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Charlie Chaplin Cell Phone Woman is the worst time traveler ever

I saw the grainy video footage, taken from the DVD extras of the Charlie Chaplin film "The Circus." A woman in black boots and a dark coat walks through the background, apparently talking on a cell phone.

Time traveler! says one Irish filmmaker.

Maybe. To me, it looks as though she just likes walking with her hand on her face, because she doesn't want the camera to capture that side of her soul.

But if she is in fact a time traveler, she is the worst time traveler ever. Do you know why no one spotted her before? Because this may be the first time in history that someone has watched the DVD extras of "The Circus." Forget the DVD extras! People didn't even watch "The Circus" when it came out, and back then many people were dying of polio and needed the emotional release of laughter.

Consider. You have obtained time travel technology. You can go anywhere in the world, visit any time period ever.

You can go back to the Stone Age and meet a lot of hunky guys who don't bore you by trying to talk about their feelings. You can go to the colonial era and join the original Tea Party! You can go back to January 2008 and make Heath Ledger's life better! You can go back to the rest of 2008 and make your fortune betting against the housing bubble, like Michael Douglas's character did in Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. You can visit World War I to determine for good if it was really the "slimmer, more homoerotic World War II." You can even go to the future, I presume, and encourage the robot president to be kinder to your descendants -- who, ironically, are all clones of you.

Or if you're limiting yourself to the sets of old-timey movies, at least try a movie that someone saw at the time. If I could only time travel to the sets of movies, I would hide on the set of Gone With the Wind and jump out in the background of key shots with a sign that said "SLAVERY WAS NOT LIKE THIS." Or I would go to the set of Star Wars and urge them to let Greedo shoot first so that when George Lucas inevitably changed it later, it would make sense. I would go to the set of Lawrence of Arabia and jump out from behind sand dunes, pretending to be a gila monster! There are so many options! Anything but what this "time traveler" allegedly did.

Seriously, even the characters in Back to the Future went somewhere cooler. That's saying something.

By Alexandra Petri  | October 27, 2010; 4:18 PM ET
Categories:  Only on the Internet, Petri, Worst Things Ever  | Tags:  science, the power of myth  
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Well now, if you're a time traveler, you can go to all of those places as often as you like, so why not this place and this time? It's not like you have just one shot before the Delorian Flex Capacitor runs out of fuel.

Posted by: Brownout | October 27, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

This is not an uncommon phenomenon. You have to realize that we live co-dimensionally with other beings. From time to time, these people are visible to us. For example, late at night one sees traffic coming toward you on your side of the road. You think you are about to be hit, but the cars and trucks go right through you. In another case, a horse-drawn hay wagon and driver almost hit someone on the road. It left wheel marks in the snow which vanished where the wagon went back into its dimension. In Scotland, we see the wee people who look like us but are 1/3 our size due to the dimensional relativity. One man was standing on his balcony in Germany when an advanced passenger train appeared, stopped and then continued before disappearing. So I don't find it that surprising to see someone from another dimension using advanced technology. The reason this can happen is that Planck's constant h depends on environmental oscillators and a temperature range. Notice that a cell phone could stimulate this condition which would take the person out of her dimension into our dimension. The other example is the Great Pyramid. If you add the mass of the 144,000 granite covering blocks, a virtual ground mass, and the mass of the limestone blocks, a circle of radius mass, centered on the proton of the tetrahedron diagram, is slightly outside our dimension which is bounded by the Planck mass and Planck wavelength. Thus the Great Pyramid is an interdimensional machine which, if you wanted to threaten the Pharaoh's eldest son, might be useful in having him free your people. Remote viewing the Great Pyramid allows you to see what is going on in these hyperspace co-dimensions.

Posted by: JohnStClair | October 27, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

It's impossible for the person in that clip to be using a cellphone to communicate. There weren't any satellites at that time and therefore the cellphone would just be a paperweight. Unless you are suggesting that somehow the cell signal is traveling through time also!? There is obviously another explanation.

Posted by: bdyer9999 | October 27, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

bdyer9999 - I agree but remember the show Quantum Leap? All sci-fi, but still makes an interesting argument if we could do that.

Posted by: escarle1 | October 27, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Looks very interesting so to speak, but it sure isnt walky/talky best i can tell they were huge over a foot long and some may have been straped to the back and then i thought well is it some sort of voice recording device but it seem that they were just as huge or bigger dunno any opinions on this like to here +)

Posted by: bizabong | October 27, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

I thought it might be a walkie-talkie, but I looked it up and they weren't invented until the 1940's. I'd really like to hear a logical explanation.

Posted by: sally_york | October 27, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

or it could just be a brand new hearing aid she's trying out for the first time...

Posted by: annewright47 | October 27, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately logic and reasoning can often take the fun out of life but I think life is far more interesting when we are honest with ourselves and realistic about the world around us. It would appear the person in question is most likely a man or a gargantuan beast of a woman with a grizzled chin and size 11 shoes and thick powerful ankles like a dockworker. I don't know the story line at that point of the movie but it would be real easy for the director to have a man dressed in drag--probably a lot worker who had a few hours to kill. The person is in frame so they are under the direction of director who is looking at the scene near the camera. The actor would have necessitated the shot be redone if they were doing something the director hadn't wanted. Therefore what they are doing is something they were told to do and that is likely to do something silly. Although it's not a very big part for the actor to play and a very ephemeral appearance there are many cameos in the movie business that are just as odd but an inside joke to the director and his buddy the actor. The first two fingers are at the end of the object similar to a cell phone but the same as if any thin rectangular solid were held to your face and you were talking into it as if it were a phone. They did have telephones back then and it is probably a chalkboard eraser or a piece of wood or a small book that the actor is pretending is a phone. Imagine back then how crazy it would seem to pretend you could walk around and talk in to a phone without wires or a dialer. It doesn't mean the director was the first to think of a wireless phone he just thought it would be funny to talk in to a phone that wasn't connected to anything. I can see the inside joke because the actor actually stops in front of the camera and turns to look at the director while he still talking and restrains a smile. I bet the directors mother or aunt is the brunt of this joke and she probably talked to herself a lot and he thought it would be funny to lampoon her. The time travel idea is so intriguing I agree--gives a bit of mystery to life. Believe it if you want. I think its probably fun to believe in such things. But just remember the cold hard real world waits patiently for your return.

Posted by: jason49 | October 27, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

I had another thought I wonder if a lip reader can figure out what she is saying.

Posted by: jason49 | October 27, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

escarle1... Sure I remember Quantum Leap! It was one of my favorite shows when I was in high school :)

Posted by: bdyer9999 | October 27, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

I think you misunderstand the nature of this particular time traveler. He was going forward, advancing in time, rather than back...or retrograding as you would have it. For all your skepticism debunked here, please check out my video which clearly proves the time traveler is real with irrefutable logic:

Posted by: cyng | October 27, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

That's an FBI agent, with one of the first crude walkie talkies/ two way radio. J. Edgar Hoover suspected him of being a communist and set up FBI surveillance on Charlie Chaplin.

The radio technology was available at the time. Just not on any sort of mass production. Most military advances in technology don't reach the scope of the public for decades.

For example, the microwave was invented by Raytheon in 1947. But wasn't widely available to the public until the mid 60's.

I wouldn't doubt if it's J. Edgar Hoover himself. The guy liked to dress in drag.

Posted by: CharlesII | October 27, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

>Jason49 - I was thinking the same thing myself since I read lips a lot, and it looks to me like she's saying "I gotta go". Looks like she is saying "Huh?!" a lot. Looks like she smiles while looking down to the ground or out ahead of her. Creepy.

Posted by: 2012gemini | October 28, 2010 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Why doesn't someone just travel back in time to the set of "The Circus" and ask this lady what she was doing?

Posted by: martymar123 | October 28, 2010 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Ummmm.... who's she talking to?

Posted by: BSDetector | October 28, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

This person is clearly not just a time traveler, but a magician of the highest order as well!

Notice how deftly this wonder-worker converted Alexandra Petri into a 1920's and 1980's era film critic!

Seriously, though, Alex: what did Charlie Chaplin or Michael J. Fox ever do to you?

Posted by: kevinedw | October 28, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

1) If she's using a cell phone, what cell tower is she communicating with?

2) If she's a time traveler from the future, where time travel has been "invented," one would imagine they have technologies smaller than "cell phone" she is holding.

The answer:

Posted by: _berndog_ | October 28, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

This is a prime example of why there should be an IQ test to vote, drive cars, etc.

Posted by: DaveD2 | October 28, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Intriguing, but whoever the person is, he's certainly not a time-traveler -

It was a Hollywood movie after all, and a comedy at that - not footage of a real downtown scene in that era - the woman/man is an extra in a movie, and so was given specific tasks to do while on camera - maybe Chaplin thought the absurdity of someone talking on a phone while walking down the street was funny - although it's a bit subtle since you can't see the device; more overt would be a huge black phone receiver from the era, but that would be more like the 3 stooges, not chaplin, I don't know - the person certainly looks at the camera while talking as if to make it obvious he's talking into the device.

Anyway, it seems to me that cell phones would be far past the iPhone-hand-held phase by the time time-travel technology would be invented

Posted by: arcturus3 | October 28, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Assuming the footage is real and not dubbed into the scene using modern technology for this DVD release:
1. I like the FBI theory. However, the problem with it is that prototype military or government technology for a wireless transceiver would not have contained such miniaturized circuits since there is no way technology was advanced yet to such a high level. The device most certainly would have been larger and had a visible antenna which even early cell phones all had. Futher proof of this point is simply examining what early wireless communications devices actually looked like once they were readily available and in use.
2. I really like the Director's spoof explanation. It has all the necessary ingredients including logic and motivation, and most especially strips away the highly unlikely aspect of random occurrence as would prevail if it were really a "time traveller." If this is the true answer, it's just amazing that the director could quite unwittingly portray such a realistic vision of the true future (ie., the cell phone). Yet if you think about it, there are other examples of startlingly prescient concepts coming out of the entertainment business from highly imaginative writers etc.
3. If it truly is someone talking into a live handheld communicator, let's pose one other scenario not yet discussed. Think Star Trek. Could this simply be a ship's officer on vacation or on some other inexplicable mission? Not just a time traveler but space as well. Are we alone in the universe? Most people think not. It would also explain "who could he be talking to, and where is the cell tower?" The ship would have its own communications base and power source, with many others on board or wandering the planet elsewhere to be talking with. Of course as previously stated, there would have to be some motive for the "visit" at that time and place, since a random occurrence seems very bizarre. I don't ascribe personally to this theory, rather I just offer it up as another possible explanation. I have to go with the intentional director spoof - that it is a man in drag, meant to poke fun at a specific situation involving an old woman who gabs too much. They would all have a good laugh and it would obviously be cut from the final movie release!Perhaps the strongest argument for this theory is that filmmakers have forever spent hours scrutinizing every frame shot, making decisions what to use, what to cut, where to splice, over and over again. Logically, there is NO WAY this detail would have been missed by the original production company. If it had been anything at all random, astounding and inexplicable, it would have been highly publicized at the time.

Posted by: luke71352 | October 28, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Alexandra - stay away from "historical humor" - Heath Ledger, slavery, WWI references= lead balloon. Can't even say it's "too soon" - just not funny...

Posted by: 7720806 | October 28, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

As a certifiable lip reader, I can clearly tell what she is saying:

"Can you hear me now?... Good."

Posted by: BurninNation | October 28, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I keep seeing people referring to this supposed time traveler as being on the set of The Circus, but that wasn't the case. The footage is from the premiere of the film at Mann's Chinese Theater, which suggests the person was a random passerby and not someone being directed.

Posted by: kevinguhl | October 28, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

"It's impossible for the person in that clip to be using a cellphone to communicate. There weren't any satellites at that time...Unless you are suggesting that somehow the cell signal is traveling through time also!?"

If you're open to the idea that it could be "time travel" and it's a cell phone of a sort, why would it be necessary for there to be satellites to transmit or relay calls? Couldn't the technology of the future be so developed that what you know as satellites or transmission towers be obsolete or there be alternative relays? What's to say that the "cell phone", or whatever you want to call it, isn't self-contained?

Maybe what will come out of all this will be the revival of reading science fiction and a renewed interested in Robert Heinlein, Alfred Bester, Arthur Clarke, H.G. Wells, and (my favorite) Frederic Brown, among others.

Posted by: Dungarees | October 28, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

People this is a HOAX!!! um whoever wrote this did not do their homework, this is not some bloke from Ireland who just stumbled upon this footage, he has his own film production company, makes movies, has access to all kinds of video and equipment to create this!!!!!! wow I am really disappointed that this would actually be taken seriously by the washington post!!!

Posted by: geminicin | October 28, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

This is absolutely not a hoax. The film indeed shows this woman doing what is claimed.
Whether or not she is a time traveler is up for debate.

Posted by: TrustedSource | October 28, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

It seems like there are some people seriously debating whether or not the person is a time traveler or using a cell phone. What is wrong with you!? You're probably also some of the people who think the moon landing was a hoax.

Posted by: mytwocents | October 28, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"Hi. Yeah it's me. Where are you? What? I thought we were supposed to meet by the zebra. The zebra. THE ZEBRA! You're breaking up. OK. That's better. I'm by the zebra, where are you? You're by the zebra too? I don't see you. What year are you in? 1948? I thought you said to meet in 1928. OK, I'll get back in the time machine. See you in a few minutes.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | October 28, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

If you take a close look at the slow motion up close portion of the video you can make out the glasses the he/she is holding in his/her hands. You can see them coming out from the back

Posted by: datsallday | October 28, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

sorry, meant to say front of his/her hands, close to his/her ears

Posted by: datsallday | October 28, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Here's my blog post about this and the post's article.
The writer doesn't seem to know this film is of a passerby at the premiere of the film. "She" isn't suppose to be on film. Also if you're going with the idea that she's a time traveler, they may have also figured out some kind of communication device, so no cell tower necessary.

I'm not convinced

Posted by: EliseCraneDerby | October 28, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

While it's entertaining to think of time travel as a possibility, as well as the ability to use electronic communication while travelling, this idea requires several assumptions to be made.

The video does clearly show a person talking while holding an object, however the explanation that offers the fewest assumptions is that the person is grasping the top of her coat collar, and pulling it up to shield part of her face from the camera. The white (scarf?) worn around the woman's neck gives the appearance of a separate dark object above it, however the object she is holding appears to be the same color as the coat - and the rest of the collar can be observed above the scarf and towards the back of her head. This explanation can be further reinforced by the fact that her hat is pulled down, partially concealing her face.

As for her talking, there are any number of explanations for that - especially if our mystery woman is indeed camera shy.

Occam's razor be praised!

Posted by: Slickus | October 28, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Here's my blog post about this and the post's article.
The writer doesn't seem to know this film is of a passerby at the premiere of the film. "She" isn't suppose to be on film. Also if you're going with the idea that she's a time traveler, they may have also figured out some kind of communication device, so no cell tower necessary.

I'm not convinced

Posted by: EliseCraneDerby | October 28, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

He has the mobile two way radio, parallel to the ground. So that the antenna is concealed in the back of his coat. Plus it looks like a guy in drag. Also the Coat looks more bulky than the man/woman himself.

Leaving me to believe that they could be wearing a back pack to conceal the radio.
Plus that woman has a very manly walk.

It looks as if that person is not comfortable or used to walking in those types of boots.

And at the end, where he stops and smiles at the camera. Could be their way of telling Charlie Chaplin that "we're watching you. You commie bastard".

Posted by: CharlesII | October 28, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"Assuming the footage is real and not dubbed into the scene using modern technology for this DVD release"

Why are we assuming that?!? Isn't that the obvious explanation? Seriously, time travel is more likely than someone digitally adding a person on a phone as a joke?!?

Posted by: mg5075 | October 28, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

AT&T GLOBAL will offer a time traveling cell phone in the year 2123. Not many people from 1928 were able to afford the 200 dollar a minute charges, though. (insert sad face here). It is possible she is hiding her face from the camera. If you read her lips it looks like she's saying, "What in the SAM HILL!!! They are not filming me on a bad hair day while i am dressed in drag in front of the Chinese Theatre and playing hooky from work!!!"

Posted by: lkapp | October 28, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Captain's Here:

It was almost certainly a man (an extra) who was dressed as a woman covering his face. He stopped before he was out of the seen because he was reacting to off camera direction. As an extra trying to hide his face, that was the best he could think of. Jeez.

Posted by: CaptainObvious2 | October 28, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Extra? This was not part of the filming of "The Circus". "The Circus" was already made and was premiering at the Chinese Theatre. This was film taken from across the street to show the Premier Opening of the film. With that said i don't really settle to well with the time traveling theory. Anyone willing to whip out a cellphone in 1928 might also opt for shoes not quite so long as to trip over!

Posted by: lkapp | October 28, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

He's not hiding his face. He's clearly talking into a large rectangular black object.

His fingers are spread far apart suggesting that the item is really bulky giving that he has to use a large stretched grip to try and conceal the item more.

You don't hide your face from a camera by making a fist like you're gripping something. Anyone hiding there face would use their whole opened palmed hand to try and cover more surface area.

This guy is clearly talking into something. And it's more reasonable to speculate that the person could be Charlie Chaplin himself, or J. Edgar Hoover or any FBI agent dressed in drag to conceal their identity better.

The time traveler theory is too far fetched. And this is at a premier screening of Chaplin's movie the Circus. The movie was already taped. What we're seeing is at a movie screening. Not a movie being shot on set. So that person couldn't be an extra. Because it was filmed at Mann's Chinese Theater. On top of that Chaplin was suspected of being a Communis. And the FBI used surveillance on him for years until he permanently moved out of the U.S.

Posted by: CharlesII | October 28, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

If it's not a hoax, I like the theory that it was conceived as a gag: to be talking on a phone that didn't need a wire! The very idea! Hilarious!

Wasn't there a Three Stooges episode where a phone is ringing, and no one can find it, until someone opens up a desk drawer?

Also, whenever a phone is used as a prop on stage, it is usually a dummy phone. With a wire, true. But Chaplin could have been making a wry commentary on the craft of an actor who must pretend to be talking to someone who really isn't on the other end of the line.

Posted by: RC11 | October 28, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Here is the thing,

Let us assume that the person is a time traveler, meaning from the distant future in relative to the year 1928, now lets speed forward to our present time i.e. 2010 , and research cell phones. In our present time, cell phones get smaller and smaller in contrast to 5 years ago, with this in mind why is it then, that a time traveler visiting 1928 from the distant future (distant than our present time line) would use such a large device?
Occam's razor folks, simpler theories are easier to understand…its either infact an FBI agent with some new surveillance device (the person is dressed like its high winter and the man walking in front is wearing normal clothing, plus its not a cloudy day, we can see from the shadow reflection that the sun is seriously shining, Plus, a woman wearing such an expensive coat and shoes has no rings one her fingers?? or it can be a special effect, after all this appears in the context of a movie yes?

And what is it’s a time traveler? We can clearly see it’s a human, meaning we as humans managed to control space/time, thus we can look into the future and alter events so…nothing then really matters…by the current events occurring in the world today I would say…we are still scientifically significant far away from time travel .

Posted by: dogen1 | October 28, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Dungarees... I see your point on the self contained device. But if he (or she) is talking to someone, who and where is the person she is talking too? So we are looking at only one of how many time travelers?

Posted by: bdyer9999 | October 28, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

1. She is not alone. The old man in front of her IS with her. She is following behind him and he is walking away from her, as if they were having a little fight.

2. She is talking to him, as when you are telling somebody to wait for you.

3. She has her hand holding her head, her side of the head as when one is confused. She is an old woman in an uncomfortable position with her man.

4. when she moves closer to the camera, she looks at it as if ashamed to be caught, maybe been left behind by him. It's a silent movie, so you can't hear what she says not to whom she's saying it. As in silent movies, she may be talking loud to him to wait for her. She may be embarrassed by the camera. REMEMBER: the camera was a scary thing in those days. She is hiding from it out of fear of that weird thing called a camera.

5. She moves her hands and the camera stops. You can't see her unfolding her hand. There's nothing in her hand but anxiety.

6. this is a good stunt to sell his movies.

Posted by: coqui44 | October 29, 2010 12:59 AM | Report abuse

Go to link below to see reasonable explanation that woman was using hearing aide. This doesn’t explain why the woman in the Chaplain movie was talking, but she could have been talking to herself!

Posted by: going1 | October 29, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

I just feel like pointing out that according to Variety, "The CIrcus" was one of the biggest pictures of the era, not some film that no one saw. I'm not sure why I bring it up, but. (Found via Wikipedia)

Posted by: basilutter | October 29, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Aliens have been here all along. She is one.

Posted by: naveia | October 31, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

People, people people...before electronic equip.People who sang frequently would curl their fingers and sing into their palms to hear their voice in it's true pitch. However, as stylin as this broad is with the 8 inch points on her shoes and the way cool coat and hat that looks like it was raided from Harpo Marxs' wardrobe..she's gotta be from the future. It is conclusive evidence that anyone with this brilliant edge of fashion sense is either ahead of her time, or just from a time ahead. Niiiiccce.

Posted by: rtriley | October 31, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Okay, the time traveler theory is ridiculous BUT I can't stand all the people who think they're incredibly smart by saying it can't be, simply because "there were no cell towers back then"! Why do these people assume a time traveler has to be from our time, and be dependent on cellular technology? Use your imagination and consider that future mobile devices wouldn't require cell towers or satellites to communicate with one another.

Posted by: maxtaffey | November 2, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and by the way, to the author of this article, it was stated quite clearly that this footage is from the premiere of the film, outside Mann's Theatre, NOT on the set of the movie. Also, I might consider travelling to that period to establish myself so that I could buy up stocks on the cheap once the great depression happened. A lot of people got very wealthy thanks to the Depression.

Posted by: maxtaffey | November 2, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Notice that the guy right before the lady with the cell phone has a Bluetooth. You can tell because he's talking hands-free.

Posted by: gurx123 | November 3, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

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