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A time slip in "Midnight in Paris"
July 21, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Woody Allen's 2011 movie Midnight in Paris tells the story of a modern-day character repeatedly finding himself in the 1920s, in a kind of temporary time travel. As it turns out, this is a real-life phenomenon known as a time slip. Perhaps the most famous documented case was from 1901, at the Palace of Versailles.

Known as the Moberly–Jourdain incident, it's named after the two women who had the experience while visiting Versailles. After getting lost on their tour they found themselves in an unfamiliar part of the grounds and felt a growing sense of unease. They saw several people who they believed were historical figures - possibly including Marie Antoinette - before finding their way back to the tour group. In 1911 they published An Adventure, a book recounting their experience. Wikipedia reports that the book and the authors were widely ridiculed. A 1981 TV movie, Miss Morison's Ghosts, depicted the incident and its effect on the women's lives.

Interestingly, Midnight in Paris references the incident explicitly in a scene in which a character finds himself in a time slip in Versailles.
posted by mark7570 (73 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
Charlotte & Eleanor's Excellent Adventure: Two dudettes go back in time.
posted by tommasz at 8:17 AM on July 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


Not to be confused with the film starring Paris Hilton.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:18 AM on July 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


I should clarify that by "real-life phenomenon" I mean that people in real life - as opposed to just film characters - have claimed to have had the experience. Not suggesting it's a scientifically supported phenomenon.
posted by mark7570 at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2012 [17 favorites]


Indeed. I'm told that one can even induce this themselves, given a bit of a mind flip, and then nothing can ever be the same.
posted by WCityMike at 8:20 AM on July 21, 2012 [78 favorites]


"real-life phenomenon" is not the same as "alleged paranormal phenomenon".
posted by Old'n'Busted at 8:20 AM on July 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


Exactly - the real-life phenomenon is people making up stories about this sort of thing.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:21 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sounds kind of like Somewhere in Time.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:24 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a repeat of a post from 2012.
posted by PlusDistance at 8:28 AM on July 21, 2012 [65 favorites]


I'd like to think the easiest way to tell if you've had a time slip is Suddently Everything Smells Awful.
posted by The Whelk at 8:31 AM on July 21, 2012 [17 favorites]


This happens to me all the time, except instead of Versailles it's always my high school and for some reason I'm in my underwear.
posted by device55 at 8:37 AM on July 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


TIME ADVENTURE with Finn & Jake & Finn & Jake Five Minutes Ago & Finn & Jake Ten Minutes Ago & Finn & Jake Eleven Minutes Ago &...
posted by byanyothername at 8:40 AM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


scientifically supported phenomenon

The tyranny of rationalism is opposed by the freedom of romanticism.
posted by stbalbach at 8:42 AM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Perviously, kind of. See last link.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:42 AM on July 21, 2012


Previously dammit. There is, I can assure you, no dodgy content in that link.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:44 AM on July 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


WCityMike: "Indeed. I'm told that one can even induce this themselves, given a bit of a mind flip, and then nothing can ever be the same."

Favorited on behalf of my performed-in-Rocky-Horror-for-4-or-5 years partner*, who reminds you it's just a jump to the left and a step to the r-i-i-i-ght.

But seriously, this post is fascinating and the perfect Saturday morning Metafilter "want to read everything about it I can find" post. Thanks mark7570.

* Actually, his comment was something along the lines of "those folks are so clever...I would have just said something like...'uh duh, that word was in Rocky Horror.'"

posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:47 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Elbow sex elbow sex!
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on July 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


Brian Dunning discussed this on a recent episode of his podcast Skeptoid: The Versailles Time Slip (transcript provided at that link).
posted by Creosote at 9:06 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


We were in Paris a few weeks back and did go to the specific spot, the slopes of St Etienne du Mont, rue de la Montagne Geneviève, at about midnight. A ragged looking car from the 50's or the 60's I think, did come up the road. We cam running from the shadows and tried to wave at the driver, but the folks there took one look at us and sped away. Must have been the weather?
posted by the cydonian at 9:09 AM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


As it turns out, this is a real-life phenomenon known as a time slip.*

*Requires high-grade LSD.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2012 [7 favorites]


"The key to seeing the world's soul, and in the process wakening one's own, is to get over the confusion by which we think that fact is real and imagination an illusion. It is the other way around."    -Thomas Moore, "Original Self"
posted by spock at 9:24 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Womens rights seems to be time slipping. Must consider.
posted by varion at 9:36 AM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm sorry, Granpa, I didn't know it was Loaaaaaaaa......
posted by mule98J at 9:47 AM on July 21, 2012


I would've thought this was the most famous documented example.
posted by penduluum at 9:50 AM on July 21, 2012


The only reason you people dismiss it and make jokes is because you don't know how to do it yourself. You know you want to.
posted by at the crossroads at 9:55 AM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is a repeat of a post from 2031.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:58 AM on July 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


possibly including Marie Antoinette

Well, were they offered cake?
posted by ersatz at 9:59 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Poor Marie Antoinette, to have all history thinking she said something that was a made-up quote by the bastard Rousseau written when she was nine about something else entirely.
posted by winna at 10:05 AM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Poor Marie Antoinette, to have all history thinking she said something that was a made-up quote by the bastard Rousseau written when she was nine about something else entirely."

So...the cake quote was a lie?
posted by littlesq at 10:19 AM on July 21, 2012 [21 favorites]


Oh boy!
posted by run"monty at 10:20 AM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


In all seriousness, her ghost is probably hanging around because she is desperately trying to tell people that she prefers pie.
posted by littlesq at 10:23 AM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Awesome post! I really hope for my sake that I don't fall into a time slip as a result of this post, and before I know it, I've spent 2 hours on wikipedia links.

Let's assume for the sake of argument, though, we wanted to test the time slip hypothesis? What kinds of testable predictions are there, and which of them are feasible to test?

I'm assuming that when the Moberly–Jourdain incident occurred, there were a lot of attempts to ascertain the validity, but am I correct that it's a non-verifiable hypothesis in practice? For instance, I have memories of seeing interviews with people who claimed to have had this happen -- it's not too dissimilar from alien abduction stories or stories of reincarnation -- and usually the questions are meant to establish that they know things which they theoretically shouldn't know except that they were there.

But, in reality, there are no such pieces of information that we could feasibly test, are there? Anything the questioner thinks they shouldn't know -- like what was happening on some particular obscure date during the French Revolution -- is ultimately itself non-verifiable. Maybe, for instance, I will collect a tremendous amount of information ex ante about the French Revolution prior to making this claim, or maybe I am secretly an expert on the French Revolution, and therefore any question you ask me about the French Revolution, so long as the answer to that question is known by experts, then why wouldn't I also know it?

The time slip hypothesis cannot generate testable predictions, in other words? That is, it potentially could, but the evaluator cannot themselves rule out the possibility that the individual in question somehow knew this information because knowledge about the past is common knowledge (or potentially). Maybe it would require time slips that are not common knowledge events? In other words, where the number of experts are much smaller? Or maybe where the common knowledge about the past does not yet exist? Say they went back to the first century Middle East and saw the deposit of the Dead Sea Scrolls into the caves (or whatever -- something like this). Maybe they do something which itself has not yet been discovered by historians, in other words. This would technically allow for a kind of ex post evaluation, but maybe not within the lifetime of the time slippers themselves. Still, you'd have to have a large number of these so that we could rule out spurious luck.
posted by scunning at 10:31 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness, her ghost is probably hanging around because she is desperately trying to tell people that she prefers pie

Progress demands frosting.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:39 AM on July 21, 2012


Never attribute to malice that that which can be attributed to cosplay.
posted by PenDevil at 10:39 AM on July 21, 2012 [32 favorites]


there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Mefi.
posted by ruelle at 10:44 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there a spate of stories in 19th or 20th century about folks in the mid-west/west disappearing in the middle of plowed fields? And witnesses saying they could hear the folks crying out for help, for a time.
posted by likeso at 10:46 AM on July 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Scunning,

I think on a verifiability level one could compare it to murder investigations.

There are some details of a crime that are not public knowledge at that time, and therefore only the murderer would know. Similarly, there could be details of the past that are simply not public knowledge (or have not yet been made public knowledge).

Let's say, for example, that a historical figure died of mysterious causes. Someone experiences a time slip and witnesses the figure being poisoned with cyanide. Then, in the present, the body is dug up, and lo-and-behold, upon testing the body has traces of cyanide that point to almost certainly that being the cause of death.

So the time slips *could* be verifiable -- the details have to be so particular, however, for them to be unlikely to be so.
posted by lewedswiver at 10:54 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there a spate of stories in 19th or 20th century about folks in the mid-west/west disappearing in the middle of plowed fields? And witnesses saying they could hear the folks crying out for help, for a time.
posted by likeso


THose were mole men. Entirely different.
posted by RobotHero at 11:08 AM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


From the Wikipedia link above:
Moberly [also] claimed to have seen in the Louvre in 1914 an apparition of the Roman emperor Constantine, a man of unusual height wearing a gold crown and a toga; he was not observed by anybody else.
Taking all of it on its merits, I think it would be much more awesome to run into Constantine at the Louvre, of all places.
posted by skbw at 11:30 AM on July 21, 2012


"Let's do the time warp again......" True or not, I have always been fascinated with time travel stories. Thanks for this one.
posted by mermayd at 11:33 AM on July 21, 2012


The Gernsback Continuum.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:38 AM on July 21, 2012


Not to be confused with a Starslip which started seven years ago in the year 3441 and just started over from the beginning between Spot the Frog and Stone Soup.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:04 PM on July 21, 2012


First heard of this while reading Adventres in Tima and Space which contains "Time Travel Happens!" by Alexander M. Phillips -- he made it sound quite plausible.

For some reason I always mix up PK Dick's Martian Time-Slip with another book called Sideslip.
posted by Rash at 12:06 PM on July 21, 2012


lewedswiver - Another possibility might be if the time-slip could enable communication with individuals who are still alive today. The traveler would need to communicate effectively with earlier individuals in ways that are verifiable.
posted by scunning at 12:11 PM on July 21, 2012


This is impossible because, as we all know, time leeps on slippin slippin slippin into the future.
posted by briank at 1:53 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think if people were really experiencing time slips, other physical objects would be timeslipping as well, and given the comparitive small amount of volume there is of people vs. other stuff, we'd be seeing a lot of things timeslipping out of nowhere.

Think big pieces of rock turning up in people's living rooms, parts of building mysteriously disappearing, et cetera.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:59 PM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


that would explain the state of my housekeeping.
posted by The Whelk at 2:00 PM on July 21, 2012 [12 favorites]


Gene Wolfe's Pirate Freedom, which has a bad title but is probably his best book in recent years.
posted by aught at 3:01 PM on July 21, 2012


Jeez, they sure don't make time machines anymore like they once will, do they.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


Poor Marie Antoinette, to have all history thinking she said something that was a made-up quote by the bastard Rousseau written when she was nine about something else entirely.

Nah, I think there's a fairly big asterisk reading 'not an actual quote'. It persists because it's a useful shorthand. Same as 'L'État, c'est moi'.

Besides, if people were offered cake, they wouldn't have revolted. It was a BYOCake affair.
posted by ersatz at 3:43 PM on July 21, 2012


The best proof would be to leave something behind. Maybe put your titanium ring inside a tree.

The story has that same fictional conceit that so many magic stories do: presuming such a mechanism exists, how does it differentiate between my body and my clothes and then again between my clothes and the fabric of my chair, e.g.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:44 PM on July 21, 2012


I've always loved this story ever since I read about it years ago. I've always thought that it would have been interesting to recover a diary in Marie Antoinette's handwriting that says something like Saw two women in the most extraordinary costumes today whilst walking in the gardens. By the time I had convinced some of my ladies to go to them, they had mysteriously vanished, to the dismay of all. Now THAT would very interesting indeed.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:45 PM on July 21, 2012 [10 favorites]


This really needs to be investigated.
Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel.
Sapphirer and Steel have been assigned.
posted by Mezentian at 5:06 PM on July 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not the same thing, but this is one of the things I love about both travel and about living in old cities on the US East Coast. On foggy nights, in the right light, with a half squint, you can timeslip indeed.
posted by Miko at 5:36 PM on July 21, 2012 [9 favorites]


Maybe worth pointing to the edition of An Adventure on Google Books, which can be downloaded as a PDF.
posted by with hidden noise at 6:13 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Come on, why not tie timeslips into the effect of an upcoming nuclear war, while one is looking for an explanation?

http://paranormal.about.com/od/timeanddimensiontravel/Time_and_Dimension_Travel.htm

The best proof would be to leave something behind. Maybe put your titanium ring inside a tree.

Meh, its been done/claimed. Various Cryptozoic-arcerological sites/people point to green glass in a desert, round spheres of metal, metal pipe in old dams - one just has to find such a site than leap into their worldview.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:29 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"This is a real-life phenomenon known as a time slip."
"That's quite an extraordinary claim. Got any evidence?"
"I'm sorry, what was I thinking? As it turns out, this is a real-life phenomenon known as a time slip."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:44 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


...ceci Anges Pleurant!
don't blink
posted by mimi at 7:08 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.

Ha! I found the whole series the other day at the store and have been watching them again. Man, they knew how to fill up time with meaningless reaction shots accompanied by portentous music.
posted by winna at 9:15 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I was walking through Versailles with a worthless guidebook
When a pox-ridden guy gave me an evil look
His outdated clothes, they took me by surprise
He had a tri-corner hat, and the devil's eyes.
He stared at me and I felt a change
Time meant nothing, never would again
Let's do the Time Warp again!
posted by drlith at 10:54 AM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ha. I just experienced something similar. I opened the first page of The Time Traveler's Wife late Friday night and 615 pages later I apparently time slipped for an entire weekend.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:05 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't believe I didn't see this post until know. Due to the solitary and sometimes tedious nature of my work, I listen to podcasts pretty much 8 hours a day. About two months ago, I heard a podcast about the Moberly-Jourdain incident on a Stuff You Missed in History (titled Ghosts of History: Versailles, originally aired in 2009). I found the story fascinating and immediately thought that it would make a great movie (or at least a PBS/BBC Masterpiece type program), short story or Metafilter post. I found as much as I could online (which wasn't a whole lot. Moberly and Jourdain's papers pertaining to the incident are available at the Bodleian Library.

I also managed to miss Midnight in Paris (how I don't know, it played forever) but as of now it is going to the top of my netflix queue.

Kudos mark7570
posted by kaybdc at 12:11 PM on July 22, 2012


Different kind of time slippage, but Fred Hoyle's October the First Is Too Late is a lot of fun: "A transmission of solar beams plays havoc with time. England is in the '60's but WWI is still raging in western Europe. Greece is in the golden age of Pericles, America some thousands of years in the future; while Russia & Asia are a glass-like plain, its surface fused together by the burnt-out sun of a far distant future. The central themes are time & the meaning of consciousness." (From Goodreads.)
posted by languagehat at 3:27 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not suggesting it's a scientifically supported phenomenon.

In the scientific community the theory which currently has the most "traction" is that those experiencing these time slips are spaced out on sensation, like they're under sedation.

Eat your heart out Anne Miller.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:30 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


at the crossroads: The only reason you people dismiss it and make jokes is because you don't know how to do it yourself. You know you want to.

Or, because we have healthy levels of skepticism.

Wanna buy a magic crystal? As it turns out, this is real!
posted by IAmBroom at 8:35 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


For some reason I always mix up PK Dick's Martian Time-Slip

I misread that as 'Dick Martin's Time-Slip,' which would have been verrry interesting... but stupid.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:43 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Taking all of it on its merits, I think it would be much more awesome to run into Constantine at the Louvre, of all places.

I think that's slated for Night At The Museum 3: I Louvre Paris. Jon Hamm's going to play Constantine with Kathy Bates as The Bather and Russel Brand as The Rebellious Slave. The trailer has Nike running about, CGI wings flapping wildly, with a stinger about her "losing her head... and arms!" It doesn't look as cute as the other films, honestly. Very little room for monkeys at the Louvre and they can't use Venus De Milo 'cause she's topless. David presents similarly obvious problems.
posted by maryr at 8:57 PM on July 22, 2012


Very little room for monkeys at the Louvre and they can't use Venus De Milo 'cause she's topless. David presents similarly obvious problems.
posted by maryr at 8:57 PM on July 22 [+] [!]


After Dark at the Museum sounds intriguing. Go on...
posted by gc at 9:03 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and Mezentian for the 'wow, where did that come from'!
posted by mephron at 12:16 AM on July 23, 2012


Once, in the late 80s when I was a young teenage ApathyGirl, I fell asleep in the bathtub one afternoon after watching* part of the Monterey Pops concert film and dreamt I was there at the concert. This, by itself, isn't particularly remarkable, but the fact I vividly remember things that weren't in the short section of the film I saw on tv, can recall performances** that weren't in the film at all, is.

Time slip, indeed.


* first time watching/hearing it. My parents weren't, er, hip to that vibe, as it were.
** later confirmed through b-roll, archive footage and the glorious internet.

posted by ApathyGirl at 2:56 AM on July 23, 2012


"Let's do the time warp again......"

♩Let's warp again / like we did next summer...
posted by StephenF at 4:43 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you think about it, you really only need to hold one Time Travelers convention.
posted by emelenjr at 6:50 AM on July 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


This is a repeat of a joke from earlier in the thread.
posted by chavenet at 3:47 PM on July 23, 2012


...and Mezentian for the 'wow, where did that come from'!

1970s TV is best TV.
posted by Mezentian at 7:10 AM on July 24, 2012


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