How did a mobile phone appear in a 1928 Charlie Chaplin film?

The Circus, like all films from its era, is black-and-white as well as silent. 

 LEFT: Movie poster for the 1928 Charlie Chaplin film "The Circus" RIGHT: Charlie Chaplin (photo credit: FLICKR, Wikimedia Commons)
LEFT: Movie poster for the 1928 Charlie Chaplin film "The Circus" RIGHT: Charlie Chaplin
(photo credit: FLICKR, Wikimedia Commons)

Sharp-eyed cinema lovers with a penchant for conspiracy claimed to have found proof of time travel after seeing a woman apparently using a cell phone in the 1928 Charlie Chaplin film The Circus.

The Circus, like all films from its era, is a silent film, shot in black and white.

During the scene in question, a woman in a black hat and white gloves walks across the background while evidently talking into a handheld device. 

Obviously, mobile phones did not gain widespread traction until the late 1980s - almost 50 years after The Circus was released. 

What is she really holding?

Grainy film footage of the Charlie Chaplin film ''The Circus'' shows what appears to be a woman talking on a cell phone, leading people to wonder if time travel is real after all. (credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)Grainy film footage of the Charlie Chaplin film ''The Circus'' shows what appears to be a woman talking on a cell phone, leading people to wonder if time travel is real after all. (credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)

Not all who watched the film agreed that it was evidence of time travel. Some claimed that the woman was simply trying to avoid sunlight, while others posited that she was covering her ear. 

However, the New York-based publication Daily News posited an even simpler explanation in a 2010 article, writing that "the simple explanation is that the woman uses a hearing aid."

This would indeed be in keeping with the times; the first electric hearing aid - the akouphone- was invented in the late 19th century, and the portable version- the Acousticon- was on the market by 1905. 

So, while conspiracy theories about time travel are far more entertaining and may continue to spread, it is far more likely that the woman in question was simply hard of hearing.