Have you heard this story?
If you have, chances are you’ve heard about it from a channel that does spooky real stories or wants to talk about the things the man doesn’t want you to know about or there are bugs in my teeth no not microphones, actual little bugs with so many wiggly legs. It’s one of a small corpus of ‘true scary stories’ that get covered in the venn diagram of ‘creepy things that exist’ like La Isla de las Muñecas, or the Winchester house, or ‘interesting crime with an open ended question’ like the hijacking by DB Cooper and the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
If you haven’t –
Well, wait, let me set the tone properly. Turn off the lights and put on some spooky music from the Kevin Macleod archives.
In 1954, in Japan, a man arrived in Tokyo airport. He spoke French, and some Japanese, and was largely unremarkable in his dealings with people. They called him polite, largely, and his passport showed that he had passed through this airport a few times. The only thing remarkable about him, and which prompted an investigation, was that his country of origin was a place called Taured —
A country that at the time, none of the staff had ever heard of.
The customs brought him in for questioning, and asked him to help explain things. They asked him about his homeland, its history, its landmarks, and he explained things about it — including indicating where it was. When they showed him a map, he pointed to the space between France and Spain, and said that’s where his homeland was; when he saw there was no Taured on the map there, he was abruptly shocked, wondering why this map was printed wrong. His country was over a thousand years old, there was no way it would be ‘mistakenly’ left off a map like some kind of recent development in geopolitics. He grew agitated and stressed, and accused the staff of trying to fool him. He told them of the history of Taured, he wrote them scripts in the language of Taured, and he demanded government officials come to sort this out.
With no solution evident, the customs officials transferred him to a hotel so they could get government ministers to work out what was going on. But despite two guards at the door who corroborate that they both were always there at the door, in the morning, the man, and all of his luggage he took with him, were gone, from a fifth story hotel room.
Was this proof of an interdimensional traveller, someone unstuck from another line in the multiverse, free to tell the story in his own world, of the mysterious event where he got held overnight by Japanese customs who for some reason had no idea where Taured was?
And I’m not really exaggerating, that is how this story gets presented. You can even check it out, here at the Youtube Channel Bedtime Stories, which has over 600,000 subscribers (at the moment), who just love it when Bedtime Stories tells them this kind of ‘spooky true stories.’ It even presents the Mandela Effect, another stupid idea. This is a recurrent thing for this channel, which has also repeated a science fiction story they mistakenly thought was true, and repeated a movie’s viral marketing campaign.
Anyway, so this story is true.
It’s not true true, it’s not about an interdimensional traveller, which is one of the least likely possibilities you could imagine. But it’s true because yes, a dude did show up at Tokyo airport, with a passport from the counry of Taured, and it had been stamped from a bunch of other airports, because they’d seen the passport and deemed it legitimate.
And this is because he was a real dude who was using real mickey’d passport and nobody noticed it…
For three months and then the Japanese police showed up and dragged him in and the details of the story that the urban legend has fantasised up. Because he did produce his fake passport and his fake background and a fanciful story about a secondary passport to a made up country called Negus Habes, with its own loopy fake Arabic script.
Oh, and disappearing from a hotel room? How did he manage that, Doctor Science?
Well, he didn’t. He was arrested, because they kept him detained and contacted all the people he claimed to work for and found that none of them knew him and so he went to prison in Japan for a year, before being released to Hong Kong, where he was released, away from his wife, who was deported to her home country of South Korea.
He had a name.
He was John Zegrus, and he was a papers crook who worked for who knows how long, and then got caught, and tried to bullshit his way out with layers of prepared papers, and that’s an interesting story. It’s interesting because it suggests he had gotten away with this extensively before this. And now he’s known as ‘The Man From Taured’ because the story is considered more interesting if it’s a thing that definitely didn’t happen than if it’s the much more interesting thing that really did.