It was a hot summer day in July 1954. A businessman, whom people say looked just like any other traveler, arrived at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
However, this man would cause chaos — of the existential kind — minutes later. Upon checking his passport, authorities found that he came from Taured, a country that does not exist.
In an apparent head-scratcher, the man’s documents appeared legitimate. His passport had stamps from countries he previously visited, including Japan. He explained that Taured was located in Europe in an area nestled between France and Spain. He even pointed it out on a map.
But to the Japanese authorities — and to us, at least in this universe — this country is the Principality of Andorra. The man became angry and confused, insisting that Taured has existed for more than 1,000 years.
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Japanese authorities did not know what to do. Following the “interrogation,” they decided to take the man to a local hotel until they could get to the bottom of the situation. The man’s room, which was several floors up, was locked, heavily guarded and had no balcony.
Despite this level of security, he would be gone by morning without a trace — or so the tale says.
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This story, often called the “Man from Taured,” has become one of modern history’s most well-known urban legends about alternate or parallel universes. The tale has been adapted into books (1, 2) and is a favorite topic on TikTok and YouTube, engaging both conspiracy theorists and social media users who are simply curious.
What many retellings about the man, however, fail to reveal is the truth behind the legend. This may be deliberate since keeping the mystery alive, after all, is fun.
On the other hand, some storytellers may also be completely clueless about the myth’s real-life origins, as accounts of the incident themselves are not always consistent.
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The story of the “Man from Taured” has been heavily sensationalized, but it does originate from an actual incident, according to news sources at the time.
However, this incident was not about alternate universes, but a simple case of fraud.
First of all, the year was not 1954, but 1959. The man, identified as John Allen Kuchar Zegrus, had been traveling with his phony passport for some time, somehow managing to trick other countries. Unfortunately for him, his scheme ended in Japan, where he was convicted of illegal entry and fraud at the age of 36 in April 1960.
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Zegrus reportedly traveled to Japan with his Korean wife from Taipei. He was not arrested until he cashed forged checks to cover the costs of their stay in the country, as per fact-checker Snopes.com, which also exposed the truth behind the legend.
A Tokyo judge reportedly sentenced Zegrus to one year in prison. From there, the situation took a much darker turn: After his sentence was interpreted, Zegrus stood and slashed his arms with a piece of broken glass that he had hidden in his mouth, declaring, “I’m going to kill myself!”
Zegrus was reportedly rushed to a nearby hospital, and it is here where his reported timeline ends. It is understood that he eventually served his sentence, but who he truly was and where he actually came from remains a mystery. His wife, who was 30 at the time, was reportedly repatriated to South Korea. It is unclear what happened to her.
Some believe Zegrus came from Algeria. This is due to his citation of places called Tamanrasset (which he claimed to be the capital of Taured “south of the Sahara”) and Tuared (a variation of the spelling of Taured, which is thought to be a misspelled version of Tuareg). Tamanrasset is the name of a province in Algeria, while Tuareg is an ethnic Islamic group that primarily lives in the Sahara, including southern Algeria.
While Zegrus and countless others have made up hoaxes about parallel universes, the reality of such remains unknown. However, physicists around the world are now taking the concept of a multiverse more seriously. Even Hollywood also embraced the idea more in recent years, with films such as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” being a shining example.