While generally relegated to the realm of fiction, I have long been fascinated with the subject of “real” time travel. Hence, I have also kept a watchful eye out for those occasional stories about individuals who claim they have managed to visit locations where some sort of strange “warpage” of time and space may occur.
In the past (no pun intended!) here at Mysterious Universe, I have written about such instances, which include the curious recollections of Bruce Gernon, who claimed to have flown a light aircraft through such a warpage in space and time while en route to Bimini several years ago (you can read my article about Gernon’s story here). Other pieces with similar themes include my analysis of the archetypal elements present within cultural references to supposed time travel, as I discussed in this article.
Often referred to as “time slips”, such instances often are said to involve specific locations, where those visiting will notice unusual phenomena that appears to indicate a change in the surroundings indicative of a passage by some physical means backward in time to an earlier period.
Granted, nothing about the known laws of physics in the modern world can account for such a thing. Even the more widely publicized incidents that involve such supposed phenomena remain questionable, which include what is known as the “Versailles Time Slip” incident. The case in question involved two women who claimed they had travelled to the past while visiting the gardens of the Palace of Versailles in 1901, and in response to the women’s odd claims of time travel, a number of equally bizarre scenarios have been offered to explain the circumstances, which included the notion that sexual tensions between the observers might have contributed to their confusion about their surroundings.
However, as skeptical researcher Brian Dunning noted in 2012, “There was never any need for authors to introduce lesbian madness and transvestite follies to explain their erroneous perception. Moberly and Jourdain were simply human; and that, in itself, is the most complex explanation of all.”
Indeed, there are a number of ways someone may, from time to time, claim to experience strange circumstances that appear to be well removed from the average and everyday, and yet which remain easily explainable just as well. In equal measure, there are certain instances that seem to push the boundaries of recognized physical phenomenon, whether or not “time travel” is involved in any way.
Such was the case with a unique email I received from a listener of mine some time ago, who related a very strange story about a hike that occurred in Ohio, in which he and his companion noted odd changes to their surroundings which appeared, to them, to escape simple explanation.
The message reads as follows:
Hello to Mr Hanks and company,
I wished to relate something to you that happened to me and a friend a while ago. First I am 32 years old and I currently live in Pennsylvania but I am originally from Ohio. I am often skeptical of some out there claims but after listening to Mysterious Universe and Gralien Report I had to open my mind back up a little bit about preternatural things like spirits, ghosts, maybe other things, etc etc.
So onto my account – back in September of 2008 my best friend Ciera (pronounced Sierra) and I went to a park named Hocking Hills in Ohio for a day retreat from our busy lives. We had decided on this at random when we first got together early in the morning just after sunrise; it was a nice warm late summer day and we’d just got the wild notion to go for a drive to Hocking Hills since the area is well known for its several walking trails, a cave or two, and several waterfalls and running water / creek areas. The day was very warm maybe roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit / 21 degrees Celsius so we had worn shorts and short sleeved T-shirts. The park was full of people and there were walking families, couples, and a lot more all over the place
We started down a trail we had taken many times before, one that would force us to cross a paved road near it’s end in order to continue, and played with our mobile phones. I remember it was roughly around 12:00 pm EST at the time and we kept walking forwards around a small hill and up the steeper part of the trail which was near the road. As we walked we were passed by a group of backpackers before we reached the road and one of the people turned around to warn us to be aware of a wash out up ahead if we were going to take the trail into the woods across the road, they recommended we follow the one next to the fire tower instead as it by-passed a small clump of downed brush.
The guy pointed to a small branch off the main trail to our left and told us good luck or something like that, we walked up the little trail and I remember Ciera stating the path we were on wasn’t showing on her park-map application on her phone. I recall telling her it was most likely new or something done for the wash out. That was about the end of our conversation and we moved on. We crossed under where the power lines were strung up into another part of the woods and ended up near the road.
As we crossed it to the tower trail just across from where we stood, I noticed there was caution tape all over the fire tower, there was a pungent smell in the air which we could not identify, the windows on top of the tower appeared to be taped up, grimy, and there were flies all over the area. We walked past it, commenting how odd it was, and continued down the trail we had been recommend to take, but it was one neither of us had noticed before on a previous walk to the area. This trail took us past the fire tower and then cut into the woodlands; as we walked into the forest maybe a couple hundred feet or so we took notice that no one seemed to be around and in fact not only did we feel isolated from others but we felt very chilled without explanation. Ciera pointed it out verbally while I was thinking it, but we just continued walking. Eventually the air started to get noticeably chillier and damper. This did not seem unusual at first but as we continued to walk the air seemed to go from warm to what felt like the mid-50’s Fahrenheit / 10’s Celsius and we started to shiver.
It was also getting darker as we continued forward; at first I thought it was just due to the green leaves on the trees and maybe a passing cloud over head but the darkness really did not improve as one expected. As we walked we looked around and there were nothing but trees on all sides, there should have been a forest edge somewhere as the area wasn’t really that big but aside from some hills and tall pine trees there wasn’t a real ‘ending’ to the woods. We expected to see the edge near the road.
My friend took out her phone to use her GPS because she instinctively felt lost but her battery was nearly gone, I took mine out of my back pocket and it was also near dead. The clock on it showed “EE:EE” for the time (meaning it couldn’t update as it was an older style slide-phone with keyboard and camera that, when set to auto-adjust, would contact the mobile phone network every 15 min for time updates).
It was only then as the light grew dimmer that I noticed the area seemed a so silent. Our footsteps, the leaves we stepped on, grass, twigs, and our breathing just echoed but there were no animal noises. Ciera got spooked and I did too, she mentioned it was very out of the ordinary and I agreed but I couldn’t shake this sense of foreboding that something was amiss. I tried to rationalize it but I really, honestly, couldn’t figure any of it out at all.
We just pressed onwards and after going down a small hill and back up it seemed to have gotten a lot darker, like just near sunset dark. My friend grabbed my arm and started freaking out about how weird it got – then the air seemed to have gone still and we had a feeling of something wrong. She dragged me as she took off running forward looking for an exit, for some odd reason we never thought to turn around at all and just got back the way we came. It never seemed to occur to us as we ran but the spookiness continued as we could hear our steps echo off the area as things just felt like they grew more gloomy feeling.
Then ahead of us down another small dip in the trail we could see two large honeysuckle bushes on either side of the trail like a gate. We made a mad dash for these bushes and just as we pushed through the plants something odd happened – we were over whelmed by a change in our surroundings as light, sound, and warmth returned all at once. It was like stepping outside of a cold, empty, and dark building to a warm busy street. We stood at the edge of a place known as Ash Cave, which has a large water fall not too far away with a u-shaped cliff. I turned around to look back from where we emerged and while the bushes were the same the area was so different, brighter, not silent for sure because there were hikers near the falls, and warmer. In fact our skin was cold to touch which just reinforced the strangeness. We took a moment to rest from that little run.
Logic attempted to set in and we decided the trail we came up must have just appeared creepy because there may have been clouds over head or a storm blew by but when we went back between the bushes there was no trail. Nothing looked like it had a few seconds ago. Ciera walked around the bushes twice and it was the same bright sunny day with no darkness and no trail. We waited, it was blue sky over head and we could see the edges of the forest and other people. The trail had simply vanished as it we had never walked it.
On returning to the normal trail we were use to and headed back, we took out our phones and the time had finally updated, it was now 4pm. The normal trail would only have taken an hour to walk fully so it was a loss of three full hours! When we ended back near the fire tower on the normal trail we noticed it was normal looking as the windows were no longer taped and very crystal clean, and there was no pungent smell. We don’t know what it was, but it certainly was creepy. Of course I jokingly told her later that day over dinner we had entered the faerie realms by mistake and were lucky to get away, she didn’t find that funny of course but either way we both felt we should share this with you and if anyone out there has had a similar experience perhaps they can provide insight or share their own.
I also mapped out the spots I mention above as GPS Google Cords:
Where we parked 39.417079, -82.525668
Where the trail head is 39.416284, -82.523969
Where trail to go by the wash out went 39.410145, -82.523196 to 39.406292,-82.529016 to 39.405647, -82.529390
Where we crossed the road 39.405579,-82.530086
Ranger Fire Tower 39.405858,-82.530737
The Main Trail 39.405871,-82.530783
The ‘Mysterious Side Trail’ which is not there 39.405732,-82.53062
Where we came out at when we passed the bushes 39.399488,-82.539029
Where we logically SHOULD have come out 39.399803,-82.537403
From reading this email, I will note (despite my general skepticism toward such stories) that the author brought a very leveled tone with the message related above. But what can we make of it altogether? Perhaps one need not assert that something akin to a “time slip” had occurred, in order to question the nature of the apparent changes the hikers reported in their surroundings. Still, the observations appeared to indicate something out of the ordinary, whatever may have been underway at the time.
This message (which I featured on my podcast, The Gralien Report) inspired another listener with a similar story to come forward and share his own encounter, which took place in Northern Ireland, also in 2008:
At the time I was staying in the town of Derry, in Northern Ireland, and had decided to take a day trip via public transit to the beach town of Buncrana. The bus trip seemed to take much longer than expected and when I asked the driver which stop was to be Buncrana, he laughed and said I had missed it ages ago. Not only that, but this bus service was infrequent and the next one going back in the direction from which we’d come wasn’t going to be for several hours. The driver let me off in a small village, the name of which escapes me, and I began hitchhiking back toward Derry. It was raining heavily that day, so it was lucky my first ride came quickly – two older Irish men who kindly took me back as far as Buncrana.
Buncrana isn’t a large place, so it was a short walk to the beach from where the men dropped me off. At some point in the drive the rain had stopped and as I arrived at the beach the sky was clear and a late afternoon sun was beginning to set (this was in December). It was a lovely scene, but after a while I noticed it was eerily quiet and the only living thing I could see for any distance was a black dog, which had turned up when I wasn’t paying attention. It was unremarkable, so far as dogs go – I know sweet piss-all about dogs but I think it was a black lab – but it behaved in a curious way; wherever I went along the grass near the beach, the dog followed, staying about 5-6 feet away. Whenever I stepped closer to him, he began to growl and bark. Eventually this behavior and the quiet started to wig me out and I began walking toward a large hotel looking the water some distance away. My thinking was I’d have a cup of coffee, harmlessly (and, no doubt, poorly) flirt with a waitress then head back to the highway and thumb a ride to Derry. The black dog paced me the entire trip to the hotel, maintaining the same amount of distance, and the closer I got to the hotel, the more unnerved I was by the whole situation and the more desperate I got for that coffee and some human interaction. When I arrived at the hotel – the Inishowen Gate Hotel, I’ve since learned it’s called – I was devastated to see that the whole place was boarded up – windows, etc – and just as deserted as everything else.
What made this more odd than it might ordinarily be was the size of the place – this isn’t a small hotel, and it’s unusual to see a place that big and in a spot that choice, unoccupied. I didn’t explore the building much because by this point the sun had passed the horizon and well, I was still unnerved. Turning away from the hotel, I saw the black dog was gone just as quickly and quietly as he’d come. From the hotel I walked along the water’s edge to a boat launch, where I watched a bank of fog roll down the hills across the water. By the time I looked away from the coming weather there was a group of about five or six cats who had turned up to keep me company. For whatever reason, this eased my mind a bit and I started walking back towards town.
My memory of the day is murky but the way I recall it, I went from a kind of cavernous silence to “regular small town” in a matter of moments; suddenly there were people, cars and noise. Soon enough there was rain again, too. It took two rides to get back to Derry, the second of which was with a middle-aged man who had grown up in the area. We were talking about the scenery around Buncrana and he told me he’d been married in the hotel on the water. When I mentioned it was now closed he sounded surprised – apparently the place is a bit of a local institution – but didn’t press the subject further.
As I said at the beginning, the story from yesterday’s broadcast brought this back to me. While it did sound a little too “Silent Hill” to be real (it also brought to mind Stephen King’s short story “Crouch End”), the parallels with my experience, particularly the shuttered hotel, were hard to ignore and so I decided to figure out which hotel it had been and see whether they had been closed during the winter of 2008. The clerk I spoke to at the Inishowen Gateway Hotel this afternoon informed me they do not close during winters and, as far as she knows, it was not shuttered during winter 2008.
This story, like a lot of the strange and unusual things I’ve experienced/collected (for a book project, which I won’t shill until the ink is dry with Llewellyn in June) is something for which I have no explanation and tends to be something that comes up after a few drinks. I don’t know that these events amount to or mean anything but as a recent listener to the podcast (this is my third week subscribing) I was enthused to have something to contribute. Any thoughts you may have on the subject are very welcome.
Yet again, the witness in this instance claimed to have observed changes to his surroundings that were inconsistent with the area he had visited at that time. Had there indeed been a broader phenomenon occurring here, and if so, why did the hotel appear to be closed or abandoned, and at a time when this should not rightly have been the case?
The known laws of physics make such notions as “time slips” an extremely unreliable hypothesis, if not one that is likely to be impossible, at least in conventional circumstances. Hence, if this explanation cannot be offered for stories that recount such odd environmental changes, what else about the circumstances may possibly influence the environment–or the observers–in a way conducive to what the latter have observed?