Through the operations of our various space programs, mankind has remained focused over the last several decades on expanding our capacities for travel through space; but will we someday harness the ability to travel through time as well?

Some would argue that it’s only possible in science fiction, while others who maintain an open mind (and an appreciation for the Back to the Future films) insist time travel may indeed become a reality at some point. What kind of world would this be if visitors from the future could travel back in time… would we be able to find evidence of their visitations? Surprisingly, some would argue that evidence of time travelers from the future has already been found… Have a look at the video below and see what you think:

Is the woman in the scene above talking on a cell phone… in 1928? It certainly looks convincing, but there may be another explanation. Read on and learn, ye travelers of time and space…

I first learned about the strange footage after it was emailed to me by a friend of mine, Gralien Report correspondent Jim Kotjavarti, earlier today. Providing commentary in the clip is a fellow named George Clark, with the film production company Yellow Fever Productions. Clark has questioned the curious nature of the woman in the footage, and rightly so: needless to say, she does rather conspicuously appear to be strolling along talking on a mobile phone, in a film released in the 1920s. Surely, there must be another explanation… or could this finally be the real evidence of time travel we’ve been looking for?

Before we get to what this mystery woman could have been doing, it’s worthy of noting here that the video above isn’t the only recent instance where an alleged “time traveler” has come into question. Truth be known, in spite of the tremendous number of UFO sightings that have occurred in both the United States and China this year, the award for continuous Fortean curiosities of 2010 may instead go to an all new acronym, the OOPH (Out Of Place Hipster).

Indeed, we’ve seen a number of incidents over the last few months where odd looking people have turned up in old photographs; to be honest, it actually seems to have become quite a trend. Each circumstance lends itself to speculation about whether these curious OOPHs are indeed time travelers, or merely random eccentrics who have shown up at notable places just in “time” to have their photos taken. One of my favorites, initially discussed at the popular Forgetomori blog (and subsequently touched on by yours truly at Mysterious Universe) involved a man sporting “hipster” fashion in a 1940’s photograph from British Columbia. Of the incident, I commented in my piece at MU that the fellow, rather than being a man from the future, was more likely just a “slightly eccentric young observer who never would have guessed that his presence the day this photograph was taken might fuel such bizarre speculation about his origins more than half a century later.”

But getting back to the matter at hand, what about the curious woman in the film excerpted above? Although in this instance the person’s clothing style doesn’t come into question, what could the object she’s holding next to her ear (other than a cell phone) possibly be? Is there another device–used for communication, or anything else–that existed during the period in which the film was made that could resemble a cell phone to viewers today?

What about one of these?

If the scene featured in the excerpt above represents accurate footage from the original 1928 film, one thing is certain: we aren’t looking at any cell phone. Instead, the woman is most likely using an early hearing aid device called an ear trumpet (sometimes also called an ear horn). By following this link you can see a variety of ear trumpets of various vintages. In particular, the red celluloid “Beehive” model featured on this page most closely resembles the relative size of the object the woman was holding; it is also a model that was popular in the early twentieth century, at which time the Chaplin film in question was released. Could this be the mystery object we’ve witnessed?

Supposing this is the device in question, we are still left with one final troubling mystery: Why does this poor woman appear to be talking aloud to herself? Perhaps, much like time travel, there are some things we humans just aren’t meant to understand after all…

Special thanks to Jim Kotjavarti and Caleb Hanks for contributing to this report.

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Author: Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, researcher, and podcaster. His interests include areas of history, science, archaeology, philosophy, and the study of anomalous phenomena in nature. He can be reached at

5 Replies to “Time Traveller in Charlie Chaplin Film?

  1. That’s a very good explanation! My first guess was that the lady just didn’t want to be part of the scene being filmed, and she was just trying to cover her face with a small hand purse or something; but your theory sounds (get it?) much more plausible.

    iPareidolia, anyone? 😛

  2. Addendum: Greg Taylor thinks this might have been the hearing aid apparatus used by the lady. What do you think?

  3. Hey RPJ,

    Looking at what Greg suggested (the Western Electric Model 38A), that seems like it would have been even more likely in terms of relative size. However, that device apparently wasn’t manufactured until 1932; the footage in question was made in 1928, hence it was likely a more primitive device the woman in question had been using… unless, of course, she happened to have been one of the company’s earliest beta testers! I wonder if a similar, but earlier model, might been in use prior to the one you linked?

    Also, I wanted to point out something I neglected to mention in the post above: this footage wasn’t from the actual Charlie Chaplin Film The Circus, but instead was from the film’s premiere, which was apparently held at the famous Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California. Anyone who owns this edition of the film can access the premiere via the special features section on the DVD.

  4. All I see is a woman either pulling up her collar or as the other comment suggesting holding up a small clutch purse to the side of her face, because she didn’t want to be on camera, so she was shielding her face. If you assume it was a time traveler, what good would a cell phone be in 1928?? No cell towers back then… Sorry, can’t buy the time traveler theory.

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