10 Famous Paranormal Hoaxes

The Case of the Accidental Time Traveler
The mysterious time traveler was probably dressed something like this; later research determined the story about him was a work of fiction. kieran wills/Getty Images

One night in 1950, a strange figure appeared in the middle of a traffic-clogged intersection in New York City's famous Times Square. He wore a high silk hat, a tight coat and vest, and boasted an admirable set of thick mutton-chop sideburns.

Witnesses said the man looked startled, gawking at his surroundings as if he'd never seen a car or traffic lights before. He bolted for the curb, directly in the path of a yellow cab, which killed him instantly.

When the police searched the mystery man's pockets, they found 19th century currency, a bill for the "feeding and stabling of one horse," and a business card for Rudolph Fentz on Fifth Ave. Tracking down the address, they found an old woman, who confirmed that Rudolph Fentz was in fact her father-in-law, a man who had mysteriously disappeared in 1876 [source: Aubeck].

Such is the story of Rudolph Fentz, the accidental time traveler. For decades, paranormalists across Europe have pointed to Fentz's miraculous appearance -- a 19th-century man in 20th-century Times Square -- as proof of the existence of time travel.

But the true origin of the Fentz legend was a short story published in Collier's magazine in 1951 by science-fiction writer Jack Finney. The tale was republished in a paranormal journal two years later without attribution to Finney and presented as fact [source: Aubeck]. From there, the case of the accidental time traveler took on a life of its own.