Friday thread: Remapping the past through archives…

The Belfast Telegraph has a nice little web story about a Belfast filmmaker George Clarke, who ‘thinks’ he discovered an instance of a timetraveller speaking into a mobile phone at the Hollywood Premier of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 classic, The Circus. It was featured on Chris Wild’s excellent blog a few days ago (with some pretty sceptical comments from his readers).

Chris is one to watch for the future. Not least because of the way he uses original material from the past to help us draw fresh conclusions about times and events we may think we are already familiar with.

Take this post which features two videos taken in Market Street, San Francisco before and after the Earthquake of 1906. First the before:

And now the after:

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire from Red Channels on Vimeo.

If you freeze frame the first at 7.05 and the second at 5.30 you should get a shot of about the same point in Market Street with the Ferry Terminal clock tower in the background. In one shared shot, you get a strong sense of just how utterly devastating the events of Wednesday, April 18, 1906 must have been.

The seeming most miraculous thing about it being that there were only 3,000 fatalities….

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  • Seymour Major

    Well, I suppose if I wanted to draw attention to a site like that, concocting the theory about the mobile phone would be an excellent way of going about it but he talked about it as it he believed it and now, I am wondering does he?

    If he does, I would like him to come here to investigate the Cooneen ghost in Fermanagh.

    I watched the San Francisco clips (I could not resist wasting my time) and found them fascinating. Then I did a naughty thing. I watched a couple of other pieces on his sight. London in the 1920s was absolutely fabulous.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s only the tip of Chris’s Retroscopic iceberg Seymour!!!

  • Comrade Stalin

    A viral marketing campaign. From a filmmaker with a penchant for “repairing” footage.

  • Oracle

    It never ceases to amaze me just how many people only too willing to dismiss any radical thought without having to provide an alternative line of thinking; it’s the cowardice of the human nature that comes to the fore on occasions like this.
    Better to be with the non thinking masses even if they are wrong than to run the risk of looking foolish of being associated with the radical minority that dare display their own thought.

    It’s a hearing aid argues some as they published their Google search of hearing aids from 1925, without thinking that the black hearing aid item similar to a phone square and black was actually the battery holder for the device and fitted in an inside pocket not held to the ear as the “Idea Provider” had shown in his clip.

    It’s not a phone because there would be no network or phone-masts in 1925 smugly claim many others in their best tin-foil helmet tones, without stopping to think that if someone had the technology to leave the present or the future to return to the past then they wouldn’t be dependant on a slow unreliable cumbersome network of radio masts would they?

    However the most interesting aspect of this clip is that the person in question is smaller than the man who walked in front but has much bigger shoe size even though she is supposed to be a woman and women naturally has smaller feet than men. The size of the feet while not conclusive adds to the intrigue of the clip, but is even more interesting when one realised that it is not the gait of a woman but that of a man if you watch the stride again on the clip.

    Do I think it is someone on a mobile phone …? Well my answer would be probably not but I can’t and won’t dismiss the idea unless I had a better alternative which at the moment the only thing I can offer is that it is an early example of a cross dresser out walking in public but hiding his face from a camera in case he is recognized in women’s clothing, but that does not account for the person clearly talking to nobody does it?

    But I thank the provider of the clip enormously for finding something strange and interesting to discuss.

  • Rory Carr

    Perhaps the clip from The Circus really does illustrate the availability of mobile ‘phones in 1928 and it simply was that the public then found the whole idea of having a device whereby one was instantly contactable by any Tom, Dick or Harry at any time of the night or day simply too intrusive so it never caught on and that the successful marketing of an item just too naff for words had to wait for the advent of the zombie-like generation of Thatcher’s Children.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The phone film puts me in mind of the excellent modern Ealing comedy Alien Autopsy (yes Ant and Dec are in it and reviews are not great – but I insist it is still excellent).

  • Mick


    It may be down to my writing, are you confusing two different folk there?

  • Susan

    amazing site, thank you!

  • USA

    Right again Comrade,
    He has approx 3.2 million views on the “mobile phone” clip. You could not buy that type of coverage on main stream media. I do a lot of work in the field of Internet Marketing, and this is a great example.
    “The boy done well”.