Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Understanding the “Time Travellers”


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

Many suggested the old woman was using an early electric hearing aid (such as this one from Siemens), but Jeremy Hsu from LiveScience found the ear trumpet above, used from mid to late 19th century. An ear trumpet, more affordable and common, available in countless forms, is probably what the woman was holding.

As we noted, “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.


So this is yet another example of contemporary fashion interpreted outside the context of past eras. Nowadays we have inconspicuous tiny electronic hearing aids, but people go around holding phones to their ears. A century ago people held hearing aids in exactly the same fashion, though that probably wouldn’t have been that fashionable.

HiLobrow compiled more examples of “time travellers” with cellphones and PDAs, the best of which must be this one of Apollo taking a picture with his phone – or as someone mentioned, perhaps trying to get a better signal from the transtemporal carrier?


It illustrates perfectly what goes on here, our contemporary mannerisms cast upon past snapshots. Or evidence that a Greek god with a transtemporal iPhone also dealt with bad reception. [via BB, TDW]

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Posted in Fortean,Miscelaneous | 16 comments

16 Comments so far

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Giorgos Feeds, FoxArtCultTech. FoxArtCultTech said: Understanding the “Time Travellers” http://goo.gl/fb/ezqyU […]

  2. Mordaxus October 31st, 2010 9:54 pm

    Tsk. That should be ceci n’est pas un cornet acoustique.

    Obviously, your zeal over pointing out that’s no time traveler overcame your understanding of Dada.

  3. rolf October 31st, 2010 11:49 pm

    bodily travelling into the past is impossible (think)
    travelling into the future is theoretically possible if you can travel fast enough and then come back. (Einstein)

  4. Anonymous November 1st, 2010 8:06 am

    […] Aqui os dejo un par de enlaces interesantes : http://hearing.siemens.com/sg/10-abo….jsp?year=1924 http://forgetomori.com/2010/fortean/…me-travellers/ […]

  5. ron November 2nd, 2010 11:23 am

    mordazus, its should be “this is not a phone.”

    obviously your zeal in pointing out that its not an accurate riff on magrittes painting overcame your understanding of debunking.

    if it just said “this is not an ear trumpet” people wouldnt get that it is referring to the “time traveller.”

    and magritte was a surrealist, not dadaist.

  6. Keldroc November 2nd, 2010 5:00 pm

    No, it should be what it is. That’s the joke.

  7. Vern_B November 3rd, 2010 5:23 am

    Captain Disillusion makes a fairly good case from a filmmaker’s perspective (diagram and all) for the woman shading her eyes from the sun’s glare.


  8. Eli November 3rd, 2010 6:37 pm

    If you had bothered to look more closely at the video, you would have seen that your claim that the object is an ear trumpet rests on a rather dubious perception. It is not at all clear, as you claim, that her fingers are in a posture that clearly signifies a rounded device like an ear trumpet. Depending upon how one looks at it, one can imagine any number of things, but the quality, at least in the images given on the internet, makes such an identification impossible, leaving only wishful thinking, your wishful thinking that her finger postures can clearly be deduced to be more rounded, and the wishful thinking of the time traveler proponents who claim her finger postures are clearly not rounded but more akin to what one would expect from a thin square object (such as, in their interpretation, a cellular phone). It is wishful thinking on both sides. However, if one takes the time to look at the visible part of the object, when the lady turns towards the camera, one can see only a thin black squared shape seemingly quite unlike any of the more rounded and more “flared” (by which I mean that the its diameter expands towards the end) ear trumpets that have been shown in this or in other debunking articles. Furthermore, if the object IS an ear trumpet, who is she trying to listen to? She appears quite alone in the video, no one seems to be talking to her, whereas she appears to be talking, though admittedly it is possible someone was talking to her outside of the view of the camera or that she was trying to listen to something else like music or an announcer, and it’s also possible that she wasn’t talking at all but perhaps rolling her dentures around in her mouth or something that resembled talking. The point is, the video as it stands now cannot provide an effective identification of the object nor clearly demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt whether there were any sources of sound she might have been trying to listen to by means of an ear trumpet or whether she was even in fact talking or moving her mouth for some other reason or reasons. As such the “ear trumpet” notion is as much wishful thinking as the “time traveler” notion. Most likely there is a very simple and non-Paranormal explanation, but given the weakness of the data upon which any identification must be made, any hypothesis whether mundane or Paranormal can only be regarded as a projection of the belief system of the viewer, who sees what they want to see or, like me, accepts that they do not know what they see in the video other than an old woman carrying something, holding it to the side of her head, and appearing to talk (though it would also be wishful thinking to assume she was talking “into” the object, if she even was in fact talking at all). Most likely we will never have a clear explanation, and it may have been something as simple as an ear trumpet or possibly just an old crazy lady talking into a box, or it may have been something more unusual or mysterious. We just aren’t likely ever to know for sure. That said… if the quality of the video was clear enough to permit it (which I doubt… one could conceivably run a face-recognition analysis on the woman to see if she is anyone living now, operating on the assumption that within the lifetime of people living now it may be that we will invent time travel and therefore this woman, if she were one, might be alive in our own time. The odds of success at such an endeavor is, however, miniscule for many reasons.

    It also remains to be substantiated whether this clip is genuine by others who have purchased the DVD, though both sides of the argument have made unsubstantiated claims that the clip either is or is not genuine.

    Also, the Apollo “camera phone” statue, unlike the woman in this clip, is an object which exists in present time and in three dimensions and, by looking closely at his hand (as I have had the opportunity to do in the past), one can clearly see that he is not holding any sort of device in his hand. Obviously you already know or suspect this, but the point is that one cannot compare something which is so easily observed in intimate detail, and can be at almost any time, with an event recorded decades ago, in two dimensions, in very low resolution black and white, without audio, at a less than ideal angle, and for only a few brief moments.

    Now, since everyone else has had their fun projecting their own beliefs onto these brief seconds of video, here’s my take: She’s one of The Doctor’s time traveling companions whose cell phone The Doctor equipped with Universal Roaming capability. The Doctor has mentioned wanting to visit Charlie Chaplin, maybe he decided to take his traveling companion a major Chaplin Premiere. LOL

  9. Craig York November 4th, 2010 1:39 pm

    *Snort* As if a true Dadaist would bother with proper grammer.
    or Toast.

  10. Mordaxus November 4th, 2010 3:22 pm

    Or to go along with proper grammer a proper grampa.

  11. boothy November 5th, 2010 12:16 pm

    now we have seen these supposed ‘time travellers’ surely when they are in the future they have to make sure they are seen by us

  12. Anthony December 17th, 2010 8:22 pm

    She is alone. If is is a listening device, what is she listening to as she walks? And she is moving her lips in the video. She is engaged in dialog. This is not a hearing device…it is a communications device.

  13. ArtMonkey Dave December 17th, 2010 8:53 pm

    This is a great write up explaining this phenomena. Glad you like the work! :)

  14. melbourne cabigao January 1st, 2011 3:09 am

    Granting that the lady was holding a cellphone as interpreted by some wishful thinkers, to whom was she supposed talking to? Will the signal travel in time as well? Were there any network tower that will relay signals in that particular time? It’s not a cellphone. It’s an ear trumpet.

  15. Eric February 7th, 2011 11:22 am

    She is putting up her hand because she doesn’t want to be filmed. What she is saying is: “don’t film me, I just want to pass”.

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