Perplexed by the appearance of the modern device in the very dated film, George Clarke took his discovery a step further, suggesting in a YouTube video that the cell phone-toting futurist is a "time traveler."
The YouTube video Clarke posted last week, featuring a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from the Chaplin film "The Circus," has since become has become the latest viral sensation to sweep the Web, with more than 1.4 million views.
The scene in question shows a woman (or man) in a long black coat walking down the street and appearing to hold something up to her ear.
"If you look carefully, she's talking on a thin, black device that is held to her ear. If you notice also that the knuckles are bent in the flat shape… of a phone. The phone is to the ear. It's not an ear trumpet. It is not an AM/FM radio, obviously because it's 1928," Clarke says in the video. "Technically, there's nothing that can explain [what] is in her hand… It's clear she's talking. She's on her own. She's talking into the device."
Later, he says that he's "completely" stumped by the scene, which features "possibly a time traveler, possibly some lunatic with a black piece of something."
Before posting the video to YouTube and asking the collective Internet for thoughts on the mystery, Clarke said he showed the video to more than 100 people and a film festival audience. No one could provide an adequate explanation, he said.
In the days since Clarke posted the footage, thousands of YouTube commenters (and others on the Web) have offered up their ideas on the so-called "time traveler."
The Daily News said that "while this fantastical theory is fun to ponder, in all likelihood the woman is actually using a hearing aid." The hearing aid was invented in 1920s, and by the time the film was produced, small devices were available for the public, the paper reported.
Some commenters have suggested that the woman is holding up her hand to shield her eyes from the sun. Others say she's holding up her hand to her ear so that she can hear better.
Still others have an even simpler explanation: the woman is just talking to herself, as people sometimes do, without the help of any kind of technology.