In June 1925, a medical student, Jean Romier, is in a police station, having been taken for a burglar, in the middle of the night, by the residents of an apartment building in Paris. Jean had spent the evening in one of the apartments, listening to an amateur concert, then discussing music with members of the family, in particular, with a young man destined for the Church. He returned to the apartment because he had forgotten his cigarette lighter. A neighbour tells him that the apartment has been empty since the death of Mr Berruyer, the man who had invited Jean to the concert. This death took place more than twenty years before.
Very early in the morning, the commissionary manages to contact the present owner of the apartment, Mr Mauger, great-great-grandson of Mr Berruyer, and explain to him what has happened. Mr Mauger arrives half an hour later. Dr Romier, Jean’s father, has also arrived, so everyone sets out again for Rue de Vaugirard. They climb to the third floor, and Jean Romier says:
“Behind this door, there are, in the entry, a stela with a little reproduction of the Victory of Samothrace, a big marine painting and a marble console.”
Mr Mauger opens the door, which squeaks, and the medical student is surprised: the apartment which had appeared so full of life, so warm the evening before, is, this morning, freezing, covered in dust and smells mouldy. However, there, in the entry, there are, as he said, a stela with the Victory of Samothrace, a marine painting and a marble console. Jean continues:
“Behind these double doors, is the salon where the concert took place. On the right, there is a black grand piano, on the left, a harp… “
They open the double doors. In the salon, whose armchairs have dust covers, there is a black grand piano on the right and a harp on the left. The commissionary, the owner, the concierge, are by now starting to be puzzled. Suddenly, the student sees a portrait on a wall, and exclaims that it is Mr Berruyer. Mr Mauger confirms that it is indeed Alphonse Berruyer, his great-great-grandfather. Jean then recognizes, in a medallion, the photo of the future Naval College student. Mr Mauger says that it is his great-uncle, who died an Admiral.
Jean Romier continues his tour of the salon. He finds a portrait of Marcel Berruyer, who was studying Law. Mr Mauger is looking rather pale. He says that it is his grandfather, who was a lawyer. The student then indicates a yellowed photo in a copper frame, and says that it is the future man of religion with whom he had conversed until midnight. Mr Mauger manages to tell everyone that it is his other great-uncle, who died in Africa. He was a missionary. Mr Mauger is now trembling. He says:
“I remember now that my grandfather sometimes told me about concerts that were organized here by his grandfather… But, it’s not possible… “
The group left the salon and silently went towards the little salon-cum-library. Mr Mauger opened the door, and there, on a side-table covered in dust, was Jean Romier’s lighter…
This story is in the police archives. After the discovery of the lighter, there was an investigation to find out if someone could have broken into the apartment and planted it. The result was negative. No locks had been forced.
This story was put before different parapsychologists, some of whom gave the matter-of-fact answer:
“It was simply a lucky encounter with an image of the past… “
Others have looked for a more scientific explanation. John W. Dunne was an English disciple of Einstein, professor of Physics and author of many works, including An Experiment with Time. Starting from the theory of relativity, Dunne thought that time does not pass, as our senses and our intelligence tend to make us believe. He was of the opinion that the past, the present and the future all exist together. He called it total time, or serial time, of which we only perceive a very short portion called now. Dunne affirms that some people, without wanting to, have a contact with serial time and live scenes from the future or from the past…
There are other scientific explanations, too, which involve both philosophy and mathematics. They are also based on a revolutionary idea of time. As for Einstein, who studied this adventure, he concluded, as he had for the two English ladies at the Petit Trianon:
“This young man tripped on Time.”
There are a lot of other people who have missed a step in the staircase of time.