Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday Weird: Rudoph Fentz

In April, 1951, a man appeared out of nowhere in the middle of Times Square. He had mutton chop sideburns and was wearing Victorian clothing.

Witnesses said he looked shocked and startled, and then a moment later he was struck and killed by a car.

Morgue officials searched his body and found the following things:

  • About 70 dollars in old banknotes
  • A bill for the care of a horse and washing of a carriage, drawn by a livery stable on Lexington Ave, which was not listed in any address book
  • A copper token for a beer worth 5 cents. It had the name of a saloon which was unknown, even to elderly residents of the area
  • Business cards with the name Rudolph Fentz and an address on Fifth Ave.
  • A letter sent to this address in June, 1876 from Philadelphia
All of the objects showed limited wear and age.

Captain Hubert Rihm of the NYPD missing person's unit, tried to use these objects and clues to identify the man. He was able to find the business related to the business cards, but the owner didn't know and had never heard of a Rudolph Fentz. Fentz wasn't listed in the address book, no one had reported him missing and his fingerprints weren't on file.

Continuing his investigation, Rihm finally did locate a Rudolph Fentz Jr in the phone book. Unfortunately Fentz had died 5 years earlier but Rihm was able to get ahold of his widow. He learned that her husband's father had disappeared in 1876 at age 29. He had left the house to go for a walk and never returned.

When it gets twisty. In 2000 a researcher concluded that the tale was a work of fiction, though he couldn't find the original source.

In 2002 someone else claimed that the original source of the tale was a Jack Finney story, called I'm Scared published in 1952 in the Heinlein anthology TOMORROW, THE STARS.

Where it gets turny:

In 2007 a researched for the Berlin News Archive supposedly found a newspaper article dated from April 1951 reporting the story almost identically to how it's reported today. The article was printed almost 5 months before Finney's short story was published.

So, what do we think?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If it was a hoax, that was really elaborate. Sure the guy didn't intend on getting hit by a car.
Time travel and teleporation - awesome!

Maria Zannini said...

The geek in me hopes it was true. --other than the poor guy getting hit by a car.

Sounds like something that would happen to me. :/

Nate Wilson said...

Although it's not always the smartest thing to do, I'm inclined to agree with Wikipedia: Finney's tale turned urban legend. Fun story, though.

Crystal Collier said...

Sarah! You changed your banner. I love it (but that could just be because I always wanted to live on a floating island).

Rena said...

Hmm, this one speaks to my heart. I want these things to be real. And that's a really cool story, but I have to admit that I feel like there's a hoax here.

But I want this one to be real (except for the guy getting struck by a car and dying). Sadly, my bullshit meter is off the charts. ESPECIALLY since there is a story of fiction of the same plot (I think the time delay is not a big deal considering how long stories hang out in the bull pen before being published).

Anne Gallagher said...

I once saw a picture that reminds me of this story. The woman was dressed in old clothing, and held some kind of tele-device in her hand. Did I see it on this blog? Maybe.

Hope you're not getting hit with all that rain.

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