Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Time Traveller in Charlie Chaplin Movie?

In a behind the scenes footage, part of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus” (1928) DVD, George Clarke found:

“A large woman dressed in black with a hat hiding most of her face, with what can only be described as a mobile phone device – talking as she walks alone. I have studied this film for over a year now – showing it to over 100 people and at a film festival, yet no-one can give any explanation as to what she is doing. My only theory – as well as many others – is simple… a time traveler on a mobile phone.”

Now here’s to our ordinary investigation, which I must say beforehand, won’t come to any definite conclusion since all we have is some seconds of a 1928 film where we can’t actually see what the woman is holding.

It could be anything, including nothing.


Theories abound, and besides the tantalizing idea of a cell phone from a time traveller, two more prosaic possibilities have been discussed. The first and to me, the most probable, is that the woman is simply using an ear trumpet, like this one, from Collect Medical Antiques:


To support this idea, note that her index and middle fingers are more extended, exactly as would be expected if she was holding not a candybar style mobile phone, but a more round object. Like an ear trumpet. Compare how she holds a supposed object with these pictures from Getty Images (left 1974, right 1954)


Those fellows, including English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams at right, were not using cell phones, but simple ear trumpets, available in those forms since very long agoo.

Then again, the woman attending the premiere of Chaplin’s “The Circus” could be holding nothing at all, and simply scratching her head (with her index and middle fingers) or merely blocking the glare of the Sun coming from her left.

The glare of the Sun, by the way, is what projects a shadow of her hand into her face, which is probably what many have confused with evidence of a black cell phone. Fact is, we can’t see what she is holding, if she is holding anything at all.

Granted, she does speak after she stops walking. Someone may have shouted that she was being filmed. If someone spoke to her at all.

But not to end this ordinary investigation without anything at all, let’s answer at least one little puzzle: Clarke wondered if the subject was even a woman, since her shoes seemed much too long. This is simple to explain: the aspect ratio of the image he captured from his widescreen TV is wrong.

If one corrects it, the elliptical sign at the background (“Now Playing Charlie Chaplin ‘The Circus’”) gets round again, and the horse and everything else, including the woman’s shoes, return a more normal aspect.


Even her hand and fingers seem more natural. And in my personal opinion, it seem she is actually using an ear trumpet.

Why would she use it while walking on the street, I don’t know. And judging from the many friends who suggested this topic to be blogged here (thank you all!), the idea that she was a time traveller using a communications device – with a transtemporal Eternal cell phone carrier – is certainly much more attractive.

The cellphone lady is just one more time traveller, along with the hipster and the punk.

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Posted in Fortean,Miscelaneous | 91 comments

91 Comments so far

  1. khashayar October 29th, 2010 3:48 pm

    thank you , it was interesting, cause I saw this clip a few days ago ,and now I can see some other points.
    telling that time travelling is totally impossible is not wise, cause we have seen so many advances in science in these years, but there are certain logical problems about what would stop time travelers from changing the history , which will certainly has effects on our lives.
    thanks again

  2. mchance27 October 29th, 2010 4:12 pm

    No cell tower? TARDIS.

  3. […] Time Traveller in Charlie Chaplin Movie? (en inglés) posted by Tachi in Choritos,Fraudes,General and have No Comments Tags: Charles Chaplin, Time Treveler, Viajeros del tiempo […]

  4. SGT October 30th, 2010 8:16 am

    After a careful analysis, I have concluded that what this footage depicts is not actually a woman but it is indeed the iPhone creator, Steve Jobs dressed incognito testing the iPhone 4 antennae problem. That’s how thorough he is.

    Mr. Jobs is obviously speaking to his engineers back at Apple to see if they could hear him clearly in 1928 as he transmits the cell signal through a wormhole in the space-time continuum which is being held open by an experimental iPad that is cleverly hidden under his cloak.

    …Simple explanation

  5. TWS161: Celebrating Weirdsgiving October 30th, 2010 9:04 am

    […] Fortunately, modern explanations of ancient and bizarre technology quickly stifle the notion that anything interesting really ever happens..: forgetomori – Time Traveller in Charlie Chaplin Movie? […]

  6. Raymond October 30th, 2010 10:21 am

    Then a other question, then to who is the woman talking to? the device in her hand looks diferent then a hearingdevice.

  7. frank October 30th, 2010 12:39 pm

    Quick note.

    The lady’s walk is in time with the chap in front. A common phenomenon which occurs with couples/ groups walking together.

    To me, this suggests that that’s whom she’s battering on to.

    But, anyone noticed the similarity between her and the old woman in the Giles cartoons? Coincidence?

  8. Laurie Hawkins October 31st, 2010 12:43 am

    I just think it’s odd that when she (he?) stops and turns towards the camera, she’s clearly talking and using the type of “cell phone body language” we often see today. …not saying that proves anything about time travel … just saying it’s odd.

  9. karen October 31st, 2010 1:09 am

    Pretty sure it’s something like this. And you you people never talked to yourself or mumbled to yourself?

    I think is is going to the movie (cause it was at the opening not the filming of the movie) and she was trying out her new hearing aid. And talking to herself.

  10. Telefono cellulare in un film di Chaplin? October 31st, 2010 7:03 am

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  11. […] Carr created this funny explanation for the “Charlie Chaplin time traveller”, a reference to Magritte’s “The Treachery of […]

  12. Anthony October 31st, 2010 10:31 am


    No. Watch it again, carefully. The man in front of her clearly has no relationship to the ‘talking woman’ behind him. He is walking at a rate of speed that far surpasses her. He is intent on moving forward and has no interest or connection to the woman who happens to be behind him for a period of time. And at the end of the clip, she begins to turn away in another direction entirely.

    Of course it is not a cell phone, and it is not a time traveler- but again, it is not an Ear Trumpet. That woman is conversing through a hand-held device of some sort- no doubt about it.

  13. Anonymous October 31st, 2010 1:54 pm

    […] […]

  14. Mordaxus October 31st, 2010 9:56 pm

    People also forget that time travelers (of which there are none, really) have already seen the little game of “spot the time traveler” and there’s a whole section devoted to it on the Dlisted web site starting in the fall of 3072. Duh.

  15. […] […]

  16. Bruce November 2nd, 2010 4:33 pm

    I can’t wait till we can go back in time to see what she’s holding!

  17. RBG November 2nd, 2010 11:33 pm

    whatever it is, it’s kinda weird but cool! I wanna be a time traveler or should I say a “JUMPER” (based from the movie Jumper).

  18. Robert Glen Fogarty November 4th, 2010 10:18 am

    I lived in Hollywood for about ten years and seeing people talking to themselves in front of the Chinese Theater is an age-old tradition. Nothing unusual about it at all!

    Sometimes they’ll holler at trash cans and bits of string, too.

  19. […] Time Traveller in Charlie Chaplin Movie? (en inglés) […]

  20. Nasima November 13th, 2010 9:52 pm

    Maybe she just had a tooth pulled and is holding ice to her face…..she looks like she’s talking cause she’s in pain and mumbling obscenities under her breath….

  21. klugscheisser November 29th, 2010 11:14 pm

    Hey man you really suck!

    Just because for you i can t be possible, that she is a time traveler, it must not be the case..

    Can you prove, if she isn`t one?

  22. Adam December 7th, 2010 12:42 pm

    Possibly a crazy woman talking to a shoe? 😀

  23. Bullshiter BigLebowski December 12th, 2010 6:29 pm

    klugscheisser: Can you prove that Speaking Banana doesn´t exist? Dumbass…

  24. Max December 26th, 2010 9:21 pm

    Towards the end of the video you can see that her hand is in fact empty, and that she moves her index fingure to scratch her head… she was probably just covering her face and then scratched an itch… she may have been talking aloud to nobody

  25. (P)erhaps a Cautionary Tale… | Sci-?nce! January 5th, 2011 9:14 am

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  27. jedilou January 13th, 2011 10:09 am

    If there’s anything, the woman was semi-transparent. Truly, compared with the man that passed before her, she passes through the background image. I’m thinking, what if these are lapses in time? Like a wormhole in parallel universes? It’s like on of those CCTV videos capturing people that pass through other seemingly normal people on the streets…

  28. Jenn March 22nd, 2011 3:14 am

    How come no one is talking about how she is talking or the fact that she has it pressed against her face. If you was trying to listen to stuff around yourself wouldn’t you have it pointed to what you are listening to. Also if you were trying to hide you’re face wouldn’t you lay your hand flat against you face? If you were hiding your face from the camera why would you turn and face it too. Plus she looks surprised by the fact the camera is there. And if she is talking to herself and crazy then why isn’t she carrying herself like she is crazy. If someone is a nutter you can spot. She is dressed nice and she even carries herself. In fact I think she looks like she is upperclass like she was talking care of herself. Plus if she was crazy and someone was taking care of her so she looked nice then why were they letting her walk around by herself? Idk just a few things my friend and I were discussing.

  29. Anthony March 23rd, 2011 4:17 pm

    Jenn- I made these points earlier. This woman is clearly speaking into a hand-held communications device of some sort. And she is not talking to anyone nearby her or to herself. Precisely what this ‘device’ is and what she is saying and to whom is a mystery.

  30. frank March 23rd, 2011 4:28 pm

    Fun, but now utterly, utterly debunked. Do a quick google search. Shame though, it would have been nice to believe in something. Unfortunatly life is dull. (except nature and the rest of the universe, but we just take that fer granted). X f

  31. Lisa meakin May 2nd, 2011 6:51 pm

    This is definitely a hearing aid. When the clip gets to 0.57 she turns towards us before the picture fades and you can clearly see something round sitting in the palm of her hand, just like the small trumpet hearing aids. She is talking then smiling so is probably being told that she is on film and to keep walking but obviously, she turns to look so they decide to fade out at that time. Unfortunately not a time traveller this time!!

  32. yokesreddy July 28th, 2011 12:25 pm

    it seams like she is cursing someone else on the communicator by being sent her to the 1928. in 1920s era, womens shoe are like that as it is made to use in urbans environments especially for custom made shoe. think about it.

  33. george October 29th, 2011 1:41 am

    el punto es que la señora no esta escuchando, esta hablando por ese aparato, eso lo hace ser muy extraño.

  34. Alice December 21st, 2011 4:46 pm

    This is an interesting one, though it does seems to have less potential than some of the other ”time travelers” with more background information.
    There’s quite a big possibility that she is actually holding an ear trumpet or even nothing. Maybe she was just shouting something to someone outside the film set, but of course no sound was recorded. It would’ve been interesting if she was an actual time traveler, but I don’t think so. What would be the point in traveling back to time, and then not leaving any trace except appearing in a Charlie Chaplin film for a few seconds? (Of course there could’ve happened something in a former timeline which didn’t happen because of something minor in the time travel itself, but you get my point.) And in the first place, why would she be holding a phone anyway? Of course she couldn’t call anyone, so the only reason why she would be taking a phone would be to take pictures of the past. But she isn’t taking pictures, she’s talking into the phone so that argument would be invalid even if it actually was a phone.

  35. dark December 29th, 2011 2:39 am

    She is talking and if you pay attention you will realize that the movie ‘Racing stripes’ is not that original xD

  36. […] Time Traveller in Charlie Chaplin Movie? (en inglés) Tags: Charles Chaplin, Time Treveler, Viajeros del tiempo […]

  37. Marion April 10th, 2012 6:13 pm

    Hi: This is all very interesting to me, because I have a pic. of my Great Grandmother who appears to be holding a cell phone. This picture that I have has to be from the mid to later 1870’s if I did the math right.
    Is there anyone out there who would like for me to send an email of this pic. to help identify on what she is holding. At first I thought it was a shadow, but when the pic. was printed out, it looks like she is holding something near her ear.

  38. Mordaxus April 10th, 2012 8:50 pm

    Marion, that’s great. Please let us know where we can see it. Post a link.

  39. […] látva többen arra gondoltak, egy id?utazó bukkant fel a 82 évvel ezel?tt forgatott moziban, a forgetomori azonban mindenkit megnyugtatott: a mobil valójában egy hallókürt lehet vagy a n? egyszer?en […]

  40. Umbriel April 17th, 2012 7:16 pm

    Seems to me like one would expect to hear music outside a circus, and a passerby might well have held up her trumpet to hear it better. I also wonder whether a wise hard-of-hearing pedestrian of that era might well have kept their trumpet in place while walking down a street, the better to hear oncoming traffic, warnings, etc. — a lesson modern earbud wearing pedestrians have yet to take to heart.

  41. James May 31st, 2012 3:46 am

    Watch the video again but instead look at the man who walks past first. It appears that something just appears in his hands just passing behind the zebra. ???

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