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9/11 'Tourist Guy' Revealed

The man behind the infamous photo of the 'Tourist Guy' posing atop the World Trade Center moments before tragedy struck on 9/11 finally reveals his identity to the world... sort of.

BY A STRANGE twist of fate — or so it seemed at the time — his face would become as recognizable in the weeks following the September 11 attacks as those of Osama bin Laden and G.W. Bush. He would be known to millions as "The Tourist Guy," that oblivious dude wearing dark glasses and stocking cap whose photo was snapped, wayward jetliner looming in the background, atop one of the doomed twin towers seconds before tragedy struck.

The photo was a hoax, of course — "Photoshopped," as they say — the aircraft and the date of infamy layered in after the fact to transform an ordinary snapshot into a mock record of one of the most horrendous events in living memory. Still, the placid face beneath that wool cap was obviously that of a real person. Who was this mysterious man?

How did his likeness end up plastered all over computer screens, TV screens and newspapers around the world? Some felt it was only a matter of time before he was outed; or outed himself.

First candidate: a Brazilian businessman

"Tourist Guy" - Image source: forwarded email
José Roberto Penteado, a Brazilian businessman, was the first to step forward and claim Internet stardom in early November 2001. "I believe that some friends planted my face in that body," he stated in an email to the editors of Wired News. People had begun recognizing him on the streets of Campinas, his hometown. "I'm even giving autographs," he said. He had reportedly been invited to appear in a TV commercial.

But skeptics were... well, skeptical. Where's the original, undoctored snapshot, they asked. Why should Penteado's face — indeed anyone's face — have been superimposed over that of the actual subject of the photo? These questions went unanswered.

The real deal: a Hungarian tourist named Peter

Unanswered until two weeks later, that is, when a Hungarian newspaper announced it had solved the mystery for real. Penteado is a pretender, the paper declared. The true culprit, fingered by his own friends, is a Hungarian national named Peter (last name not divulged in the article). Peter was not only able to produce the original photo taken during a vacation in New York City in November 1997, but several additional shots from the same roll of film.

"He's the real Tourist Guy," proclaimed Wired News after examining the evidence and corresponding with Peter. The Hungarian admitted having doctored the picture himself, "as a joke meant for my friends."

Why all the secrecy about his surname? "I was afraid that some people might have misunderstood my intentions," Peter explained. He said he never meant for his irreverent prank to garner a worldwide audience, and the last thing he wants now is Internet infamy. Don't look for his face to appear in TV commercials any time soon.

Update: Well, it couldn't remain a secret for long — the Tourist Guy's full name has now been revealed in news reports: Peter Guzli. Mr. Guzli is 25 years old and lives in Budapest, still trying to cope with his unexpected fame. We wish him well.

2011 update: Tourist Guy Says Sorry for Hoax - Peter Guzli on the 10th anniversary of 9/11: "I am ashamed that even now the police still get calls about it, I never did it for money and I never intended to cause any harm to the real victims or their families." (Croatian Times)

See also: Gallery of Tourist Guy Parodies


Sources and further reading:

'Last Photo' Taken Atop the World Trade Center
Urban Legends, 24 September 2001

He's the Real Tourist Guy
Wired News, 20 November 2001

Tracking Down the Tourist of Death
The Guardian, 30 November 2001


Last updated 09/11/11


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