The Time a Spanish Soldier Seemingly Teleported Across the Globe
Stories of missing time have been around as long as we’ve been getting abducted by little green guys, but one story that’s been told for hundreds of years in Mexico makes no mention of any weather-balloon-shaped aircraft. In 1593, it’s said, a soldier named Gil Perez dozed off in the Philippines and woke up in Mexico, which would have required way more than an annoying plane ride back then.
In 1593, Spain had taken over the Philippines, because it was somehow even easier back then to rule a country from halfway around the world. That year, on October 25, Governor Gomez Perez Dasmarinas was assassinated by Chinese pirates. You know how these things go. At the time, a soldier later identified as Gil Perez was guarding his palace, because this was also back when governors had palaces.
Dasmarinas hadn’t left any instructions regarding his successor -- believe it or not, this was not a democratically elected position -- so what he did leave behind was chaos. In such an environment, the palace guards were required to be on high alert, day and night. In these pre–Walter White days, it was only a matter of time before one of them dozed off, which is what Gil Perez inevitably did.
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Waking Up in Mexico
According to accounts of the story, after what seemed like just a few seconds, Perez opened his eyes to find himself in a strange land. It didn’t take long for local soldiers to notice a guy wandering around in the wrong uniform, which was basically an invitation to do a war, so he explained he was a Spanish soldier from Manila and found out he’d somehow traveled to Mexico City, which would have taken more than two months under non-weird circumstances.
The Spanish Inquisition
If you’re not a character in a movie and you start going around claiming to be a time traveler, you’ll probably just get arrested, so in this case, the Spanish Inquisition was deeply expected. Perez supposedly told them the whole story with Dasmarinas’s assassination, which they hadn’t heard about yet because news was considerably slower before Twitter, so they locked him up for desertion and generally being confusing. He ended up not actually being charged with a crime, but they didn’t know what else to do with him, and he said he was happier in jail than fighting a war, so everyone considered it a pretty good arrangement for the time being.
The Plot Twist
Two months later, right on schedule, Spanish soldiers allegedly arrived in Mexico from Manila to report the governor’s assassination. Upon hearing the news, the Mexican contingency was like, “Um, could you come over here for a minute?” and brought them to Perez, who was indeed recognized by some of his fellow soldiers. He was released, figured he might as well head back to Manila, and was apparently never seen again by anyone who thought to write it down.
Could This Have Really Happened?
It’s hard to say how much of the story of Gil Perez is true; for one thing, he wasn’t identified as Gil Perez until 1908, but stories of the teleporting Spanish soldier are surprisingly old. The first written account was published in 1698, said to be compiled from interviews with witnesses who were surely dead by then but impressively close to the time the events supposedly occurred. If any of it really happened, there’s a few explanations for Perez’s purported Force jump, some more plausible than others.
The Farfetched Explanation: Teleportation
What various “experts” hypothesize about the story of Gil Perez seems to depend largely on what they’ve experted themselves in. Writers Colin Wilson and Gary Blackwood have suggested honest-to-god teleportation, with Wilson citing other accounts of people and objects that have disappeared and reappeared in impossible places, but both made careers on the idea of the unexplainable, so they naturally weren’t inclined to look much deeper.
The Other Farfetched Explanation: Aliens
Accounts of missing time have been a hallmark of alien abduction stories since Barney and Betty Hill made the first widely publicized claim of close encounters of the third kind, so ufologists such as Morris K. Jessup and Brinsley Le Poer Trench have pointed to the Gil Perez story as another such incident of obvious alien involvement. Again, this is mostly because they were ufologists.
What Probably Really Happened
If there’s any truth to the legend of Gil Perez, there’s a very simple explanation. Like everything else regarding mental health, it was hilariously un-understood back then, but incidents of people entering fugue states in which they can wake up months later with no idea how they got where they are have been extensively documented. It’s a symptom of dissociative disorders, which are brought on by high-stress and/or traumatic experiences like, oh, fighting a war. But then how was it possible that he traveled so far in one day? Well…
They Probably Mixed Up the Dates
In 1609 -- that is, only 16 years after the alleged incident -- a prominent Spanish judge in Mexico whose writings were one source drawn upon in the 1698 account technically only wrote that officials in Mexico knew about Dasmarinas’s assassination the day it happened, though he didn’t know how that was possible. It seems fairly likely, taking that into account, that Perez entered a fugue state, got on a ship, landed in Mexico two months later, thought it was still the same day, and told everyone the assassination just happened, and people conflated the dates later. This was 1593 -- the Gregorian calendar wasn’t even old enough to drive yet, so the concept of dates was somewhat theoretical to begin with. Or it’s all made up. Or it was aliens. Choose your own adventure.
Top image: Alan Labisch/Unsplash