Talking time travel, Charlie Chaplin and Donald Trump with filmmaker George Clarke

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George Clarke is an award-winning film director, screenwriter, producer and founder of independent film company Yellow Fever Productions. Best known for his micro-budget zombie horror flicks, his sixth feature film, The Blood Harvest, won two awards at the 2015 Freak Show Horror Film Festival in Florida.

But back in 2010, George shot to worldwide attention for an entirely different reason. He found what he believed to be a time traveller in a Charlie Chaplin DVD extra and posted his discovery on YouTube, sparking a 21st-century urban legend.

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Today I’m interviewing George in order to get to the bottom of his thoughts on the time travel conspiracy happening all around us…

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Hi George. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. How have you been and what are you working on right now?

Thanks for the interest and support! The past 6 months have been pretty crazy on a personal level, which in turn has scuppered the latter half of 2016 for me. We’ve had some major delays in the production of my 7th feature film, Mindy Has To Die, which is based on the novella by US horror comedy writer Jeff Strand. It began shooting in June but with so much having happened in between I’ve still got 3 days to schedule for completion. This meant that at the 7th Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival in November, it was the first time in all these years I didn’t have a premiere of my new film. But we’ll get there! I’ve had worse thrown at me over the years and I’m still going…

One of the things you’re known for is the ‘Chaplin’s Time Traveller’ YouTube video, which is approaching 7 million views. In it you talk about how you’d spotted a possible time traveller in an extra on the DVD of Charlie Chaplin film The Circus. Can you talk me through what was going through your head when you first saw this clip?

It’s almost 7 million on my YouTube channel, yes, but I still can’t get over the fact that it was shown on most (if not all) major news channels, breakfast shows and media websites around the world. Crazy! I had noticed the video about a year before I made my discovery public. In fact, a few months earlier, I did a live reveal at our 2nd film festival to an audience and left most people speechless by what they saw. It led to some amazing debates of course!

When I first found it, I remember sitting on the couch just casually watching the premiere footage of The Circus. I’ve always loved old footage so I was watching intently at what was happening on screen. And as you become comfortable watching things in 1928, something as odd as someone talking on a handset really stands out. I jumped up off the couch and rewound the footage to double check, then started calling people to take a look.

Why did you conclude that this woman was a time traveller?

It was 1928 and the woman seemed to be having a fun chat on a mobile phone! What else could I think? Plus, I love the romance of it being a time traveller. Perhaps Chaplin himself went back in time to attend a personal event that made him very happy, but of course, had to be in disguise.

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Time travellers spotted in Cumbria, New York and… Downton Abbey

Stephen Hawking once said, “If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?” Well, Stephen, maybe they’re already here.

Time travel won’t go away. It continues to be a prominent and beloved theme in all kinds of fiction. From light-hearted comedy adventures like Back to the Future, to romances like Somewhere In Time and The Time Traveller’s Wife, to psychological thrillers like The Butterfly Effect. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – one of the earliest stories about time travel – is now one of the most retold stories ever. A recent surge of time travel movies – Looper, Source Code and Edge of Tomorrow – have been huge, highly acclaimed hits. Some of Star Trek’s best episodes and movies involve time travel. And Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling Outlander novels have just been adapted for TV.

Oh, and let’s not forget about a little show called Doctor Who.

But time travel is still considered purely fictional. While there is talk of it being theoretically possible with wormholes and faster-than-light travel, someone is yet to invent a time machine.

Well, here’s a conspiracy theory for you. Time travellers are already among us, which means that someone has already invented a time machine, or will invent one in the future. (Or the past?)

Just look at this! A time traveller’s gone and left a water bottle from 2014 in a house in 1924!

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Oh, wait. That’s just a boo-boo made by a dozy crewmember during a promotional shoot for ITV period drama Downton Abbey. Oops.

Well, unless the producers are trying to secretly tell us that Downton Abbey – a show about an aristocratic family and their servants in the 1910s and 20s – is actually a time travel story. Apparently double yellow lines, modern conservatories and television aerials have also made appearances on the show. That’s a conspiracy theory in itself…

But let’s have a look at some ‘real’ time travel…

Mobile phones in 1928 and 1938

In 2010, filmmaker George Clarke watched a clip of the 1928 premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, which was on the film’s DVD extras. He noticed a scary-looking old woman talking on what looks like a mobile phone….

In 1938, this video was filmed outside the Massena facility of the Aluminium Company of America in New York City.

People have theorised as to what these ‘phones’ might be. A small portable radio? A hearing aid instrument that was roughly the shape of a mobile phone? One person suggested that the woman in the Charlie Chaplin clip might be listening to ocean resonance in a seashell. Ahem.

But it could be that we’ve been infiltrated by time travellers.

Time travelling hit and run

One evening in June 1950, a pedestrian in Times Square, New York City, noticed a man dressed in 19th century clothes, looking disorientated and confused. He was accidentally hit by a taxi and killed. A number of 19th century items were subsequently found in his pockets. They included a bill for the care of a horse, old banknotes and a letter dated June 1876 sent to the address of Rudolph Fentz. As it turned out, a man named Rudolph Fentz matching this man’s description went missing in 1876.

Did he travel forwards in time to 1950?

It was discovered later that this story – which became significant in the 1970s – apparently originated in a fictional short story by Jack Finney called “I’m Scared”. Apparently, anyway.

The Solway Firth Spaceman

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In 1964, Jim Templeton took this mysterious photo of his daughter on Burgh Marsh, overlooking the Solway Firth in Cumbria, England. After he had the picture developed, he was shocked to see what he believed was a man in a space suit in the background. He insisted that no one else was around apart from a couple of women sitting in a car at the other end of the marsh. And Kodak, who developed the photo, confirmed it was genuine. He also said that shortly after the newspapers published the photo, he received a visit from two ‘Men in Black’, who probed him about the encounter.

So what happened on Burgh Marsh that day? One theory is that a team of astronauts from the future – wearing cloaking devices – travelled back in time and infiltrated the Templetons’ picnic for reasons unknown. But Templeton’s camera saw through their cloaking devices and inadvertently snapped one of them.

Or the ‘spaceman’ could just be Annie Templeton, Jim Templeton’s wife, standing with her back towards the camera, her light blue dress appearing white because of overexposure. That’s what today’s analysts say.

Not sure I buy that. The head of the spaceman doesn’t look like the back of someone’s head (though the bent arm you can see does look like it’s the back of someone’s arm). Also, have a look at this photo…

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Here Annie Templeton is pictured. She is sleeveless, yet the spaceman is not. And there isn’t even a hint of blue in the spaceman’s outfit. Doesn’t look like overexposure to me. Looks like a white suit.

There are many more mysterious alleged instances of time travel that I’ll be exploring in future articles, so stay tuned…

Next week: The Disney Conspiracy