The time traveller on the internet

By James Cook on September 25th, 2013

John Titor stopped posting in 2001. For five months he had patiently answered questions about time travel and what the world is like in 2036. With his final post, he announced that he was to travel in time again. A cryptic warning remains his last message.

Bring a gas can with you when the car dies on the side of the road.

Farewell.

John

Every day on the internet, people create identities for themselves. But John Titor seemed different. For hours every day he would respond to complex questions about time travel, about the future, and about his own life. When asked to share details of what was to happen in the immediate future, Titor refused, saying that it was either dangerous or he did not know. His responses angered some of the skeptics. Instead of leaving the site, Titor began to post more frequently, and with proof.

A diagram for the time machine that John Titor claimed had brought him to earth.

A diagram for the time machine that John Titor claimed had brought him to earth.

The Art Bell forums were a hotbed of conspiracy theories run by the producers of a radio show. The Coast To Coast AM show itself was infamous, the kind of paranormal conspiracy broadcast that is parodied constantly. The most famous episode occurred in 1997, when a panicked caller claimed to be an ex-Area 51 employee. As he grew more upset, the show abruptly ended, with Art Bell claiming that a “satellite failure” had taken it offline.

In January 2001 “John Titor” joined the Art Bell forums. Someone using the same name had previously sent two fax messages to the show, with the claim that time travel was invented in 2034. This time, John Titor began responding to other commenters on the forum with photographs and “proof”.

Time machine

John Titor posted the above photograph of his time machine. He claimed that it operated by creating two black holes to bend time. In order for it to work, it had to be fitted inside a car. For his current trip to our time, it was inside a 1987 Chevrolet.

In a late night private IRC chat on 14 October 2000, a forum member asked John Titor why he posted on conspiracy sites instead of more mainstream forums.

>TimeTravel_0 : I enjoy the “paranormal” chat rooms for 2 reasons.
>TimeTravel_0 : 1. I find the people here are more open to ideas.
>TimeTravel_0 : 2. I find it ironic that when what they are looking for falls in their lap, they can’t believe it.

As the posts ended, speculation about Titor’s real identity began. The Art Bell forum was closed, and eventually his posts were thought to have been mostly destroyed. But in 2003, Oliver Williams created johntitor.com, a site that compiles all of the posts, along with images and an expansive merchandise section.

Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 14.32.06

It was only after the website went live that the John Titor posts were widely considered to be fake. Along with links to purchase redacted versions of John Titor’s posts as a book and time travel t-shirts, an address is listed for a lawyer claiming to represent John Titor’s family.

Larry Haber

Dr Larry Haber is an entertainment law attorney based in Florida. In the past he has provided legal services to Walt Disney Attractions and managed legal services for Universal Studios Florida. He represents a client named Kay Titor. She has claimed since 2006 to be the mother of John Titor the time traveller.

In a video interview recorded by a group of amateur sleuths with the Haber family, Larry Haber discusses who Karen Titor is, her shyness, and the “exit video” of John Titor leaving our time in his time machine. After the interview was recorded, Larry Haber called the amateur filmmakers asking for his comments about Kay Titor to be deleted.

Larry Haber firmly denies perpetrating the John Titor hoax. Internet sleuths have visited his home, his office and followed both his son and brother. However, it’s possible that Haber knows something we don’t. The company behind the Titor merchandise and book remains active, and makes a profit on sales of the time travel-related goods. The CEO of The John Titor Foundation LLC is none other than Haber, the man who also claims to represent the time traveller’s family.

Various private investigators and amateur hacks have tried to work out who John Titor really is. The most credible explanation originates from an investigative television show in Italy named Voyager. In 2008 the show hired American private investigator Mike Lynch to investigate the mystery. According to Lynch, there was one man who could conceivably be Titor: Larry Haber’s brother John “Rick” Haber.

John "Rock" Haber (left) accompanied by Larry Haber's son Brandon (right).

John “Rick” Haber (left) accompanied by Larry Haber’s son Brandon (right).

Rick Haber is a computer scientist who has built a long career in IT. A central part of the John Titor story focuses on the search for an IBM 5100 computer. This vintage piece of technology was sought by the time travel squad due to its ability to emultate other programming languages. This ability was not widely known at the time of John Titor’s posts. According to Mike Lynch, Rick Haber had applied for a post box in the name of the John Titor Foundation.

A new theory has emerged in recent months, focusing on Larry Haber’s son Brandon. Brandon is, by all accounts, a very intelligent man. He has an expansive knowledge of computers, a history of internet use from an early age, and he has gone on to work on various projects connected to the NSA, the US Air Force and NASA. When amateur sleuths asked Larry Haber whether his son was John Titor, Haber mused that it wouldn’t surprise him if he was. Brandon Haber’s old internet username “Maledri” is associated with many posts relating to establishing email addresses, space flight, and other technical subjects.

As with many internet mysteries, the case of John Titor is unlikely to be solved. Scattered forum posts, archived WHOIS searches and amateur YouTube documentaries combine to form a confusing picture. The Haber family continues to deny any involvement in perpetrating a hoax. John Titor’s mother has never gone public with her story, nor is there any evidence that she exists. And as for John Titor himself, well, maybe he did travel back to the future.