Los Angeles - Charlie Chaplin is undoubtedly one of the greatest comic geniuses of all time. But was he also a time traveler or tech visionary decades ahead of his time?
That's the tantalizing question posed by a YouTube clip gaining huge attention Friday in which a woman passes through the frame in Chaplin's 1928 movie The Circus as she appears to be talking on a cellphone.
The video was posted by an Irish filmmaker who was baffled at the incongruity of the images that appeared over 50 years before cellphones were even invented.
The clip shows a stout woman in a hat walking past a zebra and holding a device to her ear while talking. The professional film producer who posted the video believed the only explanation was that the woman was a time traveler who inserted herself into the Chaplin footage for the benefit of future generations.
Other speculation that the device was a small radio was quickly discounted - the film was made well before the invention of transistor radios. Some viewers also were of the opinion that the woman had a toothache and was holding an ice-pack to her cheek.
Eventually it was the wisdom of the crowd that appeared to solve conundrum.
Technology bloggers among the video's hundreds of thousands of viewers said the device was probably a new type of hearing aid invented by Siemens in 1924, which replaced the old ear trumpets with a carbon microphone linked to an electromagnetic diaphragm that vibrated close to the listener's ear.
Details of the device are still available in a section of Siemen's website that relates the company's history.
As to why the woman appears to be talking in to the device the only answer is that she was talking to herself. Or maybe she was just a time traveler after all?