May 22, 2005
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1925 movie extra traveled back in time - and died in Pompeii

Archaeologists say the body of an actor who disappeared from the set of the 1926 version of the movie Ben Hur has been discovered in a newly excavated section of Pompeii.

The ancient Roman city was buried under millions of tons of molten rock when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

And while nobody can say for sure how the little-known extra wound up trapped under 20 feet of rock, ash and volcanic debris, at least one scientist has suggested that he might somehow have traveled through a time warp that led him to one of the most horrifying deaths imaginable -- 1,900 years before he was born.

"We really have no idea what's happened here but a time warp is the first thing that comes to mind," says Dr. Frank Ramane, leader of the archaeological team that found the actor's body late last month.

"As was the case with most victims of Pompeii, the body was very nearly perfectly preserved under a layer of hardened ash.

"And linking the corpse to the movie and modern times was made when we found a steel I.D. bracelet on the left wrist. On top it bore the name 'William Green.' On its back were inscribed the words, 'Ben Hur. 1925.'

Dr. Ramane says movie researchers have confirmed that an aspiring young actor and sometime stunt man named Bill Green disappeared from the set of the original Ben Hur movie while the famous chariot race was being filmed in Culver City, Calif., in 1925. The movie was released the next year.

They also learned from old police records that Green's friends -- he had no known family -- reported him missing, but he was never found.

"How the man, or the body, got from 20th-century Culver City to first-century Pompeii is the mystery that remains to be solved," says Dr. Ramane, who is based in Los Angeles and was excavating the site under a commission from the Italian Antiquities Authority in Rome.

"You always have to consider the potentials for a hoax, although I believe that to be the least likely explanation.

"For one thing, the Pompeii site is strictly controlled, and you'd have to identify and pay off dozens of Italian officials just to get them to look the other way while you brought in the body.

"And then you'd have to cover that body with liquid rock -- or something that looks like it -- which to my mind is impossible.

"Maybe there's an extraterrestrial connection. Or it could be that highly advanced people from our own future -- time travelers -- abducted him from 1925 and for some reason unknown to us left Green stranded in the year 79.

"Or instead of just stranding him, maybe they orchestrated his murder by placing him in Pompeii on purpose.

"In my view, the more complicated the scenarios get, the less likely they are to have occurred. The simplest explanation remains the time warp."

In fact, as Dr. Ramane points out, there are dozens of references to time warps in literature dating back to the beginning of recorded history, including one eerie account involving Pompeii.

It appears in a retrospective of the eruption of Vesuvius that was written in 82 A.D., just three years after the volcano blew.

According to Dr. Ramane, it describes how "a crazy man, a veteran soldier" tried to warn citizens to get out of Pompeii by telling them he had seen what he called the fiery choking horror to come.

"When they laughed in his face, he left town, cheating fate," the archaeologist says.

"Maybe that's why Green got pulled into the past. Perhaps fate can't be cheated. It could be the actor was chosen to take the crazy legionary's place to keep the death toll at a certain level that was somehow decided in advance.

"The one thing I'm absolutely sure of," he concludes, "is that our investigation will continue."

Published on: 11/04/2003

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