Have You Seen This Picture?

 

He's the Real Tourist Guy
Jeffrey Benner
2:00 a.m. Nov. 20, 2001 PST

The original Tourist Guy photograph from the observation deck at the World Trade Center. Note the absence of an American Airlines jet racing toward the tower. This photograph shows the Tourist Guy in front of the World Trade Center's signature radio tower. This photo of the Tourist Guy shows the Brooklyn bridge (bottom right) and Manhattan bridge. The picture carries a date-stamp nearly four years before the WTC attacks. 
Click thumbnails to expand      Courtesy of Peter (last name withheld)


The identity of the world-famous "Tourist Guy" has been revealed, but his fear of becoming an Internet freak show means he'll be shunning the limelight.

The Tourist Guy, or "Tourist of Death," is a 25-year-old Hungarian man called Peter. He asked that his last name be kept confidential, because he doesn't want to become the next Mahir Cagri, the lovesick Turk.

"I'd like to keep my identity incognito," he said in an e-mail. "This was a joke meant for my friends, not such a wide audience."

The break in Peter's silence ends two months of rampant speculation over the identity of the man in a black cap and eyeglasses who has become the latest Web craze.

Shortly after Sept. 11, Peter pasted a plane into a photo of himself taken on the observation deck of the World Trade Center on Nov. 28, 1997. Amused, he e-mailed it to a few friends for a laugh.

The doctored photograph spread worldwide on the Net. Then his face started cropping up all over the place. Web surfers quickly turned Peter into the Forrest Gump of the Internet, placing him at the scene of major, minor and just plain inane events in history.

Websites dedicated to the meme, like Tourist Guy, Tourist of Death and WTC Tourist, began collecting the pictures and have been adding to their galleries daily.

Though well aware of his growing fame, Peter laid low for weeks. He feared the mockery visited on previous Web celebs. He didn't want to become an international laughing stock like Mahir Cagri, or Clair Swire, the British woman whose lascivious e-mail spread around the world like a virus.

"I was afraid that some people might have misunderstood my intentions," Peter wrote.

But when Jose Roberto Penteado, a Brazilian businessman, claimed to be the Tourist Guy, Peter's friends outed him to the Hungarian online news site.

Penteado scored a lot of media coverage at home and abroad, as well as an offer to appear in a television commercial for Volkswagen. But now it's clear he is not the guy.

Despite a close resemblance to the Tourist Guy, Penteado was always at a loss to explain how his face was put atop the doomed tower. He looked like the guy but the photographs weren't his. He said he wasn't sure, but friends must have digitally added his face to the photograph, as well as the plane.

After seeing Peter's pictures, Penteado conceded that his short-lived fame had come to an end.

"Now I believe that the real person showed up," he wrote in an e-mail. "I think I have a brother in Hungary and I didn't know."

It turns out Volkswagen had already withdrawn its offer to put Penteado on TV. The company decided that being associated with the destruction of the WTC wasn't the image it was looking for, Penteado said.

The Brazilian actually welcomed his return to anonymity. "Thank you all, and now I think I will have some peace and quiet. I hope," he wrote.

Unlike his Brazilian rival, Peter has the original, unaltered photograph of himself on the observation deck, or so he claims. He scanned and e-mailed what appears to be an undoctored copy of the original WTC picture to Wired News.

Prompted for more proof, Peter made a trip to his parent's house to dig up additional photos of himself taken atop the WTC, included above.

Wired News has not seen the original prints, but taken together, the three pictures strongly indicate Peter as the source of the original image.

Peter told Index the WTC pictures were taken during a trip to New York to visit relatives. At the time, he was working at a hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Despite his reluctance to embrace fame, the spotlight beckons. Asked if he would consider a TV advert like the one Penteado was offered, Peter was enticed.

"Commercial?" he wrote. "Maybe. Can that be done anonymously?"

His unexpected notoriety has already brought some dividends. Old friends who recognized him from the picture called him out of the blue.

"The good aspect of it was that some people I haven't seen for a while looked me up," he wrote. 




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