NICK REDFERN explores one of the most intriguing of all paranormal phenomena, incidents in which people apparently become immersed in another period in history.
Within the specific genre of science fiction, fantastic tales of time-travel to the far-flung future or to the distant past are ten-a-penny. From H. G. Wells’s seminal novel of 1895, The Time Machine, through the classic 1984 movie The Philadelphia Experiment, about an alleged time travel experiment in 1943, to today’s revamped Doctor Who, there is one thing such flights of fancy have in common: the journeys through time are all achieved through the use of highly advanced technology.
However, there are many reports on record of people who seem to have crossed the time-barrier entirely at random, and without the means of sci-fi style technologies. Such cases have become known as Time Slips – and cases have been reported from deep within the heart of the British Isles.
A key event of the First English Civil War, the Battle of Hopton Heath (a small village in south Shropshire) was fought on Sunday, March 19, 1643, between Parliamentarian and Royalist forces. The battle ended at nightfall, with the actual victory and outcome still remaining matters of very much personal opinion: the Royalists, for example, had succeeded in capturing eight enemy-guns; while the Parliamentarians believed that their successful killing of the enemy commander, the Earl of Northampton, was of equal – if not even greater – significance.
More than 300 years later, one night in the winter of 1974, John ‘Davy’ Davis, aged 36, painter-and-decorator of Lichfield in Staffordshire, was driving near Hopton Heath when he began to feel unwell: a tightness developed in his chest, an odd feeling of lightheadedness overcame him, and his ‘left ear hurt and felt hot’.
Pulling over to the side of the road, Davis was amazed to see the night-sky suddenly transform into daylight, while the road in front of him no longer existed: instead, it had been replaced by a mass of fields, heath and tangled trees. Before his unbelieving eyes countless soldiers adorned in Civil War period clothing fought each other savagely. Notably, Davis said that although at one point he was ‘nearly bloody surrounded’ by the soldiers, it seemed as if they could neither see him nor his vehicle. To a degree, at least, this afforded Davis a degree of relief, as he was practically frozen to the spot, unable to drive away if he’d wanted to.
As it transpired, Davis didn’t need to go anywhere: a few seconds later, the bizarre scene suddenly vanished, and he found himself sitting at the side of the road, with his car squashed against a line of hedge. All had returned to normal. Horning is an ancient village in Norfolk, situated between Wroxham and Ludham on the River Bure. The village’s Ferry Inn is typical of the many old taverns in the area and the 13th century church of St Benedict can be found half-a-mile east of the village.
On a summer’s afternoon in either 1978 or 1979, the Margoles family was enjoying a stroll around the picturesque village when they too were overcome by a feeling of uneasiness and unreality – as well as total silence, and a slight dizziness. That uneasiness became concern and then fright as the landscape became ‘fuzzy … like a big heat-haze’, the houses were replaced by ancient cottages, and the road ahead of them became little more than a muddy track. As for the cars that had been in sight: they were no more. Instead, a decrepit cart appeared, pulled by a large horse. A thin man dressed in brown walked alongside the horse; he took no notice of the family.
With equal suddenness, the modern-day sounds of cars and voices returned and the strange spectacle vanished. But it seems Mrs Margoles may have been exposed to the odd scene for slightly less time than her husband and 11-year-old son.
‘I looked at them when I came out of it,’ recalled Mrs Margoles in a 1997 interview, ‘and it was like they were in a trance: their mouths were hanging down, and their eyes looked funny. Then they looked like they woke up.’
Such unsettling feelings and sensations were also referred to by author Andrew Mackenzie in his book ‘Adventures in Time: Encounters with the Past’. Such events, reported Mackenzie, are ‘often accompanied by feelings of depression, eeriness and a marked sense of silence, deeper than normally experienced’.
These Time Slip cases, and many others like them, suggest we understand very little about the nature of time. Perhaps the last word should go to Emmy Award-winning writer Tim Swartz in his ‘On the Edge of Time; The Mystery of Time Slips’:
‘Perhaps there is a natural phenomenon that under the right conditions and location can produce briefly a doorway to another time and place. Even though this may sound outrageous, this natural “time machine” could show that modern concepts and perceptions of time need to be seriously reconsidered.’