The Man from Tuared
It's July 1954; a hot day. A man arrives at Tokyo airport in Japan. He's of Caucasian appearance and conventional-looking. But the officials are suspicious. On checking his passport, they see that he hails from a country called Taured. The passport looked genuine, except for the fact that there is no such country as Taured [...]
The man is interrogated, and asked to point out where his country supposedly exists on a map.
He immediately points his finger towards the Principality of Andorra, but becomes angry and confused. He's never heard of Andorra, and can't understand why his homeland of Taured isn't there. According to him it should have been, for it had existed for more than 1,000 years!
Customs officials found him in possession of money from several different European currencies. His passport had been stamped by many airports around the globe, including previous visits to Tokyo.
Baffled, they took him to a local hotel and placed him in a room with two guards outside until they could get to the bottom of the mystery. The company he claimed to work for had no knowledge of him, although he had copious amounts of documentation to prove his point.
The hotel he claimed to have a reservation for had never heard of him either. The company officials in Tokyo he was there to do business with? Yup, you've guessed it - they just shook their heads too. Later, when the hotel room he was held in was opened, the man had disappeared. The police established that he could not have escaped out of the window - the room was several floors up, and there was no balcony.
He was never seen again, and the mystery was never solved > snopes
Or so the story goes
Is it True?
I first stumbled across this story in a reddit thread about the scariest/creepiest theories you know. The story immediately grabbed my attention. It had all the classic elements of a good urban legend: mystery and just enough plausibility to make you wonder if there is any truth to it.
There are a handful of iterations of this story that can be found online, in some they list the city of Tamanrosset as the capital of the Sovereign State of Tuared.
Now it's ignorant to assume that just because you're not familiar with the name of a country, or the name doesn't show up on conventional maps, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And you don't have to be a country to issue a passport
For example the Iroquois League can issue travel papers as can the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. But these documents aren't necessarily accepted for entry into every country
So Tuared could have been a place, or an issuing body. Except it wasn't. There is a place called Tamanrasset though, both a city and a province in Algeria, and there is a group of people and a language around Algeria known as Tuareg. But this man's Tuared, between France and Spain, does not exist in any records.
So if this country of origin is fake, the story has to be right? Where the hell did this story come from anyways?
A Legend is Born
We can thank Jacques Bergier, who is an interesting character unto himself. As described by wikipedia: was a chemical engineer, member of the French-resistance, spy, journalist and writer.
In 1964 he wrote the book "Rire avec les savants" which roughly translates into "Laugh with the Scholars" this is the first mention of the Man from Tuared story. Unfortunately I could not find a copy of this book
But 1970 he wrote another book where the Man from Tuared was mentioned, the book was called "Les Extra-Terrestes dan's L'histoire" roughly "Extra-Terrestials in History" and I did find a copy of this book and you KNOW with a title like that, it's going to be good
The book was never translated into English but with the help of google translate and my best friend Josie I was able to translate the section the Man from Tuared is mentioned in. In the chapter it appears he's discussing people you have appeared/disappeared miraculously
And more recently the story of the Tuared, so beautiful that I never tire of telling it. In 1954, riots took place in Japan, so violent that the personal representative of the President of the United States could not disembark, the Japanese government admitting that it was unable to ensure his safety. Wanting to prove that these riots were the work of foreign agitators, he had the passports of all foreigners residing in Japan checked. A character was found in a hotel who possessed a seemingly flawless passport: no scratching or overprinting. The photograph was accurate, as were the fingerprints. Only one difficulty, but a major one: the passport had been issued by the country of Tuared, which did not exist on the surface of the globe.
This individual was questioned. According to him, the Tuared went, on our map, from Mauritania to Sudan, including them as well as a good part of Algeria. It was in Tuared that the real Arab Legion was organized, destined to liberate all Arab peoples from oppression. He had come to Japan to buy weapons.
Indignant that people doubted the existence of his country, he gave a press conference, after which all the journalists rushed to the atlases and then to the teletypes. They wired the United Nations, the Arab League, UNESCO, everywhere: no one had ever heard of the Tuared. It was no more absurd than any other African state, but it did not exist.
In any case, not on this planet. Before being locked up in a Japanese mental asylum, the emissary of the Tuared gave interviews, in particular to the English weekly press. He had no idea why no one believed him. The passport, on examination, turned out to be quite normal, it was written in Arabic. The only problem is that the country that issued it didn't exist!
This character, periodically questioned by the press, persisted in saying the same thing. We can obviously find rational explanations for this as well as for anything. It was once explained that meteorites were perfectly normal rocks that had been struck by lightning. It has been explained that ball lightning was caused by owls which, having stayed in the hollow of a rotting tree, had coated themselves with a phosphorescent material. It was unclear how these owls could get inside the cabin of an airplane flying eight hundred miles an hour and then explode, which ball lightning commonly does, but the owl explanation seemed satisfactory for scientific circles until 1965, i.e. for two centuries.
That's why I'm a bit skeptical of a purely psychological explanation of the Kaspar Hauser story or the Tuared story.
1974 Bergier would write "Extraterrestrial Visitations from Prehistoric Times to the Present". He would include the Man from Tuared story from the 1970 and 1964 book, and this book would eventually be translated into English.
In 1981 the book "The Directory of Possibilities" was published by John Grant and Colin Wilson. In this book was a section "Appearing People" written by Paul Begg. There is one sentence dedicated to the man from Tuared
It seems this book is the most common source people cite, though more versions of the story have been printed since
But where did Bergier hear the story? He spent the bulk of his life living in France. Did he just make it up?
Enter John Alan Kuchar Zegrus
The internet loves to use this story as evidence of parallel universes, and it's a fun thought experiment. Imagine you're just going about your life, doing business trips around the world and on a trip like any other airport security tells you that your country of origin doesn't exist and they're going to apprehend you. It would be a terrifying experience and would probably make a good movie
But what's the real story? On July 29th 1960, in the British House of Commons, on the subject of frontier formalities (i.e., the administrative process by which a person enters the territory of another country) included mention of a man named John Alan Zegrus, who was then being prosecuted in Japan for using a false passport:
My honor [...] may know the case of John Alan Zegrus, who is at present being prosecuted in Tokyo. In evidence, he describes himself as an intelligence agent for Colonel Nasser and a naturalized Ethiopian. This man, according to the evidence, has travelled all over the world with a very impressive looking passport indeed. It is written in a language unknown and it has remained un-identified although it has been studied for a long time by philologists.
The passport is stated to have been issued in Tamanrosset, the capital of the independent sovereign State of Tuarid. Neither the country nor the language can be identified, although a great deal of time has been spent in the attempt. When the accused was cross-examined he said that it was a state of 2 million population somewhere south of the Sahara. This man has been round the world on this passport without hindrance, a passport which as far as we know is written in the invented language of an invented country. I would stress, therefore, that passports are not very good security checks
In 1959 (not 1954) Zegrus was a real man, with a fake passport that was so convincing he had managed to travel to a handful of countries without any trouble until Japan.
In today's high security world, there's no way someone could get away with this, but in 1959? They didn't have databases to check and passports were little more than a small booklet, with a picture, a stamped template, and often filled-in by hand. The only official looking them about them was the usually embossed covers and the passport stamps therein.
The age-old adage of "act like you belong" could never ring more true.
But this passport was only a part of Zegrus con. According to a summary of a Japanese radio broadcast from December 1961:
"The Tokyo District Court 22 December  sentenced John Allen K. Zegrus, a man without nationality, to one year imprisonment for having illegally entered Japan and passing phony checks. Zegrus, self-styled American who has professedly acted as an agent for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, entered this country in 1959 on a bogus passport." >> snopes
This story was seemingly reported around the world as one source, from August 15 1960, is from The Province, a Vancouver newspaper:
Mr. Zegrus wanted to travel round the world. To impress officials, he invented a nation, a capital, a people and a language. All these he recorded on a passport which he made himself. Victims of bureaucracy all over the universe will be delighted to hear that he was wonderfully received everywhere - well, almost everywhere.
John claimed to be a "naturalized Ethiopian and an intelligence agent for Colonel Nasser." The passport was stamped as issued at Tamanrasset, the capital of Tuared "south of the Sahara." Any places so romantically named ought to exist, but they don't. John Allen Kuchar Zegrus invented them.
Armed with this wonderful document, Mr. Zegrus travelled royally through the Middle East, accepting homage as he went. And if there were any doubters, they were invited to read a kind of proclamation beneath the national Tuared stamp. It read: "Rch ubwaii ochtra negussi habessi trwap turapa." That was the clincher, but didn't mean anything in any language.
The gallant gesture for the individualist, unfortunately, ended with the Japanese in Tokyo. They began looking up maps. John Allen is in court, a martyr to Japanese thoroughness. [...] >> The Province
snippets and articles about Mr Zegrus can be found all about the internet, but
none tell the complete story and many details vary from telling to
What Happened to Zegrus?
Other than these articles it's hard to find much on what happened to Zegrus, but Japanese reddit user Taraiochi seemed to have some of the same questions I did and did their own research. They wrote a blog (in Japanese, god bless google translate) and cited other newspapers and articles he found in Japan. But most interesting was a book
The book title is roughly translated to "Mysterious Dictator Kim Jim II Taepodong, Intelligence, Terrorism and Abduction" written by Atsuyuki Sasa and published in 1999
Turns out that Atsuyuki Sasa was the first head of Japan's now-defunct Cabinet of Security Affairs office. So I am sure he has seen some shit, enough to write a book on it anyways. Oh and he actually worked on Zegrus's case
This book is only available in Japanese and I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get my hands on a copy of the ebook, but I got it! And then came the translation. Between google translate and cross-referencing with other sources I bring you the story of the Ambassador from Nagashi Habeshi
On February 11 1960, John Allen K Zegrus (35) was taken into custody at the Mraunouchi Police Station for trying cashing counterfeit checks through the Chase Manhattan Bank and the Japanese branch of the Bank of Korea. And it wasn't a small amount, his fraud totaling about 350,000 yen. Accounting for inflation and currency conversion it would be near $9,000 USD today. This doesn't seem like a lot but, Atsuyuki makes a point that this was nearly the same amount as his yearly salary at the time.
Zegrus was a strange foreigner, 175 cm tall, appearing Caucasian and "self-proclaimed American". He had arrived in Japan in October 1959, with his Korean wife (30).
Zegrus's case landed on Atsuyuki's desk, which was unusual, foreign crimes were typically handled by the Criminal Investigation Division 3. Atsuyuki asked Inspector Kazuo Machida who tells him that this guy wasn't some small-fry but was an Ambassador for the country Negashi Habeshi and is CIA.
Machida confirmed that the passport says it was issued by Negashi Habeshi and that it was thick and full of stamps from all over. He says that when Zegrus was arrested he began screaming at them to release him immediately because he had diplomatic immunity. The arresting officer had put a map in front of Zegrus and asked him to point out his country and pointed a little south of Ethiopia.
Note: In Zegrus's passport the full name of the country reads something like Negashi Habeshi Kururu Esprit, which roughly translates into "The Great and Royal Republic of Nagash". Nagash is not a country, but there is a small village located in Ethiopia. if Zegrus was trying to claim that the village Negash was his country, he would've had to point to the northern point Ethiopia, not south of the country
Zegrus's passport indicated that he was both an ambassador and traveling ambassador, meaning that he was not stationed anywhere in particular.
But parts of his passport were written in a different language, one that Zegrus called "Negashi-Havesi" which he said was an Arabic language of the Muslim world, in the same family as Esperanto
Atsuyuki called bullshit. He made calls to several professors specializing in foreign languages and quickly found that there was no known language with similar words or grammar
An interpreter had to be found to communicate with Zegrus, because despite him knowing English, German, French, Italian and Spanish (and an additional nine languages) Japanese wasn't one of them, so an English interpreter was brought in.
Calls to the Middle East and African divisions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly confirmed that they had no records of Negashi Habeshi being a country. And there was nothing to confirm that he worked for the CIA
It was clear Zegrus was lying
It didn't take long to prove that the passport was a fake, made by Zegrus himself, not only did they not match any passport around the world, but Zegrus's hotel room was searched and a stamp that matched the issuing stamp was found
But strangely he did have some official documentation: a visa from the Japanese Embassy in Taipei, issued on Oct 17 1959. This visa had several stamps by the Japanese government's diplomatic missions in Southeast countries. And it was this visa that got him into Japan in the fist place
An investigation was opened to determined who stamped the visa first and the situation caused an uproar among the Japanese Immigration Bureau and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No one likes to have their work called into question
Despite all of this Zegrus continued to tell lies. The investigators knew he was lying, but until this could be sorted everything he said had to be taken seriously and investigated.
Zegrus told endless iterations of his life, but the general story is: he was born in the US, but grew up in the Czech Republic and Germany, and then went to England where he finished high school. He was a pilot in the Royal Air Force during WW2 and was once a prisoner of war in Germany. After the war he lived in Latin America
He then became a US military intelligence officer in Korea and eventually worked as a pilot in Thailand and Vietnam. He then went on a special mission with the Arab Coalition and became a diplomat of the country of Negashi Habeshi, near the border Ethiopia, then he came to Japan on a top secret mission to recruit Japanese volunteers for the Arab Grand Coalition
Every single one of these claims had to be validated through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And in every single case, the embassies reported back no records of Zegrus
Meanwhile, Zegrus's Korean wife was being questioned. She too had a forged passport from Negashi Habeshi, but also an official Korean passport. She seemed to totally believe that Zegrus was an Arab Union diplomat. With a clear port of a origin, Mrs. Zegrus was deported to her home country of South Korea
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office must have got sick of chasing down Zegrus's origins as they threw in the towel and declared him as having an "unknown nationality"
Zegrus's court appointed defense attorney had to defend his client without knowing where he was from or even knowing for sure the name provided is his legal name. This was an unprecedented case and it garnered a fair amount of media attention. The English-language newspapers even nicknamed him the "Mystery Man"
Protests against the First Japan-US Security Treaty were rampant, keeping the local police busy day and night, foreign security was a hot topic on everyone's minds and soon Atsuyuki and his department had to turn their focuses to that and left the case with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors as a case of immigration control and fraud.
Atsuyuki forgot about the case for the next couple months, but then on Aug 10th Zegrus caused a commotion bringing Atsuyuki's attention back to the strange case
The court had come to a verdict and on Aug 10th, Zegrus's sentencing was supposed to take place. The judge handed down the sentence of one year imprisonment, but before the interpreter could translate the sentence, Zegrus produced a shard of glass and sliced both his wrists, spilling blood everywhere.
The court was in shock and the bailiff rushed in while Zegrus screamed in English that he was going to kill himself. He was rushed to Kyobashi Hospital by ambulance where it was determined that his injuries were fairly minor and would be healed in about ten days.
What the hell was his plan? A year in prison is a very light sentence and he wasn't even be fined.
Turns out while Zegrus was held in detention awaiting his sentencing, he was studying Japanese Criminal Procedures. He had somehow come to the conclusion that if an accident happened to interrupt the sentencing, the sentencing could not take effect and the trial would have to be rescheduled. Atsuyuki isn't sure where he got this idea but it wasn't true, though it did put of his sentencing a little bit
Where did he get the shard of glass? It is suspected that he smashed the face of his wristwatch and placed the shard in his mouth and kept it there until his sentencing.
Despite his best efforts, Zegrus was still sentenced and for a while Atsuyuki heard no word on the mysterious Ambassador from Negashi Habeshi
Political tensions continued to rise in Japan, protests grew more intense, becoming violent and leading to the death of protestors and even some politicians. Civil unrest between the people and law enforcement began to heat up until protestors laid siege to the National Personnel Authority Building and the Metropolitan Police Department. 100,000 protestors gathered outside and their activity was enough to make the building shake.
It was early 1961, when Zegrus came up with another brilliant idea. He filed a lawsuit from prison against the then Superintendent Bunpei Hara and others, demanding punishment for "embezzlement" and damages in the amount of one million dollars.
According to the complaint, the "Japanese Police Department has been accused of negligent misappropriation of funds" and "The Japanese police wrongfully arrested Ambassador Zegrus, and confiscated secret plans for Negashi Habeshi's nuclear energy development that were in his possession."
His hope was to take advantage of the public's outrage against law enforcement to get support for his case. It seems that since Zegrus couldn't produce any evidence of his accusations his lawsuit didn't go anywhere
Fall of 1961 Zegrus was released from prison after serving his one year sentence, and Japan having had their fill of the Ambassador from Negashi Habeshi, deported him to his last port of call before entering Japan: Hong Kong
Atsuyuki had joked that maybe they should have deported him to space since he had no country of origin. But there is a thought seemed to stick with him even 30 years later: where was Zegrus now? What did Hong Kong do with him? Did they just eject him to his previous port of call? But what if he was ejected from one port to the next, where would he wind up?
[Rough translation from taraiochi's blog ]
Yomiuri Shimbun (evening edition)
August 10, 1960 [...] A case in which a defendant attempted suicide in front of a judge who sentenced him occurred at the Tokyo District Court on the 10th. This defendant was sentenced to one year in prison by Judge Yamagishi (June of the same year) after a judgment trial was held at the Tokyo District Court Criminal No. 28 court after 10 am on the same day at John Allen K. Zegrus (36).
However, the defendant, who was sentenced by the interpreter, suddenly stood up and cut his arms with a piece of glass bottle hidden in his mouth. Surprised by the bleeding, three attendants rushed in, but there was a fuss such as shouting "I will commit suicide" in English, and [he] was taken to the nearby Kyobashi Hospital by ambulance. [10 days later, the scratches appear mostly healed]
Zegrus entered Haneda Airport with a forged passport from Taipei on October 24, last year, and was troubled with the cost of staying. The yen and a check for travelers of 140 dollars were exploited, and 100,000 yen was also exploited from the Tokyo branch of the Bank of Korea. The fake passport used for entry is handmade, and the country name is completely fictitious [...]. The defendant spoke in 14 languages, and even in response to the investigation, he said, "I came to Japan under the command of an Arab-related organization, and I was also working as a US news agency." However, there was no such fact, and he was charged with unknown nationality at the troubled district inspection. Even in the courtroom, the identity of the mystery was not revealed, and the English newspaper reported that it was "Mystery Man".
At first glance, the passport of nationality could be seen as a fake, but [he] was able to enter the country because the Japanese embassy in Taipei issued a visa on October 17, last year. It is said that this is the first time for him to enter the country.
In addition, the defendant's wife (30) also entered the country with the same passport while holding his passport and was repatriated to South Korea.
Atsuyuki likely never got his answer, he passed away in 2018
The story clearly somehow wound up being reported on in England, Vancouver and around Japan which still had many American soldiers and diplomats in the area. And if Bergier was basing his story on one of these articles, it's a game of translation telephone.
Details changed. Somehow 1959 became 1954. Negashi Hebashi became Tuared. And instead of getting his comeuppance, Zegrus disappeared into the ether, the perfect fodder for a conspiracy. Apparently I am here to ruin all good conspiracy theories, sorry, not sorry
But there are still mysteries
- Who was his wife and was she really clueless about his fraud? Did they get back together after his sentencing?
- Where was he really from? What was his real name?
- What happened to him after he landed in Hong Kong
There are no answers out there, searching Zegrus's name in English primarily produces a plethora of conspiracy and occult websites, and if you search his name in Japanese, you get more legitimate news and wikipedia articles, detailing the real guy and the situation with few mentions of the myth of the Man from Tuared.
As a long shot I turned to Reddit to get Zegrus's name translated into its Chinese form: 约翰·泽格鲁斯
A user was kind enough to do the translation and I tried searching but had little luck. Another user told me they did a search as well and didn't come up with anything, but also reminded me that so much of Hong Kong's internet is behind "China's great firewall", but I consulted a friend of mine from Taiwan and she told me that China doesn't really care about what gets out, so if there was something online it should be findable. She did some of her own searches in Chinese and on some of the Chinese search engines and couldn't find anything
Within the firewall there might be more, and I won't lie, I took a brief look to see if there was a way I could access it, but finding clear instructions was difficult and from what I did find seems like it would be a fair amount of work, so this is where my research ends
We don't know if Zegrus was even his name, when he landed back in Hong Kong (assuming they didn't immediately deport him too) he could have easily switched names and it was likely his story wasn't well known there. He seemed to have run short of cash which is what got him caught in the first place, but maybe he had a stash of money in Hong Kong and we know he's no stranger to writing fraudulent checks.
It wouldn't be hard to disappear and never be found again. All we have on him is a possibly fake name and one picture.
So, while he didn't
come from a parallel dimension, his real life circumstances were almost as
bizarre. He may as well have been the way he disappeared never to be heard from
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