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Mystery of Rudolph Fentz: Fact or Fiction?

On a June night in 1950, approximately at 11:00 p.m., an on-duty police officer spotted a mysterious man with mutton chop sideburns and Victorian-era duds standing in the middle of the road at an intersection near Times Square in New York City who appeared to be in his early thirties. Witnesses said he looked startled at that time. And then, the police officer approached him to offer assistance, but the light at the intersection had changed. In apparent shock, the man headed for the sidewalk in the direction of approaching traffic, suddenly he was struck by a taxi and died instantly.

When paramedics arrived, they were astounded by the man’s appearance. He was dressed in old-fashioned, 19th-century-era clothing. A tall, silk hat, a thick, buttoned cutaway coat, checkered pants, and buttoned shoes. The officials at the morgue searched his body and found the following items in his pockets:
  • A copper token for a beer worth 5 cents, bearing the name of a saloon, which was unknown, even to older residents of the area;
  • A bill for the care of a horse and the washing of a carriage, drawn by a livery stable on Lexington Avenue that was not listed in any address book;
  • About 70 dollars in old banknotes;
  • Business cards with the name Rudolph Fentz and an address on Fifth Avenue;
  • A letter sent to this address, in June 1876 from Philadelphia.

Times Square, New York (Present Day)

Captain Hubert V. Rihm of the Missing Persons Bureau began his investigation by using those information to identify the man. He found that the address on Fifth Avenue was part of a business; its current owner did not know Rudolph Fentz. No traces of a Rudolph Fentz, including fingerprints, could be found in any modern records, and no missing person reports had been issued for anyone meeting his description.

Rihm continued the investigation and finally found a Rudolph Fentz Jr. in a telephone book of 1939. Rihm spoke to the residents of the apartment building at the listed address who remembered Fentz and described him as a man about 60 years who had worked nearby. After his retirement, he moved to an unknown location in 1940.

Contacting the bank, Rihm was told that Fentz died five years before, and traced his widow to a residence in Florida. Rihm contacted her and learned that her husband’s father had disappeared in 1876 aged 29. He was last seen going out for a walk, and never returned.

With this new information, Rihm searched through outdated missing person records, and found that a Rudolph Fentz had indeed gone missing in 1876, some 74 years earlier. What’s more, the description from the 1876 missing person report matched, exactly, that of the present Rudolph Fentz.

Afraid that others would think him crazy for suggesting that this was the same individual, Captain Rihm avoided speaking of the matter, and none of his findings were officially recorded. The case is, to this day, considered unsolved.

Since 1972, the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of Rudolph Fentz has appeared in books (such as those by Viktor Farkas) and articles, and later on the Internet, portrayed as a real event. The story has been cited as evidence for various theories and assumptions about the topic of time travel.

The story was published a number of times in the 70's and 80's as fact, until 2000, after the Spanish magazine ‘Más Allá’ published a representation of the events as a factual report, folklore researcher Chris Aubeck investigated the description to check the veracity. His research led to the conclusion that the people and events of the story invented all were fictional, although he could not find the original source.

Later in 2002, Pastor George Murphy contacted Aubeck and claimed that the original source was from either a 1952 Robert Heinlein science fiction anthology, entitled "Tomorrow, The Stars" or the Collier’s magazine from 15 September 1951. The true author was the renowned science fiction writer Jack Finney (1911–1995), and the Fentz episode was part of the short story "I’m Scared", which was published in Collier’s first. No copies of the story have ever been found, and Finney died before he could be questioned.

However, in 2007 a researcher working for the then Berlin News Archive, found a newspaper story in the archives from April 1951 reporting the story almost as it reported today. This newspaper archive was printed some 5 months before the short story sourced as the origin. Whats even odder, a number of researchers have claimed to have found evidence of the real Rudolph Fentz, and proof of his disappearance aged 29 in 1876.


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  1. "However, in 2007 a researcher working for the then Berlin News Archive, found a newspaper story in the archives from April 1951 reporting the story almost as it reported today. " etc.

    Not true.

  2. @Chris Aubeck: Thank you for your confirmation, sir.

    The last paragraph is taken from

    So, this one is totally fiction


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