WHAT IS TIME? We can measure it and slice it up into millennia or nanoseconds, and we can sense our experience through it. The Encarta encyclopedia can define it as a “conscious experience of duration, the period during which an action or event occurs…” and we can even abstractly label it the fourth dimension. But all that really doesn’t bring us any closer to a true understanding of what time is… or how it works.
What we do have are some very peculiar stories of rare instances in which time doesn’t seem to flow in the way we normally experience it. People report gaps in time, jumps through time, missing time, and perhaps even glimpses into past or future events.
Because our perception of time is usually so routine and mundane that when a person is enveloped by one of these time slips, they report it as the most bizarre and disorienting thing they’ve ever experienced.
Here are some of those stories. (Cue Twilight Zone theme):
A Blip in Reality
In 1991, Glenn was a university student in Nova Scotia. What began as an ordinary bus trip back to his home town to visit his parents turned into a confusing distortion of time and space.
“I sat at the back of the bus and there was nobody around me,” says Glenn, “but there was a family sitting behind the driver in the front. The bus ride was uneventful until we came close to my parents’ home town. I was looking out the window and looked at the Michelin tire factory as we went by it going uphill. When the bus reached the top of the hill, I got a strange feeling, and for some unknown reason I started to imagine many people on the bus laughing at me!
“Right then there was a blip in reality and the bus was suddenly about a mile back on the highway! I then had the experience of watching the bus drive by the tire factory again! This kind of scared me and I noticed that the family sitting in the front, who were talking loudly before, were now dead quiet.
“I approached the bus driver when we stopped and told him what I thought happened. He looked really nervous and he said something like, ‘Things like that happen.’”
A Brief Leap in Time
The bus driver was right, apparently. Things like that do happen. Just ask Sue, who in the autumn of 1994 was driving with her boyfriend Jim to their home in Fallbrook, California when they might have narrowly escaped a larger rift in time.
“There are two roads into Fallbrook,” says Sue, “from the north and from the south. We approached from the south heading north on Mission Rd., which is a four-mile, curvy, two-lane road. It was a Friday evening and I blurted out how weird it was that we hadn’t passed any cars in the opposite direction since our turn onto Mission Rd. Fallbrook is a small town, but this was a very well-traveled road.
“I knew it was 6:24 because I had just looked at the big amber display on the stereo when all of a sudden the car died, the pedal went hard and the lights went off. I remember feeling confused, thinking that we ran out of gas, yet knowing that we had plenty of fuel. We coasted off to a dirt turnout immediately ahead. Jim asked what happened and I had no answer, but I felt like I had just dozed off or had gone through Jello or… I don’t know what.
“I put it in gear, Jim jumped out, came around to my side and opened the door. I jumped into the passenger seat, he got in, cranked it over and – vroooom! – off we went. As we pulled away I felt irritated, a little nervous, but sure something really weird had just happened. Then I glanced at the clock on the stereo again. It was 6:36 p.m. Twelve minutes had passed when, being generous, the whole incident couldn’t have taken more than 1½ minutes, max.”
He Got There Before He Arrived
We are used to time progressing in a linear fashion, one event leading to another. Strangely, it doesn’t always work like that. Consider the experience of Eula White in rural Alabama when she was a young girl in the 1920s.
“In those days,” Eula says, “rural Alabama was still kind of backward. Little electricity, and horses and wagons the only transportation for many farm folk. I remember it was a bright summer day. Early that morning the other women and I had gathered on the front porch of the Hawkins’ farmhouse to shell quite a few bushels of peas and beans.
“About mid-afternoon we were still on the porch shelling peas. We looked up and saw Mr. Hawkins approaching the house. Thrown across the saddle in front of him was a large white, cloth sack of flour, and cradled in his left arm was a brown bag of other groceries. We watched as he rode up to the gate, and he stopped there, waiting for someone to open it. One of the boys ran to the gate and opened it. Then, in full view of all of us women and children, Mr. Hawkins vanished! He just disappeared, instantly!
“We sat there for a second or so, just astonished. Then, terrified, we began screaming. After a few minutes, we calmed down, but were still shaking and confused. We just didn’t know what to do. So after a while we went back to shelling peas. Mrs. Hawkins made one the boys close the gate.
“About a half hour later, we looked up and again saw Mr. Hawkins riding toward the house with that same white sack of flour across the saddle in front of him and that same brown bag of groceries in his left had. Again he rode up to the gate without a sound and stopped. None of us had the nerve to open the gate. We were all just too afraid to move. We just sat there staring at him, waiting to see what would happen next. Finally, to our relief, Mr. Hawkins spoke: ‘Well, is someone going to open the gate for me?’ Mr. Hawkins got there before he arrived.”
A similar replay of time happened to Ryan Bratton at the age of eight. It was an otherwise ordinary day for him and his friend as they were sitting in his yard while other kids rode their bikes up and down a driveway.
“A car came down the road and stopped at a house,” Ryan remembers. “A kid got out and ran inside making noises that kids around his age make. Then a girl rode her bike down the driveway.
“A couple of minutes after this happened, the SAME car went down the road, stopped at the house, and the SAME kid got out of the car and ran inside screaming the EXACT things he had been saying. Then the girl went down the hill on her bike AGAIN. I looked over to my friend and he said he had no idea what had just happened.”
Journey to the Past…
The most amazing experiences of slips in time, perhaps, are those in which people actually see, hear and even interact with other people and things that seem to have been in another space and time.
John was a six-year-old in Stoke-on-Trent, England when his brush with the past occurred. He was on his way to school with his friend when they stopped to watch some builders working on some new houses. As they approached the site, they noticed an old cottage nearby. An old lady came out and offered John and his friend some lemonade, and they went into her house.
After leaving the cottage, they continued on to school, only to discover that it was almost 4 o’clock and school was just closing. They had left home at 1:30 p.m. on a journey that should have taken about 20 minutes!
The next day, John and his friend took the same route to school, but to their amazement there was no sign of any cottage or the old lady they had seen the previous day.
The only explanation seems to be that John and his friend experienced some sort of time slip in which for a few hours they were transported back to an earlier time when indeed a cottage – and its occupant – did exist on that land.
…and to a Future City
As strange as it was, it may be easier to understand John’s experience with something that has already taken place than it is to comprehend Daisy’s encounter with a place that doesn’t yet exist – and may not for centuries.
Daisy and her friend Rick were driving to another friend’s house in September of 2004 in Rick’s beat up old truck. “Suddenly, the truck’s engine died and Rick and I were stranded on a deserted highway in the middle of the night,” Daisy says. “We were surrounded on both sides of the road by cornfields that stretched into the distance.
“Rick began a desperate effort to restart the truck, but nothing seemed to work. We decided to walk to the nearest town about two miles away to find a payphone to call our friend. We walked for what seemed like hours and the town was nowhere in sight.
“However, just when desperation was about to grip us, we saw a light, a gloriously bright light, shining over the steep hill ahead of us. We ran up the hill that blocked us from the light and were flabbergasted by what we saw. Just over the hill, Rick and I saw what could only be described as a futuristic city with lights streaming out of every window of the massive, metallic towers. In the middle of the futuristic city was a huge silver dome.
“I stared at the city, stunned, until Rick elbowed me, which pulled me out of my trance and he pointed to the sky. Hovering above the city were hundreds of hovercraft. One flew toward us with amazing speed.
“Rick and I were so scared that we took off running back to the broken down truck. I never looked back, but I felt someone watching me the whole way. When we got back to the truck, it started without difficulty. Rick and I took off as fast as we could in the opposite direction. We never went back or spoke of it again to this day.”