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Teleportation: The vanishing gun inventor William Cantelo and his uncanny resemblance to Sir Hiram Maxim

In the 19th century, a talented gun inventor named William Cantelo captured the imagination of the people with his groundbreaking inventions. However, his story took a strange turn when he suddenly disappeared, leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions. Rumors and speculations circulated, suggesting that Cantelo may have resurfaced under a new identity as Sir Hiram Maxim, the renowned inventor of the Maxim Gun. So, what happened to William Cantelo? Is there really a secret connection between Cantelo and Sir Hiram Maxim?

William Cantelo Hiram Maxim
Hiram Maxim in 1916 (right). The best attested picture of William Cantelo (left). Wikimedia Commons / Barry Cantelo / MRU.INK

The ingenious inventor: William Cantelo

William Cantelo was a British inventor born in 1839, who mysteriously disappeared in the 1880s. Barry Cantelo / MRU.INK

William Cantelo, born around 1838 on the Isle of Wight, was a gifted engineer who gained recognition for his innovative creations in the 1870s. He owned a shop on French Street in Southampton, where he also served as the landlord of the Old Tower Inn. Beneath the pub, Cantelo had a secret underground workshop, accessible through a tunnel. Visitors to the workshop reported witnessing peculiar machines, such as “strange light machines,” “humming globes,” and unidentified weapons.

Cantelo’s sons, who were also engineers, joined their father in the workshop. The family became known for their reclusive nature and the guarded secrecy surrounding their work. Locals would often hear mysterious noises emanating from the vicinity of the Old Tower Inn, further fueling curiosity about the Cantelo family’s activities.

The vanishing of William Cantelo

The circumstances surrounding Cantelo’s disappearance in late 1880 remain shrouded in mystery. Conflicting accounts suggest that he either embarked on an extended holiday or was last seen entering his underground workshop before vanishing without a trace. Some witnesses even claimed to have seen Cantelo disappear in a puff of smoke accompanied by a flash of lights.

Adding to the intrigue, a significant sum of money was withdrawn from Cantelo’s bank account after his disappearance. His family hired a private investigator to search for him, who allegedly traced him to America. However, the trail went cold, and no concrete evidence of Cantelo’s whereabouts could be found.

The enigmatic Hiram Maxim

William Cantelo Hiram Maxim
Hiram Stevens Maxim, from his autobiography ‘My Life’, Methuen, London, 1916. Wikimedia Commons / MRU.INK

In 1881, an American inventor named Hiram Stevens Maxim arrived in the United Kingdom, claiming to be 41 years old. Maxim brought with him a series of innovative inventions, including the groundbreaking Maxim Gun, the world’s first portable, fully automatic machine gun. Additionally, Maxim held patents for various mechanical devices, such as fire sprinklers, mousetraps, hair-curling irons, and steam pumps.

Maxim’s arrival and his impressive array of inventions drew attention and acclaim. However, it was his claim of inventing the lightbulb that further piqued interest, as it challenged Thomas Edison’s widely accepted credit for the invention. Maxim’s scientific pursuits extended beyond conventional boundaries, even including experiments with powered flight and bold assertions of having developed teleportation technology.

The uncanny resemblance and connection

The plot thickens when Cantelo’s sons stumbled upon a photograph of Hiram Maxim. Struck by the uncanny resemblance between Maxim and their missing father, they became convinced that Maxim was, in fact, William Cantelo living under a new identity. The descriptions of Maxim’s machine gun also echoed similarities to the one their family had been working on.

“One day, Cantelo announced to his sons – also engineers – that he had perfected his new invention. It was a machine-gun, a weapon which used the energy of explosive recoil to load the next bullet. It would fire continuously until the bullets ran out. It was revolutionary” — BBC

Determined to uncover the truth, Cantelo’s sons attempted to confront Maxim. They reached out to him, but Maxim rebuffed their advances, claiming to be from America and denying any connection to the Isle of Wight, where the Cantelo family originated. This refusal only served to strengthen the sons’ belief that Maxim was their missing father, as only immediate family members were aware of their Isle of Wight origins. Maxim adamantly refused to meet with the boys, leaving them with more questions than answers.


As the investigation into Cantelo’s disappearance and the connection to Maxim unfolded, an intriguing detail emerged. Maxim had previously complained about an imposter impersonating him in America. This revelation led to speculation that Cantelo may have been leading a double life, using teleportation technology to move between identities and locations.

Maxim’s claims of teleportation technology, combined with evidence supporting his previous life in the United States, fueled the sons’ belief that their father had somehow mastered the art of teleporting himself. The similarities between Cantelo’s machine gun and Maxim’s invention further intensified the mystery.

The case of William Cantelo and Hiram Maxim remains unsolved, leaving us with more questions than answers. While some argue that Cantelo’s disappearance may have been connected to his efforts to sell his machine gun, others speculate about hidden entanglements or personal dramas that prompted him to abandon his old life. The truth may forever elude us, consigning the story of William Cantelo and Hiram Maxim to the realm of intriguing mysteries.

Death of Hiram Maxim

William Cantelo Hiram Maxim
Maxim is not just credited as the inventor of the rapid-firing, belt-fed gun – it bore his name. The Maxim Gun was the weapon of choice of the late-Victorian and Edwardian era, bringing industrialised efficiency to the business of killing people. Wikimedia Commons

As millions of Europe’s young men were busy machine-gunning each other to death in World War I, the inventor of the weapon died, a very rich man and a knight of the realm, on November 24, 1916 (aged 76). He was buried in a south London cemetery. His large and impressive monument contains no indication of what he invented. But his name is written in large letters – Sir Hiram Maxim.

Final words

The mysterious case of William Cantelo and Sir Hiram Maxim offers a glimpse into a world of invention, disappearance, and possible double lives. The enigmatic circumstances surrounding Cantelo’s vanishing and the subsequent rise of Maxim with his revolutionary inventions have provoked many minds. The resemblance between the two men, the similarities in their work, and the claims of teleportation add an extra layer of intrigue to the story. As the case remains unsolved, it leaves us pondering the fate of William Cantelo and the true identity of Sir Hiram Maxim.

After reading about the mysterious case of William Cantelo and Hiram Maxim, read about the mysterious vanishing of Louis Le Prince, and then read about the Fulcanelli — the alchemist who vanished into thin air.