Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Posing with a 19th Century Cell Phone

Scanned Image 120770001

Reader Marion Henderson graciously sent us this picture of her great grandmother Laura. “This picture that I have has to be from the mid to later 1870?s if I did the math right.”

As in the case of the Time Traveller spotted in a Charlie Chaplin movie, and as Marion herself asked, “I took a magnifying glass and looked even closer, and there is definitely something there. I thought an ear trumpet?


It would be somewhat odd for a younger looking lady to use such a hearing aid, but then, definitely not as improbable as a time travelling cell phone.

Not to be too cynical, but it’s also possible the image was simply tampered with. In this respect Marion was very kind and answered the basic questions I made regarding the picture, of which her family still has the original. A very skeptical and rigorous investigation would analyze the original print, but it may seem like too much trouble for what is at face value a quite amusing and plausible picture of Marion’s great grandmother holding a cell-phone like ear trumpet.

Ear trumpets – connecting people since the 19th century. Confused with cell phones since the beginning of the 21st century. [with many thanks to Marion for the contribution]

Update 04/15/2012: As noted by Roberto Takata, Poke, João, Lucas and others, there’s probably nothing in her hand, and what looks like the illuminated part of an object is simply her middle finger, or a play of shadow and light:

I highlighted her hand in red, but left out what may or may not be her middle finger or the space between her finger in the projected shadow of her hand. Her thumb can be seen, which rule out either a time travelling cell-phone, an ear trumpet or a folded fan.

Upon closer inspection, I also think the shadows on that region may have been retouched, but not by modern computers. It could have been retouched by the 19th century photographer to eliminate the shadows of the hand over her face, resulting in a better picture, but one that does look somewhat puzzling.

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Posted in Fortean | 13 comments

13 Comments so far

  1. Poke April 14th, 2012 7:26 pm

    Yeah, who would have imagined that hands could cast a shadow as far back as the 1870’s.

  2. Devon April 14th, 2012 10:20 pm

    Can we see a hi-res copy of the photo? I’d like to see it a little better

  3. Q April 14th, 2012 10:43 pm

    To me it looks like the tip of her index finger is resting just under her temple while the tips of the rest of them are down by her cheekbone. Light is hitting the edge of middle finger, because of the crooked (compared to the rest) index finger, and the rest of them are shadowed.

  4. hidflect April 15th, 2012 2:02 pm

    Damn you, Q! Always interfering with the human species.

  5. elece April 16th, 2012 4:43 am

    It looks a little sharp to be a shadow. But portraits are often heavily retouched and the original object may be half deleted.

    We need to access the original RAW file of the portrait to really know… :)

  6. […] mostani fotót a blog szerz?je egy olvasójától kapta, akinek egy ?se látható a […]

  7. Rick April 25th, 2012 3:49 pm

    Here’s a picture right up the Cellphone in 1906 idea.


  8. Lance Moody April 26th, 2012 3:01 pm

    Hi Kentaro,

    I chipped in a bit…

    Great job!

    Lance Moody

  9. […] fuente. […]

  10. pat August 22nd, 2012 7:41 am

    what is this, some kind of government disinformation website?

  11. Michael Cohen February 21st, 2013 11:59 am

    She is talking into a walkie talkie (see google) which is similar to a cell phone because they use the same computer chips but it does not use cell towers. She is a time traveler along with these women on YouTube: cell phone 1928 and cell phone 1938. Are also using walkie talkies.

  12. liam March 17th, 2013 12:24 am

    of course the counter argument is that the objects havent been developed yet and are in fact from our future too- or not

  13. Michael Cohen April 1st, 2013 2:05 pm

    The woman in Chaplin’s 1928 film with a walkie talkie but you can see her on Youtube: cell phone 1928. I know she is a time traveler because she had to tip Chaplin to sell his stocks and avoided the crash of 1929. See Charlie Chaplin stock market on google. After he got his tip he went around to his friends and told them to sell their stocks.
    So who know in advance the crash was coming? Only Chaplin. The Rockefeller family, the richest in the world lost half their wealth and Winston Churchill lost everything.

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