The Voughan Time Machine (pronounced Voh-gen) is a popular theory of the mid-21st century that attempts to explain the disappearance of physicist Wallace A. Voughan in 2005, as well as his potential connection to an unidentified man with significant memory loss nicknamed 'Lowell Joe' who was discovered in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 2019. As authorities began to close in on a possible identity for Lowell Joe, he disappeared and has never been seen again.
Facts concerning the disappearance of Wallace A. Voughan
Wallace Voughan was a particle physicist for NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. He had been hired in 1998 and worked until he disappeared on July 14, 2005. That day, Voughan had told his supervisor that he needed to leave work at 3 PM instead of his usual 5 but did not give an explanation as to why. His supervisor agreed because Voughan almost never asked to leave early and was considered one of the Research Center's top employees. Voughan formally signed out at 2:58 PM, which is the last time he was ever seen.
That night at 9:30 PM, his wife called the Center and asked if Voughan was running late since he had not come home. When his supervisor explained that he had to leave early, his wife seemed surprised and told his supervisor that Voughan never informed her he needed to leave early. After ending the conversation with his supervisor, his wife alerted the police that he was missing. She described his appearance, the exact make and model of his car, and his license plate number.
Authorities searched for about four weeks before the search was called off, since no leads could be made. His car and other belongings he may have had with him have never been found, and there are no known witnesses who may have seen him. The case officially went 'cold' in 2008.
Facts concerning 'Lowell Joe'
On July 14, 2019, exactly fourteen years after the disappearance of Wallace A. Voughan, an unidentified man was spotted wandering the streets of Lowell, Massachusetts. Although he was well-dressed (described as wearing a three-piece suit) and groomed, several witnesses claim he was confused as to his whereabouts. One Lowell resident said that the man asked him what day it was, and when he explained it was July 14, 2019, the man appeared taken aback.
The police were called because some residents found his strange appearance and confusion suspicious. After officers searched him and found no identifying evidence on him (i.e., he had no wallet, phone, or belongings), the man was taken into the police station for questioning . At the station, the man could not explain his origin despite the fact the attending officers believed he may have known the answers but would not reveal them for whatever reason.
"He appeared lucid and intelligent," transcribed Officer Jack Darrett. "When we asked him where he came from or why he was in Lowell, he answered 'I don't remember' which caused a spike on the polygraph paper." Other officers have added on to this claim and said that there were 'several negligible spikes' on the test which were too small to suggest lying.
Media attention began to focus on him after his release, and newspapers dubbed him Lowell Joe because when he was asked if he remembered any names at all, he answered 'Joe.' It is not known whether or not he believed this is his own name.
Without answers as to his identity, Lowell Joe was checked into a local homeless shelter. During that time, authorities released flyers and newspapers ads asking anyone for further information. The search for answers almost went cold until November 10, in which DNA tests taken by police revealed a possible match to an unknown person near the border between Virginia and North Carolina. Police asked for further investigation but Lowell Joe disappeared while going on a walk the next day.
When authorities later examined the room he stayed in at the homeless shelter, they discovered that all the belongings he'd gathered during his stay (including clothes bought from a thrift shop) had been left behind. Moreover, they found a cryptic note scribbled in his handwriting. The note was deciphered as saying, "L3st y9r. 0t2r38q suc4s. 2 Rdon1s."
He has never been seen again and no traces of him have been found.
Theories and possible explanations
The Voughan Time Machine Theory
The prevailing theory is that Wallace A. Voughan somehow transported himself fourteen years into the future and arrived in Lowell, Massachusetts, where his unknown identity led to him being known as Lowell Joe, and that he fled to an unknown time as his identity came closer to being established. His appearance in Lowell may have been accidental due to his confusion about his whereabouts. The theory also states that the note found in his room was a message intended for an unknown person stating that he may have intended to arrive in 2020 but showed up a year earlier, and that he sought refuge in an unknown time and place.
The Agent Voughan Theory
In 2010, nine years before the appearance of Lowell Joe, Voughan's wife appeared on a TV news special detailing Voughan's strange disappearance. She alleged that in 2002, Voughan confided in her that he had been approached by members of the US government to work on a project. He said that he could not reveal the project for "classification purposes", but that if it were successful, it would be one of the most significant accomplishments "since the Moon landing". His wife said that after she'd been told that, Voughan's work seem to have an uptake in stress and resulted in him staying later, taking numerous unexplained businesses trips, and going into work in the very early hours of the morning. She did not suspect anything unusual, rather, she thought they may have been working on a space-related mission.
Numerous witnesses have come forward and said that between 2002 and 2005, they saw someone resembling the description of Voughan in various locations on the East Coast entering black cars with no license plates and even walking with men in all black suits. The only reported sighting of a license plate resulted in a car that allegedly belonged to the CIA, but this has neither been confirmed nor denied. It is important to note that all of these witnesses came forward after Voughan's wife claimed he'd been contacted by the government.
Because of his wife's claims that he was contacted by the US government and witnesses claiming they saw him with possible CIA workers, there is a theory that Voughan was recruited into the CIA to assist in creating means of time travel, and due to his work with NASA, he could cover up his work with the excuse of confidentiality since it'd be implied it was work related to NASA.
The theory states that Voughan was successful in developing a device for time travel and his first 'official' test was on July 14, 2005, which is why he left work early with no explanation and no warning to his wife. He attempted to travel fifteen years in the future, but accidentally wound up a year early and in a town over six hundred miles north. The note that authorities found was a message to a colleague or superior informing them of his predicament, and listing where he would go next.
Since his wife's claims have never been confirmed, and all the witnesses' claims came after hers and were also never confirmed, it is generally believed that there is not enough evidence to support such an outlandish theory. Most people who believe that there is any connection between Voughan and Lowell Joe believe that Voughan was a solo time-traveler who worked on his own terms. However, the major flaw of both time travel related theories is that no actual time travel device or evidence of one has ever been found, nor has there been any evidence which might suggest anything usual "or beyond the laws of physics", as said by the Boston Chief of Police in 2020.
Voughan had an Accident
Another theory is that Voughan had some sort of accident which resulted in the disturbance of his memories, meaning that Voughan had no experimentation with time travel whatsoever.
There are number of flaws with this theory. For one, it does not explain how no one sighted him for almost fourteen years and how neither his car nor his belongings have never been found. Second, it does not explain why he would suddenly be spotted in a state so far away from home after such a long period of time. Third, it does not explain how or why Lowell Joe disappeared after a possible DNA match was found near Voughan's hometown.
Voughan was Abducted by Aliens
A widely denounced theory put forth by numerous political pundits is that Wallace Voughan was abducted by aliens in 2005 and was not returned until 2019, but was then re-abducted later that year. There is no evidence to corroborate this theory. Much like the theory that Voughan had an accident, it does not explain the disappearance of his car or his belongings, it does not explain why he appeared in Lowell, and does not explain the possible DNA match.
Voughan and Lowell Joe are not Connected
Contrary to all the other theories, this theory states that any and all similarities between Voughan and Lowell Joe are entirely coincidental. It suggests that Voughan's disappearance is unrelated to the appearance of Lowell Joe, and says that Lowell Joe may have been the one who had an accident which resulted in memory disturbance. It also goes further by stating that Lowell Joe may have been frightened by the implications of the DNA test and fled under the guise of a walk, and he may have found himself in another city or accidentally died, although he has never been found. It does not explain the whereabouts of Wallace Voughan or his disappearance.
One major point of contention against this theory is the presence of Voughan's wife, who was still living at the time Lowell Joe had appeared. The argument says if Voughan's wife were still alive, then she should've been called in to see if Lowell Joe looked like her long-lost husband. However, proponents of this theory state that at that time, no one suspected there might be a connection between him and Voughan. That idea was first theorized about two months after Lowell Joe disappeared. Voughan's wife has been asked to comment on Lowell Joe on several occasions and asked to compare the official police sketches of Lowell Joe, but has released one public statement which said, "I will not say anything in regards to the man in Lowell, Mass., and I will not see if he resembles my husband. He is gone and every day that he stays gone its become more and more unlikely he'll return. I would just like to move on as best I can."
Similarities and dissimilarities between Wallace Voughan and Lowell Joe
- Voughan and Lowell Joe were both about 6' tall, between 150-160 lbs.
- Lowell Joe appeared on the fourteenth anniversary of Voughan's disappearance.
- Lowell Joe suggested a birth date of March 21, 1960. Wallace Voughan's birth date is listed as March 18, 1961 according to birth records.
- Lowell Joe expressed interest in general physics and said that as a kid, he wanted to be an astronaut for NASA.
- Lowell Joe's DNA match came from an unknown person not too far from the Langley Research Center.
- Wallace Voughan was last seen wearing a three-piece suit, the same thing Lowell Joe was found wearing when he first appeared.
- Voughan had dark brown hair parted on the left, while Lowell Joe had short spiked gray hair.
- Voughan had never been to New England before and never expressed any interest to do so, complaining that it 'was too cold'.
- Voughan had his entry badge with him when he left the Research Center and disappeared, but there was no evidence found that Lowell Joe had ever worn such a badge.
- Voughan was wearing leather brown shoes on the day he disappeared, Lowell Joe was found with black tennis shoes.
- Lowell Joe mentioned family in Boston, while Voughan had no such family members (though Lowell Joe's alleged family members were never located).
- Lowell Joe walked with a slight limp, while Voughan did not.
- Lowell Joe had a smart phone in his pocket that was released in 2016, although it had not been activated or linked to a specific person.
After Lowell Joe's Disappearance and Cultural Influence
An extensive police investigation was begun for Lowell Joe's whereabouts and identity, but no leads have ever been found. The search was called off in April 2020.
Several documentaries and TV specials have been made detailing the case and it's possible explanations. A movie named Fourteen Years Too Late, which fictionalized the events into a story involving a time travel experiment gone wrong, was in post-production status when it's director died under mysterious circumstances on July 14, 2035, the 30th anniversary of Voughan's disappearance. Although the director and his family had no history of depression or suicide attempts, an autopsy report said that he slit his wrists and bled out. Family members were not allowed to see his body and several men in black suits were reportedly sighted at his funeral.
Both Voughan's case and Lowell Joe's case were reopened in 2053 amidst rising public interest. Investigators in Voughan's case believed they spotted an object on the ocean floor that looked like the make and model of his car about 15 nautical miles outside of the San Francisco Bay, but have been blocked from the California state government from investigating because it's "out of their jurisdiction". The object was investigated by volunteers from a nearby fishery, who examined the exact spot and area of the object but did not find anything important. In the following weeks, the volunteers all came down with cases of radiation poisoning, but all survived. Voughan's was closed without any confirmed leads in 2057, about one year after Lowell Joe's case was closed for the same reasons.
To this day, the whereabouts of Wallace A. Voughan remain unknown, and the identity and whereabouts of Lowell Joe also remain unknown.