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John Titor: The First Character of Internet Lore

Updated on August 20, 2009

I think we all wonder about time travel. We wonder if it's possible, and if it is, how would it work? But the most interesting questions are the personal ones. "Where Would I go?" "What would I do?" "Who would I visit?" Well, the truth of the matter is, we're closer to time travel than we've ever been before. And according to at least one man, we're only 25 years away.

John Titor

John Titor (last name pronounced tee-tur) is arguably the first character of internet lore. He started showing up in forums around early November 2000 claiming that he was a time traveler from the year 2036. His postings began with the screen name Travel_0. Over time however, he reveals his name to be John Titor, an American soldier stationed in Tampa, Florida. Some of his earliest postings were descriptions of his time machine and the mechanics of it. He also posted pictures and diagrams from its owners manual.

John Titor's time machine
John Titor's time machine

His Claims

While John Titor spent several months posting on the forums before he returned home in March of 2001, he made several predictions. The first being that CERN (or the European Organization for Nuclear Research) would create the basics for time travel in about a year, and that the first time machine would be built by GE in 2034. He said this on November 2nd of the year 2000, and it didn't happen. The basic reasoning behind this prediction stems from the mechanics of his time machine. JT claimed that his time machine worked by producing a "standard offset Tipler sinusoid" which was powered by "two top-spin dual positive singularities." Singularities being mini black holes, of course. CERN hadn't created mini black holes at the time John Titor had predicted they would. But there is a lot of concern about it now. Many people fear that The Super Collider will make black holes that are too powerful to contain, and some believe that it already has.

Another major claim that John Titor made about time travel itself was that the "Everett-Wheeler model of quantum physics" was correct. This basically states that there are multiple universes, so if you were to travel back into time, you would end up in a slightly different universe than the one you came from. Titor said that it may look the same, and feel the same, but it's ". . . not your home. " This claim does two things: Firstly, it eliminates the infamous grandfather paradox, because if you were to kill your own grandfather, you would only be preventing a parallel version of you from being born. Not the version that killed your grandfather. And secondly, this basically alleviates all of John's predictions about the future from proper testing. Because if a prediction didn't come true, you can just chalk it up to the fact that this is a different universe than the one John Titor is from, and therefore we have a different set of historic events.

A picture from John Titor's time machine manual
A picture from John Titor's time machine manual


Although, JT left in March of 2001, he made some predictions about events that were supposed to happen in the near future. Some vague, some specific. He said that ". . . The 'leader' in 2005 would try desperately to hold the country together, but many of their policies drove a larger wedge into the Bill of Rights. The president in 2009 was interested only in keeping his/her power base." He also said that after 2004, there would be no more Olympics. Obviously, the Beijing Olympics happened, but some claim that the opening ceremonies with the computer-generated fireworks, and lip-synching girl singer were signs that the 2008 Olympics were fake. He did however claim in 2001 that China was very close to sending a man into orbit, and that we should not be surprised to see that happen soon. Two years later, they became the third nation to send a man into orbit.

Some of the more major predictions he made were that the United States would engage itself in a Civil War in 2004, and the country would then divide into 5 regions. This obviously didn't happen. He also said that in 2015 Russia would bomb major U.S. cities and start an abrupt, but deadly World War III, where three billion people would die. Let's hope he's wrong about that one as well. Here's what JT said himself about regarding predictions:

"Since I will eventually be leaving this worldline, I could tell you all sorts of things that would happen in the next few years. Unfortunately, your worldline is already 2% different from mine, and there's no way to give you absolute facts about world events. When the day comes for my 'prediction' to be realized, it may happen, or it may not. In fact, the information I give you will allow someone to affect the outcome based on the prediction itself. If what I say does happen, then your ability to judge your environment is crippled by your acceptance of me as a prophet. If I am wrong, then everything I have said that might possibly have made you look at your world in a different way is suddenly discredited. I do not want either. You are able to change your worldlilne just as I am . . ."

This makes it difficult to consider anything spoken by the mysterious John Titor. And it's easy to dismiss it. But what if, even for the purpose of a mental exercise, we briefly consider everything in this myth to be true? What if, just for a few moments, we read some of John Titor's postings like they were really posted by someone from 2036 who had some insight into our world that we couldn't possibly have? We are now closer than ever to making time travel a reality. Initially we thought you had to be traveling at the speed of light in outer space. An impossible task.  Even if we could ride a beam of light, the human body would never be able to withstand it.  But we're discovering newer, easier, and more practical possibilities. And some of them even sound like the methods John Titor told us about.

A simple illustration of time travel using black holes.
A simple illustration of time travel using black holes.

His Messages

Throughout his postings, people were (understandably) provoking John Titor, and he seemed to get more and more irritated as the forums went on. They were testing him, asking him to prove himself, and as a consequence, his messages got lost in the shuffle. But if you pay close attention, his basic philosophies remain valid, whether he was a time traveler, a hoaxer, or something else entirely. He made shrewd observations about our time and us as a community. In one posting, he wrote:

"Please take a look at the front cover of this month's Popular Mechanics because it's a great example of your legacy to 2036 after the war. One side of the cover it describes in great detail how your government is ready spying on you. On the other side (and just as important) it tells you how to install a hot tub."

Do You Think John Titor Was Really A Time Traveler?

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And one of my favorite entries that I came across was this one:

"I get this question all the time. If time travel is real, where are all the time travelers?� In the past, I have stated that quite frankly, you all scare the Hell out of me and I'm sure other temporal drivers would feel the same. But now I have an expanded explanation with two examples. A while ago (on one of the posts), I related an experience I had with my parents while we were driving down a highway. Every now and then, we would pass someone who was in obvious distress with their vehicle. I was amazed that so many people could pass them by without stopping to help. Their explanation was fear. The risk of helping someone was too great and with today's technology, they probably had a cell phone anyway. If they didn't, the walk to a gas station would be good for them and teach them a lesson for running out of gas. The other example is the plight of the homeless. When you pass them as individuals on the street I see the way people selectively choose an alternate path to avoid them. Those two examples best define why time travelers do not show themselves. In trying to help you, we put ourselves as great risk and there's really no point to it. We know the nature of time dictates that traveling between 'exact' worldlines is impossible. Therefore, the only results we will see will be the ones we stay to see. Since worldlines, outcomes and events are infinite, we have better things to do. When I arrive in the 'new' 1998 worldline on my way home I could easily start all of this again and continue to go through the same conversations with all of the same people. However, I already know you won't pay any attention or believe me because we've already been through it on this worldline. Besides, I think the walk to the gas station will do you some good."

So maybe John Titor is real. Maybe he's not. If you look deeper into the story, you'll find all kinds of strange coincidences. Like the fact that he was headed back into 1975 to pick up an obsolete IBM computer because it has a function on it that almost no one knew about. Of course, there were people at IBM who were aware of this function, so John Titor would basically have to be an IBM insider if he were a fraud (He did also claim that his grandfather helped build the IBM 5100). The diagrams for his time machine would also have to make him an artist, or at least a student in advanced engineering. Aside from that, he would also have to be an expert in physics and quantum mechanics. Or maybe it's just a massive conspiracy. A giant group of people all working together seamlessly -- not for money or fame -- but just to play a joke on anyone who's willing to listen. Whatever the case may be, one thing's for sure: The John Titor Story is the stuff legends are made of.  And in this new millennium, he leads the way in a new kind of legend, internet lore.


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      6 years ago

      An anime was made out of this story called Stein's Gate. A great series worth watching.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      If time travel is possible, and if,... in the future so many people can do it, then why have we only heard of this one guy? wouldn't we be hearing a lot from ourselves? family members? nagging ex lovers? our greatest grandchildren? anyone one who believes this has lost their mind. dumb Sheeeple!

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      8 years ago

      I have studied the hell out of this guy, how he speaks, and what he says. He was "here", but I can't get that feeling that he ever "existed" here besides what we have interpreted as his communication to us. I have seen, heard and read SO many hoaxters and 'chanelers' in my life, but this is too undeniably off-beat than anything I've seen, and nearly too close to being probable rather than impossible.

      Fact OR fiction, it would make a GREAT movie!~


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