Some tales from history are intriguing to say the least, and though many are sceptical of stories of ghosts and aliens, a certain Mexican folk legend certainly raises questions. Today, we explore the story of a sixteenth-century soldier who supposedly teleported over 8,000 miles…
According to legend, in late October 1593 a soldier (named in 20th-century accounts as Gil Pérez, but whose real identity is unknown) who served the Spanish Empire was guarding the Palacio del Gobernador in Manila, in the modern-day Philippines. October 1593 was full of intrigue, and just the day before the Governor, Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, had been assassinated.
At the time, parts of the Philippines were controlled by the Spanish and had been since 1565. Dasmariñas was the seventh Governor of the territory and was sailing on a Spanish expedition to capture new territory in The Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia when Chinese rowers on board his ship launched a mutiny. Dasmariñas and most of his Spanish guards were killed during the fray, although a few managed to escape. The Spanish colony in the Philippines was thrown into disarray whilst a new Governor was elected.
Whilst the rest of the Spanish in the colony awaited news of the successor, the Spanish guards in Manila continued their job of guarding the Palace. Our particular soldier was on night watch when he started to feel dizzy and extremely exhausted. Overcome by these feelings, he leant against one of the walls and closed his eyes for a moment.
When the soldier opened his eyes seemingly just a few seconds later, he found himself in a completely different place to where he had closed his eyes. Unaware of where he was, he was soon found by some guards in different uniforms who questioned who he was. When he responded, he was thrown in prison. He was told that he was a deserter of the Spanish army, for he was in fact in Mexico City, over 8,800 miles away. Unfortunately for the soldier, Mexico City was part of the Spanish Empire at the time and his different uniform and his tale of being from Manila only added evidence against him, allowing the authorities to imprison him.
The soldier tried to protest his innocence, explaining how the Governor had just been murdered. However, due to the vast distance between Mexico City and Manila the news had not yet arrived. His accusers either thought he was mad, trying to make excuses now that he had been caught, or was in league with the devil. It was only months later when a ship finally arrived in Mexico from the Philippines when the news of the Governor’s death eventually reached the country.
As word spread, restitution was on the cards for the still-imprisoned Spanish soldier. His story was now verified, and it was decided that the soldier was telling the truth and had been unwittingly and unwillingly transported across the world. This was confirmed further when one of the passengers on the ship from the Philippines recognised the soldier and confirmed that he had seen him in the Philippines the day after the death of the Governor, proving he was telling the truth. Luckily for him, he was set free and allowed to return home.
The legend of this teleporting soldier could be ascribed to folklore, but there are somewhat contemporary recordings of the story. One account was written a century after the event, in 1698, by Gaspar de San Agustín, a Spanish clergyman and historian. Within San Agustín’s account of the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, he recounts the story of the teleporting soldier and he writes that the man must have been transported by witchcraft.
Even closer to the events in 1593 is a 1609 account of the assassination of Dasmariñas by a Spanish soldier called Antonio de Morga. De Morga published that year “Sucesos de las islas Filipinas” about the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, and when writing about news spreading of Dasmariñas’ assassination there is an intriguing insertion:
That year ships did not leave the Philippines for New Spain [the Spanish-controlled territories in the Americas]… meantime in New Spain, since no ships came, they suspected that the islands were in trouble, and there were not wanting some who related the news of most of what had in fact happened. At the same time, they could not discover in Mexico City whence these rumours had come.”Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, 1609, by Antonio de Morga, edited by J.S. Cummins (accessed via Google Books)
This strange passage says that news arrived in Mexico City very quickly of the Governor’s death even though no ships had arrived to bring the news. Although de Morga does not mention the teleportation story, later folklorists have taken it as evidence that the story recorded later that century had been circulating less than 20 years after it supposedly happened. This would mean it was not a story later made up and circulated as truth, but had contemporary veracity.
What really happened will never be clear. It does seem that at the very least, the story was circulating within a century of when it supposedly happened, if not within two decades of it. Whether the soldier ever existed – and, if he did, if his story held any truth – is unknown. In the centuries since, various paranormal explanations have been provided for the soldier’s story, including witchcraft, alien abduction, and simple teleportation. The truth will probably never be known – but it certainly makes for an interesting tale nonetheless.
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