A man who arrived in Japan with a fake passport did not mysteriously vanish

11 May 2022
What was claimed

Experts said a man who vanished after arriving at Tokyo airport with a passport issued by the country of “Taured” was from a parallel universe.

Our verdict

While it seems there was a real case involving a man who arrived in Japan with a fake passport, he did not vanish, and reports at the time did not say he was from a parallel universe.

A Facebook post claims that experts believe a man who travelled to Japan using a fake passport was from a parallel universe.

This is not true. While there are records of a man attempting to enter Japan using a passport from a non-existent country, he did not “vanish” from a secure room, as the post claims. There is no reason to think he came from a parallel universe, and we can find no experts saying he did. 

The story of the “man from Taured” has also previously been debunked by the US fact checker Snopes.

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Where does this story come from?

The Facebook post, which was shared by an account called “Alien UFO Sightings”, claims that in 1954 a man arrived at Tokyo airport with a passport from a country called “Taured”, which does not exist.

This story appears to be based on a real case involving a man named John Allen K. Zegrus, who was arrested after entering Japan using a fake passport.

The case in question was mentioned in the House of Commons as part of a debate on border control measures in 1960. During the debate, Robert Mathew MP claimed that Mr Zegrus was facing prosecution in Japan after attempting to enter the country using a passport in a “language unknown”, which was “stated to have been issued in Tamanrosset the capital of the independent sovereign State of Tuarid”. 

Despite neither Tamanrosset nor Tuarid being real places, Mr. Zegrus had successfully used his passport to travel the world “without hindrance”, before eventually being arrested by Japanese authorities, according to Mr Mathew .

Two weeks after Mr Mathew mentioned Mr Zegrus, an article in Canadian newspaper The Province also reported on the story with further details, writing: “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.”

What happened to Mr Zegrus?

While it would seem that the Facebook post is loosely based on the real case of Mr Zegrus and his fake passport, we can find no evidence for its claim that the man “vanished” from a “high secure room [sic]”. Although it seems he was sentenced to a year in prison.

As referenced in the House of Commons debate, Mr Zegrus faced prosecution in Japan following his arrest, and details of the trial’s outcome were mentioned in a translation of a Japanese radio broadcast provided by the United States’ Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service.

The radio broadcast, which aired in December 1961, said:

“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.”

Based on these reports, while the details are quite sketchy, it does appear that a man travelled to Japan using a fake passport from the non-existent country of ‘Taured’ at some point in the 1950s. But rather than vanishing he was successfully arrested and sentenced to jail.

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