Time slip

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Fails from the crypt

A time slip (or timeslip) is a paranormal phenomenon in which an individual or a group of individuals allegedly travels through time, thereby witnessing events in the past. They can also be referred to as "dimensional anomalies." To date, the most widely-recognized "case" involved two school administrators who, in 1901, became lost on the grounds of Versailles, France for several hours and were eventually convinced they had been transported back in time to the late-1700s.

The difference between a time slip and other alleged time travel phenomena isn't hard and fast, but typically a time slip allows travel without any kind of time machine or other obvious mechanism or cause, and it is usually only for a short period of time. Contemporary physics suggests it may be possible to travel back in time by passing through a wormhole, although a wormhole is unlikely to be found lying around in the street, or to permit transit without painful tidal forces: it may be microscopic or subatomic in size, and may require powerful forces to maintain its existence.[1]


Ghosts of Versailles[edit]

Known as the "Moberly-Jourdain incident," this case involved Charlotte Anne Moberly (1846–1937), first principal of St Hugh's College, Oxford, England and her assistant Eleanor Jourdain (1863-1924). The ladies recounted the incident in detail in An Adventure, which was published pseudonymously in 1911, credited to Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont.[2][3]

The Vanishing Hotel[edit]

Another widely-publicized case (featured in ITV's Strange But True? program) involved two married couples, Geoff and Pauline Simpson and Len and Cynthia Grisby, who stopped at an "old-fashioned" hotel whilst driving through France en route to Spain in October 1979. After turning off the autoroute and following an old, cobbled road some distance, the couples spent the night at an inn that lacked modern conveniences such as telephones or elevators — or even glass in the windows. In fact, both husbands claimed to have taken photos of their wives standing in front of the shuttered windows in their respective rooms. Two weeks later, on their way home, the group opted to stay at the hotel again, but could not find it. When the husbands developed the photos from their trip, those taken in the hotel were missing.

Exit Stage Left[edit]

In The Encyclopedia of the World's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries, by John and Anne Spencer (1995), the authors recount the story of Vera Conway, an Englishwoman who claimed to have traveled back in time when she got lost in a building in London. Conway had arrived at the building for a music lesson; mistaking directions, she entered a door between two cloakrooms and found herself in a theatre. It seemed a performance was about to begin. A man approached her wearing breeches and powdered hair, and she realized everyone was in Regency clothing, and there were no electric lights, merely lanterns. Vera returned to the reception to ask again for directions and later determined for certain that there was, in fact, no door between the two cloakrooms.

Stationery Moment In Time[edit]

Colin Wilson and John Grant's The Directory of Possibilities includes mention of a man who purportedly purchased envelopes from an Edwardian shop clerk. The man, a Mr Squirrel, claimed that in 1973 he entered a stationery shop in Great Yarmouth to get some envelopes. He was attended to by a woman in Edwardian dress and bought three dozen envelopes for a shilling. Returning three weeks later, he found the shop completely modernized, and the woman at the desk insisted no other assistant worked there. When Mr Squirrel's claims were later investigated, it was discovered that his envelopes had stopped being manufactured fifteen years prior.

Bold Street, Liverpool[edit]

A number of people claim to have experienced time slips around Bold Street in Liverpool, England, with several people from the 1990s seemingly going back to the 1950s or 1960s and finding unexpectedly cheap goods in the area's shops.[4][5]

Examining the Moberly-Jourdain incident[edit]

Allegedly, during a 10 August 1901 visit to Versailles, Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain became lost in the palace gardens when attempting to find the Petit Trianon. They made it as far as the Grand Trianon before finding it closed to the public. They then had difficulty locating the main avenue, Allée des Deux Trianons, and after unwittingly passing their destination, shared a feeling of foreboding and encountered many people in period clothing.

While walking together, according to Moberly, "an extraordinary depression had come over me, which, in spite of every effort to shake off, steadily deepened." Moberly also asserted that it was at this point that the landscape took on a surreal or "unnatural" appearance; particularly, "the trees behind the building seemed to have become flat and lifeless" and lacked "effects of light and shade." Jourdain noted "there was a feeling of depression and loneliness about the place. I began to feel as if I were walking in my sleep; the heavy dreaminess was oppressive."

Moberly and Jourdain came upon men, allegedly dressed in "long greyish green coats with small three-cornered hats," whom the two women assumed were palace gardeners. They passed a cottage where Jourdain noticed a woman and a girl in the doorway; Jourdain described this as a "tableau vivant," and likened it to a Madame Tussaud waxwork scene. The women came to the edge of a wood where they both saw a smallpox-marked man, dressed in a cloak and hat, seated beside a kiosk. He had an unpleasant effect on them: Moberly described him as "most repulsive;" Jourdain described him as "evil" and repugnant. The two later came to the conclusion that he had been the Comte de Vaudreuil, a contemporary of Marie Antoinette.

Another man came up to them and pointed them toward the Petit Trianon. After crossing a bridge (which, notably, did not exist in the gardens in the 1900s), they reached the front of the palace where Moberly saw a young fair-haired woman lying on the grass, sketching. Moberly later became convinced this lady was Marie Antoinette.

Soon afterward, the pair were directed round to the entrance and joined a party of other visitors. It wasn't until three months later, when comparing notes they'd made of their visit to Versailles, that the two women suspected something odd had happened.

The incident was made into a TV movie, Miss Morison's Ghosts, on Britain's ITV channel in 1981, although screenwriter Ian Curteis (better known for more political docu-dramas) fictionalised many of the details.[6]

A rational explanation[edit]

In his 1965 biography of French poet Robert de Montesquiou, Philippe Jullian posited that Moberly and Jourdain had most likely unwittingly crashed one of the many parties de Montesquiou had hosted at Versailles at that time. Reportedly, de Montesquiou and his guests often dressed in period costume and performed tableaux vivants as part of the party entertainments. Jullian suggested the unpleasant Comte de Vaudreuil figure may even have been de Montesquiou himself, who had pockmarks. British historian Dame Joan Evans, DBE, who owned the copyright to An Adventure, refused to release any further editions of the work and has accepted Jullian's explanation as fact.

A more fancifully romantic explanation was put forth by literary scholar Terry Castle when she suggested Moberly and Jourdain had shared a delusion rooted in lesbian psychosis.[7]

In fiction[edit]

It is a popular device in fiction, such as the fantasy TV series Outlander, in which a woman visiting the Scottish Highlands is launched back in time, and the BBC sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart, in which a man is able to travel between contemporary Britain and World War Two.[8][9][10] A cynic might note that the device allows for time travel without any necessity for detailed science fiction explanations of how such a thing might be possible; instead the complexity is handwaved.

See also[edit]


  1. What is a wormhole?, Space.com
  2. Are there really ghosts at Versailles?, Tim Richardson, The Daily Telegraph, 21 Dec 2012
  3. An adventure, with appendix and maps, by Moberly, C. A. E. (Charlotte Anne Elizabeth), 1846-1937; Jourdain, Eleanor F. (Eleanor Frances), 1863-1924, Macmillan, London, 1913 at archive.org
  4. Tom Slemen's tales of Liverpool: Timeslips, Tom Slemen, Liverpool Echo, 18 Jun 2011
  5. The Liverpool Time Slips and Mysterious Occurences in Bold Street (sic), Exemplore, 26 Dec 2017
  6. "Television: Embracing application of dramatic licence", Dennis Hackett, The Times (London, England), August 24, 1981, Issue 61014, p.6, via Gale Times Digital Archive
  7. Contagious Folly: "An Adventure" and Its Skeptics, Terry Castle, Critical Inquiry, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Summer, 1991), pp. 741-772, via JSTOR
  8. See the Wikipedia article on Outlander (TV series).
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Goodnight Sweetheart (TV series).
  10. See the Wikipedia article on Time slip.