Chaplin's Time Traveler: A 1920's Mobile Phone
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Chaplin's Time Traveler: A 1920's Mobile Phone

Could it really be a time traveller? Is there really footage of a woman in the 1920's using a mobile phone? Has a Charlie Chaplin DVD helped expose the truth? Read on to find out more about the Charlie Chaplin time traveller and the 1920's mobile phone.

Could it really be a time traveller? Is there really footage of a woman in the 1920's using a mobile phone? Has a Charlie Chaplin DVD helped expose the truth? Read on to find out more about the Charlie Chaplin time traveller and the 1920's mobile phone.

Is evidence of a time traveler really on a Charlie Chaplin DVD? Apparently so, or maybe, at least.

Film buff George Clarke found footage on the Charlie Chaplin DVD 'The Circus', something within DVD extras caught his eye. It was someone talking on a mobile phone and the footage came from 1928! Although Clarke first found it over a year ago it has only been this week that he has put his footage on YouTube. Here is that video.

It really does make compelling watching but, as Clarke says in the video, decide for yourself; the DVD is widely available, anyone can purchase it and see it for themselves. I was in the lucky position to already own the DVD, albeit a differently designed package DVD but it had the same content.

(Image taken by author, highlighting the different packaging that the DVD came in.)

The packaging may be different to the one shown in George Clarke's video but that is the only thing that is different. The content of both DVD's are exactly the same. The first thing I did was go straight to the second DVD, that with the Special Features on it, and selected 'The Hollywood Premiere (1928)'.

(Image taken by author of DVD sub-menu)

One thing to point out at this point is that the footage therein is not itself from the Charlie Chaplin film 'TheCircus' and is not even an 'out-take' from the film. What it is is footage taken from the premiere of 'The Circus', in Los Angeles in 1928.

After 20 seconds, as seen in George Clarke's in depth video and poured over more, you can see a 'woman'walk past clearly holding something in her hand and, to all intents and purposes, it looks like a mobile phone. Call me a cynic if you will but even after having watched Clarke's video a part of me thought 'joke', but now I have seen the footage with my own eyes I can confirm that there is something that doesn't quite add up.

What is the woman holding?

From watching it over and over again, the natural reaction is that she is holding a mobile phone. That is what it looks like anyway. The question, I suppose, can be turned to what else could she be holding to her ear and see if any of those suggestions would fit the evidence, but the truth of the matter is that whatever sheis holding does look like some kind of hand held device, akin to a mobile phone, and she is talking in to it in a very relaxed manner.

As already noted, the footage does not come from the film itself, it comes from news footage taken at the premiere of the film. What that means is the person that is seen holding the device is unconnected with the film and presumably unconnected with the news company filming it. In other words, the woman is a member of the general public casually walking past and just so happened to be filmed.

Whatever it is she is holding in her hand it does very much look out of place for something filmed in 1928. It is unlikely that someone back then would have the foresight to do something out of place in the hope that some time in the future it would look like something common. I mean, if someone was going to play a practical 'joke'and pretend to be holding a phone in the hope that in the future there would be mobile phones, it is doubtful that they would have done so in such a manner as this footage proofs. Keep in mind that the footage is of a member of the public who presumably had no idea that they were being filmed and had no expectation of being filmed. All the evidence points to something being filmed totally by luck. All the evidence points to something that is very out of keeping with the time that it was filmed. All in all, it really does look like someone talking on a mobile phone.

A time traveller then?

Could she be a time traveller talking on a mobile phone in 1928? Well that would raise a few more questions one of which would simply be who was she on the phone to? Are we to believe that there is another time traveller in 1928 who also has a mobile phone? Or maybe she can phone people from different years, perhaps she is on the phone one of her friends in 2010, perhaps she is talking to her great-great granddaughter in 2110. Anyway, where did she manage to get a signal from in 1928.

(Image taken by author from the DVD showing the woman on a 'mobile phone')

What is more likely is that it is just one of those things that happened to be caught on camera and many years later looked like something entirely different because of modern thinking. She may well be holding a device to her ear and she may well be talking as she is walking along, the two are not necessarily connected. For example, she might have just been casually walking down the road talking to herself (don't laugh, a lot of people do that) and she might have been feeling cold on that side of her face due to the weather and was holding nothing more than a hand warmer to her face to get some heat. Such hand warmers were in existence in the 1920's and she could easily have had one wrapped in a dark bag.

One other thing to consider is the pertinent facts. The footage is available on the Charlie Chaplin DVD of 'theCircus' on the Special Features disc and comes from 'the Hollywood Premiere in 1928'. The DVD was released in 2003, 70 years after the film 'the Circus' was made. The 'scene' with the woman on the phone is short and is a very quiet, there is the woman in question and one other man walking past a zebra plus one man in the background. The preceding scene is very busy with many people and is likely to have been taken moments before the premiere started. The scene after the woman on the 'phone' which is faded in is also quite busy and is likely to have been taken quite close to the beginning of the premiere. If we look at the circumstances of what went before and what came after, the scene with the woman looks too quiet to have taken anywhere near the time of the premiere - it's just too quiet. Could this lead to an 'answer' then?

(Image taken by author from the DVD showing the 3 people in the scene)

Maybe, just maybe, someone, somewhere is having a laugh. Perhaps one of the creators of the DVD in 2003 using some stock footage thought it would be an idea to put some extra footage in of a woman on a mobile phone. They have the technological power to do such a thing. Perhaps this extra scene was added to the report of the premiere in 2003 and made to look like it happened in 1928. As noted, the actual scene itself is quite short and looks out of place compared to the preceding and following 'scene'. Perhaps it was added just to see if anyone would notice. Having said that, the likelihood is that if someone was going to add such a thing they would have been likely to add it to the film itself and not one of the Special Features. Plus, the footage looks too authentic to have been doctored.


It would appear that what is being seen in the footage is genuine and it is a woman holding something to her ear and talking at the same time and it looks very much like she is talking in to a mobile phone, but that it is something innocent and coincidental. Perhaps it is a 'hand warmer' she is holding, perhaps it is actually a mobile phone and she is a time traveller, perhaps it is footage that has been doctored by someone, somewhere. Whatever the truth, and there probably is a simple explanation, it still makes for an interesting topic. Kudos to George Clarke then for spotting it in the first place and bringing it to the public.

To keep up to date with this story please feel free to check out George Clarke's own website

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Comments (7)

No one has even considered, it appears, that the woman may be extra-terrestrial. Humans could not talk on cell phones back then, and walkie talkies came out 10-15 years after 1928 when this was shot. She is clearly walking in a strange way which appears to me as if she were wearing human skin like a costume and that the use of her limbs is robotic and unnatural. However, one thought that comes to mind in reverse is that aliens wouldn't need to hold cellphones up to their ear since they would just use some kind of a microchip embedded into their jawbone to pick up subvocalizations so they could just move their mouth to talk without making any sound at all. Or one step further, a chip to read and transmit their thoughts at will. So perhaps other theories are still more viable, now that I think about it....

It's bizzare, alright. Time traveler, probably not, since film set might not have been the best choice to drop off a passenger. Lunatic, possibly. My guess, is that it's either a film crew member that wasn't supposed to walk on set and is trying to use an early walkie device. My other guess is that it's someone who walked onset who shouldn't have been there, talking to themselves psychotically, and the editors didn't notice it until Clark saw it in the 21st century. Either way, it's probably an "oops." Fun conjecture, though! Voted and appreciated.

One thing though is that the footage comes, not from the film itself, but from a news report of the premiere. Is it likely that a news station would play such a joke? Possibly. ;)


Or it could just be one of those things, whereby we, in the modern time, compare it to what we know and because it looks like something we think it is that thing. Or maybe she is an alien. lol

Michael G-Dawg

hmmmm..... if you look closely you'll notice two things: 1. There is nothing in her/his hand. He/She just has it cuffed over the ear... No shadow from a Phone... 2. You can't see it, but you need a cellular tower for a mobile phone to work. And for that, you need satellites. Maybe she's in the 97% of Americans who switched to AT&T the only cell phone that is not restricted by physics or time.... "Can ye hear me as of this time?" "Tis Great." Lol.