Have you ever switched on the news and caught a story about a country that you’ve never heard of? There are around 200 countries in the world, 28 of which are smaller than the tiny American state of Rhode Island. But, if you were to search a map long enough, you’d be able to eventually track the place down, right? What if, after hours and hours of searching the globe, you still couldn’t find it. Would you believe it exists?
Airport officials in Tokyo asked themselves that question one summer day in 1954 when a man from a seemingly non-existent country showed up on their doorstep. Today, we’re going to explore the tale of the Man from Taured.
The Man Arrives
It was a day like any other in Tokyo, Japan, in July 1954. Haneda Airport, returned to the Japanese by Douglas MacArthur just two years earlier, was churning. Japan was beginning an intense period of modernization and economic expansion, and foreign businessmen from all over the globe regularly arrived at Haneda. Though small by modern standards, about 125 flights arrived and departed the airport each week, including a handful of international flights each day.
A flight from somewhere in Europe landed, and the passengers began to disembark. Airport security was lax at this time, but international travelers were still required to present their passport for a stamp by local officials. One man, described as caucasian looking with dark hair and a beard, handed over his well-worn, stamp-filled booklet. He was a seasoned traveler and businessman who had already visited Japan three times that year, as the stamps in his passport confirmed. But there was one problem. The Japanese official didn’t recognize the country of origin.
Thankfully, the man spoke Japanese, though with a slight French accent, and was able to tell his story to the airport official. He was from Taured, a small country nestled between the borders of Spain and France. His work often required him to travel internationally, and he had picked up Japanese during his regular visits to the country over the past five years. He had an appointment with a real Japanese company and a reservation at a real hotel in Tokyo. The man presented traveler’s checks, his company’s name, and a wallet full of foreign currencies.
Clearly, much of the man’s story seemed plausible, but the official couldn’t let someone into his country with a passport from somewhere he had never heard of. So, the man was taken to an office in the airport for further questioning.
Officials entered the room, laid a world map on the desk, and asked the man to locate his homeland for them. He firmly placed his finger on a real country at the border between France and Spain. Only, the country was not Taured. It was the Principality of Andorra. The officials pointed out the discrepancy in his story, reiterating their inability to allow anyone into Japan with a passport from a non-existent country.
The man grew frustrated. Surely, this was some sort of an elaborate prank. After all, Taured had been around for over 1,000 years! They must have heard of it. But, of course, they hadn’t. Upon the man’s urging, the officials checked the rest of his story. The company that he planned to meet with had never heard of this man from Taured or his company. The hotel had no reservation under his name. And the bank that issued the traveler’s checks didn’t exist.
At this point, the case had gone beyond any possibility of reconciliation. Officials confiscated all of the man’s documentation and placed him in an airport hotel with two security guards at the door. At the very least, this would buy them time to run the issue up the chain of command, or even levy criminal charges against the man.
The following day, airport officials called upon the man and were met with silence. Security checked his room and found it completely empty, with no trace whatsoever of any occupant. Not to worry, the officials thought. We have all of the man’s documents, so he can’t get very far. Upon searching the airport, though, the officials discovered that all the man’s papers, including his passport and ID, were no longer anywhere to be found. The man had disappeared just as mysteriously as he’d arrived, returning to the nowhere from whence he came.
Theories abound about just who the man was. Was his whole existence a farce? Or did he reveal truths about our universe that were previously unknown to humankind?
Some theorists claim that the man from Taured was a being from another dimension, living proof of the multi-verse’s existence. In his universe, the country of Taured was founded over 1,000 years ago, and Andorra was just as fictional to him as Taured was to those Japanese officials. The man had somehow passed into this dimension during his flight only to return to his home dimension in the middle of the night.
Some believe that he was some sort of government agent, and the documents were forged by professionals. To protect the identity of his country of origin and their allies, his employer invented a new country, hoping it would pass by an unsuspecting airport official without raising concern. After all, World War Two had ended less than a decade before, and many countries throughout the world continued to doubt Japan’s loyalty. The man’s disappearance was an extraction operation by some high-tech foreign intelligence service.
The explanation that’s most popular today is that the story was simply made up. Too many of the details remain unclear or improbable, if not impossible. The story’s first telling seems to be in a book called The Directory of Possibilities, published in 1981. The book conspicuously lacks any sources for this tale, and the author has faced accusations of fabricating it to sell more copies.
But, as it turns out, none of these theories accurately describes the origin of the man from Taured.
Most investigations into the man from Taured seem to hit the same dead end. The Directory of Possibilities seemed like the only source of the tale, and its accuracy is already in question. However, it appears that it wasn’t made up, but is based on a true story.
In 1960 news began to spread throughout the Western world, primarily the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, of a man named John Allen Kuchar Zegrus. Zegrus had been arrested in Japan earlier that year for attempting to enter the country using forged documents. Zegrus claimed to be from a city called Tamanrasset, which is a real city in Algeria. However, the Tamanrasset that Zegrus claimed to be from was located in a Sub-Saharan country, which he called Tuarid/Tuared. The forged passport was of the highest quality and was written entirely in a made-up language. In fact, upon his detainment in Japan, a team of philologists scoured the world for some record of this language, only to come up empty-handed. The cover reportedly included the gibberish text: rch ubwall ochtra negussi habessi trwap turapa.
Zegrus was armed with details about his fictional country and mission. He described Tuarid’s location near modern South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, and listed the population as 2 million. Upon deeper interrogation, he claimed to be a naturalized Ethiopian citizen and a compatriot of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. While it’s unclear where he originally departed from, his passport showed that he had entered a handful of countries throughout Africa and the Middle East on his way to Tokyo.
Unfortunately for him, the Japanese authorities weren’t impressed by Zegrus’s stories, and he was thrown in jail to await trial, marking the end of his long journey. The fake passport was confiscated, and Zegrus was sentenced to one year in prison for using counterfeit checks and documentation. The man even attempted to kill himself during his trial.
A handful of western newspapers ran the story in 1960 and 61, stating that Zegrus may have worked for the CIA and FBI, but he was now considered a man without nationality. Due to his lack of a home country, he was never allowed to leave Japan.
Zegrus’s story passed throughout the world and was even cited by a member of the UK’s parliament as an example of the ineffectiveness of passports. Whether the author of The Directory of Possibilities mangled a story he had heard long ago, or simply fabricated his own version for the sake of intrigue, it seems clear that the tale of John Allen Zegrus inspired the story of the man from Taured.
What do you think? Does the story of John Allen Zegrus ruin the fantastical element of the man from Taured? Or does it turn a decades-old tall-tale into a believable journey across the world?
The story may not prove the existence of multi-dimensional travel anymore, but it speaks to something that all humans can relate to. With a little creativity and a whole lot of confidence, you can go anywhere or, perhaps, be from anywhere. Just remember, act like you’ve been there before.