And now, eight months later, there are scads more. They’re multiplying like rabbits on an island without any natural predators. They’ve come back in time to warn us of imminent danger — to call out and prevent future injustices, to give us the slim possibility to change our course. They’ve shown up in our timeline to let the people know “the truth.” The irony is amusing. The truth: What a rare commodity that’s become.
They’re also here because time traveling monetizes well. That is, time-travel confessions have fast become a micro-industry on YouTube, even as critics claim it’s all just a lucrative scam. Either way, these days, it pays to be a time traveler — or at least to pose as one.
The most popular of all the time travelers is a man named Noah. (The slew of time-traveler confession videos on ApexTV, the pioneer and leader of such content, regularly rack up hundreds of thousands of views, but Noah’s have millions of views.) He’s a young, brown-haired white guy who claims to be from the year 2028. He’s also claimed to be from 2030 and 2021. He can’t seem to get his story straight. Whatever. It’s hard to pin a time traveler down to one time. That’s, like, their whole deal.
Noah appears to be super-young, which is most evident in his voice. Still, he tries to come off as a veteran time traveler — a hardened agent sent back from the future to collect data and execute some top-secret mission. But something went wrong. He and his team got left here as payback for screwing up their secret operation.
Noah knows you don’t believe him. The hook is he’ll prove it. You can watch him take lie-detector tests. You can see him get hypnotized. He even meets his future self. Simply put, this is the secret of Noah’s appeal: He challenges the viewer to prove him wrong. Recently, to stoke even greater audience engagement, Noah has begun to make predictions of what’s to come in our near future. And by near future, I mean, next year. He’s told audiences what to expect in January and February 2019.
Could any of this be remotely legit? Admittedly, shit is historically bad and weird. So much so that nothing seems that implausible anymore. Could Noah then have been sent back in time to warn us about the many dangers we’re steadily marching toward?
Don’t be ridiculous. Of course he’s not really a time traveler. It’s all bullshit. It’s a scam. A long con. An elaborate troll. Surely one day these guys will get a book deal about how they pulled it off. They’ll tell the story of how they got asked to be on an Australian morning show, and how they had British tabloids writing story after story about their vids. (True story.)
Still, what if Noah is telling the truth? Isn’t it worth hearing him out? If only for the same reason everyone watches his YouTube videos — his tales might defy logic but they’re magical and entertaining all the same, and a reprieve from our times, where strange fiction is a release from our strange reality, since we can at least control our fictional worlds.
* * * * *
To get the lowdown and pull some truth from all these time travelers’ stories, I contacted ApexTV. It took many requests. The man who runs it is very mysterious. For months, I heard nothing back. But then, one day, completely out of the blue, an email arrived. ApexTV agreed to an interview. The man who runs it offering me a glimpse behind the curtain, albeit under a cloak of anonymity and with limited details.
“I don’t wanna give out my real name,” he says. “Based off of the nature of the stories we do and the people we interview. I’d like to maintain some privacy.” And: “I choose not to give out any information about myself. ’Cause, like, if any of the people we do interview are telling the truth — and they’re expressing concerns for their security, those concerns could translate to myself. So, um, I choose to remain anonymous — for now at least.”
He does tell me, however, that as embarrassing as some of the videos are that ApexTV has posted — a channel he founded four years ago and today has amassed more than 200 million views and 875,000 subscribers — he does have standards, explaining that he’ll only post a video “if it’s not obviously fake, or deceptive.”
Still: “We don’t really feel like it’s our place to be pointing out inconsistencies in [the time travelers’] stories. ’Cause we want to create an environment where people feel safe coming forward to us with their stories, and feel okay with not being judged. ’Cause that’s another thing: We don’t want to judge any of the people who we interview. And you know, that’s gonna happen. That’s the nature of telling your story to the public. But I don’t feel as if it’s ApexTV’s place to be the one doing the judging. Certainly, though, there’s a time and place for that.”
He also admits, “I’ll be honest, we do maybe less research than someone might hope. But that’s just in the hopes of getting out to the audience and getting it out to news publications, and other things that sometimes really delve deep into the individuals’ stories to see if these people are telling the truth. And people do point out the inconsistencies.
“We’ve asked our fans many times: Would you rather us do deep research on the people that we’re interviewing? Or would you rather us get the content out to you as soon as possible? The vast overwhelming majority say get it out.”
Later, he offers, “I don’t personally give my opinion on any of the people I’ve interviewed. I will say that I’m human, and that I find some people’s stories more believable than others.”
Such as Noah’s. “Last I heard from him, he was doing pretty good,” the ApexTV chief says. “Actually, we have a couple videos lined up with Noah. We did a follow-up lie detector test with him. We’re gonna be publishing that very soon, along with a video in which he showed us what he claims to be a map of the future United States.”
“Something I found really interesting…,” he continues. “You’re probably aware that Stephen Hawking passed away. But Stan Lee also passed away recently. Those were both predictions that Noah made during our live streams. He was asked what celebrities would be passing away in the near future, and he mentioned Stan Lee and Stephen Hawking.”
The ApexTV head then takes things a step further: “If some of these people are telling the truth — like Noah, for example — about the dangers in the future that humans could prevent with their actions now, I’d say there’s a heroic aspect to that.”
Honestly, it’s all sort of expected. He knows exactly what to say to create continued viral interest in his clickbait while at the same time knowing exactly when to step back from his conviction with the well-practiced ease of a career politician — or a man looking to dodge a lawsuit — if it makes him or ApexTV responsible for anything.
That’s why I’m shocked when he offers to put me in contact with Noah. He also says I can ask him whatever I want.
At first, though, Noah, like ApexTV before him, dodges me. Email after email goes unanswered for months. Then, again just like ApexTV, there it is: A response from Noah. And so, we set a date and time for a Skype interview.
* * * * *
“I am a time traveler from the year 2030,” Noah tells me almost immediately upon us speaking.
Technical glitches — surprise, surprise — have kept us from Skyping. Instead, we resort to a phone interview. I ask the time traveler how and where he lives in our present day. “I usually pay someone to live in their apartment, like a roommate, but where my name won’t be listed underneath anything,” he answers, casually. “I have a bunch of untraceable technology. Every day, I get better at it. But it’s very terrifying. Because once I mess up, I could easily be taken away by some people.”
Overall, Noah keeps his responses vague. There are some details, which get repeated over and over again, but whenever I ask for specifics, he gives none. It’s like trying to pin down a cloud. To Noah’s credit, he’s at least friendly about it. After all, Noah expects people to doubt him.
And while it sounds like he believes every word he says, some of his answers contradict things he’s said in previous videos. Other times, he contradicts statements he’s made to me just minutes earlier. And so, I try to pin him down on history. Namely, Baby Hitler. Obviously, people in the future haven’t killed Baby Hitler yet. His atrocities are still recorded in the pages of history. But if there’s time travel, why hasn’t the future taken that motherfucker out?
“We try preventing anybody from being able to change time, creating a paradox,” Noah explains. “Paradoxes are like a really big problem. We’ve had near-paradoxes before. But we have a task force designed specifically to get rid of any chances of a paradox happening. They make sure 100 percent that there can be no loopholes, or anything like that.”
“I’ve done the time-traveling thing long enough where I know what to say and what to do, so I cannot cause any paradoxes,” he continues. “So it’s like, I don’t know… I try to not create a paradox — to the best of my ability. And so far, I’ve been successful.”
As such, he must certainly know how old he is, though, right?
“I was born around, I think… I was born in 2012. So…” he stops, catches himself, “I don’t know why I just said, ‘I think.”
Yes, that’s weird. Most people know when they were born.
Noah starts again with a new head of steam. “I was born in 2012. The time when I started time traveling was the year 2028. But it went until 2030, where I was actually normally at, until I got stuck in 2017.”
What he just said is: He was born the year Barack Obama was re-elected. He’s 6 years old right now. Ten years from now, when he’s sixteen, he’ll be sent back in time to 2017, where he’ll get stuck in time with us — and where he currently remains. But to Noah, the present day is 2030. That’s his “natural time.”
Recently, Noah has made a series of predictions about our not-so-distant future. For instance, he says that in January we’ll start seeing a huge spike in alien sightings. “There are multiple UFOs that are nearly literally flying next to buildings in these cities where hundreds of people can see them.”
Noah also claims there will be a massive snowstorm in February, which is a pretty easy winter prediction, even if he doesn’t know exactly where it will take place. “It happens in America, mostly. But it’s going to be huge. Watch, it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen on the day I predict. And I’m going to be able to finally prove that I’m for real.”
Have you ever let a child tell you a story they’re clearly making up off the top of their head? Noah has a healthy imagination, much like an inventive child. But he’s an adult. Anytime you wish to know if an adult is lying to you, just like with a child making up a story, let them talk. The trouble for a time traveler is the same for all liars: Noah’s “memories” can’t keep up with all those many details he must invent and remember. His imagination can’t invent a reasonable facsimile of reality seamlessly, on the fly, and ensure it all works together in smooth coordination.
You know, the way reality does.
* * * * *
There’s another paranormal website and YouTube channel that posts videos of strange creatures and phenomena like aliens, mermaids and time travelers. It’s called Weird Entertainment Network. They are not fans of ApexTV.
In fact, they’ve posted a two-part expose of ApexTV. In the vids, the narrator accuses ApexTV and Noah of perpetrating a fraud, of faking everything. And they claim to have audio proof — such as Noah saying in a recorded phone call that the time-travel chip in his wrist is just a Photoshopped image he sourced online.
Further, thanks to some online sleuthing, they outline Noah’s actual social media presence and reveal him to be a perfectly normal, non–time traveler. (It’s worth noting, however, that the video only has about 5,000 views; I guess the truth isn’t as much fun or captivating as the lies.)
In the second video, the narrator summarizes his disgust with the fraud he claims is being perpetrated by ApexTV and Noah: “It’s kind of sad when you look at it — that a person can take advantage of someone else just because they’re a little bit more gullible than others. And in some ways, it’s kind of messed-up. He’s playing with people’s hearts. Toying with them. These are people who really wish that they could know if it’s true or not. They are people who want time travel to actually be real. And if he’s portraying everything that he’s putting out there as real, then he’s giving them a false sense of hope. Something that gives me a very sour taste.”
The narrator admits he was one of those whose heart was toyed with, one of those who really wishes to know the truth.
So, ultimately, what is the truth?
According to a guy who appears in the second expose video — a mysterious man who calls himself Jigsaw, but apparently also played a character called Roman for videos made by ApexTV — the truth is about what you’d expect. “I am Roman,” the masked Jigsaw/Roman says. “I did an interview with ApexTV where a script was wrote [sic]. I was to read from that script, as did Apex. And we made the video. … I wasn’t paid to do any of it. I wasn’t paid to promote Roman, be Roman. I was paid to do a few other things such as write for the website, promote videos on Facebook and act like I was not in any way affiliated with ApexTV.”
Instead, he did it “just purely out of fun of being on the channel.”
When I ask the ApexTV founder about Jigsaw — whose videos have now been removed from the ApexTV YouTube page — he plays dumb. “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” he says. “You said Jigsaw?”
I explain that Jigsaw claims to be a time traveler who was on ApexTV known as Roman. I point out that the U.K. tabloid Express wrote about him back in May. This seems to jog his memory.
“Oh, I’m familiar with Roman,” he says.
What does he recall?
“The story on that is — we uploaded Roman’s video. We did a Skype interview with him. He was making claims of supposedly being on Noah’s team that came back from the future. We uploaded it to YouTube. A couple news stations picked it up, like you said. And then, we tried to do an interview with Roman and Noah. We probably should’ve consulted with Noah first. I’ll just say some things came up that would be kind of a risk to everybody’s security. It was blatantly obvious that Roman was making certain parts of his story up. So we pulled down the video because we don’t want to be putting out misinformation knowingly.”
I follow up with a question about the Weird Entertainment Network’s expose videos.
“I honestly haven’t even heard of them,” he responds.
That being the case, I put forth their claims to him myself: Particularly, is Noah just a friend of his in real life?
“He’s definitely my friend in real life. We’ve become kinda close making these videos — and me traveling out to meet him. But I wouldn’t say he’s, like, a close friend. We only usually get together for maybe a week to record the videos — in a specific location, and Noah has to leave right away.”
He sticks with his story. But now his voice has changed. He’s not as confident, not as breezy. The complete change in tone reminds me of something he said during our first conversation, the closest thing to the truth in maybe all of this.
“I guess one could compare it to professional wrestling,” he explained. “I will say that getting entertainment value, if nothing else, is better than getting nothing else out of the videos. And we’ve gotten a lot of supportive comments saying, ‘Even if these people aren’t telling the truth, I’m still incredibly entertained by the videos.’ And at the end of the day, it’s better to be putting out a positive impact on those people’s lives than a negative one. So in my opinion, entertainment is, if nothing else, a good thing.”