“Time slips, away” (Accidental time travel)

airplane horse

Time slips are the notion that persons and objects can be involuntarily whisked away to another era for an anachronistic holiday. It is distinct from time travel, which a person intentionally seeks.

This would explain why time slippers end up in lame locations and events, as opposed to ancient Greece, colonial Philadelphia, or 1871 Dodge City. Take this fellow, for instance, casually dressed as opposed to the gentlemen in fedoras and ties who surround him. This image was taken in 1941 at the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in British Columbia. The subject in question is sporting shades and casual clothing more suited to the 1990s, and for excited believers, this is evidence of time slippage.

However, when an article of clothing or an accoutrement is introduced can be separate from when it is popular. In the case of the sunglasses, this style first appeared in the 1920s. As to his shirt, the claim is that it is relatively modern. But it is probably a sweater with a sewn-on emblem, which was common for sports teams at the times. Indeed, the logo on his shirt appears to be the one belonging to the Montreal Maroons hockey team in the 1940s.

This picture is genuine and the website humansarefree.com argues that time slips have always occurred and that the advent of photography allows the slipper to be accidentally documented. However, the era of computer manipulation makes it easy to plant a person or object from one time into another. For instance, the website offered this photo of a 1960s sports car in the days of Model Ts and horse-drawn trolleys. However, this was merely a manipulation of this photo, to which the car was added.

Time slips are among the least-discussed supernatural topics among both skeptics and believers. For the latter, I think that’s because there’s really nothing they can try and do with them. Unlike Chupacabra tracks or alien wreckage, there’s nothing to look for. Unlike Reiki or applied kinesiology, there’s no power to try and harness. Unlike a séance or telepathic communication with middle Earth inhabitants, time slips aren’t presented as a means of intentionally contacting someone.

As to the skeptics, there’s really not much to respond to. Other than pointing out PhotoShop or noting that time slips would violate the known laws of physics, there’s not much to say.

The most well-known assertion of a time slip was the YouTube phenomenon that featured a woman outside a Charlie Chaplin film who seemed to be talking on a cell phone. Beyond the extraordinary nature of the claim, there is also the obstacle of how someone with a cell phone would have anyone to speak with unless a cell phone tower also slipped through the time warp.

Since the video has the typical grainy look of those from the era, it’s hard to get a clear picture of what she’s holding, although the most likely answer is that it’s a portable hearing aid. A competing claim from humansarefree.com holds that the object is indeed a cell phone and that this time slip occurred because “our souls are connected to our bodies from another dimension.”

Before this  bi-level spirit travel, the most well-known time slip claim was from the turn of the 20th Century. It centered on friends Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, who toured the Palace of Versailles and came across a chateau that had been used by Marie Antoinette. They got lost on the massive grounds and ran into persons wearing the garb associated with 18th Century aristocracy. They later reported they had seen Antoinette sketching.

The pair were respected educators so there story was given more credibility, an instance of appealing to authority. This is where extra weight is given to a claim because of who is saying it rather than what evidence is supporting it. It is an ad hominem in reverse. One example of this was what happened when Linus Pauling asserted that vitamin deficiencies were responsible for all sickness and disease, and he recommended massive doses of Vitamin C for everyone. Pauling was a great chemist who won the Nobel Prize for his research into the nature of the chemical bond, but his orange juice overload suggestion was not backed by research. His assertions about the cause of disease could not be validated by other scientists. Since no evidence backed up what Pauling said, alternative medicine practitioners relied on his unrelated Nobel Prize for substantiation.

Similarly, because of their prominent positions, pilots and astronauts are put forth as reputable sources if they claim to have seen a flying saucer. Even persons far less accomplished than Nobel Prize winners and moon travelers can be given extra consideration due to their sincerity and honesty. It can take the form of, “My grandmother is an upright person, and if she says she saw Bigfoot, she did.” However, a person’s honesty and credentials are unrelated to their brain’s role in taking in perceptions, filtering through distortions, filling in blanks, and putting together a conclusion. A person can be distinguished, genuine, and mistaken. People may be well-meaning and still have fallible memories.

When the Moberly-Jordain story was first reported, it was examined by England’s Society for Psychical Research. Despite the name, it took a (relatively) skeptical look at fantastic claims and concluded this case was explicable through ordinary means. Most likely, they had stumbled upon a historical reenactment and no more saw French Revolution victims than persons today see Stonewall Jackson at a Civil War recreation. There is also reason to believe this experience became a shared delusion that was woven in retellings. For starters, it took 100 days for the two to initially compare notes, and it was only after much discussion, story swapping, and historical research that Moberly and Jourdain came up with a year of 1789 and assigned identities to the characters they saw, including Antoinette as the sketch artist.

This tale was added to, deleted from, rearranged, and embellished by subsequent storytellers until it became established in lore as a time slip. But unless you’re reading this prior to 2016, there’s no reason to think there is such a thing.

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