Have You Seen This Picture?
He's the Real Tourist Guy
2:00 a.m. Nov. 20, 2001 PST
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
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
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
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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