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August 18, 2002

Timebinders, in Ohio and elsewhere
Posted by Teresa at 12:23 PM *

Avedon Carol has snagged a splendid story from an Ohio newspaper. She had the great good sense to not give away the punchline, and I won’t either:

Clock runs out on long-told story of time traveler
European man ends up in Akron while getting to bottom of strange mystery

Is time travel possible?

Could evidence for it be found in the story of a man who appeared suddenly on the streets of New York City in 1950, bearing the property and identity of a man who had vanished in 1876?

Chris Aubeck loves a good mystery, so the Londoner who lives in Madrid, Spain, decided to get to the root of a tale that has received a lot of press in Europe.

This month, the Spanish magazine Enigmas will publish the yearlong odyssey of Aubeck, who doggedly traced a piece of paranormal folklore through six countries and back six decades to its source — in Akron.

Aubeck, 31, who researches modern and ancient mysteries as a hobby, said fellow researchers in Europe often use the case of Rudolph Fentz as proof of time travel.

“They had been using the story for years in articles and books… and many of them accepted the Fentz story at face value,” Aubeck said in an e-mail interview. “When I asked them if it had been solved, I was told it had been tried but never successfully.”

To Aubeck, that sounded like a challenge he couldn’t pass up.

(We’ll pause here while you read the story.)

Ghu, Foo, and Roscoe besides, not to mention the ineradicable stain of purple. (You can look that up here, under “purple”. I don’t guarantee it’ll be comprehensible, but I find it amusing.)

The funny thing is, I’ve seen time travellers in NYC. Or at any rate I’ve seen people I thought were time travellers, and one case where I was sure.

This happened one day back in the 1980s. I was riding the subway home from work, and this kid got on at 34th or 42nd. He was at most twelve but I think younger, and slightly built at that. What caught my eye first was that he was wearing a jacket with a waistline seam—not a full-blown norfolk jacket, less obtrusive than that, but in that class. Which was odd; it had been over half a century since boys’ and men’s jackets stopped having waistline seams.

I started noticing more things about him. His pants ended just below his knees. That was unobtrusive too; his pants were dark, and so were his long woolen socks. If you weren’t really looking, the combination would register as black trousers, and you wouldn’t think anything of it. He had a flat woolen cap, and a sweater on under the jacket, and his shoes were what you’d expect with the rest of the outfit. Think newsboy, turn of the century or a little later, and you’ve got it.

But what struck me as genuinely odd was that he wasn’t wearing his clothes like a costume. Those were just his clothes, and they weren’t new, either. I honestly believe that if he’d gotten onto the same subway in the same clothing but had felt like he was dressed up for a masquerade, half the car would have noticed him right away.

As it was, he stood there for a few moments, then somehow spotted me without looking at me directly—a very self-possessed kid—and came and sat down right next to me. There were lots of available seats, so I waited a little while to see if he’d say something, but he didn’t.

Then I realized what he was doing. It happened that that day I was wearing a long full black wool skirt, boots, a thick knitted jacket, and a hat. I also had my crocheting with me and was working on a sweater. In short, I looked more like a respectable matron of his era than anyone else on the car. He was following the old advice for kids traveling alone: Find a nice woman and sit down next to her.

I puzzled it over as we rode along. Seen up close, that really didn’t look like a theatrical costume he was wearing, and anyway nobody in their right mind would send a little kid out alone into the Manhattan evening in a period costume. And though back then there were a few high-end clothing stores selling historical knockoff threads for rich yuppies’ rugrats, the kid’s clothes didn’t look like that, either; and besides, rich yuppies’ kids whose parents dressed them funny wouldn’t be catching the northbound A Train from midtown by themselves. No backpack, so he wasn’t a student coming home from school.

I came to the only possible conclusion, which was that he was a time traveller who for some reason found it convenient to take the subway.

Okay.

I hoped he was all right, but somehow it seemed hard to ask. As I say, a very self-possessed kid. He got off in the eighties. I got one last good look at him. Everything still checked out. He disappeared into the crowd.

Since then I’ve seen a few more, like the guy who looked like he decided in a fit of enthusiasm to follow Peter the Hermit, and had come to really, really regret it. There’ve been others. And once I saw a couple of bright-eyed young men on the subway who had a different kind of not-from-here look. It wasn’t their clothing or haircuts; those were correct in every detail. But they somehow managed to look separate from the scene, as though the worry and weariness and day-to-day engagedness of the subway ride touched upon them not at all; and yet the way they were openly looking at the rest of us was avid, proprietary, amused, almost too knowing…

Like they were on a ride at Disneyland. Or in a museum.

“Bloody hell,” I murmured to Patrick, as I nudged him to look at them. “The little jerks are from the future.”

“You’re right,” he said, after a moment.

Hear me now, future generations: Knock that off. It’s really irritating.

Comments on Timebinders, in Ohio and elsewhere:
#1 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 09:53 AM:

I think they have the facts backwards: as a science fiction fan, one takes a pseudonym when publishing pseudoscience to avoid losing one's credibility in fandom, not the other way around.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 09:56 AM:

Well, of course -- unless things are very, very different in the N3F.

#3 ::: Luke Tymowski ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 10:18 AM:

They're probably Canadians on holiday.
We tend to have that "look". Although we always assume people don't notice us rather than find us irritating.

#4 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 11:12 AM:

I hadn't thought about Canadians, but I know that I probably frequently have the observer look when traveling on the NY subway or the London Metro. It's not something I do regularly and I observe the people around me. Of course I do that a lot anyway....

MKK

#5 ::: Jack Womack ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 12:51 PM:

I'll need to check specifics (someone may know off the top; Scraps?)but this particular tale, I believe, originated as a Jack Finney story. I know it's in the mid-eighties collection ABOUT TIME; probably it was originally in THE THIRD LEVEL (but that's one of the specifics of which I speak). Published in Collier's first time around, I think, ergo readily available to anyone in Akron. John Keel fell for it, among others.

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 12:57 PM:

A decade or so back, the carcass of a beached whale was found on the Oregon coast. To save the trouble of chopping it up, the authorities decided to pack it with explosive and atomize it.

The result: Tons of bloody whale meat and blubber raining down on the locals who assembled to watch.

I believe this conclusively prooves that time travel does not exist. If it did, the press would have surely noted the hordes of extrememly odd-looking people, some perhaps not human, who would have come to watch.

#7 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 01:16 PM:

Jack: Yeah, I remember that story too. I hope somebody tracks down the author and title so I can stop obsessing about it.

#8 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 01:25 PM:

At first I read you as saying, "This happened one day back in the 1930s." But then I realized it was just that when you have a messed up retina things look wrong.

(I think rich young person's might ride the subway with that air of amused detatchment. Then they grow up to Maggie or George, who never ride trains again and make sure their minions keep the rest of us at a distance.)

#9 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 01:26 PM:

I can't believe I put that apostrophe there.

*wince*

#10 ::: Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 01:40 PM:

Stefan, here's a counterexample: Woodstock. You got your "hordes of extremely odd-looking people" right there. I suspect that at least 50% of the audience was time-travelling tourists.

#11 ::: Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 01:56 PM:

This also explains the large crowds at the Crucifixion.

#12 ::: Christopher Hatton ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 05:10 PM:

If I time-travelled to the Crucifixion, I think I'd be irresistably attempted to mount a rescue...just to see what kind of world we'd end up with.

But if I could time-travel, there are places I'd rather visit. "Hey, Mohammed, don't you think your book would be better if you trimmed it some? I mean, you don't need to say all this stuff 37 times, right?"

Or better yet, "Hey Zoroaster, this whole light-vs-Dark as a metaphor for good-vs-evil is gonna cause no end of trouble. Fix it, OK?"

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 05:29 PM:

Could the real whale explosion outdo the videotaped version? It so perfectly encapsulates the event, smoothing it down and abstracting it like a good piece of fiction: The initial confident voiceover, the shots of the whale and the cartons of dynamite, the interview with the foreman; then the brief tense wait for the explosion, with its gratifying end in a huge gout of pink-tinged sand; then the cheers and applause of the spectators, rapidly turning to screams as we hear the fell "thwap ... thwap ... thwap" of plummeting hunks of whale blubber; the eloquent abandonment of the camera by the TV crew; and the wry final voiceover as the reporter surveys the disastrous aftermath. It's perfect.

I don't fancy the theory that the guys I saw were Canadians, or any other kind of normal observer. I know lots of Canadians, even lived in Toronto for a while; and NYC is constantly getting tourists from all over. They don't look like that.

These guys were more like ... imagine a couple of callow Civil War buffs who are getting to look at the actual troops involved in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. Whoa, look -- it's Ashby faking out Commissary Banks! Cool, huh?

But it's only cool in that particular way if you know how it's going to come out: These guys over here are going to get trounced, snuck up on, and befoozled, over and over again, and these guys over here are going to march their feet off but will get to win a bunch of fights, and together these armies are going to pin each other down to a four-year slugfest; while, far away, other armies will be doing the real winning and losing of the war.

The troops don't know that. They know they're there in earnest, and they know they may die, but they don't yet know how the story will come out.

Next time a movie comes out that has a real emotional load, the kind where people go to see it more than once, wait for a really wrenching scene and then quietly turn around and look at the rest of the audience. See if you can spot the first-timers. People look different when they know how the story comes out.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 05:43 PM:

Jack, how lovely to see you here! I do believe you're right about the Finney; over at 24-hour Web Log Mitch Wagner is also trying to remember just which story it was. And as Mitch points out, Finney writes the kind of stories people retell.

#15 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 07:03 PM:

Folks, the entire story is copied verbatim from Jack Finney's "I'm Scared" reprinted in The Third Level and About Time. Right down to the character names, Rudolph Fentz and Captain Hubert V. Rihm. It's all in there. The earliest copyright I can find is on the first collection, 1957. Somebody else should be able to pull up an earlier one.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 07:14 PM:

AKICIF.

#17 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 07:23 PM:

I'm not sure I would have had the necessary restraint NOT to talk to the time-traveling young boy. My God, a big fat story hook walking right in and sitting down next to me on the subway? I'd have racked my brains for something to say to him, so that I could find out how his story came out. Down the rabbit hole!

And in the 1980s, I might well have been dressed in a similarly confidence-inspiring way -- long full skirt, granny boots, sweater... probably not the hat or the needlework, though.

I *so* would have had to talk to him.

#18 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 07:58 PM:

Or maybe we've just discovered that atomized whale blubber interferes with time travel somehow. This'll be vital intelligence come the Pastward Invasion.

#19 ::: Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 08:43 PM:

The most recent first time/multiple viewing theater experience I had was for Fellowship of the Ring. It had been out for many months and I'd already seen it several times. At the end, one man shouted at the screen, "What the hell?!"

#20 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 08:52 PM:

Best movie load sucker punch: opening night, "Spider-Man". Right after he lets the burglar go past into the elevator, and he delivers the "I fail to see where this is MY problem" line to the promoter.

Half the audience applauded because it was the typical Hollywood comeback line, the type the hero always delivers in such cases. The other half just winced-- they knew what was coming.

#21 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2002, 09:21 PM:

...
...
That's a great story. You see those sorts of people -- seemingly from both 4D-directions -- around NYC sometimes.

My favorite encounter was in Washington Square Park, with a bunch of low-teens who, for just a moment, felt like refugees from a Stephenson or Gibson novel. All of them had modified wide-legged jeans so that they resembled denim Hakama, and all were wearing tops which closesly approximated urban versions of the appropriate samurai-stereotype-top, a sort of cross between Happi-coats and lightweight martial arts Gi. Of course, they all had perfectly styled topknots and, to top it off, plastic toy katana/wakizashi pairs, of the type you can buy for a couple of bucks at toy stores, properly inserted into what seemed to be properly knotted belts. A few, just under half, were wearing thonged sandals. There were perhaps seven of them, mixed boys, girls and two of inscrutable, to me, gender.

Simply astounding. If I'd seen the flicker of on-retina HUD in one of their eyes, I wouldn't have been in the least surprised.

#22 ::: viswan ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2002, 04:10 AM:

Well written post. And the 2 albert finney books are enjoyable -Time after Time, and I forget the name of the other, but it is good also. What is interesting is the idea of it there are really time travelers, than anything they do here now, will undoubtably alter their present (our future). There is a community in Italy, that has built huge underground temples and such, incredibly complex and beautiful. they are very much into actual time travel, and supposedly have accomplished it with their elaborate equipment. they have been written up in the UK magazine Spirit, and have a web site.

#23 ::: Jack Womack ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2002, 07:06 AM:

Yep, as per Glenn Hauman, the tale is straight out of "I'm Scared." In THE THIRD LEVEL I note some of the copyrights going back as far as the late 40s, and from Curtis; so the story may have first appeared in the equally-easy-to-find-in-Akron Saturday Evening Post.

As for time travelers, just think of how Lincoln's assassination could have been thwarted had there not been dozens of time travelers attempting to prevent the tragedy but failing due to the crush in the aisles.

#24 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2002, 12:05 PM:

Perhaps these time travelers are the equivalent of crop circles. A delicious and subtle hoax.

A meme worth spreading, since it would help real time travelers, if any, maintain their cover. Let them enjoy NYC in peace, I say.

#25 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2002, 05:25 PM:

Kuttner and Moore already told us where all the time travelers are hanging out. (Until later, when Jack and I show up.)

We're having a new round of petroleum generation by abiotic means (without Tommy Gold this time). I can't imagine what the Shaver Mystery is waiting for.

#26 ::: Cassandra Phillips-Sears ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2002, 12:45 AM:

Hm...one of the best books I've ever read, one which takes viswan's theory, turns it on its ear and then thumps it on its backside, is Card's "Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus." It's exactly what the title says. Almost.

#27 ::: Janet Lafler ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2002, 12:58 PM:

I wonder if this is a vintage season?

#28 ::: Kip T. Williams ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2002, 02:48 PM:

Janet, let's hope not.

Akron exists outside of time anyway. Hence the name.

#29 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2002, 03:52 PM:

Glenn: Thank you!
Janet: I occasionally wonder that myself, and shudder a bit.
Kip: Now that was funny.

#30 ::: Jay Manifold ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2002, 08:28 PM:

Very well written. I came over here through Dave Trowbridge's blog and was therefore curious as to whether anyone would mention "Vintage Season," and sure enough, a couple of people did. I felt led to reread it eleven months back ... a difficult but, I believe, cathartic experience. But let us go forward with the attitude that (to quote Freeman Dyson quoting someone else) "tragedy is not our business."

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2002, 01:11 PM:

Some days, tragedy is your neighborhood.

#32 ::: chris aubeck ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2002, 05:37 PM:


I spent a year working on the biography of this particular urban legend, and have completed a 40 page manuscript on it. The most interesting thing is not the fact that Finney was the creator of the story but what happened to it after Holland modified it.

If anyone's interested in knowing the full story, don't hesitate to write.

Best wishes,

Chris Aubeck

#33 ::: chris aubeck ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2002, 05:37 PM:


I spent a year working on the biography of this particular urban legend, and have completed a 40 page manuscript on it. The most interesting thing is not the fact that Finney was the creator of the story but what happened to it after Holland modified it.

If anyone's interested in knowing the full story, don't hesitate to write.

Best wishes,

Chris Aubeck

#34 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2002, 11:44 PM:

1) Thanks for a job well done, and...

2) Hey, look! Temporal pair of docs!

#35 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2002, 01:50 AM:

Kip, you're a natural resource.

Mr. Aubeck, around here we do not drop lines like that and walk away from them. The story, if you please?

(Please?)

#36 ::: Chris Aubeck ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2002, 11:35 AM:

Here are fragments of an early draft of my article. It is incomplete, uncorrected and the revelation about Jack Finney is absent in this version.

I'm working on about 30 cases like this one for a Spanish publication so I cannot post the whole thing here, I'm afraid.

If anyone has access to the Colliers story in question, or Holland's "A Voice from the Gallery," I'd love to hear from them.

Sincerely,

Chris Aubeck


Desperately Seeking Rudolph
a9 Chris Aubeck, Return to Magonia 2002

This article describes my attempts to trace an incident of 91time travel92 or 91teleportation92 that allegedly took place in New York many years ago. The paper trail that led me to the original source is a classic example of how labyrinthine such searches can be. Oddly enough, the paper trail begins not in New York but in Spain.

An untimely death

I first became aware of the case of Rudolph Fentz when I read an article in the Spanish magazine Me1s Alle1. 93Regreso al futuro en el corazf3n de Manhattan94 (Back to the Future in the Heart of Manhattan) was a six-page report written by researcher Carlos Canales, co-author of two well-researched books dealing with supernatural themes in folklore and legend.
The article told one of the most amazing stories of 91teleportation92 I had ever read. The gist of it was as follows:
It was about 11:30pm on an unspecified day in June, 1950. The night was warm and the streets of New York were still full of people as they made their way home after an evening at the cinema, at the theatre or dining in one of Manhattan92s fine restaurants. One young man, however, stood out from the rest. He was dressed elegantly enough, but in a style that looked old-fashioned, even archaic. Walking quickly, the strange figure seemed preoccupied by everything he saw around him, as if he were lost and looking frantically for something he could recognise. He was also quite oblivious to the passing traffic, as became immediately apparent when he dashed across a busy intersection near Times Square and was hit almost instantly by an automobile.
The impact was such that the man was killed outright. A crowd of horrified pedestrians gathered on the curb to see his limp body, his peculiarly tailored clothes no doubt spattered with blood, until the police arrived to take him away.
Nothing about the dead man92s appearance looked normal. He had been wearing a long black coat and an impeccable waistcoat that not even the old-timers would be seen wearing - and this gentleman had probably been in his late twenties. The cloth from which his clothes was made was uncommonly thick, especially for that time of year. More disconcerting than this were the shoes on his feet: narrow, pointed at the toes and with a metal buckle, the people at the morgue had never seen anything like them. But the oddest thing was what they found in his pockets. The deceased was carrying an amount of money - antique bills - and several business cards bearing the name 93Rudolf Fenz.94 There was also a letter, addressed to someone of the same name with a New York address85but postmarked in 1876! Naturally, they presumed the dead man was himself Rudolf Fenz.
A team of specialists were employed to find out who Fenz was. First they checked for his name in the records, but to no avail, there was nobody of that name living in the address on the cards and on the letter. The telephone directories listed no Rudolf Fenz and he was not a registered driver. Even more bizarrely, the name did not appear in any medical or dentist records. The fact that 93Rudolf Fenz94 was a German name led them to contact the immigration services but still they found no trace of him. The Federal Republic of Germany could not offer any clues, and nor could the Swedes or the Austrians.
A few weeks after the accident, the name of 93Rudolf Fenz, Jr.94 was found in a phone book dating to 1939. Hoping this person would turn out to be a relative of the deceased Mr. Fenz, the police investigators went to the address that appeared in the directory, but there they were told that Rudolf Fenz, Jr., had died some years before. In any case, this Fenz would have been more than 70 years old at the time of the accident and the body they found was that of a young man.
Progress was made finally by Hubert V. Rihn of New York92s Missing Persons Bureau. He managed to track down Fentz Jr.92s widow. She was able to tell him that her deceased husband92s father had disappeared in 1876 when he went out for a smoke (Mrs. Fentz had not shared her husband92s fondness for tobacco). He had gone out for a walk and simply never came back. Nothing was ever heard of him again. After this, Rihn checked his department92s files for the year 1876, and there he found a document relating to the disappearance of Fenz and a photograph of the same. Rihn could not believe his eyes. The young man in the photo was identical to the one that had died near Times Square!

Contradictions

The article by Canales was not a literary invention or, regrettably, an original investigation, but had rather been pieced together from a variety of sources, including several internet articles in Spanish. Two Spanish books mentioned the case prior to Canales92 article, and these also provided him with further details for his report: Enigmas Sin Resolver (1999), written by journalist Iker Jime9nez, and Los Enigmas Pendientes, by the late Joaquedn Gf3mez Burf3n. The latter was the earliest source, but it was published twice: first in 1979 and then in 1991.
Over a period of twelve months I managed to collect nine or ten summaries of the Fenz case from the internet but I soon discovered that information about the story was scarce outside the World Wide Web. None of the popular books dealing with time travel or teleportation that I would usually consult made any reference to Fenz at all, and enquiries to some of the major UFO and Fortean journals revealed that the case was practically unknown outside Spain. This was a strong indication that the whole incident was likely to be a piece of fiction, for a paranormal incident in which the evidence included a police report, a corpse (and presumably a burial), authentic documents and a photograph, would very quickly become famous and hotly debated, at least in esoteric circles In fact,. it would be irrefutable proof of the scientific reality of time travel. There would be whole books devoted to the case, perhaps even a museum. But no, as I found out early on, the Rudolf Fenz case had seemingly come out of nowhere to be published in Spain in 1979. Even the one article written in English, 93In the Wink of an Eye: Mysterious Disappearances94 (1996) by Scott Corrales, had based its summary of the Fenz case on Burf3n92s book. And, like Carlos Canales after him, Joaquedm Gf3mez Burf3n provided no source for his information (the short 93bibliography94 being just a list of titles by popular authors such as Bergier and Kolosimo, without dates or names of publishers).
For some time it looked doubtful that an earlier source would emerge until I had traced all of Gf3mez Burf3n92s sources. Meanwhile I was able to compare and contrast the different versions available to me. Reading through the texts that I found on the internet I began to see that, although a great deal of agreement existed, the inconsistencies between one account and another gave the impression that each writer had contributed something new.
In one version, Fenz is seen running along the Fifth Avenue to his doom; in another, he materializes in the middle of the street in front of the car. In some versions the time was 11:30pm, in others 11:15pm, and in another 11:10pm. In his pockets Fenz either carried coins or dollar bills, or both. Sometimes the FBI is called in, sometimes it was a matter for the Missing Persons Division alone. There are versions in which Hubert Rihn is the only investigator, and others in which teams of criminal experts use the latest technology to look into the case. In some renditions of the story Rihn visits the address given on the envelope and finds it is a store, in others it is a house. One article holds that when Fenz vanished in 1876 his family spent a great deal of money searching for him. In a few accounts Rihn solves the case when he sees an antique photograph of the young man, though most versions say that all he finds is a written description of the clothes Rudolf Fenz had been wearing the night he disappeared.
More agreement exists on the issue of the witnesses to the accident. Iker Jime9nez writes that 93scores of eyewitness reports94 were gathered by the police, though unfortunately he does not quote from any. Burf3n does not claim there were so many witnesses but he does note that one of them said they had seen the dead pedestrian 93attending85the last performance of the day94 at one of the theatres a short time before. Canales nods in agreement and adds that, with this one exception, all the witnesses were unanimous in their statements. 93Fenz seemed confused, as if he had suddenly appeared in a strange, remote place,94 he writes.
The article written by Canales is particularly interesting because he contributes an item of news unknown to everyone else:

The recent discovery of a letter addressed to the late Fenz from a trader in Pittsburgh, in the state of Pennsylvania (USA), has strengthened the theory [involving time travel] about what happened on New York92s Fifth Avenue in the last days of spring, 1950, and it is possible that it will one day enable us to understand our still mysterious world.

Unfortunately, that letter has never been published. In fact, as Canales admitted to me later, it was only ever mentioned during an internet 91forum92 in Mexico - not the most suitable of sources for a datum of such importance. But was it a mere flight of fantasy? The answer to this question will be become apparent below.
One of the most interesting areas of disagreement concerns the spelling of the names of the 91time traveller92 and of the police officer who led the investigation. Was it Rudolf or Rudolph? Fenz or Fentz, or possibly Fens? Hubert Rihn - or Rihm, or Rhin? Each of these names has been used at some time. This would be less significant if we were not looking for authentic information about supposedly real people. However, the writers who present the case as fact never mention this inconsistency.

A search for names

9My first port of call was the United States Social Security database, available on line at various locations. I fist checked the database for the name 93Rudolf Fenz.94 It produced an immediate result:

RUDOLF FENZ
Residence: 60645 Chicago, Cook, IL
Born: 5 March 1909
Died: April 1976

Unfortunately, the dates did not fit. The Fenz of our story had been 29 in 1876, and died in 1950, so we would logically expect to find a birth date of c.1847. A search in a different direction revealed that there is also a Rudolf Fenz, an engineer, alive and well and living in Germany today. Then I checked various databases for the name 93Rudolph Fenz,94 but there were no results at all. I tried again using 93Rudolf Fentz94 and 93Rudolph Fentz94 but there was nothing to be found. The surnames had existed but not attached to those Christian names. In a file on 93Marriage Registers, Extracts from Manhattan (1869-1880)94 I did come across a Franz Rudolph who lived in Manhattan and who married one Fridricka Winner in 1869, but I decided this was stretching things too far!
9I next sought references to Hubert Rihn, the man supposedly in charge of the police investigation in New York. There was no reference to anyone of that name. I tried Herbert Rihn (just in case), and then combinations of these names with Rihm, Rhin and Rhim. Nothing. Going through all the names attached to Rihn and Rihm one by one I did find a possible candidate by the name of Herman Rihm:

HERMAN RIHM
Last residence: Ridgeview Ave., Cincinnati OH
Birth: 14 December 1912 in Mannheim, Germany
Death: 23 June 1993 in Cincinnati, Hamilton Co. OH

9The dates seemed okay, but that was about all. There was a little extra information in the file, which dispelled any doubt I had at that moment:

Medical Information: Cause of Death: Carbon monoxide poisoning.
Married: 16 May 1939 [to] Emma Kopp b: 3 November 1916.
Note:
Herman and Emma met while working at a German newspaper in Cincinnati. Herman was a linotype operator, Emma was an editorial assistant. The newspaper, Die Frie Press [or rather, Die Freie Presse] (The Free Press) disbanded at the outset of World War Two.

This Rihm was not a policeman but a linotype operator. I made a mental note to check up on the number of German newspapers published in the United States, but not in connection with the Fenz case. In fact I was wondering whether any of the members of the Project 1947 group, who systematically scanned the early press for UFO reports, had examined the German newspapers printed in the USA.
9This failure to trace either Fentz or Rihn through the official records is an important indication that neither man ever existed, at least in the timeframe established in the narrative. It goes without saying that there was no 93Rudolf Fenz Junior94 listed anywhere, either, for any period between 1850 and 2002 (alternative spellings included).
9In April 2002 I received confirmation from both the New York Public Library (Humanities and Social Sciences Library, Room 121, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York NY 10018-2788) and the New York State Library (Albany, NY 12230) that neither Hubert Rihn/Rihm nor Rudolph/Rudolf Fentz/Fenz were listed in any New York telephone directory between 1939 and 1941. In May the same year I received a communication from Walter Burnes of the New York Police Division telling me that after searching their database they had been 93unable to find any information on a Captain Hubert V. Rihm having served with the NYPD and/or the Missing Persons Bureau.94

Early sources

After six months of research and enquiries I finally came upon a book predating Gf3mez Burf3n92s wherein Rudolf Fenz is mentioned. It turns out that Jacques Bergier and Georges H. Gallet discuss the case at some length in their Le Livre du Myste9re, a typical collection of enigmas and supernatural experiences published in Paris in 1975. To his credit, Gf3mez Burf3n did include this book in his general bibliography but there had been no reference to it in the main text and I had not been able to track it down. Partly this was because this book by Bergier is not very well known, but also because it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain particular out-of-print titles in Spain. In any case, I eventually did manage to obtain it, first in Spanish (1977) and later in French (1975).
The version given by Bergier and Gallet concentrates mostly on the investigations carried out by 93Captain Hubert V. Rihm94 of the Missing Persons Division. Now retired, they write, Rihm no longer has access to the police report he once filed but can remember enough details to describe most of the ins and outs of the case. In most respects this version corresponds with those we have already seen, though not entirely. The time of the accident is given as 93approximately94 11:15pm. 93Rudolph Fentz94 is first seen in the doorway of a theatre in the middle of a large crowd, although paradoxically 93nobody saw him go down the street.94 He is next seen in the middle of the road, where he is hit by a taxi. A policeman spotted him from the street corner but could not reach him on time. The dead man92s fingerprints were taken but did not match with any known to specialists either in New York or in Washington.
More details about Rihm92s investigation are provided. After finding Rudolph Fentz Jr. listed in the 1939 telephone directory Captain Rihm goes to the address given and there finds out that Fentz had been around 60 years old in 1939 and worked at a local bank. He had retired in 1940 and moved away. At the bank Rihm was informed that the man had died in 1945 but that his widow was still living in Florida.
A letter from Fentz Jr.92s widow told Rihm that her father-in-law had disappeared when he went out one night for a smoke, and that the family had spent a great deal of money trying to locate him, in vain.

This version was now the earliest I had seen. The Spanish translator of Le Livre du Mystere, Marisa Olivera, had rendered the name of the missing man 93Rudolf94 to make it more familiar for Spanish readers (a common practice that personally I detest), while Hubert Rihm92s name was not altered. This meant that the name 93Rihn94 had originated as a mistake in Burf3n92s book, as did the name 93Fenz,94 leading other writers to make the same mistake in later years. The only North American reference to the case, we recall, is in Scott Corrales92 In the Wink of an Eye, that also has 93Rudolf Fenz.94
The next question was, of course, What was Bergier92s and Gallet92s source?
Fortunately, this was not a difficult question. Their book had been pieced together mainly from articles published in an Italian magazine, Il Giornale dei Misteri, and the Fentz article had been published there.


The paper chase

9
9Bergier and Garret drew their information from a magazine called Il Giornale dei Misteri, an Italian magazine devoted to these kinds of matters. A quick enquiry to the research group to which I belong and have mentioned above, Project 1947, produced a response from researcher Bruno Mancusi telling me the precise edition of the magazine: number 36, March 1974, p.24. I now have a copy of that article in my possession, thanks to Edoardo Russo at CISU.
9But that is not all. The article in the Italian journal contains a brief but important bibliographical reference.

Fakta, no. 1, 1973.

At the time I had no idea what this referred to. Was there an Italian magazine with that name? A French journal? Ole Jonny Bre6nne of UFO-Norge came to my rescue. Fakta? (93Facts?94) was a Norwegian magazine! Bre6nne informed me that on pages 11-12 of Fakta? number 1, 1973, there was an article entitled 93Uforklarlige forflytninger og forsvinninger,94 which translated means 93Unexplained teleportations and disappearances.94 I have a copy of this article in my possession, now, too.
Page 12 is devoted to the 93Rudolph Fentz94 story - note the spelling of 93Fentz.94 93Rihm94 is the spelling of the policeman92s name (93Kaptein Hubert V. Rihm94). These are the original versions of their names, as we shall see. Another curious addition was the information that the letter Fentz carried in his pocket was 93poststemplet juni 1876 i Philadelphia94 - that is, it was postmarked 93Philadelphia 1876.94 Was this the origin of the supposed 93letter addressed to the late Fenz from a trader in Pittsburgh, in the state of Pennsylvania94 that Canales had read about in the internet forum? It is worth considering, as there is no way such a letter could have been 93discovered recently.94 Unless it had been addressed to Mr Rudolf Fenz (1909-1976) of Chicago, Illinois!
On page 11 the article deals with a mysterious disappearance in Nanking (1939) and the story of the 93mass teleportation94 of a whole regiment in Gallipoli in 1915, a well-known but untrue tale. More interesting than this, however, was the bibliographical reference 93Arcanum, January 1973.94
Was Arcanum another Norwegian magazine? No, it turns out that Fakta? had taken the article from a Swedish magazine of that name. So far I had been able to trace the story of Rudolph Fentz from Spain to France, from France to Italy, then to Norway. Now it seemed the story may have originated in Sweden85
Anders Liljegren came to the rescue. Mr Liljegren is a UFO researcher but also the archivist for AFU-Sweden (Archives For UFO Research), one of the largest UFO libraries in Europe. In an e-mail he told me that issue 88 of Brevcirkeln Arcanum, January 1973, contained an article entitled 93Into unknown country,94 which, of course, discussed the same 91teleportation92 cases as the Facta? article. The author of the 4-page article was Lennart Lind, an occultist and ufologist. Lind interpreted the three stories in an esoteric way, with theories about 93the 4th dimension94 and 93time holes94 from Ralph M. Holland, Marian Harthill and 91Myron.92 No references to sources were provided in the article, but there were quotes from the journal of the Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (BSRF), and Liljegren felt that the information had probably come from there.
The BSRF is based in California. The paper chase had apparently taken me back to an English language source, where one automatically supposes a story set in New York and involving the New York police should be.

Borderlands

9In 1945, occultist theorist N. Meade Layne (1883-1961) founded the Borderland Sciences Research Associates (later 93Foundation94) and a quarterly publication called Round Robin, a booklet dedicated to the examination of supernatural phenomena. Layne is acknowledged to be one of the first theorists on ufological matters, making public statements about the phenomenon in 1946 in the wake of a sighting in San Diego on October 9th that year. Before the world92s press began publishing reports on 91flying saucers92 in the summer of 1947, Meade and his colleague, medium Mark Probert (d. 1969), had already proclaimed the objects were 93ether ships94 from the 93fourth dimension.94 Technically speaking, therefore, the BSRF is the oldest flying saucer group in existence, though according to a letter written by a much later director, James Borges, the group de-emphasised UFOs in their work in the 1970s in order to focus on scientific experimentation.
9The term 93round robin94 had been used for years in a slightly different context. It originally referred to a creative game in which one person starts a story and other people take turns adding to it, with no fixed plot. Although this was not what Meade Layne had in mind for his journal, it is, ironically, the simplest possible description of the process by which many tales, like Fentz92s, are developed. In 1959 the name of the publication was changed to The Journal of Borderland Research. The organization, which is still active today, describes the publication as 93an information resource for scholars and researchers on the frontiers of science and awareness.94
9As there was no reference to a particular issue of Round Robin or the Borderland Journal it seemed it was going to be a long job to find one article amongst almost thirty years of publication history. There was no guarantee that the Fentz story had come from there, either. I was, therefore, delighted when Anders Liljegren wrote and told me that he had located the issue in question. Fortunately it was not such an arduous task, as it had been published in the May-June 1972 edition of The Journal of Borderland Research (Volume 28), on pages 15 to 19. Was this the earliest version of the Fentz story? Anders sent me a copy of the article a few days later.
9
A Voice from the Gallery

The report consisted of two parts of unequal length. Pages 15 and 16 dealt with Fentz while the rest discussed the esoteric significance of such mysteries, introducing three cases that had not been mentioned in the articles published in Norway and Sweden. We will look at these later. The most significant detail, however, was the way the story of Fentz was presented. The heading of the article was:

THE VOICE FROM THE GALLERY

By the late Ralph M. Holland
From "Colliers"

This indicates that the article had been taken directly from the popular American magazine Collier92s, but as no date or issue number is mentioned I have so far been unable to trace it. Happily this may not be necessary, as another source is mentioned:

A Voice in the Gallery, number 4, 1953.

The Borderland writer - Vincent H. Gaddis - states that 93From Holland92s 91A Voice in the Gallery,92 No.4, 1953 until March 1969 we had to wait for the occult explanation of the Fentz disappearance and reappearance,94 so I suspect that the Collier92s article would have been identical to the first part of the Borderland Journal version. The inclusion of an exact bibliographical reference, plus the fact that Ralph M. Holland is presented as its author, implies that the text about Fentz was copied verbatim from the original. Unfortunately, editions of A Voice from the Gallery (the correct name of the booklet, according to a reliable source I will cite below) are very rare and I have yet to see any of them.
99

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2002, 12:00 PM:

> From Chris Aubeck,
> posted on August 27, 2002 11:35 AM:
>
> Here are fragments of an early draft of my article. It is
> incomplete, uncorrected and the revelation about Jack Finney is
> absent in this version.
>
> I'm working on about 30 cases like this one for a Spanish
> publication so I cannot post the whole thing here, I'm afraid.
>
> If anyone has access to the Colliers story in question, or
> Holland's "A Voice from the Gallery," I'd love to hear from them.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> Chris Aubeck

You are most kind and obliging. This is fascinating stuff, and deserves a serious response.

> Desperately Seeking Rudolph
> a9 Chris Aubeck, Return to Magonia 2002
>
> This article describes my attempts to trace an incident of 91time
> travel92 or 91teleportation92 that allegedly took place in New York
> many years ago. The paper trail that led me to the original source
> is a classic example of how labyrinthine such searches can be.
> Oddly enough, the paper trail begins not in New York but in Spain.
>
> An untimely death
>
> I first became aware of the case of Rudolph Fentz when I read an
> article in the Spanish magazine Me1s Alle1. "Regreso al futuro en el
> corazf3n de Manhattan" (Back to the Future in the Heart of
> Manhattan) was a six-page report written by researcher Carlos
> Canales, co-author of two well-researched books dealing with
> supernatural themes in folklore and legend.
>
> The article told one of the most amazing stories of
> 91teleportation92 I had ever read. The gist of it was as follows:

Let me give you my reactions to it as an editor, for whatever those are worth. I'm forever querying the plausibility of stories.

> It was about 11:30pm on an unspecified day in June, 1950. The
> night was warm and the streets of New York were still full of
> people as they made their way home after an evening at the cinema,
> at the theatre or dining in one of Manhattan92s fine restaurants.

How full? Which streets? How many people? This matters. One of NYC's most marked characteristics is the way it changes from neighborhood to neighborhood -- often, from block to block. It would be extremely unlike a New Yorker -- any New Yorker -- to tell a story like this without specifying where it took place. True, they might give you a shorthand set of location markers ("This was on Park next the MetLife building") and expect you to know what they signified; but they would give you the location.

And if the streets are sufficiently full of people -- say, the theatre district and Times Square -- we are about to have a line-of-sight problem. This story happens at night. Many of the observations about Mr. Fenz's emotional reactions would require the observer to have a continuous, clear, detailed view of him, including his face -- but Mr. Fenz is moving, and he's moving on a crowded sidewalk. It would be stretching things to hypothesize an observer with field glasses and great night vision who's perched on top of the statue of George M. Cohan, or an observer who's jogging backward in front of Mr. Fenz as he makes his way along the sidewalk.

Can we explain the description as a composite of the observations of more than one bystander? I don't think so. First, that's not how the story reports it. We're not getting the usual NYPD "One woman said this, a man who saw him dash out into the street said that." (Which is odd in itself. The police report would be the logical source for this story.)

Second, the diverse individual bystanders didn't know he was going to run out into the street and get killed. I know this sounds obvious, but bear with me. Before he made his dash, some bystanders might have noticed that he was agitated, but at 11:30 at night that's not enough reason to give someone the kind of close, engaged scrutiny that leads to observations like "[he] seemed preoccupied by everything he saw around him, as if he were lost and looking frantically for something he could recognise." They'd pay attention to him once he was hit by the car, assuming they were still around; but they'd have missed their observation time.

We don't know the distance or duration of his travel. The less time it took, the shorter the distance he traveled, the odder those complex judgements of his emotional state seem. With increasing time and distance, you get increasing questions about who was doing all this watching, and why.

Is it easier to make these criticisms of the story after the fact? Sure. Of course. But the story felt like fiction to me the first time I read it. Who knows all the things this story knows? The omniscient narrative intelligence, that's who.

> One young man, however, stood out from the rest. he was dressed
> elegantly enough, but in a style that looked old-fashioned, even
> archaic.

Our observer[s] have a keen eye, and some knowledge of the history of costume.

> Walking quickly, the strange figure seemed preoccupied by
> everything he saw around him, as if he were lost and looking
> frantically for something he could recognise.

See above.

I have to wonder how it was that someone was concerned enough to observe all this, but didn't ask Mr. Fenz whether he needed help. It's true that there have always been certain persons in Manhattan who'll take an immediate sharp-eyed interest in a well-dressed citizen who seems disoriented or otherwise vulnerable; but such persons don't hang around afterward to give an account of the incident to the police.

About that business of "looking frantically for something he could recognise": The mail in Mr. Fenz's pocket is directed to a New York address. Mr. Fenz might be finding the city much changed, but it's still Manhattan. Even now it takes some doing to find a spot from which you can't see any remaining 19th C. construction, and in 1950 there'd be even more of it around.

> He was also quite
> oblivious to the passing traffic, as became immediately apparent
> when he dashed across a busy intersection near Times Square and
> was hit almost instantly by an automobile.

This is not plausible. Mr. Fenz may have been from Chicago and he's been living in New York. He'd have seen traffic, and plenty of it. Some of it would have been quite dangerous for pedestrians. If he didn't know better than to run out into the street, he wouldn't have survived into adulthood.

> The impact was such that the man was killed outright. A crowd of
> horrified pedestrians gathered on the curb to see his limp body,
> his peculiarly tailored

If you don't know historical costume, you're going to have a hard time spotting that peculiar tailoring, especially on dark fabric seen at night.

> clothes no doubt spattered with blood,
> until the police arrived to take him away.
>
> Nothing about the dead man92s appearance looked normal. He
> had been wearing a long black coat and an impeccable

Who knows his waistcoat is impeccable? Not the gawkers after the accident; he's been knocked down into the street and is bleeding.

> waistcoat that not
> even the old-timers would be seen wearing - and this gentleman had
> probably been in his late twenties.

Some 1876 waistcoats would have looked out of fashion in 1950; others would have passed muster. Men's tailoring hasn't changed all that much since the 19th C. The biggest changes were the gradual disappearance of the waistline seam on coats, the switch from a two-sided fly to a single opening, and assorted variations in shirt collars and neckties and cravats. The practice of wearing a vest (or waistcoat; same thing) under your coat hadn't disappeared by 1950. and it still hasn't now.

There are four things missing from the account at this point. The first is speculations about whether he might be a westerner. I don't think gaudy vests have ever wholly disappeared from the former wild frontier. The second is speculations about whether he was in theatrical costume. The third is his collar and cravat, which would have looked a lot stranger in 1950 than his vest did. The fourth is his hat, which he would surely have been wearing, and which would have looked odder than anything else he had on.

> The cloth from which his
> clothes was made was uncommonly thick,

Given the range of possible dates, the fabric wouldn't have been all that thick, and some of it couldn't have been distinguished from modern products by anyone but an expert. It wasn't homespun, for pete's sake.

> especially for that time of
> year. More disconcerting than this were the shoes on his feet:
> narrow, pointed at the toes and with a metal buckle,

But urban gentlemen in America weren't wearing shoes like that in 1876. Dandies wore them narrower than most, but even theirs ended in a distinctly squared-off tip like the end of a lettering pen. Buckles on men's shoes in 1876 weren't any more or less common, or obtrusive, than they were on men's shoes in the 1950s.

> the people at
> the morgue had never seen anything like them. But the oddest thing
> was what they found in his pockets. The deceased was carrying an
> amount of money - antique bills - and several business cards
> bearing the name "Rudolf Fenz." There was also a letter, addressed
> to someone of the same name with a New York address85but postmarked
> in 1876! Naturally, they presumed the dead man was himself Rudolf
> Fenz.

Naturally, they assumed he was a dealer in antique money and documents.

Why are the morgue employees going through his pockets and making these judgements? These inquiries should be made by a police detective. And by the way, a competent police detective might assume that the dead man was most likely Rudolf Fenz, but he wouldn't conclude that he was.

> A team of specialists were employed to find out who Fenz was.

Whose specialists? The police department's? That's the logical assumption. But if they were, this story should be different.

> First they checked for his name in the records, but to no avail,
> there was nobody of that name living in the address on the cards
> and on the letter. The telephone directories listed no Rudolf Fenz
> and he was not a registered driver. Even more bizarrely, the name
> did not appear in any medical or dentist records.

That is an impossible fact to determine, unless they checked the records of every private medical and dental office within a fifty-mile radius of the city.

Also: If he'd had any dental work done at all, other than extraction, it would have looked very distinctive in 1950.

And since we've mentioned doctors: Won't there have been an autopsy?

Why aren't they checking with dealers in antique money and documents?

> The fact that
> "Rudolf Fenz" was a German name led them to contact the
> immigration services but still they found no trace of him. The
> Federal Republic of Germany could not offer any clues, and nor
> could the Swedes or the Austrians.

There's a huge step missing here, where they contact law enforcement agencies all over the United States and ask about missing persons who fit the description of Mr. Fenz.

> A few weeks after the accident, the name of "Rudolf Fenz, Jr." was
> found in a phone book dating to 1939. Hoping this person would
> turn out to be a relative of the deceased Mr. Fenz, the police
> investigators went to the address that appeared in the directory,
> but there they were told that Rudolf Fenz, Jr., had died some
> years before. In any case, this Fenz would have been more than 70
> years old at the time of the accident and the body they found was
> that of a young man.
>
> Progress was made finally by Hubert V. Rihn of New York92s Missing
> Persons Bureau. He managed to track down Fentz Jr.92s widow. She
> was able to tell him that her deceased husband92s father had
> disappeared in 1876 when he went out for a smoke (Mrs. Fentz had
> not shared her husband92s fondness for tobacco). He had gone out
> for a walk and simply never came back. Nothing was ever heard of
> him again. After this, Rihn checked his department92s files for the
> year 1876, and there he found a document relating to the
> disappearance of Fenz and a photograph of the same. Rihn could not
> believe his eyes. The young man in the photo was identical to the
> one that had died near Times Square!

Very tidy. The only pieces of evidence that turn up are the ones that point directly to the dead man being the missing Rudolf Fenz, and those bits of evidence nail down the story. This lacks the shagginess of real life.


> Contradictions
>
> The article by Canales was not a literary invention or,
> regrettably, an original investigation, but had rather been pieced
> together from a variety of sources, including several internet
> articles in Spanish. Two Spanish books mentioned the case prior to
> Canales92 article, and these also provided him with further details
> for his report: Enigmas Sin Resolver (1999), written by journalist
> Iker Jime9nez, and Los Enigmas Pendientes, by the late Joaquedn
> Gf3mez Burf3n. The latter was the earliest source, but it was
> published twice: first in 1979 and then in 1991.

One of these days I must send you a xerox of "The Pastafazool Cycle", a fantasia on the subject of doing research in murky waters.

> Over a period of twelve months I managed to collect nine or ten
> summaries of the Fenz case from the internet

The internet is great for collating variant texts. Check out the variations of "Eskimo Nell" sometime, if you're curious and at loose ends.

> but I soon discovered
> that information about the story was scarce outside the World Wide
> Web. None of the popular books dealing with time travel or
> teleportation that I would usually consult made any reference to
> Fenz at all, and enquiries to some of the major UFO and Fortean
> journals revealed that the case was practically unknown outside
> Spain. This was a strong indication that the whole incident was
> likely to be a piece of fiction, for a paranormal incident in
> which the evidence included a police report, a corpse (and
> presumably a burial), authentic documents and a photograph, would
> very quickly become famous and hotly debated, at least in esoteric
> circles In fact,. it would be irrefutable proof of the scientific
> reality of time travel. There would be whole books devoted to the
> case, perhaps even a museum. But no, as I found out early on, the
> Rudolf Fenz case had seemingly come out of nowhere to be published
> in Spain in 1979. Even the one article written in English, "In the
> Wink of an Eye: Mysterious Disappearances" (1996) by Scott
> Corrales, had based its summary of the Fenz case on Burf3n92s book.
> And, like Carlos Canales after him, Joaquedm Gf3mez Burf3n provided
> no source for his information (the short "bibliography" being just
> a list of titles by popular authors such as Bergier and Kolosimo,
> without dates or names of publishers).

True. There would be traces. The sleek, aerodynamic version you recounted above would not have been the first evidence of this story.

> For some time it looked doubtful that an earlier source would
> emerge until I had traced all of Gf3mez Burf3n92s sources. Meanwhile
> I was able to compare and contrast the different versions
> available to me. Reading through the texts that I found on the
> internet I began to see that, although a great deal of agreement
> existed, the inconsistencies between one account and another gave
> the impression that each writer had contributed something new.

That's normal. It's a great, coherent little story. What people will remember is the core of it: The man from another time stumbling haplessly to his death in 1950s NYC, and the subsequent investigation that turns up his dumbfounding origins. They'll give it their own coloring when they retell it, but the core story will still be present.

> In one version, Fenz is seen running along the Fifth Avenue to his
> doom; in another, he materializes in the middle of the street in
> front of the car. In some versions the time was 11:30pm, in others
> 11:15pm, and in another 11:10pm. In his pockets Fenz either
> carried coins or dollar bills, or both. Sometimes the FBI is
> called in, sometimes it was a matter for the Missing Persons
> Division alone.

Could you establish a phylogeny of changes and additions, or was it random?

> There are versions in which Hubert Rihn is the
> only investigator, and others in which teams of criminal experts
> use the latest technology to look into the case. In some
> renditions of the story Rihn visits the address given on the
> envelope and finds it is a store,

That detail turns up in a lot of other stories.

> in others it is a house. One
> article holds that when Fenz vanished in 1876 his family spent a
> great deal of money searching for him.

What you see here are readers fretting over a piece of fiction that's been mislabeled nonfiction. They're trying to make it make sense.

> In a few accounts Rihn
> solves the case when he sees an antique photograph of the young
> man, though most versions say that all he finds is a written
> description of the clothes Rudolf Fenz had been wearing the night
> he disappeared.

It shares both of those details with multiple known variants of the "Vanishing Hitchhiker" story.

> More agreement exists on the issue of the witnesses to the
> accident. Iker Jime9nez writes that "scores of eyewitness reports"
> were gathered by the police, though unfortunately he does not
> quote from any. Burf3n does not claim there were so many witnesses
> but he does note that one of them said they had seen the dead
> pedestrian "attending85the last performance of the day" at one of
> the theatres a short time before. Canales nods in agreement and
> adds that, with this one exception, all the witnesses were
> unanimous in their statements. "Fenz seemed confused, as if he had
> suddenly appeared in a strange, remote place," he writes.

There is no way that all the witnesses would have observed that of a man who was merely agitated.

> The article written by Canales is particularly interesting because
> he contributes an item of news unknown to everyone else:
>
> The recent discovery of a letter addressed to the late Fenz from a
> trader in Pittsburgh, in the state of Pennsylvania (USA), has
> strengthened the theory [involving time travel] about what
> happened on New York92s Fifth Avenue in the last days of spring,
> 1950, and it is possible that it will one day enable us to
> understand our still mysterious world.
>
> Unfortunately, that letter has never been published. In fact, as
> Canales admitted to me later, it was only ever mentioned during an
> internet 91forum92 in Mexico - not the most suitable of sources for
> a datum of such importance. But was it a mere flight of fantasy?
> The answer to this question will be become apparent below.

A writer who will cite an otherwise unverified story he found on an internet forum will do anything.

> One of the most interesting areas of disagreement concerns the
> spelling of the names of the 91time traveller92 and of the police
> officer who led the investigation. Was it Rudolf or Rudolph? Fenz
> or Fentz, or possibly Fens? Hubert Rihn - or Rihm, or Rhin? Each
> of these names has been used at some time. This would be less
> significant if we were not looking for authentic information about
> supposedly real people. However, the writers who present the case
> as fact never mention this inconsistency.

And you are a real researcher, because it does bother you.

I was once assigned to compile a primary bibliography for Thomas of Ercildoune. In the course of it, I wound up compiling a single-page double-column list of all the known variant spellings (not permutations, just known variants) of his name. There were more than twenty, less than thirty. I also compiled a list of every other known writer from that area and period who was named Thomas, just to keep things straight -- if "straight" is a word that can be applied to that unbelievable mess.

> A search for names
>
> My first port of call was the United States Social Security
> database, available on line at various locations. I fist checked
> the database for the name "Rudolf Fenz." It produced an immediate
> result:
>
> RUDOLF FENZ
>
> Residence: 60645 Chicago, Cook, IL
>
> Born: 5 March 1909
>
> Died: April 1976
>
> Unfortunately, the dates did not fit. The Fenz of our story had
> been 29 in 1876, and died in 1950, so we would logically expect to
> find a birth date of c.1847. A search in a different direction
> revealed that there is also a Rudolf Fenz, an engineer, alive and
> well and living in Germany today. Then I checked various databases
> for the name "Rudolph Fenz," but there were no results at all. I
> tried again using "Rudolf Fentz" and "Rudolph Fentz" but there was
> nothing to be found. The surnames had existed but not attached to
> those Christian names. In a file on "Marriage Registers, Extracts
> from Manhattan (1869-1880)" I did come across a Franz Rudolph who
> lived in Manhattan and who married one Fridricka Winner in 1869,
> but I decided this was stretching things too far!

You're right. That's a good example of the shagginess of the real world in action: The nearest match is just too far off to be considered.

> I next sought references to Hubert Rihn, the man supposedly in
> charge of the police investigation in New York. There was no
> reference to anyone of that name. I tried Herbert Rihn (just in
> case), and then combinations of these names with Rihm, Rhin and
> Rhim. Nothing. Going through all the names attached to Rihn and
> Rihm one by one I did find a possible candidate by the name of
> Herman Rihm:
>
> HERMAN RIHM
>
> Last residence: Ridgeview Ave., Cincinnati OH
>
> Birth: 14 December 1912 in Mannheim, Germany
>
> Death: 23 June 1993 in Cincinnati, Hamilton Co. OH
>
> The dates seemed okay, but that was about all. There was a little
> extra information in the file, which dispelled any doubt I had at
> that moment:
>
> Medical Information: Cause of Death: Carbon monoxide poisoning.
>
> Married: 16 May 1939 [to] Emma Kopp b: 3 November 1916.
>
> Note:
>
> Herman and Emma met while working at a German newspaper in
> Cincinnati. Herman was a linotype operator, Emma was an editorial
> assistant. The newspaper, Die Frie Press [or rather, Die Freie
> Presse] (The Free Press) disbanded at the outset of World War Two.
>
> This Rihm was not a policeman but a linotype operator.

He could have changed professions. It happens.

> I made a
> mental note to check up on the number of German newspapers
> published in the United States, but not in connection with the
> Fenz case. In fact I was wondering whether any of the members of
> the Project 1947 group, who systematically scanned the early press
> for UFO reports, had examined the German newspapers printed in the
> USA.

During the big waves of immigration, vast numbers of foreign-language newspapers were published in NYC. Lord knows who's kept copies, if anyone has. I'd start asking at the Ellis Island museum.

> This failure to trace either Fentz or Rihn through the official
> records is an important indication that neither man ever existed,
> at least in the timeframe established in the narrative. It goes
> without saying that there was no "Rudolf Fenz Junior" listed
> anywhere, either, for any period between 1850 and 2002
> (alternative spellings included).
>
> In April 2002 I received confirmation from both the New York
> Public Library (Humanities and Social Sciences Library, Room 121,
> Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York NY 10018-2788) and the New
> York State Library (Albany, NY 12230) that neither Hubert
> Rihn/Rihm nor Rudolph/Rudolf Fentz/Fenz were listed in any New
> York telephone directory between 1939 and 1941. In May the same
> year I received a communication from Walter Burnes of the New York
> Police Division telling me that after searching their database
> they had been "unable to find any information on a Captain Hubert
> V. Rihm having served with the NYPD and/or the Missing Persons
> Bureau."

You've nailed down a negative proof! Huzzah! That's a hell of a piece of work.

> Early sources
>
> After six months of research and enquiries I finally came upon a
> book predating Gf3mez Burf3n92s wherein Rudolf Fenz is mentioned. It
> turns out that Jacques Bergier and Georges H. Gallet discuss the
> case at some length in their Le Livre du Myste9re, a typical
> collection of enigmas and supernatural experiences published in
> Paris in 1975. To his credit, Gf3mez Burf3n did include this book in
> his general bibliography but there had been no reference to it in
> the main text and I had not been able to track it down. Partly
> this was because this book by Bergier is not very well known, but
> also because it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain particular
> out-of-print titles in Spain. In any case, I eventually did manage
> to obtain it, first in Spanish (1977) and later in French (1975).
>
> The version given by Bergier and Gallet concentrates mostly on the
> investigations carried out by "Captain Hubert V. Rihm" of the
> Missing Persons Division. Now retired, they write, Rihm no longer
> has access to the police report he once filed but can remember
> enough details to describe most of the ins and outs of the case.

Oho. That's hardly evidence.

> In most respects this version corresponds with those we have
> already seen, though not entirely. The time of the accident is
> given as "approximately" 11:15pm. "Rudolph Fentz" is first seen in
> the doorway of a theatre in the middle of a large crowd, although
> paradoxically "nobody saw him go down the street."

There are other words besides "paradox" that fit here.

> He is next seen
> in the middle of the road, where he is hit by a taxi. A policeman
> spotted him from the street corner but could not reach him on
> time. The dead man92s fingerprints were taken but did not match
> with any known to specialists either in New York or in Washington.

So they should have checked for dental records; see above.

> More details about Rihm92s investigation are provided. After
> finding Rudolph Fentz Jr. listed in the 1939 telephone directory
> Captain Rihm goes to the address given and there finds out that
> Fentz had been around 60 years old in 1939 and worked at a local
> bank. He had retired in 1940 and moved away. At the bank Rihm was
> informed that the man had died in 1945 but that his widow was
> still living in Florida.
>
> A letter from Fentz Jr.92s widow told Rihm that her father-in-law
> had disappeared when he went out one night for a smoke, and that
> the family had spent a great deal of money trying to locate him,
> in vain.
>
> This version was now the earliest I had seen. The Spanish
> translator of Le Livre du Mystere, Marisa Olivera, had rendered
> the name of the missing man "Rudolf" to make it more familiar for
> Spanish readers (a common practice that personally I detest),
> while Hubert Rihm92s name was not altered. This meant that the name
> "Rihn" had originated as a mistake in Burf3n92s book, as did the
> name "Fenz," leading other writers to make the same mistake in
> later years. The only North American reference to the case, we
> recall, is in Scott Corrales92 In the Wink of an Eye, that also has
> "Rudolf Fenz."

Oh, very good. Phylogeny by accumulated errors.

> The next question was, of course, What was Bergier92s and Gallet92s
> source?
>
> Fortunately, this was not a difficult question. Their book had
> been pieced together mainly from articles published in an Italian
> magazine, Il Giornale dei Misteri, and the Fentz article had been
> published there.
>
> The paper chase
>
> Bergier and Garret drew their information from a magazine called
> Il Giornale dei Misteri, an Italian magazine devoted to these
> kinds of matters. A quick enquiry to the research group to which I
> belong and have mentioned above, Project 1947, produced a response
> from researcher Bruno Mancusi telling me the precise edition of
> the magazine: number 36, March 1974, p.24. I now have a copy of
> that article in my possession, thanks to Edoardo Russo at CISU.
>
> But that is not all. The article in the Italian journal contains a
> brief but important bibliographical reference.
>
> Fakta, no. 1, 1973.
>
> At the time I had no idea what this referred to. Was there an
> Italian magazine with that name? A French journal? Ole Jonny
> Bre6nne of UFO-Norge came to my rescue. Fakta? ("Facts?") was a
> Norwegian magazine! Bre6nne informed me that on pages 11-12 of
> Fakta? number 1, 1973, there was an article entitled "Uforklarlige
> forflytninger og forsvinninger," which translated means
> "Unexplained teleportations and disappearances." I have a copy of
> this article in my possession, now, too.
>
> Page 12 is devoted to the "Rudolph Fentz" story - note the
> spelling of "Fentz." "Rihm" is the spelling of the policeman92s
> name ("Kaptein Hubert V. Rihm"). These are the original versions
> of their names, as we shall see. Another curious addition was the
> information that the letter Fentz carried in his pocket was
> "poststemplet juni 1876 i Philadelphia" - that is, it was
> postmarked "Philadelphia 1876." Was this the origin of the
> supposed "letter addressed to the late Fenz from a trader in
> Pittsburgh, in the state of Pennsylvania" that Canales had read
> about in the internet forum? It is worth considering, as there is
> no way such a letter could have been "discovered recently." Unless
> it had been addressed to Mr Rudolf Fenz (1909-1976) of Chicago,
> Illinois!

That's a plausible explanation, if he were reading a story in a language he didn't perfectly understand.

> On page 11 the article deals with a mysterious disappearance in
> Nanking (1939) and the story of the "mass teleportation" of a
> whole regiment in Gallipoli in 1915, a well-known but untrue tale.
> More interesting than this, however, was the bibliographical
> reference "Arcanum, January 1973."
>
> Was Arcanum another Norwegian magazine? No, it turns out that
> Fakta? had taken the article from a Swedish magazine of that name.
> So far I had been able to trace the story of Rudolph Fentz from
> Spain to France, from France to Italy, then to Norway. Now it
> seemed the story may have originated in Sweden85
>
> Anders Liljegren came to the rescue. Mr Liljegren is a UFO
> researcher but also the archivist for AFU-Sweden (Archives For UFO
> Research), one of the largest UFO libraries in Europe. In an e-
> mail he told me that issue 88 of Brevcirkeln Arcanum, January
> 1973, contained an article entitled "Into unknown country," which,
> of course, discussed the same 91teleportation92 cases as the Facta?
> article. The author of the 4-page article was Lennart Lind, an
> occultist and ufologist. Lind interpreted the three stories in an
> esoteric way, with theories about "the 4th dimension" and "time
> holes" from Ralph M. Holland, Marian Harthill and 91Myron.92 No
> references to sources were provided in the article, but there were
> quotes from the journal of the Borderland Sciences Research
> Foundation (BSRF), and Liljegren felt that the information had
> probably come from there.
>
> The BSRF is based in California. The paper chase had apparently
> taken me back to an English language source, where one
> automatically supposes a story set in New York and involving the
> New York police should be.
>
> Borderlands
>
> In 1945, occultist theorist N. Meade Layne (1883-1961) founded the
> Borderland Sciences Research Associates (later "Foundation") and a
> quarterly publication called Round Robin, a booklet dedicated to
> the examination of supernatural phenomena. Layne is acknowledged
> to be one of the first theorists on ufological matters, making
> public statements about the phenomenon in 1946 in the wake of a
> sighting in San Diego on October 9th that year. Before the world92s
> press began publishing reports on 91flying saucers92 in the summer
> of 1947, Meade and his colleague, medium Mark Probert (d. 1969),
> had already proclaimed the objects were "ether ships" from the
> "fourth dimension." Technically speaking, therefore, the BSRF is
> the oldest flying saucer group in existence, though according to a
> letter written by a much later director, James Borges, the group
> de-emphasised UFOs in their work in the 1970s in order to focus on
> scientific experimentation.
>
> The term "round robin" had been used for years in a slightly
> different context. It originally referred to a creative game in
> which one person starts a story and other people take turns adding
> to it, with no fixed plot. Although this was not what Meade Layne
> had in mind for his journal, it is, ironically, the simplest
> possible description of the process by which many tales, like
> Fentz92s, are developed.

Here I have to disagree with you a little. You get different kinds of changes and additions when people understand themselves to be constructing a fiction than you get when they inadvertently recast portions of a story they understand in its essentials but not its details.

> In 1959 the name of the publication was
> changed to The Journal of Borderland Research. The organization,
> which is still active today, describes the publication as "an
> information resource for scholars and researchers on the frontiers
> of science and awareness."
>
> As there was no reference to a particular issue of Round Robin or
> the Borderland Journal it seemed it was going to be a long job to
> find one article amongst almost thirty years of publication
> history. There was no guarantee that the Fentz story had come from
> there, either. I was, therefore, delighted when Anders Liljegren
> wrote and told me that he had located the issue in question.
> Fortunately it was not such an arduous task, as it had been
> published in the May-June 1972 edition of The Journal of
> Borderland Research (Volume 28), on pages 15 to 19. Was this the
> earliest version of the Fentz story? Anders sent me a copy of the
> article a few days later.
>
> A Voice from the Gallery
>
> The report consisted of two parts of unequal length. Pages 15 and
> 16 dealt with Fentz while the rest discussed the esoteric
> significance of such mysteries, introducing three cases that had
> not been mentioned in the articles published in Norway and Sweden.
> We will look at these later. The most significant detail, however,
> was the way the story of Fentz was presented. The heading of the
> article was:
>
> THE VOICE FROM THE GALLERY
>
> By the late Ralph M. Holland
>
> From "Colliers"
>
> This indicates that the article had been taken directly from the
> popular American magazine Collier92s, but as no date or issue
> number is mentioned I have so far been unable to trace it. Happily
> this may not be necessary, as another source is mentioned:
>
> A Voice in the Gallery, number 4, 1953.
>
> The Borderland writer - Vincent H. Gaddis - states that "From
> Holland92s 91A Voice in the Gallery,92 No.4, 1953 until March 1969 we
> had to wait for the occult explanation of the Fentz disappearance
> and reappearance," so I suspect that the Collier92s article would
> have been identical to the first part of the Borderland Journal
> version. The inclusion of an exact bibliographical reference, plus
> the fact that Ralph M. Holland is presented as its author, implies
> that the text about Fentz was copied verbatim from the original.
> Unfortunately, editions of A Voice from the Gallery (the correct
> name of the booklet, according to a reliable source I will cite
> below) are very rare and I have yet to see any of them.

Good luck finding them.

I don't know whether you googled the word, but "AKICIF", the word I posted after Glenn Hauman identified the story, is a proverb: All Knowledge Is Contained In Fandom. Naturally, there's no way to test the literal truth of it; but the bits of arcane data a group of fans can come up with is a perpetual source of wonder to me, and their ability to identify a short story from a bare handful of clues is legendary.

Thanks again for posting that. It's prime stuff.

-tnh

#38 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2002, 02:35 AM:

Wow. This has been a good read.

Of course, I am supposed to be packing for Worldcon, and merely stopped off at the computer en passant, as it were, to check the weather in San Jose, and somehow wound up here after a link or two.( Teresa, is there a word for that kind of thing?)

Anyhow, now I'll be watching for time travelers tomorrow.

#39 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2002, 02:53 AM:

Faur enough; I wrote my bit when I was supposed to be packing.

So far, the closest thing to a time traveller I've seen here is the guy at the front desk, who explained that the reason this major hotel in the largest city adjacent to Silicon Vallely doesn't have ethernet connectivity is that the hotel was built before all that stuff came in. I refrained from saying "What a coincidence! So was the entire city I live in!"

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