The concept of time and how we perceive it has long been the subject of science fiction stories, thought experiments, and deep philosophical reflection, producing a mind-boggling array of ideas, theories, and opinions. Far from being the simple, linear line that many of us may think of it as, time is a deeply complex quantity for which there are many theories, and which we do not yet fully understand. Perhaps nowhere is the baffling potential nature of time more apparent than with the numerous bizarre tales of strange, unexplained phenomena regarding time, incidents often referred to as temporal anomalies which can include time freezing, time travel, time slips, time loops, and everything in between. Here we will look into various weird accounts of time anomalies that serve to baffle, surprise, and suggest that time is perhaps far more malleable and more bizarre than we can possibly imagine.
One of the weirder stories that has circulated in recent times is that of a tunnel in London that supposedly serves as some sort of time portal, where the flow of time seems to slow to a crawl or even a full stop. In July of 2017 a very odd report came out on a site called Portals of London, describing a peculiar time anomaly that supposedly occurred at the historic Woolwich foot tunnel, which spans under the Thames River and has been in operation since 1912. In 2011 the foot tunnel was closed down in order to carry out renovations and refurbishments.
When contractors went into the tunnels to begin their work they did so expecting it to be a fairly quick job, and it wasn’t expected to take more than a few months at most. However, the tunnel would supposedly be closed for more than a year and a half, a delay which baffled the residents of the area. Talking to the workers who had been down there started to paint a very strange picture, as they allegedly began to report having experienced strange time anomalies while walking through the tunnel, such as working in the tunnels for hours only to emerge back into daylight to discover that only a few minutes had actually passed, or of walking through the tunnel to find that the trip had inexplicably taken far less time than it should have. One worker on the tunnel purportedly told of a strange experience he had in the Woolwich Tunnel thus:
I was one of the first ones to experience it. We were working from both ends, as it were, and had tents on both sides of the river. It was pretty basic, if you wanted something from the other side, you just had to walk it through the tunnel. Anyway the foreman’s on the other side and he radios to ask me across. So I walk through the tunnel – the ‘long walk’, we called it, funnily enough – and it’s slightly spooky because no one else is down there, they’re all working on the lift shafts, and I get up the other side, find the foreman, and his eyes nearly pop out of his head. Says he only radioed like a minute ago and how did I get there so quick? Wouldn’t take my word for it I’d walked. Reckoned I had a buggy down there or something, that it was some kind of prank.
But I stand my ground and he starts to see I’m not lying. Anyway he forgets what he called me there for. He gives me this big red plastic box, tells me to walk back over and hold it up for him when I get to the other side. So I head back down, the lonely walk back, thinking shouldn’t we be getting on with some work. When I get to the top I wave the red box in the air and radio the foreman. ‘You just left me!’ he’s saying, ‘No more than a minute ago’. That’s when I start to feel a bit weird.
Apparently strange time slips and other temporal anomalies became rather commonplace down there in the murky gloom as they worked, and no one had any rational explanation for it all. It became such a reliable given that time slowed down or even stopped in the tunnel that workers allegedly stopped even trying to use their watches to tell time, resorting to using egg timers instead. One worker explains:
My initial feelings was I was pretty freaked out by it all. But once everyone else had experienced it, it was amazing how quickly it seemed normal. It became like a joke. It was a laugh, you know, a source of giggles. Someone said we’d invented the teleporter and were all going to be rich. The foreman stopped trusting watches and phones when we were down there, and took to using egg-timers. A few of the young agency lads tried to claim extra on their time sheets. That was the thing, though: time froze when you were down there. If you were down there for the full working day, fixing the tiling, you’d basically finish work, come back up and it would still be morning.
One thing we couldn’t get our head round was how the two, sort of, “time-places” a guy was in seemed to be happening at the same time, as it were. Like I see you emerge across the river in no time at all, but there’s also a ‘you’ who reckons he’s spending four hours in the tunnel.
Some workers apparently tested out their theory that time was actually stopping for them by camping out for a whole 3 days down in the dank tunnel. When they finally emerged into the outside world it was claimed that the day and time was exactly the same as when they had first descended into the dark to begin their odd experiment. In another experiment, one worker named Petar tied a rope around his waist as others held onto the other end. The idea was for him to walk through the tunnel with the rope and then signal the others with a red flag when he got to the other side, after which other workers would shout out to the ones holding the rope that he had crossed and then pull on the rope. It seemed like a pretty standard, even silly bit of experimentation and fooling around, but things would apparently get very weird very fast. One of the people holding the rope said of what happened:
I’m kneeling down and craning my head down so I can watch Petar walk around the curve, [the tunnel bends in an inverted bow underground – PoL] and he laughs and waves at me for a minute, then gets bored, keeps walking. And he’s just about to round the curve, out of sight – it hasn’t been long, just a minute or so, around the same time it’d took us to walk down the steps – and I feel the rope around me tighten. Then I hear the lads up top. ‘He’s across. Waving a red flag’. The thing is, Petar hears it too.
And he stops. Turns round. And he’s looking at me. His hand slowly reaches into his big jacket pocket, and he pulls out the edge of this large red flag. For a moment I grin. I reckon they’re all having me on. But it’s the look on his face, that’s what still haunts me. Nobody’s that good an actor. His face – and he’s a big man, mind you, fearless. Our Petar was a big character, always at the centre of things, always with this big smile. Never saw him take anything too serious in all our days til then, but – I don’t know how to describe it, it was – fear. Just plain fear on his face. And he’s looking right at me and I know what he’s thinking. I know what he’s trying to figure out – do I keep going, or do I come back? He takes one step towards me, then stops. I don’t know how long we looked at each other like that, neither of us talking. Then in the end he turns round again, and carries on, out of sight.
Well, I’m up those stairs like a shot and when I get up top there he is, across the river, unmistakeable even from that distance, red flag in one hand, another guy’s arm around his shoulders.
Anyway I didn’t like that. That freaked me out, that did.
The whole bonkers story really took off when it was first released on the site, and generated a lot of discussion and speculation on whether any of it was real or not. However, while there are those who hold it up as a genuine time anomaly and a real case, others have criticized it as being nothing more than a fictionalized tale passed off as an actual account of the unexplained. The story of the Woolwich Tunnel Time Anomaly is still fascinating either way.
Another very spooky case in which time seems to have slowed down considerably concerns a witness only identified as “Douglas,” who claims that in 1981 he and his father had a rather frightening time anomaly experience when they went to take a look at a house for rent in Austintown, Ohio. They arrived at the house at 6 AM and immediately were taken aback by how shabby and badly maintained the house and property were. As they made their way through the weed-choked yard they apparently saw two old rusty swings swinging and heard the faint sound of children’s laughter, which was a bit unsettling but which they chalked up to the wind and kids across the street. A peek into the house’s garage showed that it had a dirt floor and was completely empty. At this point they were already getting a very strange sense of faint dread pervading the location.
They found the side door unlocked and pushed in to venture inside, where the nagging sense of bizarreness continued. The lights apparently didn’t work, but they could see well enough to make out the off-kilter layout of the home, which consisted of a large, windowless room with doorways branching off of it. The only light here was a lonely ray that stabbed into the gloom from the small window on the door they had come through. They tried the basement door but it was firmly locked. In fact, it was the only door that was locked. After looking around a bit they tried the basement door one last time and it actually opened this time around, which gave the witness an inexplicable feeling of foreboding. What’s more, the lights worked there too. Despite the overall bad vibe they were getting from the basement they tentatively ventured down the stairs anyway, and the witness would say of the surreal events that happened next thus:
Dad proceeded to go down the steps, but I was leery. I went down. The basement was small. There was an old wringer washer with a loaded revolver on the lid. It was like the silver and ivory-handled cap guns that kids use today. I picked it up four inches off the lid and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a light cord moving. The lights went out and the door slammed shut. It was so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. I felt aimlessly for my dad. Holding his shirt, we went up the stairs. At the top, he stopped and let out a blood-curdling scream. It made my blood run cold. I pushed him and he pushed the door open. All the lights were on and it was dark outside.
After jumping in the van, dad turned the headlights on. The garage doors were open. There was a lamb lying on the dirt floor with its throat slashed, jerking violently. Blood was running into the dirt.
Adding to all of this, they soon realized that although they had only been in the basement for only 5 minutes, 21 hours had passed outside and that concerned people had been looking all over for them. They apparently drove by the house again later to find that it had been boarded up and had a sign from the FBI warning away trespassers. According to the witness he never did find out what his father had seen down in that basement, as he had refused to talk about it until the day he died, nor did any explanation emerge for why so much time had passed as they were down there. It is a really hard report to figure out, and seems to describe some sort of temporal anomaly, but just what happened remains rather unclear and amorphous. Was any of this weird tale true or is this just an imaginative yarn?
One very strange type of time anomaly is what is often referred to as a “time loop,” wherein people claim to be reliving the same moment in time more than once, sort of like in the film Groundhog Day. These weird cases are closely tied to the phenomenon of déjà vu, in that the subject can have experiences right down to the last detail which they are positive they have lived through before. One very odd case of this allegedly happened in 2015, when a 23-year-old British man went to doctors with the rather bizarre claim that he was constantly reliving past moments of his life, and that he had been stuck in these time loops for a staggering 8 years.
The man claimed that he had regularly been haunted by repeated phantom memories of having done or seen or heard everything he did since 2007, to the point where he was afraid to even watch TV, listen to the radio, or read the news because it was always all something he had seen or heard before. By his own admission this was more than just déjà vu, and he described it as being “trapped in a time loop,” wherein he wasn’t just having a familiarity with something, but was rather vividly reliving the exact same past experiences moment by moment. Dr. Chris Moulin, a cognitive neuropsychologist at the University of Bourgogne said of the strange condition:
This man was striking because he was young, otherwise aware, but completely traumatized by this constant sensation that his mind was playing tricks. There was one instance where he went to get a haircut. As he walked in, he got a feeling of déjà vu. Then he had déjà vu of the déjà vu. He couldn't think of anything else.
Doctors who examined him could find no apparent health problems or neurological issues, and brain scans showed that everything was completely normal. Psychological evaluations also showed that he had no problems or issues that could be ascertained, which only deepened the mystery because such markedly intense and chronic bouts of déjà vu are usually associated with conditions of the temporal lobe or neurological damage. Although the mystery remains unexplained, and indeed the phenomenon of déjà vu in general is poorly understood and still largely a mystery, doctors theorize that in this case it could all be simply the result of anxiety. A Dr. Christine Wells, of Sheffield Hallam University, wrote a report on the case published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports, and says of this idea:
Rather than simply the unsettling feelings of familiarity which are normally associated with déjà vu, our subject complained that it felt like he was actually retrieving previous experiences from memory, not just finding them familiar. Most cases like this occur as a side effect associated with epileptic seizures or dementia. However, in this instance it appears as though the episodes of déjà vu could be linked to anxiety causing mistimed neuronal firing in the brain, which causes more déjà vu and in turn brings about more anxiety. If proved, this could be the first-ever recorded instance of psychogenic déjà vu, which is déjà vu triggered by anxiety rather than a neurological condition such as dementia or epilepsy.
In the end, no one really knows for sure, and the man stuck in the time loop remains a mystery. Although this case is an extreme example, this type of reliving of past moments or experiencing replays of past events is actually reported fairly often and can even be experienced by multiple people at the same time. One typical example can be seen in a report made on ThoughtCo. by a poster named Ryan Bratton. He claims that one day he was sitting in his yard with a friend when something very strange happened indeed, which he would describe thus:
A car came down the road and stopped at a house. A kid got out and ran inside making noises that kids around his age make. Then a girl rode her bike down the driveway. A couple of minutes after this happened, the same car went down the road, stopped at the house, and the same kid got out of the car and ran inside screaming the exact things he had been saying. Then the girl went down the hill on her bike again. I looked over to my friend and he said he had no idea what had just happened.
In other cases, rather than reliving a moment it seems as if the witnesses are experiencing perceiving themselves in a different point in time. One lady known only as Sheri N. and her husband seem to have had just such a strange incident. One day Sheri was doing chores as her husband and 2-year-old child sat in the living room watching TV, and as she did the baby monitor suddenly sprang to life with noise. It was very odd, as there was no one in the toddler’s bedroom, and so she leaned closer to the monitor to see what the commotion was. It quickly turned out to be her own voice telling the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” as her toddler reacted and spoke as well, which was quite a shock, as a look down the hall showed that they were still in the living room, with her son now sound asleep on her husband’s lap. Even stranger still was that she had told that same story to her child- 5 hours earlier! Sheri would say of the anomalous event:
Now I stood in disbelief as I heard the drawers being pulled open and shut and rustling of the toys and books being put into their proper places. But I nearly fainted when I heard my son's voice over the monitor! I kept looking back and forth at my husband and now-sleeping son in the chair in the living room and the monitor sitting on my dresser that was literally replaying the specific events from earlier in the day!
The monitor is a standard baby monitor bought from Wal-mart and is NOT a recorder, but instead monitors the sounds coming from the room as they are happening at present time only.
I listened as my voice retold the story of "Jack and The Beanstalk" and listened with familiarity as my son responded in baby-talk to the tail he had never heard before. The incredible part was this all happened five hours earlier on the same day!
I quickly called my husband into the room as he listened to the last part of the story with my voice coming through the monitor and our sons coos and chuckles. He stood stunned and turned his head and looked at our sleeping son flopped peacefully over his shoulder. In disbelief, he asked, "How in the hell...?!" as his voice drifted off trying not to miss a thing. I just stared at him in the same disbelief and we both just shook our heads.
A bit of a different time phenomenon is, rather than repeating a past experience, the witness experiences some future experience before it actually happens, and again this seems to have happened with not only individuals, but also several people at once. One such case concerns a woman named Eula White, who grew up in rural Alabama and Florida in the 1920s. At the time of her mysterious experience she was living in rural Alabama, and one morning she purportedly had quite the odd incident indeed. That morning Eula had gathered out in front of the farm of a Mr. Hawkins with some other women in order to prepare some bushels of peas and beans. It was all fairly normal enough, and at some point Mr. Hawkins came out of his house, saddled up his horse, and rode off towards town, with Mrs. Hawkins running out to remind him to get a bag of flour while he was there. She explained the odd sequence of what happened next thus:
About mid-afternoon we were still on the porch shelling peas. We looked up and saw Mr. Hawkins approaching the house. The road leading to the house came off the main road and was about 300 feet long, and ran directly up to the porch. So we could see him coming quite clearly. Thrown across the saddle in front of him was a large white, cloth sack of flour and cradled in his left arm was a brown bag of other groceries. We watched as he rode up to the gate, and he stopped there, waiting for someone to open it. One of the boys ran to the gate and opened it. Then, in full view of all of us women and children, Mr. Hawkins vanished. He just disappeared, instantly.
We sat there for a second or so, just astonished. Then, terrified, we began screaming. After a few minutes, we calmed down. But were still shaking and confused. We just didn't know what to do. So after a while we went back to shelling peas. But all of us, the children too, huddled up there on that porch, afraid. Mrs. Hawkins made one the boys close the gate.
About half hour later, we looked up and again saw Mr. Hawkins riding toward the house with that same white sack of flour across the saddle in front of him and that same brown bag of groceries in his left had. Again he rode up to the gate without a sound and stopped. None of us had the nerve to open the gate. We were all just too afraid to move. We just sat there staring at him, waiting to see what would happen next. Finally, to our relief, Mr. Hawkins spoke: 'Well, is someone going to open the gate for me?'
Mr. Hawkins got there before he arrived.
Loosely related to these is another phenomenon known as Jamais vu , which is sort of the opposite of déjà vu in that it involves a person being in what should be a familiar place, yet feeling as if everything is strangely different, as if they have never been there before. This oddity has been theorized to be anything from a mental glitch to proof of alternate parallel dimensions, but it seems that in some cases it is perhaps due to some sort of temporal anomaly. One witness of such a phenomenon calling herself Mel B. tells of her own such experience, in which a place she knew well became suddenly unrecognizable and alien because of some sort of bizarre time slip. She describes her incident thus:
My husband and l live in the deep woods of east Texas, near a tiny place called Mt. Sylvan. I had been having some medical tests done at a hospital nearby.
I went for testing three days in a row, always with the same routine: I parked in the same small parking lot, walked through the double doors leading to the first floor cardio testing area, turned right at the gift shop and signed in at the desk. I always exchanged some casual conversation with the same young and very pleasant blond receptionist.
There was a small sitting area across from her desk, with a door leading to the phlebotomy (blood drawing) lab right behind her cubicle. The door to the lab was always open, though, and the sight of patients sitting in the exact type of chairs -- even the same color -- that I saw my late mother sit in for her chemo treatments was just too gut wrenching. (She died a year ago.)
I even heard a patient in the lab comment on the new chairs, and a nurse replied that the hospital's oncology department had donated them. I decided to sit across the hall anyway.
Last Friday my husband went back to the hospital with me to hear the test results. He had never been there before. Usual routine: we parked, walked in, turned past the gift shop and... there was no check-in area! I stood and stared in total shock: no desk, no chairs, no blonde receptionist, and the door to the lab was on another wall! The other sitting area was just as before.
I started to walk up and down the hall searching for "my" check-in area, but it was nowhere to be seen. A doctor walked by, noticed my confusion, and asked what I was looking for. When I told him that the place I had checked in for my tests was missing, he laughed and said that it had been moved to the second floor three years earlier because they needed more space!
What is going on here? It is hard to say. Here we have looked at a wide range of temporal anomalies for which there is probably no one complete answer. We are left to wonder just what is going on in these cases and to scratch our heads trying to figure out just what these people experienced. Questions abound. Are some of these merely tricks of perception or the misfiring of neurons in the brain? How would this explain accounts of multiple witnesses would experience the same thing? Are these cases just tall tales, exaggerations or hoaxes? Or is there something very strange going on beyond our understanding of how time works? If so, what exactly is happening and how? The answers to these questions are elusive, and one is left to wonder whether time as we know it isn’t exactly what we think it is, and far stranger than we imagine.