Time slips might be caused by supernatural forces messing with our memories or some new type of thinking we haven’t discovered yet, writes DR PETER McCUE
There are cases in which people claim to have experienced their surroundings as if they’d temporarily gone back in time. Such incidents are often referred to as ‘time slips’.
Take, for instance, a story related by Jenny Randles in Slips in Time and Space, a book compiled and edited by the late Rosemary Guiley and published in 2019.
An old-fashioned hotel
The case concerns two British couples who set out for a holiday in northern Spain in the autumn of 1979. They crossed the English Channel by ferry and then drove through France to their Spanish destination.
On the way, they spent a night at a quaint, old-fashioned hotel in France. It seemed to be devoid of modern appliances, such as telephones and lifts, and their bedroom windows had wooden shutters, but no glass. In the morning, they noticed two gendarmes, clad in decidedly old-fashioned uniforms.
The guests were charged very little – the equivalent of only about three dollars – for their accommodation, food and drinks. Not surprisingly, they decided to stay there again on their way back. However, on their return, they were unable to find the hotel, and photographs that the two men had taken while they and their wives were supposedly there didn’t show up when their films were developed, and there were no spoiled negatives.
Did the foursome really ‘go back in time’? If so, and as Randles notes, it’s puzzling that the hotel manager didn’t show surprise about their clothing and their futuristic vehicle, and that he accepted their 1979 currency.
Assuming that the report is based on honest testimony, my suggestion is that the witnesses experienced ‘paranormal memory tampering’: that their recollections of staying at the hotel were false memories, imposed on them by a mischievous intelligence.
If so, it may be that they spent the night in quite ordinary accommodation, with their recollection of it being suppressed or deleted and replaced with a compelling – but false – memory of having been at an old-fashioned hotel.
Another possibility is that time slip experiences are hallucinatory constructions that depict the way things used to be, or may have been, at the location concerned.
In essence, the only difference between a time slip experience, in which the percipient’s general environment appears to revert, temporarily, to that of the past, and ‘seeing’ a figure from the past (a ‘ghost’) in an unchanged, present-day environment, might be one of degree. The underlying mechanisms could be the same.
If so, people who have time slip experiences may also be prone to more ‘ordinary’ ghostly experiences. That may have been the case with a woman whom I’ll call Helen. Her experiences are discussed below.
Perhaps a physical or quasi-physical impression can be left on a place by events, and maybe this can then stimulate a time slip experience or ghostly sighting if a potential witness is sufficiently ‘psychic’.
Alternatively, the process could be more ‘mental’: present-day sights and sounds could act as cues for the retrieval of images or memories from a collective unconscious mind or data bank, if such a thing exists, with the images or memories then manifesting themselves via hallucinations.
Helen had something akin to a time slip experience on a Scottish island, although the vision that she saw didn’t completely override her perception of her present-day surroundings.
The event affected her emotionally, and there was an interesting sequel. I learned of her experiences some 22 years ago and reported them in the December/January 2001/2 issue of The Psi Report, a newsletter of the Scottish Society for Psychical Research.
The principal incident had reportedly occurred several years prior to my being contacted by Helen. For many years, she and her husband (since deceased) holidayed on Luing, a small island near the coast of mainland Argyll in western Scotland. Luing is several miles to the south-east of the Isle of Mull. They rented a cottage in the northern part of the island. It was situated under a hill, with an old church on it, which subsequently became a holiday home.
“[We] were there during [a] gloriously hot summer. The island is a well of peace, which was suddenly shattered by the noise of a helicopter coming and going…[I] climbed up the hill, perched myself on a rock in front of the ex-church, and watched [the] proceedings. [The helicopter] was doing a ‘supplies drop’ to a smaller island…Suddenly, I felt icy-cold, and it was as though a tunnel had opened up immediately in front of me, a tunnel of deep swirling fog, dark night, and a…terrible storm. Into this swirling maelstrom, down below me, off the sea, appeared a sailing ship, [an] old galleon, [with its] sails adrift [and] mast broken.
“I remember thinking, ‘My God, she’s going to hit!’ I also registered that to either side of this tunnel it was still a brilliant day. I could hear no sound. Cottages that have, over the years, been built, were not there, and the coastline itself went further out to sea than [is the case nowadays]. I felt no fear, only terrible, terrible sadness [about being unable] to prevent the tragedy. Suddenly, on the now smashed deck, near the broken rails, appeared what I was sure was a woman’s figure in a cloak, her arm round a small child. I did then hear an anguished cry, and the vessel broke up on rocks.
“As suddenly as it appeared, it vanished. The day was perfect again. I sat there for some time, utterly shaken. When I rejoined my husband, he said I was as white as a sheet! He was not surprised when I told him what I had seen. I know I am psychic, as were my mother and grandmother…
“Since then, I have done a little research, and [I] believe [that the ship I saw was] one of Cromwell’s warships…Three were dispatched from Liverpool in 1657 to the toe of Mull, the last Stuart stronghold. Their aim was to lay siege to the castle and thereby topple the last [of the] Stuarts. One [ship] had to pull into a small harbour for repairs.
“One made it to the Mull coastline, under the castle, but as they made ready their guns, a vast storm suddenly blew up [and the ship capsized, the wreck having since been found and documented]. The third ship vanished without trace, although some believe [that] it went down off the coast of Luing, lost and disoriented by the fog…I feel extremely shaken to think [that] this may well be the ship I saw…I still feel, very strongly, that it was a cry for help from the past. It has never left me. I feel I failed in some way. I have since painted a picture of the scene, as I saw it. It hangs on my sitting room wall.”
Helen reported that a few months prior to her contacting me, she’d been woken from a sound sleep around 2 a.m. by someone shaking her shoulder. She felt no fear. She turned round, onto her back, and looked up into the face of a tall, lean man clad in uniform of the Cromwellian period. He had long blonde hair, which appeared to be very wet. She recalled asking out loud, ‘Who the hell are you?’ There was no answer, but her bedroom faded, and she found herself in a wooden ship’s cabin, with a very high wooden bed across from her.
“I watched as this man tried to gently wake a sleeping woman. She woke and half sat up. [She was a pretty girl, with long auburn hair.] I could see her quite clearly. I also heard his voice very quietly, but very decisively, tell her she must hurry [and] put her cloak on and come on deck. The ship was in danger of sinking. The scene [then] faded.”
Regarding what she saw from Luing, Helen was unaware of anyone else having seen the phantom ship. Given the lack of corroboration, her report wouldn’t convince a dyed-in-the-wool sceptic that she’d experienced anything paranormal. But there are accounts of collective time slip experiences, and lack of corroboration doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing paranormal occurred.
As for Helen’s nighttime experience of waking up to see a man in Cromwellian attire and then finding herself in a ship’s cabin, a sceptic might suggest that she’d identified herself with the woman ‘seen’ during her initial experience and that the subsequent nighttime experiences occurred in a dream state or hallucination on the boundary between sleep and wakefulness.
Among other interesting experiences, Helen reported that when she was 25: “I sensed a presence in a flat we lived in at the time…I knew it to be an old man, a shadowy form. My three-year-old daughter asked, ‘Who is that old man?’”
More recently, her son had been in a near-fatal accident while she was browsing in an antiques shop: “…I knew. A friend with me said [that] I went deathly pale and said his name. It was the exact time of the accident.”
What do you think are the reasons behind time slips? Tell us your thoughts on this article in the comments section below!