Charlie Chaplin Cell Phone Mystery

Thursday, October 28, 2010
Take a look at this photo. Doesn't it look like this lady is holding a cell phone up to her ear? You would think so, except she's at a movie premiere for the Charlie Chaplin film The Circus. The Circus came out in 1928 - no mobile devices back then. She was recently spotted in film footage showing bystanders walking past Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where the movie premiered. Filmmaker George Clarke, a Charlie Chaplin fan, was the first to discover the mysterious woman while watching a Chaplin DVD boxed set and posted it online searching for answers. The most common explanation being thrown around is that she is a time traveler! I'm thinking most likely she was using a hearing aid, which were pretty big and bulky way back in the day, or perhaps an early radio. Or maybe she somehow was testing an early invention. Still, it makes for some pretty cool debate so close to Halloween. 

Here's Clarke's video clip showing the person over and over again - I have to admit it is kind of creepy and fascinating to watch, especially as the person with the mobile or non-mobile device sort of fades away as the camera footage changes, and you can see her mouth moving in close-up shots. What do you think it is?


  1. I saw this on the news today...very creepy and weird! It really does look like she's on a cell phone!

  2. I like how he keeps referring to her as a "big butch lady." I've watched it over and over...some people are saying it's a hearing aid from 1924 or 1925...but if that's the case, why is she/he clearly talking to no one?

    Also, notice that the two feathers on the front of the person's hat look like devil's horns.

    Very intriguing!

  3. I'm no conspiracy theorist (at least for non-governmental topics) But this is a fun topic to ponder.

    A cell wouldn't work back then because of no antenna's or satellites being around.... Or were they?? Radio transistors were nowhere near this small, and weren't until the 50's.

    Hmmm... maybe a walkie talkie? This of course means the electronics and batteries would have to withstand the trip through the space/time continuum.

    Thanks a lot Pammy.. now I'll be racking my brain all night long trying to figure out what the heck that is! LOL!

  4. I'm going with a ginormous hearing aid. Except, weren't they horns back then? LOL.

  5. I was simply mesmerized as well Pam. A time traveler would be certain to avoid the Grandfather Paradox (what happens to today if you go back and alter the past?) - this means they must avoid exposing themselves at all costs. It also begs a variation of the (Enrico) Fermi Paradox (if time travel exists in the future of humans, why do we not find evidence of their visits back to our time, today?) Too much for my mind to fully grasp, but what if she, a time traveler, *was* caught on film using her time/space-tunneling communications device? Whoa. This is like following Alice's rabbit down the hole!


  6. OK, it can't be a walkie talkie because they weren't invented yet...the mystery continues!

  7. Stay-at-home-dad: Wow, cue The Twilight Show theme music. You're making my head spin!

    I'm thinking it was an iPod shaped/similar in size hearing aid amplifier made in the mid-20s...the brand name escapes me but I Googled it the other day and it made sense. Except the man/woman/big butch lady is talking which makes it very mysterious indeed.

    There's also a photo out there take in 1940 that shows one guy who looks out of place because of his dress, sunglasses and hairstyle...however, many people have disputed him to be a time traveler because everything that he's wearing was available in 1940. Still, fun to think about!

  8. Could she be simply cupping her ear (like singers do) and is singing a song?

    It certainly looks like cell phone usage.

  9. Well, because I'm sometimes a cynic, I could argue that it's a modern video, filmed to look old, as part of a stunt to get more of those boxed sets sold?

    But of course, the idealist in me also likes to believe she/he is a time traveler :)

    I agree that it's fun to contemplate.

  10. I like the cupping your ear explanation. I am singer and you can hear yourself better. Or perhaps she was just being funny and pretending she was on the phone?I guess I am a cynic too!

  11. With modern technology, anything can be done. But if that was an original part of the movie, I just think ole Charlie was ahead of his time. He was a genius in making movies, and that may have been part of his modern thinking.

  12. Hey Matty - the scene in question wasn't part of the actual movie; it's footage of people walking past the outside of the theater where the movie premiered.

    The debate goes on...right now online a lot of people are saying it's a hearing aid.


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