Who doesn't love a great time travel story? And this is a corker!
There's a couple of strands to this so please bear with me as I try and link the events.
Whilst all of this information is online I don't believe anyone on ATS has mentioned this incident.
So here we go.
The story really starts in 1916 with the publication of a short story by British writer Max Beerbohm entitled 'Enoch Soames: A Memory of the
Eighteen-Nineties', in which Beerbohm narrates an incident he says took place in 1897 that involves time travel and pacts with the devil.
WIKI PAGE ON ENOCH SOAMES
In the book he says that he, Beerbohm, met a struggling poet called Enoch Soames who makes a pact with the devil to travel 100 years into the future
to spend the afternoon in the British Museum Reading Room and discover what posterity would say about him and his work. The price of this offer...
eternity in Hell.
"At ten past two on June 3, 1897, Enoch Soames vanished into the future."
Soames returns some hours later, looking grim, and tells Beerbohm that the only mention about him was a short story by Beerbohm himself "in which he
portrayed an imaginary character called Enoch Soames, a third-rate poet who believes himself a great genius and makes a bargain with the Devil in
order to know what posterity thinks of him!"
The Devil arrives to takes Soames away and the story ends with Beerbohm writing:
You realise that the reading-room into which Soames was projected by the Devil was in all respects precisely as it will be on the afternoon of June 3,
1997. You realise, therefore, that on that afternoon, when it comes round, there the self-same crowd will be, and there Soames too will be,
punctually.... The fact that people are going to stare at him, and follow him around, and seem afraid of him, can be explained only on the hypothesis
that they will somehow have been prepared for his ghostly visitation....
It sounds like a cracking short story. I haven't read it but someone who did, and on whom it had a long and lasting effect, was Teller, the silent
half of the magic and illusions double-act Penn and Teller.
Teller wrote a wonderful article in 1997 about his relationship with the story, which I urge you to read.
A MEMORY OF THE NINETEEN - NINETIES by TELLER
He brilliantly sums up the end of the story and the start of the mystery.
In other words, anyone in the Round Reading Room of the British Museum at ten past two on June 3, 1997, would be able to verify Beerbohm's memoir,
and see an authentic, guaranteed, proven ghost.
He says his English teacher finishes reading the story and says to Teller, "I wonder how many Enoch Soameses will show up?"
At the time, I thought he was merely musing. Later I understood. He was giving me a homework assignment.
So Teller is obsessed and fascinated with the story and he travels to the Reading Room on June 3rd 1997, the date Enoch Soames is supposed to arrive
from the past.
And someone did indeed arrive! A person dressed in a cape matching Soames description arrived on cue and busied himself looking through books and
I'll let you read Teller's brilliant article as he describes it way better than I can!
Chris Jones, writing in Esquire covers the incident and muses on the possibility that Teller staged the whole event, something that Teller has never
admitted. But something he would be easily capable of doing.
TELLER ESQUIRE INTERVIEW
Even when Teller later wrote about that magical afternoon for The Atlantic, he didn't confess his role. He never has. "Taking credit for it that
day would be a terrible thing — a terrible, terrible thing," Teller says. "That's answering the question that you must not answer."
As Teller doesn't admit to staging the arrival of 'Enoch Soames' in 1997 the incident remains a true time travel mystery. And if it was an
elaborate staged event by Teller then what a genius to work this out over so many years and go through with it not knowing if anyone else would
actually be there... great! I love it either way.
I am sure we'll all have our personal takes on the story.
And so now you are wondering how my friend's dad comes into the tale. It was a Facebook posting by my friend a few weeks ago of a photo his dad had
taken back in 1997 when he worked in the British Museum Reading Room!
My friend was unaware of the story, or the photograph until his dad told him. And that is how I heard of the story.
My friends dad posted his photo on Flickr with this explanation.
This strange incident involving the man in the cloak in this photograph occurred while I was working in the old British Museum Reading Room in June
1997. Photography was not allowed and this may be the only photographic record.
I'll post his link in a moment but it's interesting to note that he seems to be mentioned by Teller himself twice in his article about the days
An angular man, about fifty, casually holding a tiny camera.
and then also
The angular man with the camera leans forward and takes a snapshot. Soames does not flinch.
And so here, I do believe, is possibly the only photo taken of 'Enoch Soames' and the only photographic record of that strange day in 1997.
ONLY PHOTO OF 'ENOCH SOAMES' ?
I like to think that this photo is a great compliment to Teller's story and hope he gets to see it one day! I wonder if he reads ATS?
I love a good time travel story and this has so many great elements and so I for one don't mind if it ever turns out to be a wonderful hoax by Teller
or anyone else. It's magical either way. Real or unreal.
I hope you enjoyed reading.