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1928 Time Traveler Caught On Film? 685

Many of you have submitted a story about Irish filmmaker George Clarke, who claims to have found a person using a cellphone in the "unused footage" section of the DVD The Circus, a Charlie Chaplin movie filmed in 1928. To me the bigger mystery is how someone who appears to be the offspring of Ram-Man and The Penguin got into a movie in the first place, especially if they were talking to a little metal box on set. Watch the video and decide for yourself.

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1928 Time Traveler Caught On Film?

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  • OK, I'll bite. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThoughtMonster ( 1602047 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:19PM (#34053510) Homepage

    Who was she talking to? (considering the lack of cell-phone towers)


    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:24PM (#34053572)

      Maybe it's a satellite-phone...

    • Perhaps it was one of those Nextel phones with the walky-talky feature? Clearly, we have either discovered an irresponsible time traveler, or that George is a raving crackpot and desperate for attention during these uncertain times.

      • by E IS mC(Square) ( 721736 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:55PM (#34054126) Journal

        Nope. It's clearly an iphone 4G. See how s/he is holding it!!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 )

      Maybe it's a sat phone, like an Iridium phone?

      Either way, the roaming charges have got to be a royal bitch...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ELitwin ( 1631305 )
      If you can pretend that the technology for time travel actually exists in the distant future, then can't you pretend that the the technology for a communication device would be vastly different and not need cell-phone towers?
      • Re:OK, I'll bite. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by FatAlb3rt ( 533682 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:41PM (#34053892) Homepage
        Maybe we shouldn't pretend the need to hold a brick to your head either, especially in a society that would tend to notice that anomaly.
        • by modecx ( 130548 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:13PM (#34054474)

          Yeah, I've always thought that a people capable of time travel would also develop what I see as final evolution of the cell phone: C.A.C.T.U.S. (Colonic Audio Conduction Technology, Ultimately Sadomasochistic), an inter-chronologic audio communication device, in convenient suppository form. It vibrates your colon such a manner that sound waves travel up your spine, resonating the inner ear. It is, unfortunately, quite uncomfortable to wear.

          We all know from the Terminator movies that inorganic materials aren't compatible with the time-matrix anomaly--unless they're wrapped in flesh. So, there you go. Billions of future humans are destined to ram CACTUSs up their asses.

    • Re:OK, I'll bite. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:31PM (#34053724)

      Who was she talking to? (considering the lack of cell-phone towers)


      It is entirely possible that the time travelling 'ship' could serve as a tower for this purpose. It could be relaying communications to her home time or to a fellow traveler.

    • Re:OK, I'll bite. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:34PM (#34053770)

      Maybe it's not a cell phone as we know it. Maybe it allows communication through time. Maybe it isn't about time travel at all, but was an alien communicating with the mother ship.

      Or maybe the story is bs, and either the video was manipulated, you're not seeing what you think you see, or the guy was immitating "talking on a phone" with a small, boxy object that happened to be in reach (either for reasons you'd have to be in his converation to know, or because he's nuts). For that matter, maybe he was holding something cold to a bruise on the side of his head while takling to the person next to him.

      Even for Idle this is silly.

      • by tsm_sf ( 545316 )
        or the guy was immitating "talking on a phone" with a small, boxy object that happened to be in reach

        Wasn't the speaker separate from the receiver back then? Miming a phone conversation would have required both hands, if so.

        This is fun.
      • Re:OK, I'll bite. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Third Position ( 1725934 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:12PM (#34054460)

        There seem to be a lot of these cropping up lately. The other day I came across this picture. []

        Something tells me this is going to be a new fad, like listening to records backwards to hear hidden messages. "Can You Find the Time Traveler in This Picture?".

        Hell, maybe it'll even become a game show.

    • by alen ( 225700 )

      a spaceship in orbit? like when kirk took the enterprise back in time and talked to spock while on earth of the 1960's

    • Probably Verizon, since by 2042 they'll have the best temporal coverage of any of the major providers. Their 3022G network isn't the fastest though.

    • Simple explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LateArthurDent ( 1403947 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:47PM (#34053990)

      Who was she talking to? (considering the lack of cell-phone towers)


      Not that I believe in this, but if you were time-traveling to the past to be an extra in a Charlie Chaplin movie (which is a plausible thing for any film buff), it's perfectly reasonable that such a person would whip out their cell phones just to be filmed pretending to talk on it. They could then point it out to their friends once they return to their time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Who was she talking to? (considering the lack of cell-phone towers)


      Of all the reasons to suspect that this is not a time traveller, that is the dumbest one.

      First of all, cell-phone towers are not required for mobile communications. They are required for one particular kind of mobile communication that is widespread now, but there is no reason to believe that a time traveller would be using that particular kind of mobile communication. She could be using something akin to a walkie-talkie, which is point to point, and is being used to communicate to someone else nearby (or n

    • by VanGarrett ( 1269030 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @04:09PM (#34055542) Homepage

      This person has a goddamned time machine, and you automatically assume that her cellphone also requires a tower to get a signal?

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:19PM (#34053514) Journal
    And uh, what network was this cell phone connecting to? Because you know there's a series of cell towers and satellites that need to be in place for cell phones to work and I don't recall anyone having the foresight to erect such towers in 1928.

    This is such utter drivel. The person in the picture could be scratching his/her head or shielding their ear from a breeze with something (my grandmother does similar things when the wind is strong and she wears a shawl). I don't see a black object, I see two of the fingers around what would be the 'top' of the phone which is uncharacteristically how people hold cell phones. I don't see any shock or expression on the face as they turn it just seems like Clarke is projecting what he wants on the viewer. It could just be a schizophrenic wandering around who is used to shielding their face and mouth when they can't control what they are saying.

    It's ridiculous that time traveling is even suggested, let alone continually reinforced by George Clarke.
    • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:28PM (#34053668) Journal

      Wow. They really should create a separate section of Slashdot for these ridiculous stories.

    • While silly, we can still speculate...

      Nikola Tesla came to mind when you said "tower" - even though his towers were trying to transmit free electricity, Heaven only knows what else he was playing with (a fire in his home/lab had destroyed a shitload of notes and ideas of things he was working on).

      Maybe the era which the time-traveling chick came from doesn't need no stinkin' cell towers. :)

      ...or maybe she's just using something to pick out ear wax. *shrug*.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Zeek40 ( 1017978 )
      Well, if they can send one person back in time, why couldn't they send all the towers, lines, servers, power plants running them and support staff necessary to operate those phones back?
      Once we master time travel, moving several million tons of copper, steel, electronics, generators, etc. through the time portal should be easy.

      The real question is why is my cell phone bill so high when that film demonstrates that it's obviously 80+ year old technology.
    • by mini me ( 132455 )

      It could be a peer-to-peer phone (i.e. a two way radio), and the person in the video is talking with another time traveller who was also present in that time. Or perhaps the time travel machine acts as its own cell station, relaying the data forward in time. The lack of infrastructure does not really discredit the theory.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ColdCuts ( 193807 )

      Worse would be the cell phone company's charges. The minutes would certianly be billed under a time 'roaming' plan. But worse, they would be instantly overdue, and with interest and late fees accumulating, a 300 year trip to the past with a quick call to brag about your journey would bankrupt the poor traveler.

    • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:26PM (#34054710)

      The problem with this and most claims of the paranormal is that people just don't understand how common coincidences are. The woman in that film is just holding her hand coincidentally like the modern cellphone.

      What's funny is that this was never noticed before because cell phones never looked like that until fairly recently. If it was 1983 then that wouldn't look like a phone at all, it would look like a woman holding her scarf funny because cell phones were twice to three times the size with big honking antennas. Or if it was 2030 it wouldn't look like a phone at all, we'd probably just have them implanted into our bodies.

      This is an old sci-fi trope which I like to call the "unsophisticated sophisticate." A time traveler would of course know not to use a piece of technology like that in public or even possess it, but audiences like the idea of "Aha! I caught the time traveler because I'm smart and the traveler is dumb or careless!" We see this also when aliens step out of their spaceships and die from the common cold or future archeologists can't fathom what a 'car' is or when aliens land and don't know what love is, etc. In other words, conspiracy theories not only exploit of ignorance but more so our vanity. It makes us feel good to "know whats really going on" or feel superior to threatening things. Unfortunately, humans seem drawn to feel good bullshit and sometimes go to war about said bullshit.

  • If so he did an awesome job of protecting the continuity of the timeline by not leaving many traces!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mea37 ( 1201159 )

      How do you know? Maybe without his involvement the Depression would've played out differently. Maybe he set events in motion that changed the outcome of WWII so that the Allies would win. Could've changed anything or everything; it's not like any of us would "remember" how it was "supposed to be".

      Actually, if he was so open about using anachronistic technology that he got caught on film on a movie set, I'd say he did a pretty piss poor job with the whole 'leaving no trace' thing.

  • Huh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Markvs ( 17298 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:21PM (#34053532) Journal
    I wonder what network the were using in 1928? Marconi Wireless? (snicker)
    Seriously, this has been in the media for days now. It's almost certainly someone using an old-style hearing aid.
  • by Shadmere ( 1158007 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:22PM (#34053548)
    Obviously it's not clear what kind of aid it is, specifically, but it looks like an old ear trumpet.

    Like this thing. []
  • /. at its best (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    On their best day, Slashdot readers would think of cell phone towers. I don't think there are any days this rabble would be intelligent enough to realize that any species or members of humanity from a time traveling society wouldn't need towers for their communication devices. Or would have very rapid means of deploying them from relatively small devices.

    Slashdot reminds me of ignorant atheists who attack creationism on the same logical level that creationists attack atheism on.

  • Not a cell phone. (Score:5, Informative)

    by davev2.0 ( 1873518 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:24PM (#34053590)
    It is an early carbonic (electric) hearing aid.
  • Not likely (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If arbitrary time travel is possible (which I personally highly doubt), by the time our technology advances to that level cell phones will be considered as ancient as the telegraph is today.

  • by Freshly Exhumed ( 105597 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:24PM (#34053600) Homepage

    Grandma Titor was likely using one of these: []

    It still doesn't explain why the person she's conversing with is INVISIBLE!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is no clear device in the hand. It looks like they're talking to someone in front of them or themselves while holding their hat.

    • Mod parent up. One finger is clearly above the hat brim, and the next one is below. She's just holding her hat on her head. And, you know, back then people on the street actually talked to one another.
  • It was a hearing aid (Score:5, Informative)

    by Valiss ( 463641 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:26PM (#34053630) Homepage

    This was released in 1924: []

    Seems like it could easily be that.

  • by danlip ( 737336 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:26PM (#34053632)

    Clear not an actual cell phone, but a tachyon communication device that allowed her to communicate with her native time frame. Duh.

  • I do not see a black device. I see an empty hand and a shadow.

  • Schizophrenia? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:27PM (#34053654)
    They had to have Schizophrenics back in the 20s, didn't they? Maybe she was just talking to herself and cupping her hands over her ears in an attempt to block out the voices?
  • by praedictus ( 61731 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:28PM (#34053672) Journal
    Don't worry!!! She will get hit by a car and Kirk cant save her or else the Nazis will take over.
  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:29PM (#34053680) Homepage

    The "cell phone" theory is a golden example of people projecting their own limited conception of the world onto something they don't recognize. Someone 40 years ago probably would've imagined that they saw someone singing along to a transistor radio. Someone from 120 years ago would've thought they saw someone listening to a seashell and chewing gum. If she's really holding something (IMO the video isn't clear enough to be sure), it's almost certainly a contemporary hearing aid.

    • by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:57PM (#34054170)

      See this picture [] of a fellow time traveler for another example. Modern people see a guy with a printed T-Shirt, modern sunglasses, and an SLR camera. However, the printed T could just as easily be a sweater with a college logo on it, the 'modern' sunglasses were in fact available in 1940, and the SLR camera is almost definitely a Kodak model that would have been old even at the time the picture was taken.

    • But if this really was a time traveler on a cell phone in 1928, isn't that how it would work out?

      What if the footage was of a lady wearing a "I love Joss Whedon" baby doll t-shirt, or a shirt that said "All your base are belong to us!" or t-shirt that said, "I'm a Slashdot Karma Whore!"?

      30 to 40 years ago we wouldn't have thought anything about a t-shirt like the above if we saw it in old footage. We'd probably just assume it was some saying or something from back in the day.

      If there was a time tra
  • by Palestrina ( 715471 ) * on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:30PM (#34053698) Homepage

    Do have any idea what the per-minute fees are for time travel voice plans? And let's not talk about the data rates. The person on the film is clearly connecting via a local Wifi hotspot.

  • by Darth_brooks ( 180756 ) * < minus berry> on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:35PM (#34053786) Homepage

    Completely unimpressive. can't tell if it's a phone or not.

    Although, the blue police call box that the person walked in to was interesting. Seemed bigger on the inside than on the outside....

  • Ancient Hearing Aid (Score:3, Informative)

    by HighOrbit ( 631451 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:36PM (#34053804)
    It looks to be an old lady, so its entirely possible that what he is seeing is something like this [] which is part of this article [] also seen here []
  • Beam me up, Scotty. There's no intelligent life down here.

  • From some quick Googling:

    Telephone invented: 1876 (Alexander Graham Bell)
    Cellphone concept: 1915 (American Telephone and Telegraph)
    Cellphone invented: 1973 (Motorola)

    Looking at those dates, it doesn't seem out-of-the-question that some kind of wireless telephone could have been around by 1928, albeit not used by the public. I'm sure there are technologies currently in use by our security services, law enforcement agencies, etc, that won't reach the public market for many years. And I'm sure the same was hap

  • It appears to me after doing a 5 minute google search, that this appears to be a French Electric "Camera" as seen in the middle of this page. []
  • People get freaked out be imagining or misidentifying things in old images all the time. Remember people freaking out over a sweater in an old picture? Yeah, sweaters have been around for a long time.
    Somebody holding their hand up near their hat and their fingers crooked and moving, no biggie either. I didn't see any shot clear enough to make out something in the hand, just a shadow under the hat.
    Now if you want to analyze that, why would a time traveler blatantly use advanced tech while knowingly being re
  • THIS isn't from the documentary about The Circus, it was actually filmed in 1929 by the famous filmmaker Colin McKenzy. The woman is really talking into the 20s equivalent of a cellphone. The (tense) dual hemp line connecting her ~phone~ to that of a person probably trailing 10 or so meter behind her can clearly be seen in some of the slow motion. It was just another of McKenzy's innovations. The "circus" sign in the background was clearly shopped into the picture! Check Peter Jackson's documentary about
  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:38PM (#34053848) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, that would mean that time travel is so close that cell phones won't change considerably. The chance of that is even smaller than that for time travel per se.

    We are pattern-matching machines. We see and interpret in practically the same thought. We are used to people using cell phones like that, so that is what we think we see.

  • by gauauu ( 649169 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:38PM (#34053850)

    This is genius. I've never heard of this guy, George Clarke, but now by mentioning his work at the beginning of the video, he's got a great viral marketing campaign!

    Of course he doesn't believe a word of it, but he managed to get word to spread of his silly little video, and thus free advertising for his work. Pure genius!

  • It's a transistor radio.
  • Why Not? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jesseck ( 942036 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:40PM (#34053876)
    Why can't this be a cell phone? Of course, now that this has been discovered, someone from the future will travel back in time to stop this from happening...

    It reminds me of an occurrence one night while I was working as a hospital security officer on nights. A man came in breathless to our office, and asked to speak to Sergeant D* (I don't recall the full last name). We told him he didn't work with us. The man said that the Sergeant was supposed to be there, he was running from the CIA, and had to speak to him. We responded that Sergeant didn't exist. The man then bolted and ran away from us. It kind of shook my world, and I can't stop thinking... did I just ensure the destruction of mankind, by running this guy off?

  • Simple solutions... shes either a crazy old lady talking to herself with her hand up for whatever reason, shes chewing gum, or this is "B" roll that the DVD authors used for the extra feature, and this particular footage just happened to have some women on her phone.

    It would make a good aspect of a Sci-Fi story, cell phones function on their time of origin, regardless of what time the physical handset is in.

  • iPhone 4 (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kaldesh ( 1363017 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @02:55PM (#34054130)
    Well, we can clearly see that it's not an iPhone 4, else holding it with her left hand would kill the signal.
  • by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:06PM (#34054340) Journal

    1. Go to Vancouver or LA.
    2. Find a scene that is being shot in some random TV show.
    3. Walk by the scene pretending to use some futuristic device.
    4. Repeat this several times with different looking "devices", ie polished pieces of dark coloured plexiglass.
    5. Wait 80 years...
    6. Laugh my head in a jar off when I get the Slashdot brain download that proof of time travelers exist in old footage of CSI: New York.

  • by ninjagin ( 631183 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:14PM (#34054496)
    You are welcome.
  • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:34PM (#34054860) Homepage

    The DVD conversion certainly is a lossy process... if they could get the original film to look at frame-by-frame, you could certainly see a ton more detail, which might let you clarify if she's holding anything at all.

    Contact the studio. It'd be great promo for them!


  • Nonsense! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:35PM (#34054868)

    You would think people with the technology to travel through time wouldn't even need a phone. Hell, we don't even need to hold a phone to our heads today. A nearly invisible headset will do the job just fine. I suppose it could have been a voice recorder, but again why the need to hold a device to the head?

    What it looks to me is like an older woman shielding her eyes from the sun and some guy with a hyperactive imagination. Or a guy with quite a talent at special effects and a good sense for keeping things just subtle enough that people wont be quick to dismiss it. And in either case the guy is likely looking for his 15 minutes of fame and a springboard for his career.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:41PM (#34054988)

    is going to have a cow over this one. Even records of Twonkies are a *big* no-no. People will be wiped out of existence. Verizon will revert back to GTE. Microsoft will have go out of business in the eighties and... H-e-e-e-e-y...

  • by cyfer2000 ( 548592 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @03:46PM (#34055088) Journal
    And what the woman was saying was "Oh my teesh, hurt sho mush. "
  • Buy my movies (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sean_Inconsequential ( 1883900 ) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @04:46PM (#34056162)

    All I got from that video was "I hope this video goes viral so I can use it to advertise my movies."

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.