Woman Uses Cell Phone In 1928?

In what’s either evidence of time travel, an impossibly elaborate hoax or just a clip of an insane woman talking to a shoehorn, an independent filmmaker has sifted through the DVD special features of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 movie The Circus to find footage of what appears to be a woman talking on a cell phone.

The clip defies logic, but is fascinating to stare at and hyper-analyze in a Zapruder film sort of way. A skeptic will say that a cell phone wouldn’t have worked in 1928 because there were no cell phone towers or satellite. And a believer would counter that a society capable of time travel would figure out how to make a device that could pick up signals through the space-time continuum.

Take a look and tell us what you think:

Chaplins Time Traveler [via Hollywood-Elsewhere]


Edit Your Comment

  1. aloria says:

    What? She’s holding her head and talking to herself. Don’t tell me they didn’t have crazy old ladies in 1928.

    • Griking says:

      Perhaps a /tinfoil hat is in order for me but I’m thinking that this is modern film added to the special features section of the DVD collection in order to create a buzz for the new DVD collection.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      I love that he says something like “It’s not an AM/FM radio because of course this is 1928”. Right, so the natural leap would be to assume it’s even newer technology.

  2. blogger X says:

    That is a cell phone dammit!!! Maybe she went back in time to acquire some Tiffany goods…

    • longdvsn says:

      The problem with the time-traveling idea is that, presumably, time travel devices don’t exist right now (2010)…so it will be sometime in the future that this person travels back in time.

      What if the time-traveler sees this article and decides they don’t want to have created this publicity? Will they then choose not to go to 1928 (or at least not in front of the camera)???

      …then this whole article will just disappear…

      • nonsane says:

        But the article didn’t disappear therefore there are not time travellers..


      • Spook Man says:

        Unless there’s a paradox with time travel.

        You can’t be in the same place at the same time in the past.. She wouldn’t be able to go back to where this is fiilmed at the time she was there to stop herself from being filmed..

        They may also not even know of this.. Within a month this story will be forgotten and just part of the internet history..

        Or because it has already happened, they can’t change history for their best interest.. Maybe this lady talking on a cell phone shows that time-travel is possible and it gets someone going on researching the possibility of time-travel and creates the device which enables time-travel.

        So many what-ifs..

        • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

          Methinks you’re thinking a bit too much into this. I saw the clip too, and all the close-ups. I’m guessing she has a headache or a toothache on that side of her head and is holding a block of ice to alleviate the throbbing. Sorry to fluster your belief in time travel.

      • Groanan says:

        This would not be a problem if time travel was not so much time travel as transdimensional travel.

        As in, you do not go back to the past of your own world, but rather the moment you go back in time, and change things, you end up in another dimension.

        Also, speaking to the “why she doesn’t have bluetooth” comments: If she really likes time traveling, perhaps it is because she loves antiques, and perhaps the early 90’s phone designs are her cup of tea.

  3. Grabraham says:

    She is holding an ear trumpet…

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      Agreed. That, or blocking the sun from her face. She’s probably talking to people off camera too. forgetomori.com has a whole debunk.

  4. Jayhovah says:

    He makes a lot of assumptions.

  5. Bunnies Attack! says:

    Do yourself a favor and scroll forward to 2:50 and skip the preamble

  6. crabbygeek says:

    Found this post that show the first phone (wireless) from 1922…


    • framitz says:

      I can’t see this article’s video, but the 1922 video in your link is very interesting indeed.

    • apasserby says:

      Neither of the women on the street ever speak into the device. All they are doing is listening to a broadcast. In my antique radio collection I have a 1924 portable radio that’s not quite as small. It’s reception without a decent antenna is rather poor.

    • JennQPublic says:

      Robert Heinlein was using ‘pocketphones’ in his science fiction stories back in the ’40s.

  7. silentstriderm says:

    Isn’t it obvious? The signal is being routed through the TARDIS!

    • kurtmac says:

      If this is the case, then The Doctor’s taste in companions has certainly dropped in quality. Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey…

      • packy says:

        I dunno. The woman could be the Doctor in a dress. He’s been known to dress weirdly before.

        Though he doesn’t usually carry a mobile.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      Pfft — everyone knows that the Doctor and companions rarely bother dressing to fit in!

    • Lioness458 says:

      Definitely a companion of the Doctor. They dress up sometimes. And as to the fact that people say a cell phone wouldn’t work due to their being no cell towers and whatnot, the Doctor obviously enabled universal roaming on that thing, just like he did for Rose and Martha and Donna (and Amy, I would assume).

  8. backbroken says:


  9. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Scotty, beam me up. These shoes are killing me.

  10. osiris73 says:

    The problem I have is that anyone traveling back in time, if that were even possible, wouldn’t have a hand-held device like that. They would have at least had a small earpiece and not something that obvious.

    • goodpete says:


      If someone were to travel back in time (even from today), why draw attention to yourself by holding a strange device to your ear and talking? Why not wear a headscarf or hat that disguises a headset. Even today you can find in-ear devices that are not noticeable.

      I think it’s much more likely that this person is either suffering from some sort of mental illness or they are simply hiding their face from the camera across the street and muttering to themselves (e.g. “blasted cameras are showing up everywhere these days….”).

      • BacteriaEP says:

        Not to discount your logic as I want to believe that’s true.

        But people are stupid. And if… IF… this were the real scenario of a time traveler, I can totally imagine somebody thinking they could “get away with it” for a few minutes without breaking any sort of space time continuum laws.

        • njack says:

          So is she supposedly talking to someone in 2028 or is she talking to some other time traveler in 1928, 928BC or when?

    • Hungry Dog says:

      Keep in mind the crazy factor. If someone is having a conversation with them self, nobody is going to be paying attention to them anyway. Thus a cellphone is plausible if it appears to be a less then sane person talking to the palm of their hand to everyone else in that time period.

    • mandy_Reeves says:

      right, so that when using a blue tooth, they get arrested for being crazy and talking to themselves, and wind up in a state hospital…good thought, that.

      • Doubts42 says:

        and in 1928 they wouldn’t have the same reaction to someone talking to a weird small box they held to their head?

      • osiris73 says:

        My point is that if they can time travel they’d be past even blue tooth. Likely something sub-lingual or biologically connected. Hell, we can already move things and communicate with just our brains in rudimentary ways with the tech we have now. That we know of. The govt is always about 10-20 years ahead of the public sector in technology.

    • Cleo256 says:

      Maybe she time traveled from 1997?

  11. JlGomez says:

    Dude.. Time travel… Wow.. Thats the conclusion u came up with.. Just because shes holding something or nothing to her ear doesnt mean its a cell phone.. YOU NEED HELP… Quick.. Watch some color TV.. Thats if u have a color TV..

  12. SG-Cleve says:

    Definitely a man in drag.

    • Mclick says:

      Man in drag from the future calling pimp from the year 2050 on cell phone. What blows my mind about this video is how it is black and white yet the stones on the zebra harness flash in color…yowzerz.

  13. gordon435 says:

    Well, you can find a number of old film clips showing phone-like wireless devices. Basically, if you have a two-way radio with a phone operator on the other end, you have a wireless “phone”. Technologically, no real resemblance to the modern cellular system.

    I don’t know what to make of the clip. He’s right — it looks exactly like a modern phone, and is way smaller than any wireless communication device of that era should have been. Just…weird.

  14. BigRobot says:

    It’s the Doctor! =D

  15. BBP says:

    I blame Doc Brown for all of this nonsense. Well, him and his no good kids!!

  16. JlGomez says:

    I wish I could go back in time and not have watched your idiotic video..

  17. Bye says:

    I’d recognize an iPhone 7 anywhere – even in this dusty old film.

    • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

      Sorry, that couldn’t possibly be an iPhone 7. Dear Leader’s iPhone 7 would not be carried–you’d wear them like glasses. They’d have a heads up display that you control with your retinas and/or voice control. The iPhone 8 is contact lens based. The iPhone 9 requires you to be surgically implanted with it — try cancelling that contract!

  18. Gandalf the Grey says:

    I would guess someone is singing along to a music box.

  19. HoJu says:

    My FAVORITE part of this video is when he says “It’s not an AM/FM radio cuz it’s 1928.”

    Yeah. It can’t possibly be a radio, but it certainly could be a cell phone.


    • quijote says:

      Similar to the argument for believing in alien’s based on UFO sightings. “It can’t be a man made aircraft–we don’t have that kind of technology. But aliens do!”

    • njack says:

      That was my first reaction too. “Wait they didn’t have radios in 1928, but a time traveling cell phone talking man in drag, yeah that must be it”.

    • 339point4 says:

      I think his point there is that we have already lived through the small transistor radio era and, presumably, a time traveler would be from the the future and therefore would not use anachronistic technology except for direct communications purposes.

      That said, this whole thing reminds me of the 1941 time traveler photo. Sure, the guy looks out of place, but when one looks a bit more closely, one realizes that it’s just a coincidence that he happens to resemble someone we’d recognize from a more modern age. All of his clothes and gear are actually appropriate to the time the picture was taken in 1941, and I’m betting that whatever the individual in this video is holding is also appropriate to 1928.

    • bishophicks says:

      I think his point is that it’s not a radio because radios did not shrink to hand-held size until the invention of the transistor about 20 years later.

      She’s holding something to her ear and talking. Since it’s 1928, it can’t be a phone or a radio or any other portable electronic device. But we are so used to those things, that is what we see. If you could show this image to someone in 1928, I’ll bet they would have other explanations, including the correct one.

  20. Thomas Palmer says:

    The simple reason why she is not a time traveler:

    If we really discovered a time traveler, they can always go back a second time and make sure they aren’t caught the first time.

    • BBP says:

      Yes, but she DID go back – she’s the one who placed that Zebra in the shot, thus hoping to obscure her image in the film. Obviously, she failed and felt that a third attempt was unnecessary. However, she did manage to prevent us from seeing her activate her wrist activated time control device, which is clearly to her benefit – cell phones, we already have, time traveling wrist devices… not so much.

    • eccsame says:

      It wouldn’t work. The time traveller would only succeed in altering the timeline so when they went back into the future Hill Valley would be ruled by Biff Tannen.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      Causality loop. It would have to be for an unrelated reason, otherwise there would be no reason to change it in the first place.

  21. xspook says:

    Yes. It’s a cell phone. How could you not believe it? What’s not to believe?

  22. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    A really old Kate (from Kate and Leopold) would fit with the timeline.

  23. bosozoku says:

    Although it’s fun to play along and think about…I thought we (the people of the interwebs) determined that it was most likely a hearing aid. 1920’s & 30’s Hearing Aids…Google it.

  24. seeUserName says:

    What I find interesting is that, if you look very closely, you can just make out a zebra that is obviously there to monitor the activities of the Traveler.

  25. TooManyHobbies says:

    If it’s a cell phone, what’s it communicating with? You think they had a cell infrastructure then? You think radio waves magically propagate across time?

    • EmDeeEm says:

      This. I had this same argument with my wife this morning. Who the F could she possibly be talking to with no cell towers ANYWHERE? I can see the closest tower and don’t get a signal in my bathroom.

    • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

      Okay…did you miss the part about time traveling? You are arguing about how the cell phone would work, but maybe you should focus more on how in the hell she could possibly time travel. If she was a time traveler…I’m sure they would have worked out the whole missing cell phone tower/satellites.

    • Cleo256 says:

      I’ve heard this argument and I don’t buy it. It would be easy enough to rig a cell phone tower to the top of my time machine so I can stay in touch with the other time travelers with cell phones.

      Certainly easier than figuring out time travel, anyway.

  26. markedward says:

    It’s an old-style hearing aid. I doesn’t even look like she’s really talking, to me. Her mouth is just hanging open the whole time. And even if she is talking… so what? It doesn’t mean she’s talking into the device.


  27. homehome says:

    It’s definitely something in her hand. But would it honestly be that surprising. Every tech buff knows that a specific technology exists way before it’s released to consumers. Or that even the first cellphone was seen before the first cordless phone.

  28. blinky says:

    Come on, time travelers would use telepathy.

  29. Erik_says_this says:

    Looks like a man… look at the size of those feet.

  30. MeowMaximus says:

    Hmm, sure she is using a cell phone to talk with the other (non-existent) cell phone users in 1928 – oh wait! What about the Cell phone towers? Don’t you think someone MIGHT have noticed them back then…

    It’s hard to tell exactly what this woman is doing in this clip, but this is just a case of seeing a pattern where none exists. When we see someone holding something up to their ear today, of course that means they are using a cell phone, so this is just wishful thinking.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      Did you read the OP? Or the dozen other posts saying the same thing?

  31. Macgyver says:

    It could possibly be a radio.

  32. Jane_Gage says:

    Wait until Reverend Phelps discovers that the gays have figured out how to take their militant agenda across the space-time continuum. : /

  33. iambeaker41 says:

    What nobody is mentioning is that this lady is still on hold. She is waiting for a Verizon billing representative.

    • njack says:

      Can you imagine the roaming charges for making calls across the time space continuum? Crap, I won’t even roam internationally because of the ridiculous charges.

      • Shadowfax says:

        It’s OK. Just open an account and deposit a buck. The interest earned by 2984 will pay the charges.

        • lucky13 says:

          Not if you opened an account in bank that went under a year later in 1929. Then you’d just be out a buck. Unless, of course, you made sure to open an account in a bank that survived…

  34. Mysterry says:

    He says, “It’s not an AM/FM radio, because it’s obviously 1928.” Yet he’s claiming that she’s on a cell phone, which was created after the AM/FM radio…. o.O

    • DeepHurting says:

      This made me laugh as well.
      Maybe it was a time-traveler who brought back a transistor radio from the 60’s!

  35. HogwartsProfessor says:

    She may be talking to the man in front of her, who could be her husband (they look about the same age), while adjusting a hearing aid as posted above, saying something like “Herbert! Slow down, you old coot! I can’t keep up with you!”

    There’s no cell phone; we’re just habituated to that gesture now since everyone holds their phone that way, and it looks familiar. Someone just noticed it, that’s all. Obviously no one did before cell phones became ubiquitous.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      It’s like how we still do the “roll the window” down sign, even though most cars have electric windows. It’s paradolia.

  36. KittensRCute! says:

    i dont buy it, if it were real they would have had a hands free device. nice try though. A- for effort!

  37. ITDEFX says:

    The guy in the video is an idiot…. so if someone is holding something to their ear it MUST BE A CELL PHONE! umm ok..

    I’m going to throw out the time travel non sense right now….because if Time travelers did go back and time and where caught on film…they would know by now that they were caught on film and go back and destroy that footage. dur!

    She may have had some sort of problem with her ear and may have tried to protect it with something if it was windy.

  38. dwtomek says:

    Obviously this traveler through time was a pioneer and perhaps amateurish. We can tell this first by her lack of concern, mayhap even amusement, over having her travels documented. Secondly we can tell this by the size of her time phone. Later travelers obviously have been known to use more discreet time phones.

    But in seriousness, it is a bizarre way to hold whatever she is holding. The only thing I hold like that by my ear is my cell phone, but I also don’t live in 1928 and am unfamiliar with the aural devices of the time.

  39. JlGomez says:

    Call Marty McFly…

  40. evnmorlo says:

    All Of This Has Happened Before And Will Happen Again

  41. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    It’s Obama’s mama’s mama’s mama plotting and laying the groundwork to put a usurper in the White House in 80 years..

  42. kylere1 says:

    This is the tech equal of backronyming. I bet if I had footage from the roman legions marching I would see some guy with a sore ear holding something to it.

  43. shinseiromeo says:

    *takes off sunglasses indoors*

    enhance…. ENHANCE!


    • dr_drift says:

      “Clean up that image, unblur those pixels. Yeah, right there. Hmm… looks like this murder has been committed…” (takes off glasses) “…in ‘silent mode’.”


  44. ThomFabian says:

    Simple case of pattern recognition driving him to the wrong conclusion.

    “Hey that person appears to be holding something near her ear and talking… it must be a mobile phone.”

    Then you take that conclusion and realize the only way for it to be true is time travel.

    So, you are left with deciding which is more likely:
    1) That thing is not a mobile phone, and the behavior which appears to match what we see when people are talking on mobile phones is something else entirely.


    2) Time travel is real, and had been caught on film during a Chaplin movie.

    I lean towards 1, especially since I wasn’t alive during the time of the filming to know if that action would’ve signaled some other activity altogether.

  45. tmintz says:

    It is a man in drag.. he is saying “Can you hear me now?” “Can you hear me now?”

    Look at his feet, the shoes bend in the middle. Those are the longest toes I have ever seen.. OMG I would hate to see what is under that shoe.
    And I believe he/she is a little over dressed if you compare the other people in the scene.
    I am thinking Alien, or at least alien technology.

    • lihtox says:

      An alien is more likely than time travel, simply as it doesn’t violate the known laws of physics for aliens to visit Earth. The bulky clothing may be disguising an inhuman body (though the face and hand are human-looking enough).

  46. Pax says:

    Freaky. Possibly a hoax, but if not … very very freaky.

  47. tmintz says:

    I agree with the other poster. We need to talk to Mickey Rooney he would be able to look at this and say if it was something that was available in that era.. Could someone ring Mickey and have him take a look. He might have been there at the opening of this film. Or the person on the other end of the line!

  48. dr_drift says:

    FOR ALL THE SKEPTICS – Actually read what I have to say carefully, as I have nigh irrefutable evidence that this person is capable of time travel:

    The phone she’s holding is a white iPhone. The white iPhone will not be available until 2011, thereby necessitating her existence in a time far in the future. Moreover, iPhone users are widely known to keep talking although their calls have been dropped, since these incidents happen quite often on the AT&T network and consumers are numb to the signs of a dropped call. Putting these two together, we start to see a picture of what’s happening: the time traveler may have inadvertently been sent back to a time that was not his/her own while using her post-2011-available white iPhone. Consumed by her own self-centered disposition, she continues to stroll along the now-historic sidewalk while talking on her cell phone, unaware that the call has been dropped.

  49. FrugalFreak says:

    my guess is this http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3579/3438419893_76cb2ed57d_o.jpg
    If this was out in 1944, it could have been out earlier to the elite Hollywood execs.

  50. MarvinMar says:

    I would also hope that that a society capable of time travel & figuring out how to make a device that could pick up signals through the space-time continuum…Would also not have to still rely on AT&T for service..Otherwise were all screwed!

  51. Sparkstalker says:

    Has anyone else independently verified this footage? That is, this guy’s an amateur filmmaker, as he painfully reiterates throughout the video. Shooting a quick scene like this and re-cutting it into the existing footage wouldn’t be too hard…

  52. plasticorange says:

    I dont see anything in her hand, looks like shes scratching her face/hair.

    The reason 100 people “cant explain it” is probably because they werent there.

  53. DeepHurting says:

    What I find most amusing about the comments for this article are the people who are rationally explaining why there can’t be cell phones, and why they wouldn’t work in 1928.

    It’s like if you showed them a picture of Jesus driving an Abrams tank through Bethlehem; they would explain how they didn’t have diesel fuel in Jesus’ times.

  54. zacwax says:
  55. Benjamin says:

    My guess is that the lady is just holding her gloves to the side of her head to hide her face from the camera.

  56. meisme says:

    There were no towers or cellular networks so who was she able to ‘call?’ Her phone must have been the time travel device itself, and she was calling a different time.

  57. dush says:

    In star trek in teh 70s they had these little communicator devices that they were able to talk on.
    How could they do that when in the 1970s there were no subspace communications relays?

  58. wojonet says:

    Apparently time travelers from the future use use Microsoft KINs.

    I guess a cross-dressing man from the future talking on his cell phone while attending a Charlie Chaplin premiere is the best way to explain that footage.

  59. Mr Sytry says:

    I hope the time machine had room for the celluar towers, relaying and transmitting equipment, or even satellites needed to operate a cell phone.

  60. Mimet says:

    Why is the photo for this a horse and carriage? CARS existed in 1928..

  61. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    eh, so many things it could be. lots of things come in flat boxy shapes, especially things one is taking into a movie theatre. and holding something up to your face while talking to yourself doesn’t mean the device is listening.
    could be folding opera glasses

    or a makeup compact or she could be following after the man saying “honey you’ve dropped your wallet’ and holding it up. if you notice the man in the grey suit is looking in his inside jacket pocket, probably for his wallet.

    it could be an elaborate hoax for the time also, not just hoax footage stuck on the DVD as some have proposed. the first mention of the concept of a portable wireless telephone was in tik tok of oz in 1914.

  62. yessongs says:

    It’s Captain Kirk with his communicator asking to be beamed up. If you look carefully you see him vanish! Remember they did some time traveling, and a communicator needs to cell towers.

    The other explanation is The Doctor is following the Master (the old guy in front) and is reporting it to Martha Jones of Unit!

  63. Mclick says:

    What blows my mind about this video is how it is black and white yet the stones on the zebra harness flash in color…yowzerz. Go to 3:00 minute mark and you will see it. The only conclusion I can come to is that the man dressed in drag, from the future is talking on his cell phone and he must be using some form of technology control where he essentially invented color television by secretly flashing a color sequence on a black and white movie by making the gems on the zebra harness work. I have checked with about 6 of my buddies and that is the only thing we can come up with.

  64. wheeitsme says:

    Dude. She’s scratching her head and talking to herself. I’m guessing she decided her character was confused/lost. It’s just a bit of stage business that she’s managed to ham up.

    A cell phone? Really? That was your first thought? Why not a Starfleet communicator?

  65. Froggmann says:

    Ooooooo! Somebody violated the temporal prime directive! I’m tellin’!

  66. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    She paused because of the cameraman with his new fangled contraption – why’s that man cranking that broken music box, I don’t see no monkey.

  67. Atoramos says:

    It’s a women holding the collar of her undercoat up against the cold, and then moves it at the end to un-obstruct her view. If you look closely at the bent knuckles, they’re spread as if you were digging your fingers into a fabric. It also explains why her body is the shape it’s in. Around 4:55 in the video, you can see the darker undercoat curving back below the white collar of her overcoat.

  68. The Marionette says:

    This article has done a good job of helping me with my consumer needs…………….

  69. Browncoat says:

    Actually, she is talking to a 6 foot rabbit named Frank.

  70. Inzane says:

    Well one thing we know for sure by the way she’s gripping that thing. It’s definitely not an iphone.

  71. huygensbyer says:

    There’s more wankery in this video than in a bank of adult video booths. This guy is kind of retarded. We’re looking at footage from way back in time, and he’s taking for granted that she’s holding a phone to her ear. While it’s something common for us to see nowadays, it doesn’t mean that’s what was going on.

  72. sybann says:
  73. Nap says:

    I have no logical explanation for what I just saw…. but I refuse to believe that it’s a time traveler or The Doctor, lol.

  74. watchwhathappens says:

    here’s my brother story on this, from the exact location: http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=456331196623

  75. kidres says:

    Who would they be talking to?

  76. ouijabored says:

    I’m not saying this a phone, but…I don’t know what it is. It’s very, very strange, for sure.

  77. nacoran says:

    It’s a streetlight.

    Because clearly Occam’s Razor says a streetlight is more likely than a time traveler with a cell phone.

  78. nacoran says:

    It’s a streetlight.

    Because clearly Occam’s Razor says a streetlight is more likely than a time traveler with a cell phone.

  79. nacoran says:

    Is she holding her hat and talking to herself?

  80. brinks says:

    I applaud the guy’s imagination here. I see some lady muttering to herself while holding up something to shield her ear, possibly from noise or wind.

  81. Scott Mercer says:

    She is talking, and she is holding something up to her ear.

    He is making a huge jump in logic by assuming those two things are connected.

    Occam’s Razor dictates that this is a hearing aid. And she was probably talking to that old man walking ahead of her, out of frame. Probably her husband. “Hey, you slag, wait for me!”

  82. riddlershadow says:

    Alright so at first i was like oh he/she is just scratching his/her face and complaining about it. But as i watched the clip more it does look they are talkin into their hand. So maybe he/ she is just crazy and thinks that his/ her hand can talk. But why is their hand formed into the shape of a cell phone.