Screen grab of Clarke's zoom in of the Charlie Chaplin film 'The Circus.'

Time Traveler Caught on Film?

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

There’s a video making the rounds and creating buzz on the internet and we thought we might as well join in. Filmmaker George Clarke from Ireland is a Charlie Chaplin fan, and saw something unusual in a 1928 Chaplin movie called “The Circus.” In a crowd scene at the opening of the movie there appears to be a woman (or a man in drag) talking on a cell phone as she walks in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. In the video above, Clarke goes on about it for awhile, but at about 2:40 in, you can see the footage. This person has all the mannerisms of someone walking down the street and talking on a cell phone.


I’ve been checking around the web and no one seems to be able to come up with a good explanation, although there are lots of questions, such as, how could she be using a cell phone in 1928 since there were no cell phone towers or satellites at that time? Across the internet there are discussions of “Back to the Future”- like Walkie Talkies, alien homing devices, and pretty much everything else you can think of. My favorite discussion comes from the Washington Post, which claims this person is the worst time traveler ever, and the only reason no one has noticed this person before is “Because this may be the first time in history that someone has watched the DVD extras of “The Circus.” Forget the DVD extras! People didn’t even watch “The Circus” when it came out!”

It doesn’t appear this is a movie set, just film from taken out front of a real location. Anyway, its a weird video and there’s lots of discussion out there, but what are your thoughts?

Via SciBlogs

80 Responses

  1. XiXiDu says:

    Beings capable of time travel do not use cell phones.

  2. tacitus says:

    Got to agree that it’s a little ridiculous to treat this story seriously — there could be any number of explanations without having to resort to by far the most far-fetched possibility of them all. It would seem to me that she’s hiding her face from the camera and is maybe responding to the cameraman’s admonition when she pauses and looks partly in his direction.

    And why even assume that time travelers from a future where time-travel is possible (not any time soon), will still be using mobile phones that look like those we have today?

  3. BertL says:

    “I’ve been checking around the web and no one seems to be able to come up with an explanation” Really? Try harder.

    There have been several explanations, all far more plausible than “time traveller”. The woman might be holding a 1921 Vactuphone hearing aid against her ear. The woman might be having an earache. She might be trying to cover up her face for the camera.

    Really, all we can observe is that she is walking there with her hand against her ear, talking.

    My thoughts are that this article is really below Universe Today’s standards.

  4. bystander says:

    Can’t be a cell phone, no phone towers, lousy reception. Besides, who would she be talking to.

  5. BillSkinzFifth says:

    I usually love this site but I am in agreement with BERTL. This story has no business being on Universe Today.

  6. Sirius_Alpha says:

    Going to have to agree with the above. This is below UToday’s standards.

    This site seems to be sliding inexorably into another :(. Is it too much to ask to present unsensationalised science news?

  7. firecarp says:

    This article has inspired me to register after being an avid reader for the last year and a half. Come on Universe today! This is way below the standards I have grown to expect from you.
    “there’s lots of discussion out there”, by who? retarded children. No, that would be an insult to retarded children.

    The point is, it does not take much searching to find all kinds of ridiculous schlock like the above video.

    Oh and by the way, yesterday I saw a film of a fight between Sasquatch and a bear, true story.

  8. Nephish777 says:

    Possible explanation is, however the YouTube video does seem to show her talking as she is walking. (Just IF time travel would be possible, and IF the traveler was caught on film, then it could be a “Star Trek” type communicator to a base camp or ship.) I remember a science fiction short story with time travelers going from historic disasters and at times going to theaters to see certain actors.

  9. hydrazine says:

    I have to kinda agree: don’t see much space related story here and nothing really to be excited about. BTW, if you watch closely the last quarter of the second before she disappears from the screen you’ll see her move her hand in a manner not consistent with holding something. It looks more like she is fixing her hair or maybe an earring or something. But it could be really anything, c’mon get a grip on yourself.

    Kind regards,

  10. gjm says:

    It’s almost certainly a hearing aid. Plenty of examples available with a quick search. Good PR stunt for the guy, though.
    This technique, though, is probably the way we “discover” real time travellers, should such actually exist. With omnipresent cameras, any anachronistic technology will have a hard time hiding.

    Now to dress up and walk down the block to Grauman’s holding my iPhone to my left ear….

  11. JWarren says:

    Observation: Grainy video of someone holding something to their head.

    Conclusion: Time traveler using a cell phone.

    Come on, this is silly.

  12. Surak says:

    Wow. Nancy, hide your credulity! It ain’t pretty!

    It’s not a cell phone. It’s obviously a trans-dimensional quantum vortex frequency balancer, charging her life-force from the electric universe.. Obviously.

    I think I’ll be taking a break from this website for awhile.


  13. microverses says:

    Hmm. I figured this would be a place to really find a good discussion on this, you know – from a group of people that are into science and technology. Guess I was wrong.

    I think it’s very interesting, if it is a hearing aid of some sort, it is without electronics as transistors did not exist then. Why would the person be talking into it….if it’s a hearing aid? For what? To adjust the potentiometer that isn’t there?

    No walkie talkie, again….no transistors.

    Someone above mentions this is probably how we’d find a time traveler, yet discounts this. What criteria would be required….HD 1080P digital image of someone walking in a crowded subway??? Come on.

    I’m not saying there is not a rational explanation – though I don’t know what that is – but it is worth a look, because quantum mechanics says it’s not only possible, it’s also probable.

    And in the end, wouldn’t it be a jab at all of us for a person/being to time travel back to “The Circus”? I find that amusing.

  14. Radical_Ed says:

    It is possible that it’s a cell phone, more and less. although they don’t have satellites back in the 20’s nor cellphone towers, it is possible that the phone runs on Tachyon. after all if they can time travel, then they can probably communicate back to fucture

  15. Plausible says:

    Ok so heres what we know.

    1. Clearly talking into whatever he or she is holding to their ear.
    2. More then likely not a tube hearing aid which they did have back then, however none of them worked in the manner she is using it.
    3. Why would she be talking to her hearing aid? (Crazy? Possible)
    4. NOT A CELL PHONE! We need to think outside the box on this one.
    5. Why do we think it’s a cell phone? We of this time period think of her actions looking like talking on a cell phone because that’s what we look like when we talk on one.
    6. IF she is from the future it’s a very high probability that cell phone like technology has long since been considered outdated. Someone from that time period may have a completely different take on those particular actions. (holding something to your ear and talking) I know this seems ridiculous but u can’t think of something that is nothing like something already in place today) what I mean by that is, you can’t think of something you don’t know of. For example if you don’t know French you can’t think to yourself in French. We think it’s a cell phone because that’s what it looks like to us.
    7.Duh not a cell phone no satellites and no towers BUT! If the technology exists to safely travel back in time it would stand to reason that something would have also been developed to communicate at either end. Just like we can send someone into space but we would never do that unless we could communicate to them in some way.

  16. Plausible says:

    Its easy to poke fun at the time traveler theory and dont get me wrong that is highly unlikley. But none of the explanations so far are correct. So what the hell is she doing.
    oh and one other thing i forgot to mention she is cluching something because as u can see in the vid her fingers are bent over whatever she is holding. She isnt hiding her face from the camera.

  17. Jlazor says:

    This post is garbage.

  18. cipater says:

    The answer to the question of “then what is she doing?” is this:

    She can be doing any number of things, given the lack of good data.

    People talking on cellphones is ubiquitous to us. We see people doing this everywhere and we automatically know what they’re doing without even looking straight at them. Someone can be walking on the other side of the street, and I’ll never even look at them, but my brain has decided on its own that the person is talking on a cellphone, just from a peripheral impression of them. It’s automatic.

    Therefore, we see someone doing something just like this thing we see everyday, obviously our brains are gonna go “talking on cellphone.”

    But “talking with curled fingers held up to face” just about sums up the data here.

    I say she’s rubbing her ear and musing out loud to herself. Prove ME wrong.

    Speaking of poor data, we can’t even agree on the sex of this person.

    I’m starting to think that it’s a time traveler that’s responsible for Universe Today postings. Being from the future, they would certainly have an idea that this sort of news is the wave of the future, and will make much more money than boring ol science. Prove me wrong.

  19. Plausible says:

    I wasn’t really looking for an answer when i sd what is she doing. i simply mean the explanations so far are nonsense. And i believe i touched on what u sd about we associate that behavior with a cell phone and that’s why we keep saying its a cell phone clearly it isn’t. Even if lets just play into this fantasy for a second and say its a time traveler. That most certainly would not be a cell phone. U don’t see people today with a square shaped backpack are carrying an Abacus we say its most likely a laptop because why the hell would we need an abacus with the tech that we have today? It stands to reason that IFFFFFFF its a time traveler that’s not a “Cell Phone”
    More then likely the thing “it” is carrying is ur mom.

  20. Holy cow! I posted this early this morning as a sort of “here’s what the rest of the world is buzzing about” article, then scurried off to work on articles about new findings of the Spirit rover, new exoplanet information from Keck, the Kepler astroseismology results, the new ARTEMIS mission, an update on the shuttle launch and share a podcast I did about the LCROSS results. Then I came back to this article to find that people think that we aren’t covering space news as well as we should. Well, take a look at the aforementioned articles, as well as one by Nick about an ancient impact crater and one by Jason that has exclusive interview of an astronaut, and then come back and tell me UT isn’t covering the news. And those are just the articles from today — yesterday there is a wide variety of about 7 different topics. Tomorrow we’ll be here covering the latest news, too.

    How about a little love, folks? I can’t post an odd video that’s also being posted on places like the Washington Post, CBS News, Slashdot etc, without being tarred and feathered? You have to believe I’m not taking this video too seriously when my favorite quote from other sources is that nobody has ever watched this Charlie Chaplin movie before.

  21. cipater says:

    We tar and feather because we love.

    But in all seriousness, I can get all the viral ickiness (and truly, “viral” video is an appropriate dysphemism) that I need and wayyy more from sources like Facebook and… well just about everywhere else, actually. I first caught wind of this time traveller nonsense in a video game related chatroom a few nights ago.

  22. Sirius_Alpha says:

    “How about a little love, folks? I can’t post an odd video that’s also being posted on places like the Washington Post, CBS News, Slashdot etc, without being tarred and feathered?”

    Much in the same way that Vogt can be excused for his “100% chance of life,” claim, I suppose so.

    It leaves a foul aftertaste.

    Furthermore, I think I speak for a lot of us when I say all we seek is a place that delivers just the facts, *without* the nonsense floating around in the other, less-quality sites. This is what made UniverseToday an attractive site.

  23. Dominion says:

    i had to take several close looks to be sure but i’m fairly positive now that the “woman” is actually Pavel Chekov in disguise. He’s talking into what is clearly a standard issue star fleet communicator. Poor guy must still be looking for the nuclear wessel.

  24. Bill says:

    This is not a time traveler, it’s an alien who is a Charlie Chaplin
    fan and wants to disguise himself to be at the premiere. It’s not
    a hand but a glove covering his alien shaped hand. Look carefully
    and you’ll see where the glove and the wrist separate. Why in California
    is someone dressed like it’s winter in New York. The answer is that it’s
    short alien body, hidden by the winter overcoat. Think about the universal
    language of the silent films. Wouldn’t something of higher intelligence need
    a laugh! The device is communication device to his friends on the Mother
    Ship as they laugh about his progress. More logical than a time traveler with
    a cell phone as said befoe no stations or satellites.

  25. firecarp says:

    This is an elderly housewife dressed in appropriate garb for the day, either talking to herself as she holds her hand up to her face to block the sunlight, or tugging at her earring or maybe trying to casually cover the shiner her husband gave her last night (the lout). If you can read her lips she is speaking to her husband, who was the gentleman in front of her, she is saying “Henry, is that the Charlie Chaplin movie you were talking about last night? Henry, slow down, my ankle hurts. Henry if you don’t wait for me I will show everyone what you did to me. Henry! HENRY!”

  26. cactusmush says:

    C’mon relax everyone. Geez…. I’m a skeptic too but I enjoy this type of post. It gets people engaged – so to speak.

    The likely explanation is that the lady is holding a hearing aid – of the technology present at the time. She may be talking to someone ahead of her or she may be new to the hearing aid and may be talking to herself, in her excitement of the new device. Also being filmed on the street is a self-conscious experience (in the 1920’s or the 21st century even) so she may be exclaiming out loud to the film crew or passers-by and this is why she is talking, laughing & smiling.

    I am not too negative on the guy who posted it. He simply did not do his googling (or binging) before he posted and thus he was not aware of the existence of such devices. He was open with his commentary and had the courage to allow comments on his YouTube post. This is a step above most UFO and 9/11 nut jobs who post wildly misunderstood videos and then close the post to comments – so they may couch themselves in their own illusions forever….

  27. Uncle Fred says:

    Though I understand the need for a good joke and discussion, I much prefer to get those on facebook and over a family dinner. I like Universetoday because it generally stays away from viral videos.

    I think I might take a break from the site to for awhile.

  28. jbuz says:

    tape recorder???

  29. howdy says:

    pffft obviuosly its a time traveler, who has had a break down and is stuck in 1928. So it would stand to reason that they had to jury rig a communication device that would allow them to call “home” using only 1929 materials. This explains why the device looks so dated, like something out of the 21st century….. Seriously though you have to admit it that it does look like she’s talking on a phone, kinda cool that he came upo with this great topic to get his name out there.

  30. BillSkinzFifth says:

    Hey Nancy-

    I would like to apologize to you on behalf of myself and the others for the barrage of angry posts over this story. I was so thrown off base with this article that I was moved enough to create a account just to comment on this one story. My comment was summed up as something that has no business on this site…

    In hindsight, that’s none of my business…

    I still understand some of the outrage over this story because it’s really frustrating when nonsensical stories get legs and become part of popular culture. [e.g. Paranormal, UFOs, chupacabras, ghosts, time traveling cell users etc.] while the majority of the population remains woefully ignorant of real scientific advances and discoveries.

    I think it’s just that this article seems so far out in left field from the norm on this site that we were all thrown for a loop. It would be like posting an article about a flat earth and asking for a serious debate to its legitimacy…

    Ultimately, you do provide a fantastic site that I for one can say I read on a daily basis and will continue to do so. I’m sure none of the other people, who were quite a bit more aggressive in their attacks, spend a great deal of their personal time creating and maintaining a massive repository of scientific knowledge and offer it up to the public for free…

    So, that said… I’ll keep coming back. I’ll just try and not take the silly stories so seriously. 😀



  31. avshel says:

    You asked for a possible explanation. Nothing is for sure…BUT…1) ear devices are for certain ruled out! They do not have that form and shape and the fingers bend to hold it in such a fashion…besides there must be someone next to her to talk with.
    2) I thought at first it might certainly be a walkie -talkie but then the very first walkie talkie was used in the 1940’s and were very bulkie and with an antenna. 3) If it was a cell phone as we know it today, as one commentator pointed out, it requires stations for transmission…not in 1928 for sure. So, this leaves us with two other possibilities… 4) A time traveler from the future holding a device that does not require transmission stations because they use technology that transcends time and space or 5) An alien dressed up as a human speaking to a spaceship somewhere in the sky. It is either #4 or #5. Take your pick.

  32. Jay Rider says:

    Nancy, just wanted to chime in my support for all the awesome work you guys do here on UT. Being a daily reader and appreciator of the diversity of space related news that’s constantly churned up here, just wanted to say thanks for this fun post!

    After expanding on all the other interesting news from today (love the star symphony one), I figured what the heck, let’s check out the whacky time traveler story.

    To all the negative knee-jerk commenters: now, we all know our entropy law and the arrow of time and until there’s a credible theory for backwards travel in time, be mature enough to know when to take things light-heartedly. And besides, the choice is yours to ignore stories that bother you, so don’t just join to leave negative comments, like is prevalent across internet forums, but join to contribute something positive.

    Keep going strong, Nancy. Looking forward to launch day 😀

  33. Surak says:

    Nancy, I think you missed the point of why people were offended by this post. And if you are just meaning to post ‘what the world is buzzing about’ then I expect tomorrow it will be all Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan … and just as irrelevant for UT.

    It’s not because you posted a story that wasn’t about space, it’s because you posted a story that helps promote a kook with a wackaloon idea … and you posted it as if there was some merit to the wacky explanations others have given.

    The video is nothing more than pareidolia, yet another example that things we don’t understand should not be assumed to be UFO’s / aliens / time travellers / ghosts / god(s).

    Prove to me that it’s not just a confused lady mumbling to herself, pausing to figure out where she means to go.

    We can’t see the film production crew and the film gear … but it would have been obvious to her and maybe intimidating to her, making her cover her face.

    … but oh no, instead lets jump on the bandwagon and help spread the quack news to as many people as possible that with no proof whatsoever, a time traveller has been caught in the act!

    You may as well write stories promoting the Electric Universe and invite back all those quacks to comment.

  34. qraal says:

    As always the Damned Data are dissected into obscurity by the established points of view.

    A bit of historical research would clear this up, but the sceptics are too lazy, as usual to bother beyond nay-saying and bitchiness.

    We learn from the Anomalous, people! Think!

  35. MarkW says:

    It can’t be a time traveller. If time travel were possible, someone would have come back by now to kill George Lucas.

  36. davesmith_au says:

    I can’t understand why so many hostile replies. On a site which is happy to discuss black holes, the big bang, neutron stars, etc like they are established fact instead of theories, what’s wrong with a little time-travel thrown into the mix?… Now please excuse me, I’m off to find some balanced reporting of scientific news.

  37. Agnes says:

    The lady holds an antique hearingdevice.
    See article below:

    Concealed Hearing Devices of the 20th Century

    Courtesy of Sonotone

    During the 20th century, aids for hearing evolved from mechanical to electrical devices. Using an external power source, sounds could now be made louder than was possible with earlier mechanical designs. Consequently, hearing aids were able to provide amplification of sound to those even with severe to profound hearing loss. Coincident with the change from mechanical to electrical designs were advances in technology that paved the way for innovative designs of concealed hearing aids and allowed for manufacture of hearing aids at more affordable prices.

    Early Electrical Hearing Aids were based on telephone technology invented by Alexander Graham Bell in the late 19th century. A carbon-granule microphone in combination with a battery could produce sound at an earphone at levels greater than those possible with mechanical devices. Carbon hearing aids, while effective for moderate losses, had limited amplification and poor-to-moderate sound fidelity.
    Acousticon Model 28, 1927 Acousticon Model 28, 1927
    This hearing aid is typical of early electrical hearing aids. It was large and not easily transportable – the batteries were cumbersome and the carbon components were highly sensitive to heat and cold.
    DeForest Universal Audiophone, 1938

    Acousticon Model 56, 1928
    DeForest Universal Audiophone, 1938 Acousticon Model 56, 1928
    Concealed designs were limited primarily to stationary items resembling tabletop appliances such as radios.
    French Electric “Camera”
    French Electric camera-styled hearing device
    This aid, manufactured by the French Electric Co., around 1930, is housed in an interesting camera-style case. This is an unusual example of an electrical concealed hearing device.
    Amplivox Purse
    Amplivox “Purse”
    One ingenious example of a carbon hearing aid designed for camouflage was the purse model by Amplivox created around 1935. The purse contained the battery pack and microphone and the user held the earpiece to her ear while holding the purse so the microphone faced the talker.

    Courtesy of Amplivox/Ultratone Museum

    Siemens Halske wallet hearing aid

    Siemens Halske ladies’ handbag hearing device

    Siemens Halske ladies’ handbag hearing device
    Siemens Halske Wallet and Purse hearing aids, 1920s
    The Siemens Halske Company, founded in 1847 to build telegraph lines, was located near Berlin, Germany. A medical department was organized in 1877, and in 1910 the company began manufacturing hearing devices. These illustrations of devices from a 1920s Siemens Halske catalog show a wallet hearing aid and aids concealed in ladies’ handbags.

    “In America the users of hearing devices seem to be more inclined to accept the electrically amplified instruments. It is also noticeable that comparatively few use any form of camouflaged trumpets . . . ”

    — Max A. Goldstein, M.D., 1933

  38. sieben says:

    How about the fact, that we not see original footage from 1928. For what reason ever they faked this material and forgot to cut that out? Time traveler is hard to belive so, i guess there must be another explenation for this.

  39. Uncle Fred says:

    It’s either a women fingering her hair, or an antique hearing device like this one:

    Siemens? 1924 hearing aid

    Case closed.

  40. Uncle Fred says:

    It’s almost certainly a hearing aid. Go to Google, search:

    “Siemens? 1924 hearing aid”

    and checkout the first result. Funny those 1920’s people are doing the exact same thing as in this video….

    This guy’s 15 min. of fame are up. Case closed.

  41. avshel says:

    Hee!Heee! HEEE! Uncle Fred! I saw the Siemens website. Besides, a hearing aid would be for hearing. That person was clearly TALKING to someone. Ah! You mean to herself?? That could be. So, unless she was a loony, it was NO hearing aid.


    She was either a time traveler from the future holding a device that does not require transmission stations because they use technology that transcends time and space or an alien dressed up as a human speaking to a spaceship somewhere in the sky.

  42. Nexus says:

    Avshel, how have you ruled out the possibility that this lady is muttering to herself?

  43. pcp says:

    Without intending to sound cheesy here, the exact nature of discovery within science is based on 100 crazy ideas with one ending up being correct. This is almost certainly someone being camera shy or holding a hearing aid, but if it`s something that may be interesting, provoke a fair bit of opinion (and emotion), and therefore – presuming the moderator has some standard of censure – should be on this page. Well done Nancy

  44. idlelimey says:

    @ Nancy, I actually quite liked this post. I also like pretty much all the posts on this site. I think it’s a shame that the comments are getting a bit too ‘Youtube’ and everyone should take a step back and wonder what is wrong in their lives when they blow steam over an article.

    UT is well respected, I seriously doubt that this post has ruined the reputation of this blog, as some have suggested. I actually thought someone might quickly come up with a definitive answer to the riddle. Perhaps you should stop posting WITU too? Or not.

    For what it’s worth, I liked this post and I’m about to share it on FB. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  45. jcent says:

    I am surprised as anyone to find this story on this wonderful site. I didnt see anyone mention this take on it…

    The man who appears in front of the woman in question is clearly walking faster than her and had just passed her as he walked by. He doesn’t even glance her way or act in all like there is something unusual she is doing. If she was in fact holding a device never introduced in those years, wouldn’t the man at least look in her direction curiously? Obviously, there is nothing out of the ordinary happening here, (a time traveler talking on a cell phone would probably get the guys attention walking by her)

  46. LS says:

    The fact that the supposed footage is captured from a TV screen is very dodgy, and is a trick commonly employed by UFO-fakers to mask their fakery. After all, anyone who can edit/produce videos like that one surely would have the know-how to rip the DVD footage directly (even I can do that, just by using VLC).

    He’s also promoting himself and probably affiliated with the DVD box set distributor that he encourages everyone to buy. I smell a rat.

  47. Jon Hanford says:

    Besides the “cell phone”, what about some of the other odd “items” seen in the “full length” film clip?

    (btw, I first caught this story on NBC Nightly News [see beginning of the video clip] and thought it amusing. Seeing it posted here, I was curious to see if other readers would play along with the story and offer other “explanations”. Well, some took the gambit. FWIW, I enjoyed the write-up and see a few other readers had fun playing along too. Thanks Nancy. 😀


    “i had to take several close looks to be sure but i’m fairly positive now that the “woman” is actually Pavel Chekov in disguise. He’s talking into what is clearly a standard issue star fleet communicator. Poor guy must still be looking for the nuclear wessel.”

    LOL, My ‘trek brain’ figured this was Spock trying to hide his pointy ears ala “City on the Edge of Forever”. 🙂

  48. Bloody hell, no wonder the sceptical movement is treated with such distaste by the superstitious majority. To all the ‘flamers’ of this article: listen to yourselves! You unforgiving, arrogant-sounding know-it-alls! OF COURSE THIS IS NOT A TIME-TRAVELLER CAUGHT ON FILM! NANCY DOES NOT FOR A SECOND BELIEVE THAT IT IS, AND NOR DOES UNIVERSE TODAY! Nancy simply thought you would be an intelligent, mature, and decent enough bunch of people to enjoy a momentary humorous chat, before moving on to regular business. Clearly she was sorely mistaken.

    Nancy, I empathise completely – I am an extreme sceptic, I manage the UK’s busiest small digital planetarium, and administrate a popular Facebook page ( – and although I, like you, try hard to communicate science to my particular audience, it never ceases to amaze me how many haughty, ‘holier-than-thou’ so-called scientifically-minded people exist out there! Sigh. I guess just holding a rational world-view does not necessarily make you a nice, pleasant and mature human being.

    Looking over all the acrid comments once more, I just cannot believe the bunch of childish snobs who voiced their opinions. I certainly hope these loudmouths are all also activist members of sceptical, humanist and secularist organisations, where their (negative) energy is actually put to good use.

    Mario Di Maggio
    Thinktank Planetarium, UK

  49. joseluis7696 says:

    Interesting.. I had never noticed that people could talk into their hearing aids, antique or modern models.

    Now, this is a Film, it could be that Chaplin just wanted to include freaks in a circus story and had no better idea than to anticipate mobile phones. the Dick Tracy’s sort of thing, only that back in 1928…

  50. avshel says:

    NEXUS! It may very well be the case…in which case it may further show that she was talking to someone and ruling out the possibility of her being a time traveler or an alien would also not be prudent.

  51. MartyLK says:

    Not a cellphone. It is simply an ear trumpet and she is chewing the cudd, so to speak, like most country-style old folks are known for doing. For one thing, the arc of the trumpet is visible toward the back of the head and her fingers aren’t holding a straight-edged device, there’s a bit of curvature going along with a common ear trumpet.

    One thing I am certain of is she is chewing the cudd, rather than producing words.

  52. Jim Krug says:

    The amount of totally arrogant replies in this thread is disappointing, but not at all surprising. I’m guessing a lot of the same people here- had they been alive 2000+ years ago- would’ve been all the more ready to toss Aristarchus of Samos in jail for suggesting the Earth went around the Sun.

    I believe this mindset also explains why the “scientific” community has made little progress on matters of UFOs, crop circles, etc.: many here are willing to immediately abandon the scientific method if they’re nervous at the outcomes it might produce.

    Thanks to those who actually took the topic seriously, and thanks to Nancy for posting it. The thing I wonder about the most is this:

    If you read any respected time travel book by Kaku, Hawking, etc., they usually only outline 2 possible theories of traveling back to the past: Timescape, and Many Worlds.

    But what if there were a third? What if we really don’t understand causality like we think we do, and a time traveler could go back in time AFTER this movie was originally made, and insert himself into it? Although not seriously considered by physicists, it would align with what many great sci-fi time travel flicks like Back to the Future and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure have depicted.


  53. santafedog says:

    a handshake, pat on the back or big hug to Nancy. I love when stuffed shirts get jacked up. Scientists have taken themselves so seriously so long that a lot of the lunar fringe religions believe it is black magic. Science needs to be a little more human so humans can relate to it.
    While this might have been more appropiate on April first, it has caused a huge reaction from many i never see posting in here and that is a wonderful thing to see.
    By the way, After finally looking at the vid clip, if you notice, her hand opens right in the last frames and anything she was carrying would have dropped out. The guy who put this out edited it pretty carefully, but went a couple of frames too long. First, this was an extra on a movie set and odd things happen there and two, many people in that day and age had bedbugs or fleas or boils along their hat lines. Or maybe she was stalking that guy with a knife in her hand!
    Every once in awhile he really need to get our cages rattled.
    Thanks again, Nancy.
    Brad C.

  54. damian says:

    Like it or not, the long list of comments on this story suggests it has engaged more of you then other posts on UT do. 🙂

    Personally I was bitching about this farcical extrapolation before it appeared here.

    But it is interesting how hungry the human psyche is for mystery, or validation of existentialism over the rationality inherent in science.

    I would also like to point out that humans today or even perhaps thought history tend to look to existentialist concepts, like gods, faries, space travel, time travel and externalize them, attributing the mystery to something that is not us. But I would like to say that it is us.; These ideas all spring from the human imagination, and that about a whole level of wonderful speculation about predetermination of reality.

    Think about color, all light is a wavelength, every human sees colors differently. We can agree that what we see by a social classification, using words and labels, however each brain interprets it in their own way. We see color because we classify the differences our brain can perceive.

    So in reality the universe has no color, its just the way we interpret it.
    The metaphysical question is do intelligences generate reality.

    If we can imagine time travel, are we creating the reality that will make that possible. Technically the future is not yet written, and somehow on a gut level I dont think anyone will be able to go into the future. But thats just my opinion.


  55. TomSaidak says:

    I have two explanations that would explain what we can see in the film clip…

    Regarding hearing aids. My grandmother, Cybil wore a hearing aid. It was worn as a necklace – picture a 1970’s AM portable radio, with a lanyard, and earphones that carried the amplified sound. And this in about 1935 or so.

    Instead of wearing both earpones, picture instead the woman in the picture, was holding a single headset earphone to her ear. So far, so good – but why was she talking??

    Imagine, you are in your late 60’s or early 70’s, and you haven’t heard yourself talk for say, 30 years. Think you might be fascinated by hearing your own voice for the first time in decades? Or, because you haven’t hear yourself talk, you might be fascinated by how your own voice sounds?

    Another possibility… If the woman had been deaf for long enough, her ability to to talk will have been compromised. Imagine that your family has been writing notes – “Quit talking – I can’t understand you….” Suddenly, you can now hear yourself. How hard, how often, would you practice talking so people could understand you? If you can’t image this – find recordings of Helen Keller.

    Explanation #2…..
    Crystal radios were built as early as WWI – you CAN find instructions on how to build a “trench” crystal radio. In 1928, Edison tried marketing a crystal radio as a cheap alternative to a 6 vacuum tube radio. If you look at the video, and look at the FINGERS, the curve is consistent with holding a 3/4″ to 1 1/4″ depth round object, i.e, a one sided headphone. She could be carrying a crystal radio set with a single ear headphone. I have personally built crystal radios that were capable of powering a military style headset. Her talking would then be explained as talking to either the man in front of her (Husband??) or talking to the radio show. How many of us have a family member “telling” Oprah Winfrey what to say or to ask her guest?

    My wife has given me permission to admit she talks to television shows ALL the time….. Trust me, from my perspective it isn’t that hard to imagine….

  56. meteoricide says:

    It’s hard to believe hearing aid technology began at the point of being the size and shape of today’s cell phones; yet telephones languished for 50 years being the size and weight of the average stenograph. There have been occasions while conducting patent searches to prove the patentability of a product or process, where I have found the the core technologies I’m researching described verbatim in a competing patent writeup; yet the patent is for a completely unrelated product or process than that which I’m looking for. The path I’m on was there hiding in plain sight before the competing inventors, yet they ended up in a totally different place. Technology advancement (or it’s non-equivalent), like the rest of existence (or it’s non-equivalent), is at the whim of the winds of chaos … all we can do is set the sail, & hang on for the ride. Have a great trip!

  57. Ziggy says:

    She’s just a bag lady scratching her head and talking to herself, pfff come on guys time travellers!

  58. wjwbudro says:

    I wasn’t aware that fade in/out cinematography technique had been developed back then. Can anyone explain how she faded from the scene at the end?

  59. Belle says:

    I’m new to your site.

    Unlike the others, I find this fascinating.

    Perhaps it’s not a time traveler on a cellphone, but an extra-terrestrial on a communication device.

  60. TheGhost says:

    Greetings to all,
    I Also find this to be a fascinating idea. As has previously been stated, how else would you detect a time traveler? (Such things are allowed by the General Theory of Relativity.)

    To respond to WJWBUDRO: a relatively simple cross-fade (now known as a ‘Cross-dissolve’) will produce the effect shown. Without doing any actual checking, we can say that such effects have been around for a long time. (Pun Intended!)

    To Ms. Nancy Atkinson, We thank you for bring this bit of unsettling information to our attention. One only has to look at the knee-jerk reaction of some of the early responders to gage the story’s impact.

    As we see it: The film in question appears to show a man (Never mind the TV issue.) talking into a device held in his right hand. This may just be a trick of light and shadow, however, Who talks in a silent movie?
    We would also point out that his/her clothing is rather more remindful of the era of Sherlock Holmes. i.e. About fifty years or so before this film was shot.
    To further the conjecture, You can bet that if we had just booked our time travel vacation to the past English time of the great literature, and found ourself’s standing in Hollywood (Or there abouts!) we certainly would be on the Chrono-Phone (Or its equivalent) post-haste!
    (It would be fascinating to see if a skilled lip reader could determine what he is saying! … In English? … From some future time?)

    We don’t know what we don’t know,
    The Ghost In The Machine

  61. TheGhost says:

    Sorry about that,
    I meant to reference the subjects Left Hand in Paragraph four; Sentence one, of the previous post.
    The Ghost In The Machine

  62. Agnes says:

    This lady was just talking, saying maybe anything… because she knew they where filming her.
    Actually, if you look at footage from the first part of the 20th century -especially news footage showing people in a situation where they knew they where filmed – you will see that most of them are talking, to give themselves a pose before the camera. Check out any images of historical moments from that time and you will see that there is nothing unusual about that lady talking “to herself”.

    Warmest regards to Nancy!

  63. wjwbudro says:

    Thanks Ghost but, per Wikipedia, “fading” as pertaining to cinematography describes the whole scene fading (in/out) not individual objects or subjects within the scene. Then again I do recall this effect (but not as cleanly) in films in the 40’s like “the invisible man”. In our case here, she slowly and completely disappears at the end of the clip. And why would they go to the trouble of using the technique for this clip?
    Could it be that she time shifted back to her origin or shifted somewhere/time else?
    Maybe she was only caught in the right frame frequency of the film and was otherwise invisible to the folks in and out of the scene and that’s why she was completely ignored.
    Spooky…kinda fits into the

  64. wjwbudro says:

    Sorry folks. Looked again and it seems the whole scene (with the lady) fades out and fades in to a different scene (without the lady). After further research, it seems the cinematography technique was at least described as early as 1918.

  65. TheGhost says:

    Greetings to All,
    We really must remember to be totally accurate when dealing with thinking people!

    To WJWBUDRO, The technique used appears to be a ‘Cross-Dissolve’ wherein one clip is “Dissolved” into the next. We used the term “Cross-Fade” when replying before to transition from your post to the information being provided. (We tried to patch the verbal hole by posting “… now known as …”)
    In a Cross-Fade the lead clip is faded to black (Most Common) or white, while the second clip is faded in from black or white usually at the same rate.
    In the Cross-Dissolve the two clips are in effect mixed, without the brightness of them being changed. This results in the effect of non-common items in the two clips appearing to fade-out or fade-in. (A good example of this can be seen about two and one-half minutes into this clip: phantom forklift? We think not.))
    We deeply regret any misunderstanding our faux pas may have caused.

    Getting back to the object causing so much trouble; gauging by the enlargement at the top of this column, what actual size do you think it is? The device may be about the size of a medium sized remote control, but we noticed that it may be wider than it has been accredited. We noticed that the front of the object seems to span from the palm / finger joint to the bottom of the glove, while the back portion appears to be about two inches wide. Possibly making it triangular in shape? Possibly nothing more than a black handkerchief?

    We may never know,
    But eternity is a very long time,
    The Ghost In The Machine

  66. wjwbudro says:

    My sincere apology Ghost, I am getting a bit lazy in my old age. I didn’t engage the gray matter and distinguish btwn cross-fade and cross-dissolve.
    I suppose 1928 isn’t that long ago.Never too old to learn something new.
    Many thanks for the enlightenment.

  67. kepler says:

    If you check this link you will see that the temperature in Los Angeles during the last week of January 1928 was between 70-80′ F, so our ‘time traveler’ seems to be overdressed for the climate. If you look at the face of the person, he or she really doesn’t seem to be very old, possibly middle age. And the footwear is odd. Strange pointed shoes. Are those really period shoes? The person also has a limp and is favoring their left leg. This is more obvious at normal speed if you look. And how far away was the camera? How large was it? Was the person aware of it being there? In any case, the person, despite looking in the direction of the camera, continues talking and doesn’t rally seem to be paying attention to any camera if they were aware of it. I have no idea what any of this means in relation to the cell phone claim, time traveler hypothesis.

  68. kendingo says:

    I reckon this is a dictaphone see link

    Also J Edgar Hoover believed that Charlie Chaplin was a communist/ subversive who was having his movements monitored. Is it possible this could be an undercover agent posing as an extra? He was speaking into the dictaphone perhaps taking notes on Chaplins movements.

  69. wjwbudro says:

    @EFFIE. For listening yes, not talking.
    @KENDINGO, I like that idea. lol

  70. wjwbudro says:

    @EFFIE. Then again, as previously speculated, maybe she liked to hear herself talk into her new aid.
    Time to bury this dead horse maybe?

  71. Effie says:

    🙂 Indeed WJWBUDRO 🙂 She is using it for listening and she is also talking to herself!! The lady has a few problems 🙂 Have a good day

  72. Nyx says:

    There is no point in going to the past, wearing that attire to mingle with the people there, and then using in public an impressive device that screams: “hello I’m not from your time!”. And with a camera that is filming you too. Nobody seems to care about her, like if there were nothing extraordinary.

    I expected some debunking from the article above though, but Nancy asked what we think about that and the comments here are interesting.

  73. HolyAvengerOne says:

    Notwithstanding the above debate, for some crazy reason, the first thing I thought as I watched that video was that time travelers, if anything, wouldn’t look like fat ladies.

  74. icecycle says:

    Personally, I tend to think this is a joke added to the DVD.
    It would not be that hard to do and the best practical jokes lately (ala Aphex Twin) are found by accident.
    My second guess would be an almost human alien from a near by universe, but that is a very poor disguise and phoning home is a dead giveaway.
    “Hi, just checking on the hatchlings; well, try the microwave, that always works.”
    In any case not long for this world; roaming charges are our first line of defense against ET.

  75. ntukka says:

    Fun though it is to bash the idea that she/he is using a cell phone, I like to think people are too closed minded sometimes. Not to say I think she/he is time traveling, but, like most respectable people, I’ve taken some time to surf the web for everyone’s explanations. Basically, most people think it’s fake. But the best one I’ve heard so far (and the one I tend to believe) is that it’s a prank. Not something edited in afterwards, goodness no, but I’ve read in many places that it seems Chaplin liked to believe in the ability to time travel himself. Also, he may have perceived that communication devices would gradually shrink in size and that sometime in the future people might use small handheld devices. So wouldn’t it be just hilarious to ask a woman/man to walk past the camera talking into a small black box? That way when the time came that people DID use such devices, it would cause all this hype and hoopla about thie video’s special feature. Chaplin was joking around. I’m quoting from my previous source, “It may be the greatest Hollywood prank of all time.”

  76. a_rat says:

    Actually, I took it as a bit of a “take the Micky” sort of thing,
    and it gave me an excuse to reflect on some things.
    But seeing as so many here are taking this seriously, and doing both their credulity and/or mortality some serious trauma, let me end it now.

    The reason physics formula will not give “the arrow of time” a direction, can not be understood until you stop using Euclidean geometry, and start representing the universe with the fractal geometry of which is so obvious everywhere we look.
    When you understand the formula for the fractal shape of space, then the fractal shape of time will become obvious, as will the way space and time interlock and how one drives the other – THEN you will understand the so called “arrow of time”
    it IS a cell phone, I was so excited when i realized where i was, i forgot myself. It took a minute and a fair bit of swearing to figure out why my calls weren’t going through.

  77. Begin says:

    she doesn’t have a cell phone, she has schizophrenia
    and an ear ache.

  78. imagine says:

    A majority of you folks posting here who quickly dismiss theories are real sticks-in-the-mud. You lack imagination to any interesting depth. Sort of takes all the fun out of life doesn’t it? If you dismiss without KNOWING for sure what in the heck that dang man-lady-whatever is really doing, you are just close-minded or too skeptical. Life shouldn’t be as boring as you make it. You angry dorks! I guess i’d say that what we see in the video is explainable but not necessaryily truly knowable with 100% certainty. Therefore, any explanation, as we see in the posts above, are being imagined and can be possible.

  79. Koowie says:

    That is the worst time traveler. You would think he has an iPhone and not that junk.

Comments are closed.