Mysterious Ways
By Adam Hunter

Messages from the Past Can Change Our Future

My favorite scene from Back to the Future II happens at the end of the movie, after Doc’s time-travelling DeLorean is struck by lightning and disappears, leaving Marty McFly stranded in 1955 (sorry for the spoiler, but the film came out in 1989).

A dark figure in a raincoat approaches Marty and thrusts a letter into his hand–a letter from 1885. The letter tells him that Doc is OK and gives Marty crucial instructions on what to do next so he can return to where he belongs.

This is fiction. But two stories in the news this week prove that powerful messages from the past are often delivered in real life–with incredible results.

Brooklyn, New York, resident Susan Heifetz got a surprising call from the man now living in her childhood home. He’d just received a letter in his mailbox addressed to her... postmarked from 1969!

Susan knew who it was from the second she got her hands on the envelope. It had been sealed with a kiss.

That was how Susan’s mom always sent her letters. “I was very emotional about it,” Susan told the New York Post. “Her Max Factor lipstick 45 years later... it hasn’t faded.”

Inside was a card from Susan’s parents for her 19th birthday, wishing her “health, happiness, success and a long life.”

The timing couldn’t have been better. It wasn’t Susan’s birthday, but she had been weighing a move from New York to Las Vegas and was nervous about leaving the place she’d lived her entire life.

“I felt like this was a stamp of approval,” she told the Post. “Like [my parents were saying,] ‘We’ll always be in your heart and soul.’ ”

And in Berlin, Germany, Angela Erdmann received the world’s oldest “message in a bottle,” a short note cast off into the Baltic Sea 101 years ago, by her grandfather, who died six years before she was born.

The bottle had been found by a fisherman and passed along to the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg. A genealogical researcher looked into the name on the letter, still visible even though much of the other writing had faded.

“A man stood in front of my door and told me he had post from my grandfather,” Angela told The Guardian. “I knew very little about my grandfather, but I found out that he was a writer who was very open-minded, believed in freedom and that everyone should respect each other. He did a lot for the young and later traveled with his wife and two daughters. It was wonderful because I could see where my roots came from.”

Be it through mixed-up mail or the current of the seas, these long-lost messages come to us more often than we’d suspect. Who can forget about the message in a bottle that was the perfect present for two newlyweds? Or the bottled-up message from beyond that comforted a grieving mother? Or reader Valerie Ripka’s story, about how a note written to comfort a friend ended up reaching another in need?

These stories are why we chose the cover image for our June/July issue of Mysterious Ways.

How about you? What note from the past reached you at the right time? How did it change your future? Share your story with us.

Adam Hunter is a senior editor for Guideposts magazine and Managing Editor for Mysterious Ways. He’s edited Mysterious Ways since October 2006, and is continually amazed by the astounding stories shared by readers. Follow him on Twitter: @MMysteriousWays