I have always found this an interesting case, especially if it was true.
And by chance I now stumble across this fab report!
Posted by u/Nalkarj
1 day ago
“The Man from Taured”—Solved
“He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land…”
In 1954, a well-dressed Caucasian man arrives at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Everything seems to be going normally until the man gives customs officials his passport.
The passport shows him coming from a country called Taured, you see. And Taured doesn’t exist.
Officials take the man aside and start interrogating him. Someone brings out a map, and the man identifies Taured as a location between France and Spain—where the real-world microstate of Andorra is.
An interrogator asks him if he means Andorra. No, he’s never heard of it. He’s from Taured.
He has money from several different (real) European countries. His passport has multiple stamps, including Japanese ones, and appears real. He claims he has a business meeting in Tokyo. He can speak Japanese and says his native language is French.
Officials take him to a nearby hotel room, on the top floor, and put him under guard. Then they do some checking.
The company for which he claims to work has never heard of him.
The hotel at which he claims to have booked a reservation never received one from him.
Officials go back to the room—and the man has vanished. The guards swear he never came out the door, and the only way out is through the window—which is not only on the hotel’s top floor but also locked.
He’s never seen again.
As you’ve probably guessed, this fun Twilight Zone-esque story is almost definitely bogus. No one has ever been able to find any Haneda Airport documentation or contemporary newspaper articles about it—or any evidence whatsoever. It’s now more or less a copypasta, with little variation between retellings.
But how did it start?
This tale was posted here in 2014, and u/Meginsanity found what I think is the earliest-known reference to the story, in Colin Wilson and John Grant’s The Directory of Possibilities (1981). In the book, Wilson and Grant have one sentence on our Tauredian traveler:
And in 1954 a passport check in Japan is alleged to have produced a man with papers issued by the nation of Taured.
I haven’t been able to find a single earlier reference. So what about the rest of the story?
Well, I think the entire second half can be jettisoned. Even accepting that a man can disappear/transport back to his alternate universe from a locked and watched hotel room (paging the ghost of John Dickson Carr), why would customs officials have brought him to a random hotel in the first place? That section of the story reads like a later addition to make the reader think the guy really did come from an alternate universe.
Did the first half happen, though? If so, the solution may be nothing more than the French-Japanese language barrier. Note that the French word for Andorra, l’Andorre, has some of the same vowel sounds as the made-up Taured. (We don’t know for certain, after all, that the man actually spoke Japanese.) And remember that the Wilson/Grant book says nothing more than that the man produced “papers issued by the nation of Taured.”
That said, I do know one of the book’s authors, Colin Wilson—an interesting, intelligent, and insightful writer who nevertheless “believed almost everything he read about the paranormal, no matter how outrageous,” as skeptic Martin Gardner wrote. Knowing what I do of Wilson, I don’t think he would have made up a reference, but he might have repeated one uncritically. Where he got it, though, I have no idea.
That was originally where I stopped my post, more or less.
But then I found two Reddit posts that—I can say with some certainty—cracked the entire case.
Last year, u/NatanaelAntonioli posted to r/japan about the story. He/she linked to an Aug. 15, 1960, clipping from Vancouver’s The Province, which told the story of conman John Allen Kuchar Zegrus (emboldenings mine):
Mr. Zegrus wanted to travel the world. To impress officials, he invented a nation, a capital, a people and a language. All these he recorded on a passport which he made himself. […]
John claimed to be a “naturalized Ethiopian and an intelligent agent for Colonel Nasser.” The passport was stamped as issued at Tamanrasset, the capital of Tuared “south of the Sahara.” Any places so romantically named ought to exist, but they don’t. John Allen Kuchar Zegrus invented them. […]
[Zegrus’s] gallant gesture for the individualist, unfortunately, ended with the Japanese in Tokyo. They began looking up maps.
This rather tears it, I think. Other than the country’s placement “south of the Sahara” rather than between France and Spain, this basically is the Taured story. And the spelling is close that I can’t believe it’s a coincidence.
Antonioli also linked to a 1960 speech by British M.P. Robert Mathew, published in Hansard. According to Mathew (emboldenings again mine):
My hon. Friend may know the case of John Alan Zegrus, who is at present being prosecuted in Tokio. […] This man, according to the evidence, has travelled all over the world with a very impressive looking passport indeed. […]
The passport is stated to have been issued in Tamanrosset the capital of the independent sovereign state of Tuarid. […] When the accused was cross-examined he said that it was a State of 2 million population somewhere south of the Sahara. This man has been round the world on this passport without hindrance, a Passport which as far as we know is written in the invented language of an invented country.
And then in Nov. 2020, u/taraiochi figured out the last piece of the puzzle. He/she linked to a 1960 Japanese newspaper article that is clearly about Zegrus. As translated by u/johnmasterof, it reads:
A mysterious foreigner of unknown nationality and background, accused of illegal entry and fraud, tried to commit suicide in front of the judge who handed down the verdict, at the Tokyo District Court on April 10. The defendant, John Allen K. Ziegler [sic] (36), was sentenced by Judge Yamagishi to one year of imprisonment…
Zieglass [sic] and his Korean wife entered Haneda Airport with a forged passport from Taipei on October 24 last year, and in December of the same year, he stole about 200,000 yen and $140 in traveler’s checks from the Tokyo branch of the [Chase Manhattan Bank], and another 100,000 yen from the Tokyo branch of the Bank of Korea. The forged passport used to enter the country was handmade and the name of the country, Negusi Habesi Ghouloulouloul Esprit, was completely fictitious, and the characters written on it were also unclear, even after being authenticated by a specialist, as to what language it was written in.
The defendant spoke 14 countries, and in response to the investigation, he stated that he had come to Japan on orders from an Arab-related agency and was working for a U.S. intelligence agency, but there was no such fact, and the district prosecutor, troubled by the fact that the nationality of the defendant was unknown, prosecuted the case. The identity of the riddle was not revealed at the trial, and the English newspaper reported that he was a “mystery man”.
And that’s the solution to the mystery of the Man from Taured. Wow. Full credit to u/NatanaelAntonioli and u/taraiochi for their amazing detective work, and I’m delighted that we’re finally able to put this old chestnut to rest.
EDIT: u/vegetepal and u/tropical_chancer have pointed out that Tamanrasset is a real place in Algeria with a large Tuareg population. It’s probable, therefore, that Zegrus based the name and location of fictional “Tuared” on the Tuareg people and the city of Tamanrasset.