The Time Traveler of Bralorne

Bralorne is a tiny little town tucked into the Chilcotin mountains of British Columbia, Canada. It owes its existence to the rich gold deposits that were first discovered there in 1858. As mining operations expanded, houses and businesses sprang up. By the 1930s, the population reached 3,000.

I visited family in Bralorne this past summer, where a tight-knit group of about 60 people now comprise the year-round population. Against the backdrop of mountain peaks, many of the vintage houses and buildings stand empty, and I rented a room in what once upon a time was the Pioneer Mine Office Building. A highlight of my trip was a personal tour of the town’s delightful little Museum. Amid the gold mining artifacts and the treasured relics of a once-bustling community, I saw a photograph that has become unexpectedly famous in recent years:

The innocuous black and white photo records an event from 1941, the re-opening of the South Forks Bridge (a flood washed away the original in 1940). It’s a crowd scene with everyone intently focused on the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The scene is typical for that era, with everyone dressed in their best for the occasion. Suits and dresses, fedoras and hats. 

But one figure stands out – and in fact, stands head and shoulders above the crowd as well. This man is bareheaded with oddly styled hair. He’s dressed in what appears to be a screen-printed t-shirt and a hooded sweater, and the only person in the entire crowd to wear sunglasses – unusual ones at that. In his hands is a camera, the model of which some have claimed would not have been available for several years in the future!

He’s since been dubbed The Bralorne Time Traveler.

The photo first came to light when the local museum incorporated it into a slideshow in 2004, which they titled Bralorne-Pioneer:Their Past Lives Here (it’s slide #123 of 154)  Later, the museum digitized its entire photo collection and uploaded it, as well as the aforementioned slideshow, to The Virtual Museum of Canada, a website devoted to preserving and sharing history.

That’s where the internet community discovered it and spread it like wildfire. The photo of the Bralorne Time Traveler received over a million hits! It was a sensation in several countries, including Russia – so much so that a Russian news team travelled all the way to tiny snowbound Bralorne in November 2010! 

The three men, reporter Alexey Bakharev, cameraman Egor Litvinov and senior producer Evgenie Balamutenko painstakingly went through many of the photo albums in the Museum and were delighted to find the photograph still in an album! The cameraman was rolling film at the time and recorded the exciting discovery as follows:

So forget Photoshop. It was plainly evident that the 70-year-old photo was original and could not possibly have been tampered with. Did the Russian news team believe the strange man in the photo was a time traveler? According to the Bridge River-Lillooet News, Balamutenko said no, although he planned to present the story in such a way that people could make up their own minds. Bakharev, however, said yes, he did believe the man could be a time traveler. He pointed out that at a science convention on quantum physics in 2006, time travel was determined to be possible, at least in theory. The Russians aired their program in December 2010. This is the trailer that preceded the show.

Meanwhile, the mystery of the Bralorne Time Traveler continues to be a hot topic of discussion. There are many skeptics of course, each trying to explain the man's appearance in rational, reasonable ways. And perhaps he was a free spirit, maybe a college student with brave new fashion ideas. Or just an eccentric. 

But what if he truly didn’t belong there? Was he from the future, from another dimension or even from another planet? And why was he there in that particular place, at that particular moment in time? Wide-ranging theories abound -- was he an extraterrestrial, scouting out one of the top producing gold mines in Canada? Or a healer of history staging an intervention with an individual known only to him? 

One thing seems obvious – if the traveler wasn’t of that time and place, then it's unlikely he was there just for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of a tiny little bridge in an out-of-the-way town......

Dani Harper  

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