he needed this model - one of the first portable personal computers - to correct predicted issues with Unix in his timeline. After acquiring the computer, he stopped in the year 2000 for "personal reasons" - and to warn people about the threat of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (which would be spread through beef products).
How Does The IBM 5100 Play Into This?Photo: Kung Fury / Under the Milky Way
One of the oddest parts about the John Titor story is the part played by the IBM 5100. Why would someone from the future need such an old computer? In 1975, IBM released the 5100 as one of the world’s first personal computers, and it came with one feature that set it apart from other computers of the time: It could debug and emulate code written in other programming languages, such as BASIC and APL.
According to Titor, this feature would allow people of the future to keep their technological architecture running after a Unix timeout error in 2038. He said he wanted to snag a 5100 and help debug the code that would keep the world's computers from having a meltdown.
What Kind Of Time Machine Did He Use?Photo: Back to the Future / NBC Universal
If Titor was indeed a time traveler, what did he use to jump through space? A DeLorean? A TARDIS? Wormhole technology? Not exactly. In one of his posts, Titor explained that he used a "stationary mass, temporal displacement unit... powered by two top-spin, dual-positive singularities," which created " a standard, off-set Tipler sinusoid."
All of that tech was supposedly crammed into a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette, though he reportedly changed vehicles a few times. Titor posted multiple photographs of a manual for the machine, which contained detailed diagrams, and he even posted pictures of the timey-wimey device itself. One man reportedly tried to patent the technology and cash in on the future discovery, which likely did not help his case during his trial for sexual assault in 2013.