Each night, a bright green beam cuts through the sky above Greenwich: a laser, marking the path of the Prime Meridian (the imaginary line – from the north pole to the south pole – from which all other lines of longitude are measured).
It is emitted from the Royal Observatory, high on the hill at Greenwich Park. Another (carved and gilded) representation of the line crosses the building’s forecourt. Many tourists stand here to take the same photo: one foot either side of the meridian, their body half in the western hemisphere, half in the eastern.
There’s only one problem. This zero degrees longitude, accepted in the 19th Century as the global standard for navigation and time-keeping, is the old prime meridian. The new one – invisible, locatable only via GPS – is some 100 metres to the east. The traditional method of calculating longitude was supplanted, and the new meridian adopted, in the 1980s.
Which is interesting, because it was around this time that strange occurrences began to be reported in Greenwich Park.
The first recorded instance of a temporal or spatial discrepancy within the region of the prime meridian(s) occurred one autumn morning in 1987. A park keeper told of how, while he was out sweeping leaves at dawn, he suddenly ‘jumped’ from one side of the hill to the other. The man refused to cross that patch of ground again, and was re-employed by the council in a different park soon after.
Since then, reports have been sporadic and varied. The precise nature of the Meridian Glitch, as some call it, is unknown – its behaviours unpredictable. But, looked at chronologically, one begins to see a kind of haphazard – and possibly worrying – evolution in the stories:
Bonfire night, 1994: a small group of Londoners, conducting an unofficial fireworks display halfway up the hill, note a bizarre, two minute delay between the launch of rockets and their explosion in the Greenwich sky.
Summer, 1999: three German teenagers are parted from their school group. They turn up less than an hour later, their teachers having recently sounded the alarm. The students are tired and shaken, and speak of being lost in an empty, dusk-lit park for ‘days’.
Winter, 2002: the owner of a house in the Vanburgh Park Road area, on the eastern edge of Greenwich Park, has a cat who likes to go on extended wanderings in the park. One day, an eerily similar feline walks through the cat-flap: another black-and-white, identical mannerisms, identical appearance – except for a nick in its left ear. After a week of strange co-existence in the house, the owner witnesses the two cats fighting. The original sustains a vicious swipe to the left side of its head, and scampers in the direction of the park. It is never seen again.
Spring, 2006: a Canadian couple stumble from the crowded path that winds up the hill below the Royal Observatory into a silent world of dark, dense woodland. They emerge hours later and lodge a series of complaints with confused Observatory staff.
2013, Twitter: ‘Got a bit freaked out in greenwich park today. Were they filming some kind of period horror film? #morningjog’
Tim Merriman is an interesting character. A former estate agent, he holds a history of science degree and describes himself as a ‘freelance portologist’. His research into the Meridian Glitch – which he began after hearing the cat story – has garnered a lot of attention in portal-watching circles. He is a proponent of the theory that the positioning of the prime meridians is key.
Tim sent us an email with some thoughts:
“What is interesting is that the choosing of a ‘prime’ meridian is entirely arbitrary; a construct. Not a lot more than 19th Century maritime power dynamics determined that zero degrees should pass through Greenwich. But arbitrary decisions can have tangible effects! Time and even space are shown increasingly to be functions of human perception. And perception is powerful stuff. A kind of creation. You see, we might think of ourselves as observers, but in observing we perceive and in perceiving we create in surprising ways. In London, where the dimensional structure is already extremely fragile, ideas such as the Greenwich Prime Meridian – tied up, as it is, with big concepts like Time, Empire and Global Uniformity – can have unintended real-world consequences”.
We think we get it.
But any possible reasons behind the dimensional disturbance are perhaps less important than its future manifestations. Are we witnessing the development of something more dangerous, more malevolent, than the simple ‘wormhole’ type doorway that the park keeper experienced 30 years ago?
There is one piece of evidence Tim is keen to track down: the rumoured ‘last selfie’ image. On a busy day in summer, 2014, a phone still attached to a selfie stick was found abandoned in the park and handed in to museum staff. By the time Tim got word that staff members had seen something ‘unexplainable’ – and extremely disturbing – in the background of the mystery tourist’s most recent photo, the phone itself had disappeared once more, and those involved were unwilling to discuss it.
We monitor the situation with interest.
- Candidate: The Meridian Glitch
- Type: [Unstable]
- Status: Active
Featured image: Randi Hausken |licence
This is wonderful. I await further developments.
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I live iin France, and we have a few portals over here – 🙂
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oh – u leave us hanging – unfair! – more to come?
The park keepers are a withdrawn and secretive bunch
I have experienced real time-taking portals in Tasmania
I dread to think what effect the China GPS shift is having on the psychogeography of the far east…
A deliberate attempt to induce a London-like spatial porosity to the landscape, or perhaps this eastern slippage is the result of another, more sinister experiment?
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Great article, thanks!
Great stuff. My mother-in-law experienced a time slip in Greenwich Park, in the eighties if i recall,- kind of a ‘Palace of Versailles’ moment. Medieval folk wandering about. Much consternation. She was totally serious though, and doesn’t play jokes or lie. I must ask her for greater detail. Many times I longboarded down the big hill to the gates across the meridian line, at some speed, but not enough to break any time barriers.
But also Hilly Fields, Brockley, right next to me, and kind of between Greenwich and Crystal Palace, also has time slip apocrypha, and even a real song called “Hilly Fields’ in the early eighties, which documented a Victorian Timeslip to 1842- Artist called Nick Nicely. Just about 500 yards from here, King Kong’s principal writer once lived- Blue Plaque. I sometimes try to hear Kong as i pass the house.
Hilly Fields is now topped with a council made stone circle. I have heard rumours of a real lost stone circle in the valleys between the hills here. Seems like these Hills South of the River are all busy points.
Merriman’s theory is intriguing, but I find it difficult to believe that a cat would deign to be affected by a merely human thought construction.
An anomaly report from the States: I sat down to read the Portals of London for a few minutes, only to find that an hour or more had passed when I returned to the outside world. Your writing reminds me of our master of disappearances (including his own), Ambrose Bierce. Thanks!
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Thank you! Yes, I think many a mystery would be solved if only we knew what the cats know.
Could you send links…??..sounds interesting..