The story of William Cantelo and Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim remains an unexplained mystery, with possible evidence of teleportation, double lives, and corruption.
William Cantelo claimed he was born around 1838 in the Isle of Wight. He first came to notice as an advanced engineer who developed many strange and unidentifed objects around the 1870’s
By this time, he owned a “curiousity” shop on French Street in Southampton. At that time he was also the landlord of the Old Tower Inn. Beneath the pub was a tunnel where Cantelo spent much of his time turning it into an underground workshop. Visitors to this workshop made claims of seeing “strange light machines” “humming globes” and “odd weapons”.
It also said that Cantelo would often enter the tunnel, and not be seen again for days, or even weeks on end.
Cantelo used the tunnel underneath the Old Tower Inn for his experiments, and was later joined by his two sons, both engineers themselves. Locals reported hearing noises coming from the vicinity but the family kept their work a closely guarded secret.
In early 1880 Cantelo announced that he had developed a ground breaking machine gun.
Accounts differ regarding the actual events of Cantelo’s disappearance late in 1880 – Some reports say that he went for an extended holiday on his own as a reward for his hard work, but was never to return. Others claimed he was last seen entering his tunnel, and vanished in a puff of smoke and flash of lights.
It is also claimed that a large sum of Cantelo’s money had been transferred out of his bank account after his disappearance.
Cantelo’s family tried to find William but with no real success. They employed a private investigator who claimed he traced him to America but could not find out anything more or provide evidence.
Hiram Maxim was an American inventor who appeared in the United Kingdom in 1881, claiming to be 41. With him he brought a number of new and mysterious inventions, including a ground breaking machine gun! the Maxim Gun – the first portable, fully automatic machine gun.
He also submitted patents on mechanical devices such as a fire sprinkler, mousetrap, hair-curling irons, and steam pumps and more.
Maxim laid claim to inventing the lightbulb, providing convincing evidence. He even experimented with powered flight, well before planes existed and submitted science papers claiming that he had developed teleportation technology.
Cantelo’s two sons happened across a photograph of Maxim, whose similarity to their father led them to believe that he was still alive and had assumed a new identity. Descriptions of the gun also sounded similar to the one they had worked on and they set out to investigate.
The sons tried to challenge Maxim but he wanted nothing to do with them, claiming by letter that he was from America and not the Isle of Wight. This only led the sons to believe Maxim was in fact their Father, as nobody outside of the immediate family knew they originated from the Isle of Wight. He refused to meet the boys.
With good evidence to support Maxim’s previous life in the USA along with his papers claiming that he had developed a way to transport himself from one place to another – the sons belived their Father had been living a double life, and teleporting himself backwards and forwards.
BBC’s Steve Punt investigated Cantelo’s disappearance and the sons claims. He discovered that Maxim had complained about a man who was impersonating him in America.
He also showed a photograph of Cantelo next to his machine gun to the Royal Armouries, who stated that the weapon appeared to be exactly the same as the Maxim gun.
A facial expert who compared the images of Cantelo and Maxim highlighted that there were some visible differences between the two men, but also some similarities.