John Titor: The First Fax

A strange tale from 1998

July 29, 1998. Another warm night, and Art Bell is hosting one of his popular time travel shows, fielding calls from alleged time travelers on his special Open Time Lines. But that night he gets more than he expected: a fax from someone claiming to be from the year 2036.

Later, Mr. Bell would receive a second fax, allegedly from the same person.

Not until 2000-2001 would a name be attached to those faxes: John Titor.

Believe it. Or don’t. Whichever you choose, here is the original, first John Titor fax, re-printed for future(?) reference:

The First Fax (July 29, 1998):


“Dear Art,

I had to fax when I heard other time travelers calling in from any time past the year 2500 AD. Please let me explain.

Time travel was invented in 2034. Off-shoots of certain successful fusion reactor research allowed scientists at CERN to produce the world’s first contained singularity engine. The basic design involves rotating singularities inside a magnetic field. By altering the speed and direction of rotation, you can travel both forward and backward in time.

Time itself can be understood in terms of connected lines. When you go back in time, you travel on your original timeline. When you turn your singularity engine off, a new timeline is created, due to the fact that you and your time machine are now there. In other words, a new universe is created.

To get back to your original line, you must travel a split second father back, and immediately throw the engine into forward without turning it off.

Some interesting outcomes of this are:

One, you meet yourself. I have done it often, even taken a younger version of myself along for a few rides before returning myself to the new timeline and going back to mine.

Two, you can alter history in the new universe that you have just created. Most of the time, the changes are subtle. Sometimes, I’ll notice car models that don’t exist, or books that come out late.

The oldest one was a skyscraper that wasn’t built in a near favorite store of mine in New York.

Interestingly, when you travel in time, you must compensate for the orbit of the earth. Since the time machine doesn’t move, you have to adjust the engines so you remain on the planet when you turn it off. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that anyone going forward in time, from my 2036, hit a brick wall in the year 2564.

Everyone who has ever been there has reported that nothing exists. When the machine is turned off, you find yourself surrounded by blackness and silence.

Now, most time travelers are trying to find out where the line went bad by going into the past, creating a new universe, and proceeding forward to see if the same thing results in 2564. It appears the line went bad around the year 2000. I’m here now, in this time, to test a few theories of mine before going forward.

Now, for the future you might want to know about.

One, Y2K is a disaster. Many people die on the highways when they freeze to death trying to get to warmer weather.

Two, the government tries to keep power by instituting marshall law, but all of it collapses when their efforts to bring the power back up fail.

Three, a power facility in Denver is able to restart itself, but is mobbed by hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed. This convinces most that maybe we shouldn’t bring the old system back up.

Four, a few years later, communal government system is developed, after the constitution takes a few twists.

China retakes Taiwan, Israel wins the largest battle for their life, and Russia is covered in nuclear snow from their collapsed reactors.

Art, the reason I’m here now is because I believe a nuclear weapon set off by Iraq in the Middle East war with Israel might have something to do with the damaged timeline. I will test that theory and get back to you.

Please pray that we discover the reason why there is no apparent future after 2564.”


A Few Thoughts

Comparing the 1998 fax to the John Titor story that occurred a couple years later on the Internet, you can see that the “plot” changed somewhat. There’s no mention of an IBM 5100 in the 1998 faxes, and in 2000-2001, there wasn’t any focus at all on this mysterious “blackness and silence” in 2564, nor any reference to a damaged timeline.

Perhaps the mission changed. Or maybe just the story.

It’s possible, even, that the author of the faxes wasn’t the same person, that someone else snatched up the story, made a few changes and ran with it. But that’s just meaningless conjecture.

I’ll leave you with this final thought: something’s weird about this first fax. I’ve transcribed it directly from a recording of the originally aired episode.

The line Art reads, “The oldest one was a skyscraper that wasn’t built in a near favorite store of mine in New York,” is fairly strange, not just for its content, but for its structure. It’s often reinterpreted as “The oldest one was a sky scraper that don’t exist in New York.”

Now, we can obviously understand what the other interpretation means, but “wasn’t built in a near favorite store of mine in New York” is just weird. Perhaps it was a typo on the fax, or Art misread it.

Some, however, theorize that the original recording was edited, that the original content was obscured to hide…something. Or, perhaps, to add something. There are rumors that the audio, for whatever reason, was changed, and so multiple versions are floating around cyberspace.

I can’t really speak for that, but I just thought I’d mention it.

Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

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