Saturday, August 20, 2005

Note: Versions of the following article have now been published in French, English and Spanish. Since I first wrote this the investigation has actually progressed, including the discovery of a genuine “Rudolph Fentz” in 19th century North America! These details will be published shortly in a book in Spanish by a friend of mine, Alejandro Polanco Masa.

For some reason the Fentz story, which was barely known outside Spain and France and science fiction fandom, afterwards became very popular on the internet and, two years later, is still being recycled as a piece of “weird news.”


Desperately Seeking Rudolph

This article describes my attempts to trace an incident of ‘time travel’ or ‘teleportation’ that allegedly took place in New York many years ago. The paper trail that led me to the original source is a classic example of how labyrinthine such searches can be. Oddly enough, the paper trail begins not in New York but in Spain.

An untimely death

I first became aware of the case of Rudolph Fentz when I read an article in the Spanish magazine Más Allá. “Regreso al futuro en el corazón de Manhattan” (Back to the Future in the Heart of Manhattan) was a six-page report written by researcher Carlos Canales, co-author of two well-researched books dealing with supernatural themes in folklore and legend.[1]
The article told one of the most amazing stories of ‘teleportation’ I had ever read. The gist of it was as follows:

It was about 11:30pm on an unspecified day in June, 1950. The night was warm and the streets of New York were still full of people as they made their way home after an evening at the cinema, at the theatre or dining in one of Manhattan’s fine restaurants. One young man, however, stood out from the rest. He was dressed elegantly enough, but in a style that looked old-fashioned, even archaic. Walking quickly, the strange figure seemed preoccupied by everything he saw around him, as if he were lost and looking frantically for something he could recognise. He was also quite oblivious to the passing traffic, as became immediately apparent when he dashed across a busy intersection near Times Square and was hit almost instantly by an automobile.

The impact was such that the man was killed outright. A crowd of horrified pedestrians gathered on the curb to see his limp body, his peculiarly tailored clothes no doubt spattered with blood, until the police arrived to take him away.

Nothing about the dead man’s appearance looked normal. He had been wearing a long black coat and an impeccable waistcoat that not even the old-timers would be seen wearing – and this gentleman had probably been in his late twenties. The cloth from which his clothes was made was uncommonly thick, especially for that time of year. More disconcerting than this were the shoes on his feet: narrow, pointed at the toes and with a metal buckle, the people at the morgue had never seen anything like them. But the oddest thing was what they found in his pockets. The deceased was carrying an amount of money – antique bills – and several business cards bearing the name “Rudolf Fenz.” There was also a letter, addressed to someone of the same name with a New York address…but postmarked in 1876! Naturally, they presumed the dead man was himself Rudolf Fenz.

A team of specialists were employed to find out who Fenz was. First they checked for his name in the records, but to no avail, there was nobody of that name living in the address on the cards and on the letter. The telephone directories listed no Rudolf Fenz and he was not a registered driver. Even more bizarrely, the name did not appear in any medical or dentist records. The fact that “Rudolf Fenz” was a German name led them to contact the immigration services but still they found no trace of him. The Federal Republic of Germany could not offer any clues, and nor could the Swedes or the Austrians.

A few weeks after the accident, the name of “Rudolf Fenz, Jr.” was found in a phone book dating to 1939. Hoping this person would turn out to be a relative of the deceased Mr. Fenz, the police investigators went to the address that appeared in the directory, but there they were told that Rudolf Fenz, Jr., had died some years before. In any case, this Fenz would have been more than 70 years old at the time of the accident and the body they found was that of a young man.
Progress was made finally by Hubert V. Rihn of New York’s Missing Persons Bureau. He managed to track down Fentz Jr.’s widow. She was able to tell him that her deceased husband’s father had disappeared in 1876 when he went out for a smoke (Mrs. Fentz had not shared her husband’s fondness for tobacco). He had gone out for a walk and simply never came back. Nothing was ever heard of him again. After this, Rihn checked his department’s files for the year 1876, and there he found a document relating to the disappearance of Fenz and a photograph of the same. Rihn could not believe his eyes. The young man in the photo was identical to the one that had died near Times Square!


The article by Canales was not a literary invention or, regrettably, an original investigation, but had rather been pieced together from a variety of sources, including several internet articles in Spanish. Two Spanish books mentioned the case prior to Canales’ article, and these also provided him with further details for his report: Enigmas Sin Resolver (1999),[2] written by journalist Iker Jiménez, and Los Enigmas Pendientes, by the late Joaquín Gómez Burón.[3] The latter was the earliest source, but it was published twice: first in 1979 and then in 1991.

Over a period of twelve months I managed to collect nine or ten summaries of the Fenz case from the internet but I soon discovered that information about the story was scarce outside the World Wide Web. None of the popular books dealing with time travel or teleportation that I would usually consult made any reference to Fenz at all, and enquiries to some of the major UFO and Fortean journals revealed that the case was practically unknown outside Spain.[4] This was a strong indication that the whole incident was likely to be a piece of fiction, for a paranormal incident in which the evidence included a police report, a corpse (and presumably a burial), authentic documents and a photograph, would very quickly become famous and hotly debated, at least in esoteric circles In fact,. it would be irrefutable proof of the scientific reality of time travel. There would be whole books devoted to the case, perhaps even a museum. But no, as I found out early on, the Rudolf Fenz case had seemingly come out of nowhere to be published in Spain in 1979. Even the one article written in English, “In the Wink of an Eye: Mysterious Disappearances” (1996) by Scott Corrales, had based its summary of the Fenz case on Burón’s book. And, like Carlos Canales after him, Joaquím Gómez Burón provided no source for his information (the short “bibliography” being just a list of titles by popular authors such as Bergier and Kolosimo, without dates or names of publishers).

For some time it looked doubtful that an earlier source would emerge until I had traced all of Gómez Burón’s sources. Meanwhile I was able to compare and contrast the different versions available to me. Reading through the texts that I found on the internet I began to see that, although a great deal of agreement existed, the inconsistencies between one account and another gave the impression that each writer had contributed something new.

In one version, Fenz is seen running along the Fifth Avenue to his doom; in another, he materializes in the middle of the street in front of the car. In some versions the time was 11:30pm, in others 11:15pm, and in another 11:10pm. In his pockets Fenz either carried coins or dollar bills, or both. Sometimes the FBI is called in, sometimes it was a matter for the Missing Persons Division alone. There are versions in which Hubert Rihn is the only investigator, and others in which teams of criminal experts use the latest technology to look into the case. In some renditions of the story Rihn visits the address given on the envelope and finds it is a store, in others it is a house. One article holds that when Fenz vanished in 1876 his family spent a great deal of money searching for him. In a few accounts Rihn solves the case when he sees an antique photograph of the young man, though most versions say that all he finds is a written description of the clothes Rudolf Fenz had been wearing the night he disappeared.
More agreement exists on the issue of the witnesses to the accident. Iker Jiménez writes that “scores of eyewitness reports” were gathered by the police, though unfortunately he does not quote from any.[5] Burón does not claim there were so many witnesses but he does note that one of them said they had seen the dead pedestrian “attending…the last performance of the day” at one of the theatres a short time before.[6] Canales nods in agreement and adds that, with this one exception, all the witnesses were unanimous in their statements. “Fenz seemed confused, as if he had suddenly appeared in a strange, remote place,” he writes.[7]

The article written by Canales is particularly interesting because he contributes an item of news unknown to everyone else:

"The recent discovery of a letter addressed to the late Fenz from a trader in Pittsburgh, in the state of Pennsylvania (USA), has strengthened the theory [involving time travel] about what happened on New York’s Fifth Avenue in the last days of spring, 1950, and it is possible that it will one day enable us to understand our still mysterious world."

Unfortunately, that letter has never been published. In fact, as Canales admitted to me later, it was only ever mentioned during an internet ‘forum’ in Mexico – not the most suitable of sources for a datum of such importance. But was it a mere flight of fantasy? The answer to this question will be become apparent below.

One of the most interesting areas of disagreement concerns the spelling of the names of the ‘time traveller’ and of the police officer who led the investigation. Was it Rudolf or Rudolph? Fenz or Fentz, or possibly Fens? Hubert Rihn – or Rihm, or Rhin? Each of these names has been used at some time. This would be less significant if we were not looking for authentic information about supposedly real people. However, the writers who present the case as fact never mention this inconsistency.

A search for names

My first port of call was the United States Social Security database, available on line at various locations. I fist checked the database for the name “Rudolf Fenz.” It produced an immediate result:

Residence: 60645 Chicago, Cook, IL
Born: 5 March 1909
Died: April 1976

Unfortunately, the dates did not fit. The Fenz of our story had been 29 in 1876, and died in 1950, so we would logically expect to find a birth date of c.1847. A search in a different direction revealed that there is also a Rudolf Fenz, an engineer, alive and well and living in Germany today. Then I checked various databases for the name “Rudolph Fenz,” but there were no results at all. I tried again using “Rudolf Fentz” and “Rudolph Fentz” but there was nothing to be found. The surnames had existed but not attached to those Christian names. In a file on “Marriage Registers, Extracts from Manhattan (1869-1880)”[8] I did come across a Franz Rudolph who lived in Manhattan and who married one Fridricka Winner in 1869, but I decided this was unlikely to be connected with the case.

I next sought references to Hubert Rihn, the man supposedly in charge of the police investigation in New York. There was no reference to anyone of that name. I tried Herbert Rihn (just in case), and then combinations of these names with Rihm, Rhin and Rhim. Nothing. Going through all the names attached to Rihn and Rihm one by one I did find a possible candidate by the name of Herman Rihm:

Last residence: Ridgeview Ave., Cincinnati OH
Birth: 14 December 1912 in Mannheim, Germany
Death: 23 June 1993 in Cincinnati, Hamilton Co. OH

The dates seemed okay, but that was about all. There was a little extra information in the file, which dispelled any doubt I had at that moment:

Medical Information: Cause of Death: Carbon monoxide poisoning.
Married: 16 May 1939 [to] Emma Kopp b: 3 November 1916.
Herman and Emma met while working at a German newspaper in Cincinnati. Herman was a linotype operator, Emma was an editorial assistant. The newspaper, Die Frie Press [or rather, Die Freie Presse] (The Free Press) disbanded at the outset of World War Two.

This Rihm was not a policeman but a linotype operator.[9] I made a mental note to check up on the number of German newspapers published in the United States, but not in connection with the Fenz case. In fact I was wondering whether any of the members of the Project 1947 group, who systematically scanned the early press for UFO reports, had examined the German newspapers printed in the USA.

This failure to trace either Fentz or Rihn through the official records is an important indication that neither man ever existed, at least in the timeframe established in the narrative. It goes without saying that there was no “Rudolf Fenz Junior” listed anywhere, either, for any period between 1850 and 2002 (alternative spellings included).

In April 2002 I received confirmation from both the New York Public Library (Humanities and Social Sciences Library, Room 121, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York NY 10018-2788) and the New York State Library (Albany, NY 12230) that neither Hubert Rihn/Rihm nor Rudolph/Rudolf Fentz/Fenz were listed in any New York telephone directory between 1939 and 1941. In May the same year I received a communication from Walter Burnes of the New York Police Division telling me that after searching their database they had been “unable to find any information on a Captain Hubert V. Rihm having served with the NYPD and/or the Missing Persons Bureau.”

Early sources

After months of research and enquiries I finally came upon a book predating Gómez Burón’s wherein Rudolf Fenz is mentioned. It turns out that Jacques Bergier and Georges H. Gallet discuss the case at some length in their Le Livre du Mystére, a typical collection of enigmas and supernatural experiences published in Paris in 1975. To his credit, Gómez Burón did include this book in his general bibliography but there had been no reference to it in the main text and I had not been able to track it down. Partly this was because this book by Bergier is not very well known, but also because it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain particular out-of-print titles in Spain. In any case, I eventually did manage to obtain it, first in Spanish (1977)[10] and later in French (1975)[11].

The version given by Bergier and Gallet concentrates mostly on the investigations carried out by “Captain Hubert V. Rihm” of the Missing Persons Division. Now retired, they write, Rihm no longer has access to the police report he once filed but can remember enough details to describe most of the ins and outs of the case. In most respects this version corresponds with those we have already seen, though not entirely. The time of the accident is given as “approximately” 11:15pm. “Rudolph Fentz” is first seen in the doorway of a theatre in the middle of a large crowd, although paradoxically “nobody saw him go down the street.” He is next seen in the middle of the road, where he is hit by a taxi. A policeman spotted him from the street corner but could not reach him on time. The dead man’s fingerprints were taken but did not match with any known to specialists either in New York or in Washington.

More details about Rihm’s investigation are provided. After finding Rudolph Fentz Jr. listed in the 1939 telephone directory Captain Rihm goes to the address given and there finds out that Fentz had been around 60 years old in 1939 and worked at a local bank. He had retired in 1940 and moved away. At the bank Rihm was informed that the man had died in 1945 but that his widow was still living in Florida.

A letter from Fentz Jr.’s widow told Rihm that her father-in-law had disappeared when he went out one night for a smoke, and that the family had spent a great deal of money trying to locate him, in vain.

This version was now the earliest I had seen. The Spanish translator of Le Livre du Mystere, Marisa Olivera, had rendered the name of the missing man “Rudolf” to make it more familiar for Spanish readers (a common but regrettable practice), while Hubert Rihm’s name was not altered. This meant that the name “Rihn” had originated as a mistake in Burón’s book, as did the name “Fenz,” leading other writers to make the same mistake in later years. The only North American reference to the case, we recall, is in Scott Corrales’ In the Wink of an Eye, that also has “Rudolf Fenz.”

The next question was, of course, What was Bergier’s and Gallet’s source?

Fortunately, this had an easy solution. Their book had been pieced together mainly from articles published in an Italian magazine, Il Giornale dei Misteri, and the Fentz article had been published there.

The paper chase

So, I now knew Bergier and Garret drew their information from a magazine called Il Giornale dei Misteri, an Italian magazine devoted to these kinds of matters. A quick enquiry to my colleagues in the field produced a response from researcher Bruno Mancusi telling me the precise edition of the magazine: number 36, March 1974, p.24. A copy of that article is now in my possession, thanks to Edoardo Russo at CISU.

But that is not all. The article in the Italian journal contains a brief but important bibliographical reference.

Fakta, no. 1, 1973.

At the time I had no idea what this referred to. Was there an Italian magazine with that name? A French journal? Ole Jonny Brænne of UFO-Norge came to my rescue. Fakta? (“Facts?”) was a Norwegian magazine! Brænne informed me that on pages 11-12 of Fakta? number 1, 1973, there was an article entitled “Uforklarlige forflytninger og forsvinninger,” which translated means “Unexplained teleportations and disappearances.” I have a copy of this article now, too.

Page 12 is devoted to the “Rudolph Fentz” story – note the spelling of “Fentz.” “Rihm” is the spelling of the policeman’s name (“Kaptein Hubert V. Rihm”). These are the original versions of their names, as we shall see. Another curious addition was the information that the letter Fentz carried in his pocket was “poststemplet juni 1876 i Philadelphia” – that is, it was postmarked “Philadelphia 1876.” Was this the origin of the supposed “letter addressed to the late Fenz from a trader in Pittsburgh, in the state of Pennsylvania” that Canales had read about in the internet forum? It is worth considering, as there is no way such a letter could have been “discovered recently.” Unless it had been addressed to Mr Rudolf Fenz (1909-1976) of Chicago, Illinois!
On page 11 the article deals with a mysterious disappearance in Nanking (1939) and the story of the “mass teleportation” of a whole regiment in Gallipoli in 1915, a well-known but untrue tale. More interesting than this, however, was the bibliographical reference “Arcanum, January 1973.”

Was Arcanum another Norwegian magazine? No, it turns out that Fakta? had taken the article from a Swedish magazine of that name. So far I had been able to trace the story of Rudolph Fentz from Spain to France, from France to Italy, then to Norway. Now it seemed the story may have originated in Sweden…

Anders Liljegren came to the rescue. Mr Liljegren is a UFO researcher but also the archivist for AFU-Sweden (Archives For UFO Research), one of the largest UFO libraries in Europe. In an e-mail he told me that issue 88 of Brevcirkeln Arcanum, January 1973, contained an article entitled “Into unknown country,” which, of course, discussed the same ‘teleportation’ cases as the Facta? article. The author of the 4-page article was Lennart Lind, an occultist and ufologist. Lind interpreted the three stories in an esoteric way, with theories about “the 4th dimension” and “time holes” from Ralph M. Holland, Marian Harthill and ‘Myron.’ No references to sources were provided in the article, but there were quotes from the journal of the Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (BSRF), and Liljegren felt that the information had probably come from there.

The BSRF is based in California. The paper chase had apparently taken me back to an English language source, where one automatically supposes a story set in New York and involving the New York police should be.


In 1945, occultist theorist N. Meade Layne (1883-1961) founded the Borderland Sciences Research Associates (later “Foundation”) and a quarterly publication called Round Robin, a booklet dedicated to the examination of supernatural phenomena. Layne is acknowledged to be one of the first theorists on ufological matters, making public statements about the phenomenon in 1946 in the wake of a sighting in San Diego on October 9th that year. Before the world’s press began publishing reports on ‘flying saucers’ in the summer of 1947, Meade and his colleague, medium Mark Probert (d. 1969), had already proclaimed the objects were “ether ships” from the “fourth dimension.” Technically speaking, therefore, the BSRF is the oldest flying saucer group in existence, though according to a letter written by a much later director, James Borges, the group de-emphasised UFOs in their work in the 1970s in order to focus on scientific experimentation.[12]

The term “round robin” had been used for years in a slightly different context. It originally referred to a creative game in which one person starts a story and other people take turns adding to it, with no fixed plot. Although this was not what Meade Layne had in mind for his journal, it is, ironically, the simplest possible description of the process by which many tales, like Fentz’s, are developed. In 1959 the name of the publication was changed to The Journal of Borderland Research. The organization, which is still active today, describes the publication as “an information resource for scholars and researchers on the frontiers of science and awareness.”

As there was no reference to a particular issue of Round Robin or the Borderland Journal it seemed it was going to be a long job to find one article amongst almost thirty years of publication history. There was no guarantee that the Fentz story had come from there, either. I was, therefore, delighted when Anders Liljegren wrote and told me that he had located the issue in question. Fortunately it was not such an arduous task, as it had been published in the May-June 1972 edition of The Journal of Borderland Research (Volume 28), on pages 15 to 19. Was this the earliest version of the Fentz story? Anders sent me a copy of the article a few days later.

A Voice from the Gallery

The report consisted of two parts of unequal length. Pages 15 and 16 dealt with Fentz while the rest discussed the esoteric significance of such mysteries, introducing three cases that had not been mentioned in the articles published in Norway and Sweden. We will look at these later. The most significant detail, however, was the way the story of Fentz was presented. The heading of the article was:


By the late Ralph M. Holland
From "Colliers"

This seemed to indicate that the article had been taken directly from the popular American magazine Collier’s, but as no date or issue number was mentioned I was unable to trace it. But I decided that this was probably not necessary, as another source was mentioned:

"A Voice in the Gallery, number 4, 1953."

The Borderland writer – Vincent H. Gaddis – states that “From Holland’s ‘A Voice in the Gallery,’ No.4, 1953 until March 1969 we had to wait for the occult explanation of the Fentz disappearance and reappearance,” so I suspected that the Collier’s article would have been identical to the Borderland Journal version. The inclusion of an exact bibliographical reference, plus the fact that Ralph M. Holland is presented as its author, implied that the text about Fentz was copied verbatim from the original. Unfortunately, editions of A Voice from the Gallery (the correct name of the booklet, according to a reliable source I will cite below) are very rare and I have yet to see any of them.

There was no doubt in my mind that this was the earliest published source, and the ‘paper trail’ lead me to the inevitable conclusion that all later renditions of the story stemmed from this one. The following is a transcription of the article precisely as presented in The Journal of Borderland Research:

One night in June 1950 an oddly dressed man was seen in Times Square in New York City -- which eventually led to the most baffling mystery in the history of the New York Police Department.
Hubert V. Rihm was in the Missing Persons Bureau at the time, and took an active part in the investigation. He is now retired and, since he does not have the records of the case in his possession, could not quote exact dates and addresses in all instances. He did, however, remember the main details. It was somewhere near the middle of the month, about 11:15 p.m., right at the height of the after theatre traffic rush.
The man appeared to be about 30 years of age. His most noticeable feature, aside from his clothing, was a luxuriant set of mutton-chop whiskers, which went out of style many years ago. He wore a high silk hat, a cutaway coat with cloth covered buttons at the back, and a high cut vest with lapels. The trousers were black and white checked material, rather tight, without cuffs and pressed without a crease. He wore high button shoes.
No one saw him walk out into the street. Witnesses first noticed him standing in the middle of the intersection "gawking at the signs as if he’d never seen an electric sign before". Then he seemed to become aware of the traffic and began to make frantic movements to dodge it. The police officer at the corner saw him, and started out to lead him to safety. Before he could reach him, the man made a sudden dash for the curb. A taxicab hit him, and he was dead when they picked him up.
The attendants at the morgue took the whiskers and the clothing in their stride. One meets some odd characters during 20 or 30 years on the force, some of them much odder than he. When they began to search his pociets [sic], their brows began to wrinkle. "One brass slug, good for one 5¢ beer". The name of the saloon was unfamiliar even to the old timers. "One bill from a livery stable on Lexington Ave.: 'to the feeding and stabling of one horse, and the washing of one carriage; $3.00'" The name of the stable did not appear in the directory. "About $70 in currency, all old style notes, and including two gold certificates." "Cards bearing the name 'Rudolph Fentz' and an address on Fifth Ave., with a letter to the same name and address, postmarked in Philadelphia June 1876." None of the items showed any signs of age.
The Fifth Ave. address was a store. So far as the present occupants knew, it had always been a store. None of them had ever heard of "Rudolph Fentz". The name did not appear in the directory. A finger print check, both in New York and Washington brought no results. No one ever called, or made enquiries at the morgue. Capt. Rihm continued to investigate the case. He checked back thru old phone books, looking for the name "Fentz". Finally, in the 1939 directory, he found a "Rudolph Fentz Jr." with an uptown apartment address. They remembered Fentz at the apartment: a man in his 60s, who worked at a nearby bank. He had retired in 1940 and moved away. They had not heard from him since.
At the bank, Rihm learned that Fentz had died about 5 years before, but that his widow was still alive in Florida. In reply to Rihm's letter, she said that her husband's father had mysteriously disappeared sometime during the spring of 1876. it seems that Mrs. Fentz, Sr. didn’t like to have him smoke in the house. She thought it smelled up the curtains. So it had been his custom to go out for a walk every evening about 10 and enjoy a final cigar before retiring. One night he went out as usual and never returned. The family spent quite a bit of money trying to find him but he was never seen or heard of again.
Capt. Rihm found Rudolph Fentz listed in the "Missing Persons" file for 1876. The address given was the same as that appearing on the cards and letter, so the place was evidently a private residence at that time. He was 29 years of age, and wore mutton chop whiskers. The description of the clothing which he was wearing when last seen agreed exactly with that worn by the mysterious traffic victim. The case was still listed as "unsolved".
Captain Rihm never wrote the results of his private investigations into the official records. He didn't dare! They'd have had him in the "nut factory" for a mental checkup in nothing flat! After all, a man can't just walk out into thin air in 1876 and then suddenly turn up, unchanged in any way, 74 years later! No one would believe a tale like that. He didn't believe it himself, "but -- give me some other explanation which will make sense".

Thus reads the original version of the mystery according to Holland. A glance at the later renderings of the story show that the Bergier/Gallet version was the most complete summary of the case after Holland’s. The reason for this is that the Norwegian and Swedish articles upon which the Italian article was based had been translated practically word for word from the BSRF Journal. Had this not been the case, we can be sure the details would have been distorted much further by the time they were translated into Spanish.

Borderland Sciences proceeded to rationalize the Fentz incident from an esoteric perspective. According to the article, members of the Borderland Foundation gathered in March 1969 to contact “Myron of the Ashtar Command,” hoping to discover the mechanism that produces teleportations and strange disappearances. This was achieved through a medium or ‘channeller’ called Marian Harthill.

This is not the place to discuss the complex world of the Ashtar Command. Suffice it to say that a contactee named George Wellington Van Tassel (b. 1910) claimed to have received “psychic messages” from an intergalactic fleet with this name, and wrote about it in a book called I Rode a Flying Saucer (1952). Van Tassel founded a group of followers, the “Ministry of Universal Wisdom,” and it all started there. It still exists today.

According to “Myron,” Rudolph Fentz’s leap through time was an example of what occurs when a person slips into the Fourth Dimension through a hole in the fabric of reality. Such holes – which are apparently random alignments between gaps in our dimension and in the Fourth – are especially common “in thinly populated areas or over your vast ocean stretches,” in the words of the Ashtar alien. “Myron” speaks of “ships…sailing right through one hole and out another, while the crews are never found,” an inference to the Bermuda Triangle, a popular enigma at the time. Indeed, 1969 was also the year when John Spencer’s Limbo of the Lost was published, the first book entirely devoted to the Triangle.

The article spoke of another case, in which a steamship called “Avalon” disappeared during a voyage from Long Beach to Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of California. According to Vincent H. Gaddis, who provided his own account of the story, the steamer was seen again some 20 years later by the commander of a submarine, though a subsequent search failed to find it.
Gaddis had been an early member of the Fortean Society, a group founded in 1931 to examine the kinds of phenomena that Charles Fort (1874-1932) had collected for decades. It is a curious fact that Gaddis had published a round-up of contemporary UFO reports in the June 1947 issue of Amazing Stories – an article that was still on some newsstands when Kenneth Arnold made his famous sighting on the 24th of the same month. Later, Gaddis wrote articles for the Borderland Journal and similar publications. One of these, in Argosy magazine in February 1964, coined a new term that was to become very popular: ‘the Bermuda Triangle.’ Although he had not been the first to write about the disappearance of ships and planes in the region of the Bermudas and Miami, or even the first to call it a ‘triangle’ (both doubtful honours belong to one George X. Sand, whose short article in Fate entitled “Sea Mystery at our Back Door” discussed the enigma in October 1952), it was his expression that stuck in readers’ minds.

The other ‘teleportations’ mentioned in the article were the alleged (but untrue) 1880 “David Lang” mystery, and the (dubious) 1593 “Manila to Mexico” incident. This is not the place to deal with these cases, of course.

Ralph M. Holland

I decided that Ralph M. Holland was the author of the Rudolph Fentz story. But if this was so, who exactly was he?
This question has two answers. It turns out that first we have to meet Ralph, and then his alter ego Rolf.

Ralph Merridette Holland was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on August 29th 1899. He lived there until 1914 when his family moved to Akron, Ohio. After attending two public schools he left at the age of 16 to start work. He continued to take classes, and finally received a degree in engineering, yet his first jobs were with local newspapers. His first job was with a German language newspaper in Akron, and later with the Akron Beacon Journal. There is no indication that he wrote articles for either of the two but rather that he worked “in the plant,” as his sister Dora G. Holland noted in his obituary.[13]

This set me thinking. If Holland had worked in a German language newspaper, could he possibly have met Herman Rihm, the linotype operator who had lived and worked in Ohio? While it is true that Rihm had worked on a German newspaper in Cincinnati, not in Akron, was it possible that the two men had actually met? Holland had only been thirteen years older than Herman Rihm, so it is possible that their paths had crossed. Considering the rarity of names resembling “Hubert Rihm” in the first half of the twentieth century in North America, it continued to be an interesting, if indemonstrable, idea.

After his brief stint with the Akron Beacon Journal (a newspaper founded in 1897 and which still exists today), Holland turned to engineering as his main profession. He first worked at the B. F. Goodrich Rubber Company, then at similar firms, until he finally went to Scotland to help set up a rubber plant there. After this he returned to Ohio, later winding up in Detroit, where he worked as an engineer for the Detroit Edison Company. He spent the rest of his life working as an engineer, designing machinery. When he died of a heart attack on January 26th 1962 he was living in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

Returning to the German connection, it has struck many as odd that the two named characters in the Rudolph Fentz story had surnames of Germanic origin. Rihm and Fentz are common throughout Germany, Austria and Holland, as are Rudolph and Hubert. Did Ralph Holland have much contact with German immigrants in Ohio?

The answer is that he could well have.

According to Dr. Don Heinrich Tolzman, the author of German-Americans in the World Wars (London, K. G. Saur 1995), the Census of 1910 had determined that nearly a third of the population of Cincinnati alone were of German stock (121,719 out of 363,591).[14] The German language was introduced into Cincinnati public schools at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Mayor of Cincinnati, himself a German-American, praised “German culture,” which had “contributed so much to the present greatness of Cincinnati that so long as the Queen City exists the name of the noble characters of its German citizens will stand forever.”[15]

In fact, there were dozens of German newspapers in the United States before World War II, and several in Ohio. 525 daily and weekly German newspapers were published in the U.S. in 1860, though by 2001 this had dropped to a mere 8.[16] In this context we should not be surprised that Ralph Holland chose German names for his characters, especially after his formal education in Ohio and his contact with German newspapers on leaving school.

If I was correct in my hypothesis, the question still remained about why Ralph Holland would have written a story about someone who had fallen through time in mysterious circumstances. I felt the explanation was not too complicated and that the key to the whole mystery lay therein.

“While in Detroit, Michigan,” wrote Dora Holland, “he studied journalism and became a free lance reporter, and still kept his press card and credentials after returning home, sending out many stories to wire services and magazines, sometimes under a pen name.” Holland’s main interest was paranormal phenomena, especially anything bordering on science fiction. “He was a member of the Borderland Sciences Research Associates for a number of years, as well as many other groups of a similar nature.”

UFOs became one of his favourite mysteries. “He was interested in our own life beyond our earthly one,” it says in his obituary, “as well as life on other planets, flying saucers, etc., ever searching for the truth.”

Holland was such an enthusiast for science fiction that he became a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F), finally becoming its president, a post he held until his death. In 1935 he published several issues of his fanzine, The Science-Fiction Review, and in 1958 he was the co-editor of the first issue of Fantasy Aspects, another science fiction fanzine. He published a small book called Ghu’s Lexicon in the 1950s (“Ghu” being a fantasy character invented in the 1930s). Also, of course, he published A Voice From the Gallery, described by his sister as a series of booklets full of “many unusual or out of the way stories or events.”

Dora Holland tells in her obituary that her brother was “constantly…in search for the truth, sorting fact from fake, before he would pass the information on.” However, it is clear that she was either quite credulous in this respect or not telling the whole truth, for she knew that Ralph Holland had also published some very fishy ‘factual’ material under the pseudonym of Rolf Telano.

“Rolf Telano,” the extraterrestrials and the Underworld

The first indication that Ralph M. Holland was not all he seemed came to me in the form of a letter dated 1964, a copy of which was forwarded to me by Anders Liljegren.

It happened that Miss Edith Nicolaisen, owner of the Parthenon publishing company in Helsingborg, Sweden, specialists in contactee literature, read A Spacewoman Speaks, a UFO book written by one “Rolf Telano,” and decided she wanted to publish it in Swedish. She wrote a letter to Telano on March 1st 1962 care of Harriet P. Foster in Del Mar, California, whose address had been provided by its English language publisher, “Understanding Publishing Co.” A reply from Dora Holland was received at the beginning of June. In the letter Dora said that it was okay to publish the book as long as her deceased brother’s desire for anonymity was respected by the publisher. Nicolaisen agreed, and before the year was through Vänner i universum (“Friends in the Universe”) was printed and sold in Sweden. The book became a success, at least in the world of UFO literature.

A Spacewoman Speaks was a 93-page text that Holland/Telano claimed to have received in 1954 from an extraterrestrial called Borealis. It had first been published in 1960 by the Understanding Publishing Co., owned by another notorious contactee, Daniel Fry. According to Holland, Borealis was a member of an ancient race of extraterrestrials who first came across the Earth thousands of years ago. These beings had an average life span of a thousand years and were reincarnated constantly. When they saw the planet was inhabitable they started to breed people by carefully selecting parents and developing them biologically in subterranean laboratories called Edens. This improved species was called the Adam and it is from this race that human beings have descended.

A Spacewoman Speaks goes into much greater detail about subterranean beings and monsters, alien gods, Lemuria and Atlantis. A number of Adam-beings that chose to remain below the ground and not rise to the surface rebelled against their nature, indulging in continuous orgies and other vices. These are the devils feared by men today. The creators saved as many of them as they could and sealed the rest of them inside their grottos, where groups of them still live today.

Of course, considering the period in which Holland was writing we should not be surprised by these ‘revelations.’ A variety of colourful mystics and channellers had been publishing psychic messages about subterranean worlds and Atlantean demigods for decades.[17] In the late nineteenth century Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) had written about vast caverns under the ground and the origin of the human race at points situated near the North Pole and on the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis. The “Lords of the Flame,” she said, were divine masters living on Venus. Annie Besant, her successor as the head of the Theosophical Society, believed the next race would rise from the most spiritual residents of Southern California, a new Lemuria, and in the distant future yet another version of humanity would appear on Mercury.

Between 1884 and 1886 Frederick S. Oliver wrote A Dweller on Two Planets, a text that he claimed had been channelled through him by Phylos, a thrice-reincarnated native of Atlantis. Oliver explained that there was a subterranean world beneath California’s famous Mount Shasta. In his last mortal incarnation as a gold miner called Walter Pierson, Phylos is flown to Venus in his astral body to receive the secrets of the universe. Oliver’s book inspired the founder of The Rosicrucians to write Lemuria: the Lost Continent of the Pacific in 1931, which was not only more of the same but actually included references to strange flying lights and boats that were identical to modern UFOs.

In 1934 mining engineer called Guy Warren Ballard published Unveiled Mysteries, a book which described his encounters with the Comte de Saint-Germain. The notorious Count took him to a series of magnificent chambers 2000 feet beneath Wyoming, where he sees great mounds of gold that had been saved from Atlantis before it sank. When a sequel, The Magic Presence, was published, Ballard went on to write about a fantastic radio that he had seen below Colorado which the Masters could use to communicate with other cities and other planets.

However, the greatest influence on Holland was probably Richard Sharpe Shaver (c.1908-1975), a science fiction writer whose strange tales were published in the popular magazine Amazing Stories in the 1940s. They were, of course, presented as fact, and they stirred up strong reactions from the very beginning. Although many of the stories were authored by the editor of the magazine himself, Ray Palmer, only the name of Richard Shaver was attached to them. When the first full-length story, “I Remember Lemuria!” was published in March 1945 the issue sold out immediately and interest in the lost continents was reawakened.

Shaver’s version of the history of the Earth differed very little from that of his predecessors. Thousands of years ago, he said, the world was colonized by a race of extraterrestrial beings. They set up their first base on Atlantis, and are thus remembered as Atlans (or “Titans”). They enjoyed lifespans of thousands of years but never grew old, and possessed a superior technology which allowed them to travel at the speed of light and breed new forms of life. Some of the creatures they made were monsters but one group became the ancestors of Mankind. After some time Atlan scientists discovered that the sun was changing and had begun to poison the Earth’s atmosphere with a deadly radiation. Terrestrial conditions got so bad that the whole Atlan race was driven below the ground, but even there they felt the effects of the radiation. Finally they decided there was only one way to survive: to search for a new home near a less hostile sun.

When the Atlans boarded their spaceships and flew away they left many of their genetically modified creatures behind. Some of these adapted to the terrestrial atmosphere and evolved into human beings. Others remained underground, degenerating into a race of evil dwarves called the “Dero.” In his writings, Shaver blamed the Dero for nearly everything bad that ever happened on Earth. They had provoked most of the world’s conflicts and disasters. Their antics had led to the crucifixion of Christ and the assassination of Kennedy, to name but two of their successes.

Ralph Holland, an editor of science fiction fanzines and a man who later became the president of N3F, would not only have been familiar with the best-selling Amazing Stories magazine but would probably have read the writings of Shaver’s imitators, too. Maurice Doreal came up with very similar stories from 1946 on (publishing booklets with titles such as The Inner Earth and Mysteries of Mt. Shasta), as did W.C. Hefferlin (a reincarnated Ancient whose tales about extraterrestrials, the underworld and the origin of humanity were published in 1947 and 1948 in fragments by the Borderland Sciences group, of which Holland was a member).

A Spacewoman Speaks was not Holland’s first book on UFOs. In 1952 the Borderland Sciences group published another, less philosophical work by him, The Flying Saucers. This was a description of the different kinds of UFOs known to exist. On this occasion, too, Holland/Telano claimed that the information had been channelled to him telepathically by Borealis. On both occasions Holland chose to remain anonymous.

Daniel Fry also published Holland/Telano’s A Spacewoman Speaks as a supplement of his own book, The White Sands Incident. Here, Fry uses the “channelled” messages from Borealis to support his own claim he had met the space-people himself. Fry claimed that his first close encounter took place on July 4th 1950 (later changed to 1949 when it was shown that he had not been there on that date) at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico, where he worked as a rocket test technician. They invited him aboard their craft and took him on a round trip to New York to demonstrate their powers. According to Fry, the entire 4000-mile round trip took just thirty minutes, which meant that they had travelled at an amazing 8000 miles an hour. Fry was impressed. After this promising start, however, the rest of the tale differed little from all the other contactee claims: the extraterrestrials explained that their ancestors had lived on Lemuria tens of thousands of years before, and humanity owes its existence to them.

Daniel Fry called himself “Dr Daniel Fry,” which is how his name appears on his books. He claimed that he had been awarded a “Ph.D. from San Andrews College of London, England,” but it was shown that the title had been acquired from a correspondence school and had no academic value whatsoever. In fact, no such college is formally recognized in London, and Fry’s ‘dignity degree’ of ‘Doctor of Philosophy (Cosmism)’ is patently absurd.[18]

When Dora Holland wrote to Miss Nicolaisen on June 1st 1964 she expressed a strong desire to keep her brother’s true identity secret. Ralph Holland had not wanted anyone to know that he was so deeply interested in science fiction, for this would have ruined his claims about aliens from space and subterranean monsters. His sister understood this perfectly, although whether she believed his fantasies were true or not is impossible to say. She certainly defended his honesty as a writer in her letter, just as one would expect in an obituary:

"I am sorry that I am so late in [replying], but press of other matters has kept me from it. Then too, I was trying to think of just how to answer, for I knew my brother’s desire for anonymity, and felt if he had wanted such a sketch of publicity, he surely would have presented it himself at the time A SPACEWOMAN SPEAKS was published here in the States.
I note that you state you will keep his name as “Rolf Telano”, for which I am very glad…

"…He had been interested in Science Fiction for a number of years, and was president of the National Fantasy Fan Federation at the time of the death – this is the connection he did not deem advisable to use in connection with his book or other similar interests lest his work in that connection be discredited as a result – and he was a most dedicated man and sincere in his beliefs. I hope nothing will be used to discredit him or his work in this connection, and have only mentioned it because you did include it in your letter…"

We are left with a very confusing image of Ralph Holland indeed. “Contactee,” science fiction enthusiast, journalist, engineer – a man of many talents.

An unexpected twist

In July 2002 I contacted the Akron Beacon Journal, the newspaper where Holland had worked when he was young, in case they could provide me with a photo or some additional information about the “father” of the legend. I received a reply a few days later, telling me that their archives did not go back so far, so they could not help me. However, the letter did say that a journalist named Paula Schleis could be interested in writing an article about Holland based on the information I had accumulated so far.

Thus, the same newspaper in which Holland had worked published an article about my investigations. “Clock runs out on long-told story of time traveler” was published by the Akron Beacon Journal on August 12th 2002. To be honest, I felt satisfied with my efforts and now I only hoped that a reader of the article, perhaps a resident of Akron, could provide me with some interesting information about the origins of the legend I’d been researching for so many months…

I didn’t have to wait very long.

On August 13th I received a letter from Reverend George Murphy, a minister in Akron, who confessed to be a great science-fiction fan. He told me that he was sure he had heard the Fentz story before, including all the names and details about the police investigation. Yet he had never heard of Ralph Holland, nor Rolf Telano, and he had never read A Voice from the Gallery, either. It set him thinking, and soon he remembered who had told exactly the same story…in 1951!

Jack Finney

In 1951 a writer named Jack Finney published a curious short story in the September 15th edition of the American magazine Colliers. The tale was about a certain Rudolph Fentz who was transported from the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth, and a detective called Hubert Rihm who investigated the case.

Yes, that’s right, it was the same story. It did not originate with Holland but with someone else entirely!

George Murphy sent me a copy of what was evidently the original version of the Fentz legend. Jack Finney’s 12-page tale, entitled I’m Scared, was a compilation of several fictional anecdotes about people who have experienced spontaneous time travel. I discovered that Finney had designated the Rudolph Fentz enigma as the last of these, numbered “case 111.” For the first time I read that Captain Hubert V. Rihm was a fat, red-faced 66 year old police officer – not precisely how I imagined him to be, perhaps, but it was good to know there was a man behind the name after all. At the end of the story the narrator offers his own theory about what probably happens in such cases: that sometimes, due to the pressures of living in the modern world, one’s wishes to flee from one’s own time and space are granted.

And who was Jack Finney?

Finney was a prolific writer of science fiction stories, especially stories of time travel. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 2nd 1911, but he spent his infancy in Chicago. He published his first short story in 1946 and many of his later works were made into films, including The Body Snatchers, which was published in Colliers in December 1954. He died in 1995, at the age of 84, of pneumonia and emphysema.

A second article about the Fentz legend, updated with the new information, was published on August 19th 2002 in the Akron Beacon Journal.

A personal opinion

Having spent a long time searching for the original sources of the Fentz story I have come to the conclusion that Ralph Holland’s article in A Voice from the Gallery, while not being where the tale first appeared, was the source of the legend in Europe. When it was confirmed that Jack Finney was the creator of Rudolph Fentz I felt that the goose chase had been worth it after all. Whether deliberately or accidentally, Holland had set off a chain reaction that had kept the mystery alive for almost exactly fifty years – from I’m Scared (1951) and A Voice from the Gallery (1953) to Carlos Canales’ article (2000) and my own (2002).

It is curious that Holland's interest in Finney's tale came one year after his first “channelled” book about flying saucers and a year before his alleged encounter with Borealis that led up to his second book. Evidently he found himself in a moment of reflection and creativity in the ufological field at that time. In my opinion, if there existed a motive behind his use of the Fentz anecdote, it was to bolster theories about the “Fourth Dimension” – an important theory for associates of the Borderland Sciences group, of which he was a member. Only theories about unknown dimensions could explain how the flying saucers could come from places such as Venus, which the progress of science was gradually rejecting as a planet that could harbour life.

[1] “Regreso al futuro en el corazón de Manhattan,” Más Allá, no. 138, August 2000 pp.76-81.
[2] Enigmas Sin Resolver, Iker Jiménez Editorial EDAF, Madrid 1999 pp.284-285.
[3] Los Enigmas Pendientes,. Ediciones Uve, S.A., Madrid 1979 pp.75-77; Espacio y Tiempo, S.A., Madrid 1991 pp.67-69.
[4] I was surprised to find out that neither Harold T. Wilkins’ Strange Mysteries of Time and Space nor John Keel’s Our Haunted Planet made any mention of the incident.
[5] Jiménez (1999) p.284.
[6] Burón (1979) p.75.
[7] Canales p.80.
[8] Located at
[9] A one-man machine used to produce a “line of type,” linotypes were used for generations after their introduction in the mid-1880s.
[10] El Libro del Misterio, Jacques Bergier and Georges H. Gallet, Plaza & Janes, S.A., Barcelona 1977.
[11] Le Livre du Mystere, Jacques Bergier and Georges H. Gallet, Éditions Albin Michel, Paris 1975.
[12] Saucer Smear, Volume 48, no. 3, April 1st 2001.
[13] Holland’s book The Flying Saucers was published in 1954 by the Borderland group. An 11-page document, it was reprinted by Gray Barker in 1963 along with related items. Anders Liljegren located the booklet in the AFU archive and kindly sent me a copy of the relevant pages. The obituary was prepared by Holland’s sister under the title “In Memoriam.”
[14] Quoted in “Hatred on the Homefront: Cincinnati, Ant-German Hysteria, and the Media,” in Alterity: Transylvania’s Academic Journal 1999-2000, at
[15] Ibid.
[16] Prometheus, Internet Bulletin for Art, Politics and Science, no.82, Spring 2002.
[17] I highly recommend Subterranean Worlds by Walter Kafton-Minkel (Loompanics Unlimited, WA 1989) as the best guide to the ‘hollow earth’ literature published in this period.
[18] Timothy Good, Alien Base Arrow Books Limited, London 1999 p.99.

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