“Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
The Sakarya River is the third longest river in Turkey, and runs through the region that was classically referred to as Phrygia (west central Anatolia), and it’s Medieval residents were the Söğüt tribe, which went on to establish the Ottoman Empire in 1299 A.D., which at the greatest extent of its territorial domination ruled from Budapest, Hungary in the north, to Zeila, Somalia in the south, and from Algiers in the west to the Caspian Sea port of Baku in the east. Until the Ottoman Empire’s ultimate collapse in the aftermath of World War I, it spent six centuries as the center of interaction between the Eastern and Western Worlds. Historical scholars of the Ottomans maintain that the Empire was in irreversible decline for almost 200 years prior to its eventual dissolution (beginning roughly in the 17th Century, when European alliances permanently reconquered Eastern European and Balkan territories and Russian expansion gobbled up their northern territories). By the 19th Century, the Empire had started to come apart. In terms of size and duration, only the European Hapsburgs had a similarly unbroken line of sovereigns (kings/emperors) from the same family who ruled for so long, and during the same period, between the late 13th and early 20th centuries.
How different would today’s world look if the Ottoman Empire never fell? Now, this isn’t just an idle question. Okay, well it is just an idle question, but we currently live in a world where theoretical physicists are making bizarre speculations about the multiverse, that countless universes exist exhibiting different historical trajectories. I mean, they’re not doing it seriously (which in modern terms means figuring out how to exploit their resources), but the suggestion has certainly been made. Luckily, it seems we have an occasional instance of a befuddled inter-dimensional traveler arriving in scene with an alternate view of reality. Case in point, the 1850 arrival of the confused Jophar Vorin in a small German village of the district of Lebas, near Frankfort-on-the-Oder, who talked about a world very different from ours.
We find it attested, in the Correspondence of Berlin, that at the end of 1850, a stranger was picked up in a small village of the district of Lebas, near Frankfort-on-the-Oder, whither he had wandered no one could tell whence. He spoke German imperfectly, and had all the marks of Caucasian origin. On being questioned by the burgomaster of Frankfort, the stranger said his name was Jophar Vorin, and that he came from a country called Laxaria, situated in the portion of the world called Sakria. He understands, it is affirmed, none of the European languages (except, we must suppose, the broken German), but reads and writes what he calls the Laxarian and Abramian tongues. The latter he declares to be the written language of the clerical order in Laxaria, and the other the common language of his people. He says that his religion is Christian in form and doctrine, and that it is called Ispatian. Laxaria he represents to be many hundred miles from Europe, and separated by vast oceans from it. His purpose in coming to Europe, he alleges, was to seek a long-lost brother; but he suffered shipwreck on the voyage—where, he does not know—nor can he trace his route on shore on any map or globe. He claims for his unknown race a considerable share of geographical knowledge. The five great compartments of the earth he calls Sakria, Aflar, Aslar, Auslar, and Euplar. The sages of Frankfort-on-the-Oder, after much examination of the tale and its bearer, believed it. However, Jophar Vorin was despatched to Berlin, and there became the subject of much scientific and curious gossip in the Prussian capital (Timbs, 1852, p195-195).
The obvious response in 1850’s Germany was nearly the same as it would be if he arrived in New York City’s Times Square today. Despite his insistence on the details of his story, most no doubt considered him a lunatic. Part of our problem, for which I largely think we have the literature of science fiction to blame, is we imagine inter-dimensional travelers to be willing and intentional participants, rather than your confused average Joe that suddenly no longer recognized the universe he found himself in (personally, whether it’s true or not, I like the case of the Man from Taured). If someone dropped you in a world where Rome never fell or Christianity never took hold, you’d look pretty silly talking about The Reformation. While Japhor Vorin is often cited in the Fortean literature as an example of a poor soul transferred from one reality to another, to date there have been remarkably few attempts to examine the clues salted about his story for what kind of universe he was unceremoniously dropped in from, despite a fantastic etymological treasure trove of suggestive names that he dropped. Of course, he might just have been a loon, but at least he was a creative and well-read loon, despite the snarky comment of his interrogators who emphasized his poor command of the German language. He made some telling references if one cares to dig through the historical record. As I’m fond of validating insanity (since from my perspective, they might be on to something), I decided to pursue this. My current suspicion, fueled by whiskey and a nascent paranoia that the universe is deliberately screwing with us, is that the unfortunate Jophar Viron was randomly deposited in our reality from an alternate timeline where the Ottoman Empire never fell, hence my brief earlier narrative of Ottoman history. Fortean Godfather Charles Fort also picked up on this case in his discussion of teleportation (a term which he coined).
I should like to think that inhabitants of other worlds, or other parts of one existence, have been teleported to this earth. How I’d like it, if I were teleported the other way, has nothing to do with what I’d like to think had befallen somebody else. But I can’t say that our own stories, anyway so far, have the neat and convincing finish of the conventional stories. Toward the end of the year 1850, a stranger, or I should say a “mysterious stranger,” was found wandering in a village near Frankfort-on-the-Oder. How he got there, nobody knew. See the Athenaeum, April 15, 1851. We are told that his knowledge of German was imperfect. If the imperfections were filled out by another Manuel Eyenesso, I fear me that suggestions of some new geographical, or cosmographical, knowledge can’t develop. The man was taken to Frankfort where he told his story, or where, to pose as a linguist, somebody told one for him. It was told that his name was Joseph Vorin, and that he had come from Laxaria. Laxaria is in Sakria, and Sakria is far from Europe—”beyond vast oceans.” (Fort, 1941, p132-133).
I figure, if you’re going on the hunt for important historical divergences that might result in a world that did not look like ours, you have to focus on significant turning point in history that charted the future. After all, the Middle East would not look as screwed up today as it is if it weren’t for all that imperialistic partitioning that Europe engaged in post-World War I. So what do we have? Jophar Viron claimed to come from a non-existent country called Laxaria in the geographical region of Sakria. Trawling ancient history, the references to anything called Sakria are pretty thin. Though, curiously the significance of the Sakarya region in Turkey for the future Ottoman Empire are inarguable, allowing for the possibility that Viron’s command of German was substandard, and that his questioners were trying to make sense of his ramblings. There are occasional references to Sakria as an ancient phallic solar-God, which has some odd correspondences in early Buddhist, Egyptian, and Assyrian religions. Sakria is also a region near Rajasthan, India, but I think we can comfortably ignore that for now, as most indications are that any such region would be centered on the Middle East. Why do I say that?
Viron mentined that he was some sort of educated clergyman practicing a widespread religion he called “Ispatian”, which in form was remarkably similar to Christianity. The only reference to Ispatian which I could find (and I welcome research from anyone with access to clues) is to commentaries by “Hamza of Ispatian” on Alexander the Great’s invasion of what is modern day Iran, well within the extent of the later Ottoman Empire. If there are any scholars out there who know anything about Hamza of Ispatian, I’d love to hear more details. Laxaria, the country which Viron claimed citizenship, is more problematic. It is Latin for “luxury”. Viron’s names for continents are parallel to our own, excepting Sakria (Aflar=Africa, Aslar=Asia, Auslar=Australia, and Euplar=Europe). South America has been suggested for Sakria, but this would beg the question of why there is no representation of North America. Another curiosity is Viron’s insistence that the common language spoken in his homeland is “Abramian”, remarkably similar to the common Armenian surname “Abramyan”. Might I just observe that Armenia and Iran are adjacent territories, and Armenia was long dominated by the Ottomans (much to the detriment of the Armenians). Also, let me note that Armenia was the first country in the world to embrace Christianity as a state religion in 301 A.D. Despite these strange coincidences, skeptics have been ushering Jophar Viron into the dustbin of history as a mere madman ever since, as exemplified below.
Frauds and fictions have their periodical reappearances. It is some time since we have had the representative of a new race suddenly show himself in the midst of civilized society, but the German papers announce the advent of a “new man” in Frankfort. “The story—as related in the Corretpoudenz of Berlin—attests that a stranger was picked up at the end of last year in a small village of the district of Lebas, near Frankfort-on-the-Oder, whither he had wandered no one could tell whence. Such a circumstance could hardly have piqued curiosity in another country, but to a people fond of speculation, and situated far away from the great highways of the world, there was something strange and startling in the fact that the stranger spoke German imperfectly, and had all the marks of a Caucasian origin. Whether the man was a common impostor, and tricked the village authorities, or whether these worthies began in their usual way to construct a history for him ‘out of the depths of their moral consciousness,’ is uncertain; at all events they looked on him as a great prize, and carried him off to Frankfort. On being questioned by the burgomaster of that enlightened city the stranger said his name was Jophar Vorin, and that he came from a country named Laxaria, situated in the portion of the world called Sakria. He understands, it is affirmed, none of the European languages (except, we must suppose, the broken German), but reads and writes what he calls the Laxarian and Abramian tongues. The latter he declares to be the written language of the clerical order in Laxaria, and the other the common language of his people. He says that his religion is Christian in form and doctrine, and that it is called Ispatian. Laxaria he represents to be many hundred miles from Europe, and separated by vast oceans from it. His purpose in coming to Europe, he alleges, was to seek a long-lost brother: but he suffered shipwreck on the voyage—where, he does not know—nor can he trace his route on shore on any map or globe. He claims for his unknown race a considerable share of geographical knowledge. The five great compartments of the earth he calls Sakria, Aflar, Aslar, Auslar, and Euplar. The sages of Frankfort-on-the-Oder, after much examination of the tale and its bearer, have come to the conclusion that it is true. Some men believe things because they are incredible. However, Jophar Vorin has been carefully dispatched to Berlin, and is now the subject of much scientific and curious gossip in the Prussian capital. What mystifications hide under the story time will probably show” (Literary World, 1853, p395).
Strangely, we hear nothing else in the historical record of what happened to Jophar Viron in Berlin. The topic is simply dropped, and nobody knows the conclusion. What puzzles me most about these particular sorts of stories is the fact that nobody really seems interested in following up on the historical consistencies that emerge from the stories of people who appear to have been displaced from their proper universe. If one pokes about in the historical record, there are plausible connections that emerge, consistencies in geography and etymology that beg the question of whether we are dealing with homegrown insanity or an alienation from a reality that is not our own?
Fort, Charles, 1874-1932. Lo! New York: Ace Books, 1941.
Timbs, John, 1801-1875. Year-book of Facts In Science And Art: Exhibiting the Most Important Discoveries And Improvements of the Past Year, In Mechanics And the Useful Arts; Natural Philosophy; Electricity; Chemistry; Zoology And Botany; Geology And Geography; Meteorology And Astronomy. Philadelphia: A. Hart; [etc., etc.], 1852.
“An Ethnological Wonder: The New Man at Frankfort”. The Literary World. New York, N.Y.: Osgood & Co.,1853.