A photograph taken in 1941 at the reopening of a Canadian bridge has become notorious in recent years. Why? Because the photo depicts a mysterious man dressed in a fashion that was way too modern for 1941. Did he travel back in time?
The photo of the ‘time travelling hipster’ was first made available to the public in 2004 at the Bralorne-Pioneer Museum in British Columbia, Canada. The identities of the photographer and the people in the photo are unknown. It simply had a note on the back stating that it was taken in 1941 at the reopening of the South Fork Bridge in British Columbia, after a flood in November 1940.
When the picture was digitised and made it onto the internet in 2010, a number of websites picked up on the mysterious modern man in the crowd. Dressed in sunglasses and a modern-looking T-shirt and brandishing a camera, he looked very out of place, standing amid a group of men in suits with 40s fedora hats. It was claimed that his attire was too modern and not of the styles worn in the 1940s, and his camera was too small to be have existed during that period.
Was he a time traveller? An imposter there to take photos of the bridge for his bosses in the future?
Proof: the photo is authentic
Of course there were people who alleged that the photo was a fake, or that the modern man was photoshopped into it. Days after the original photo surfaced on the internet, another photo – this one taken from a different angle – was published. The ‘hipster’ was still present in the photo….
Yes, it could be that both photos are fakes, but in December 2010, Evgeni Balamutenko and his colleague from NTV, a television channel in Russia, located the original photograph at the Bralorne-Pioneer Museum. They determined that it was real, authentic and unedited.
Not so modern after all
Snopes.com reports that the tale of the time travelling hipster, which has attained urban legend status since 2010, is false. It points out that, while the man is significantly more casual than the other people around him, his clothes and camera were readily available in the 1940s.
Wrap-around glasses with protective side shields were apparently available in the 40s; they just weren’t widespread or popular. His T-shirt is said to bear the logo of the Montreal Maroons, a hockey team that played in the National Hockey League in Canada between 1924 and 1938. And his camera could easily be one of several portable Kodak cameras that were available in 1941.
Snopes.com may have come to a definitive conclusion about the time travelling hipster, but not everyone buys it. Some people argue that the particular sunglasses worn by the hipster were not actually available in 1941. While debunkers have tried to use a photo of Barbara Stanwyck wearing similar sunglasses in the film Double Indemnity, this argument fails for two reasons. Firstly, the film is from 1944, three years after the hipster photo, and secondly, when you look closely, the glasses are not the same anyway. They don’t actually have side shields like the hipster’s – they’re just casting a shadow on the side of her face.
Still, the general consensus – which I’m inclined to agree with – is that nothing depicted in the photo would have been impossible in 1940. The fact that the man looks out of place is because he had an unusual fashion style, not because he’s a time traveller.
I did some further research and found YouTube user ‘Vander V’. He claimed to know the time travelling hipster. He said he’s of German descent and goes by the name Tom, and claimed to have pictures of Tom in other times and eras.
I was intrigued and my imagination was stirred — for all of two minutes. Several YouTubers asked to see these pictures and were unimpressed, arguing that it was clearly not the hipster in Vander V’s pictures, but another dude with completely different hair.
Some users accused Vander V of forgetting to take his meds – a very real possibility.
Next week: Jack the Ripper and the royal conspiracy