Much of ancient Greek philosophy was concerned with understanding the concept of eternity, and the subject of time is central to all the world's religions and cultures. Can the flow of time be stopped or slowed? Certainly some mystics thought so. Angelus Silesius, a 17th-century philosopher and poet, thought the flow of time could be suspended by mental powers:
Time is of your own making;
its clock ticks in your head.
The moment you stop thought
time too stops dead.
The line between science and mysticism sometimes grows thin. Today physicists would agree that time is one of the strangest properties of our universe. In fact, there is a story circulating among scientists of an immigrant to America who has lost his watch. He walks up to a man on a New York street and asks, "Please, Sir, what is time?" The scientist replies, "I'm sorry, you'll have to ask a philosopher. I'm just a physicist."
Time travel, according to modern scientific theory, may still be beyond our grasp. Yet for a number of people who have had unusual time slip experiences, time may be easier to circumnavigate than expected.
A classic example of a time slip can be seen in a note from Lyn in Australia. Lyn had read the book, Time Travel: A How-To Insiders Guide, (Global Communications, 1999) and thought her experience was similar to others featured in the book.
In 1997 Lyn lived in a small outback town that was built in 1947 and had changed little since that time.
"I was driving toward the main intersection of the town, when suddenly I felt a change in the air. It wasn't the classic colder feeling, but a change, like a shift in atmosphere. The air felt denser somehow. As I slowed at the intersection, I seemed to be suddenly transported back in time to approximately 1950. The road was dirt, the trees were gone and coming toward me to cross the intersection was an old black car, something like a Vanguard or old FJ Holden. As the car passed through the intersection the driver was looking back at me in total astonishment before he accelerated. From what I could see he was dressed in similar 1950s fashion, complete with hat.
"This whole episode lasted perhaps 20 seconds and was repeated at least 5 times during my time there, always at the exact spot. I tried to make out the registration plate number but the car was covered in dust."
Lyn wondered if there is someone out there still living who remembers seeing a strange sight at the intersection back in the 50s...of a weird car with a bug-eyed woman at the wheel. 2
Derek E. tells another interesting time slip story. When he was a child, his father was a taxi driver in Glasgow, Scotland. One day in the late 1960s, Derek's father was driving in the north of the city along Maryhill Road near Queen's Cross, one of the older parts of town and once its own separate community outside the city.
"One minute it was now," Derek wrote, "cars, buses, modern clothes, tarmac roads etc. - and the next thing my dad knew he was in some earlier time. It was certainly pre-Victorian given the clothes he described people wearing, horses, rough road, lower buildings, people in rough clothes and bonnets etc. It lasted as long as it took him to be aware of it and then it vanished and he was back in 'now.'"
Derek also reported that in the 1980's, he and his wife were on a driving holiday in the North York Moors in England. They went to a tiny coastal village called Staithes, which had a steep winding and narrowing road down to the harbor, with the entrance to the houses and narrow footway at a higher level of three or four feet.
"We parked at the top of the village, hamlet really, where the tourist buses and cars had to stop and made our way down on foot. What I remember is a brilliantly sunny day with lots of other people around, but as we made our way down, it just suddenly seemed as if no one else were there but my wife and me. An old woman appeared on the footway opposite us. It became cooler and duller.
She asked, in what seemed to me an old-fashioned and very polite way, what year it was. Now lots of old people get confused and it could have been that, but what I remember vividly is her black clothes - handmade, rough and with hand-sewn buttons - really big compared with modern ones. Her shoes were very old fashioned with much higher and chunkier heels than you'd see an older person wearing nowadays. In the time it took me to turn to my wife and say, 'Did you see that?' she was gone. The sun was back and so were all the people. My wife had also seen the same old woman and felt the same chill." 3
Derek's experience seems strikingly similar to traditional ghost stories. Many ghost sightings are readily explained as individuals who appear out of their normal location or time; but often the ghost also seems to change the surroundings of the witness, giving the impression of a time slip. What is open to question is whether these are glimpses into another time or does the witness or the ghost actually travel in time? Perhaps it is simply different sides of the same coin.
Martin Jeffrey, co-editor with Louise Jeffrey of the website www.mysterymag.com, speculates that time slips can be recreated or induced using a "trigger factor," which "…occurs when one is interested in his surroundings but is not concentrating on them; a slip occurs at a precise place and moment and the witness is thrust seemingly into another time."
Jeffrey cites the case of Alice Pollock, who at Leeds Castle in Kent "experienced what could be called a 'classic' time slip. Alice was experimenting in Henry VIII's rooms by touching objects in an attempt to experience events from another time. After a period of receiving no impressions whatsoever, the room suddenly changed. It lost its modern, comfortable appearance to become cold and bare. The carpet had disappeared and there were now logs burning on the fire. A tall woman in a white dress was walking up and down the room; her face seemed to be in deep concentration. Not long after, the room returned to its original state.
Later research found that the rooms had been the prison of Queen Joan of Navarre, Henry V's stepmother, who had been accused of witchcraft by her husband. 4
It could be that the witness triggers time slips, whether they blank their mind at a precise moment and the slip occurs, or the witness touches something that holds the memory of a previous time.
"The simplest explanation is probably the psychometric hypothesis," noted Colin Wilson and John Grant in The Directory of Possibilities. "In the mid-nineteenth century, Dr. Joseph Rodes Buchanan of the Covington Medical Institute performed experiments that convinced him that certain of his students could hold letters in their hands and accurately describe the character of the writer. He became convinced that all objects carry their 'history' photographed in them. Buchanan wrote: 'The past is entombed in the present. The discoveries of psychometry will enable us to explore the history of Man as those of geology enable us to explore the history of Earth.' Clearly, psychometry may be seen as a form of time slip."
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