Real or fake? Below are a collection of historic photos, some whimsical, some shocking, some sad – all unusual and thought provoking. Many are believed to be genuine historical records of the events that unfolded while some will debate the authenticity of a few of these. I’ll leave it to the readers to make up their own minds.
The last ever public execution in the United States – 1936
The last public execution was carried out in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1936 when Rainey Bethea was hanged after his conviction for the rape and murder of a 70-year-old woman. At least 20,000 people descended on the town to witness the execution.
World Record black sea bass (425 lbs.) caught by Edward Llewellen – 1903
Llewellen caught the record bass at Catalina Island, California on September 5, 1903. Once relatively common, the black sea bass faced the threat of extinction in the 1980’s. Relatively little is known about the species. This photo is believed to be authentic.
German soldiers execute a defiant communist youth in Munich – 1919
Little is known about this photograph but some believe it may be a communist PR photo purposely taken to further their cause. Several clues have been noted including the closeness to the wall (bullets could ricochet) and a couple of soldiers not holding their guns properly (particularly the two guys in the back). Regardless, we may never know if the photo is real or not. In 1919, German communists attempted to establish Bavaria as a socialist state and the affair was indeed convoluted and bloody.
A fire at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum leaves horrid broken and melted mannequins – 1925
A fire in Madame Tussaud’s famous wax-works exhibition in Marylebone Road, London left us this very unsettling picture of burnt and broken mannequins. During the fire, firemen were handicapped by the distance of the nearest fire hydrant and the whole of the roof collapsed while 10,000 people assembled to watch the spectacle. A reporter captured this photo and it appeared in newspapers the following day.
A girl at a gravesite. It was not until years later than the strange anomaly was noticed – early 1900’s.
Little is known about this photograph of a little girl standing near a reflecting pool in a graveyard. It is believed to have been taken sometime in the early 1900’s. No explanation for the double-reflection in the pool has been found.
Ku Klux Klan in their full garb at a carnival in Canon City – 1925.
This photo of the Ku Klux Klan riding a Ferris Wheel at a carnival in Canon City, Colorado is unusual in two regards. First of course, it’s highly unusual to see violent Klansmen participating in a child’s activity but secondly, what is that floating in the air near the top-right side of the frame?
The only recorded incident of a person being struck by a meteorite – Moody Jacobs shows a giant bruise on the side of Ann Hodges – 1954.
It was in the afternoon in late November 1954 in Alabama, when Ann decided to nap on her couch. Covered in quilts, she was awoken when a softball-size hunk of meteor busted through the ceiling, bounced off a radio, and hit her in the side. To date she is the only person in history to have been struck by a meteorite.
The only surviving image of deceased Ioana the Bloodthirster who died, purportedly from drinking her own blood – 1909.
Ioana Constantinescu passed away in the autumn of 1909 in Tinisoara, Romania. The coroner’s reported listed her cause of death as suicide by “purposeful ingesting large quantities of her own blood”.
Taken in an era long before Photoshop existed, this photo is purported to show a man holding the corpse of a giant grasshopper shot in Montana – 1937.
This photo has gone viral several times and its authenticity is still in question. What we do know is that in the 1930’s, postcards showing impossibly large animals became popular. Whether they are hoaxed or not has never been proven.
This photo, captured during a photoshoot for the hotel, unexpectedly captured a shot of a dead body in the pool.
It has been reported that at the time, nobody noticed the dead body floating in the bottom of the hotel’s swimming pool during a real estate photo shoot. The photo became part of a collection of “bad real estate photos” showing how *not* to take a real estate photograph.
This head is reported to be the disembodied head of a “possessed” nun.
“Relics” of possessed nuns are fairly common as are reported cases of nuns bartering deals with Satan. This head below is believed to be the 18th century head of Sister Josephine Rosenthal, a nun who became pregnant in an isolated convent and bore a daughter who lived to be 33 years old. During birth, Sister Josephine died from loss of blood. A female birth of immaculate conception was scorned and the council saw Josephine as “possessed”. The head is kept in the Hohenwart Monastery and according to them, it is *not* the head of Josephine, but rather the head of Maria, the daughter she died giving birth to. In the wooden box are the preserved front portion of her skull and face, a vial of her blood, and a gold leaf case containing a lock of her hair.
Soldiers at the Majdanek concentration camp are dumbfounded at this large pile of human ashes – 1944.
In 1941, Majdanek authorities began using Zyklon B gas to murder prisoners who were too weak to work. Operations continued until the end of 1943. There were three gas chambers operating at Majdanek. Total humans murdered there is unknown.
A Turkish official teases starving Armenian children with a piece of bread during the Armenian Genocide – 1915.
The Armenian Genocide (or Armenian Holocaust) began in 1915 when the systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects began as each were murdered one by one. it is estimated that around 1 million people were killed during the event.
A “before and after” photo of Hiroshima – 1945.
The photos below need little explanation. in August 1945, bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and killed at least 129,000 people. Below are “before and after” aerial photos of the city.
The last known photo of the Titanic – 1912.
This photograph, taken on April 12, 1912, is the last known picture of RMS Titanic on the surface of the ocean. It was taken during her maiden voyage at Crosshaven, Ireland, just after the vessel departed Queenstown where it had stopped before heading westwards towards New York. Three days after this photo was taken, 1,514 people would die in the North Atlantic after colliding with an iceberg in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
The opening of King Tut’s sarcophagus – 1924.
On February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Howard Carter opened the door to the last chamber. Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb–golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing–the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered.
Prohibition-era barrels of alcohol to be burned – 1929.
The photo of an unbelievably tall mountain of barrels is dated 1924 and surprisingly, is authentic. There exist other photos of the barrels being stacked by workers during construction of the tower in 1929 (described as 110 feet high with 35 layers of barrels). Whether or not the barrels are filled with alcohol however, is still debated.
The Reichserntedankfest (Thanksgiving Celebration of the Reich) in Buckeberg, Germany. 700,000 people participated in the event – 1934.
This photo captured the Reichsermtedankfest of 1934 in Buckeberg. It was reported at the time that even those that did not support Nazis were emotionally shaken by the event, feeling an almost spiritual sensation of unity amongst the 700,000 people who participated in the event.
Einstein’s desk the day after his death – 1940.
Many are surprised to find that Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds in history, was actually a pretty regular guy – cluttered desk and all. He was a supporter of civil rights (he considered racism America’s “worst disease”), assisted Zionist causes, and loved music (yes, he played the violin). Also surprising to some, he favored socialism, was critical of capitalism, and believed in a pantheistic God (God is everywhere and inside all of us).
Dangerous baby cages used to ensure that children received fresh air and sunlight despite living in high-rise apartment buildings – 1934.
Invented in 1922, baby cages were developed with well intentions. Sitting in open mesh cages, the baby was completely exposed to the elements outside so babies could benefit from fresh air and sunshine despite living in high-rise apartment buildings. According to early advertisements, “Mrs. Morris thinks her toddlers have a right to a place in the sun, so an out-of-this-world surprise awaits little Sally, who feels she’s been given the brush-off.” Despite their precarious position, no deaths were reported from their use.
23-year-old Evelyn McHale jumped to her death from the 83rd floor of the Empire State Building – 1947.
Captured in this iconic photograph, known as “The Most Beautiful Suicide”, the appearance of a perfectly blissful lady hid the true damage to her body. The photo, taken by Robert Wiles, was featured in LIFE magazine in May 1947 and showed the body of McHale resting atop the roof of a crumpled limousine. Sadly, little is known about McHale’s problems or her final hours despite researchers spending thousands of hours attempting to uncover details about the Californian. We know that she lived in New York with her brother and sister-in-law and worked as a bookkeeper for an engraving company. She was engaged to be married to Barry Rhodes at the time of her death.
On April 30, 1947, Mchale visited her fiancé in Easton presumably to celebrate his 24th birthday and boarded a train back to NYC at 7 a.m. on May 1, 1947. Barry told reporters that “When I kissed her goodbye she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be married.” Upon arriving in New York, she went to the Governor Clinton Hotel where she wrote a suicide note. At 10:30 AM, she bought a ticket to the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.
According to a report:
“Around 10:40 am Patrolman John Morrissey, directing traffic at Thirty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, noticed a white scarf floating down from the upper floors of the building. Moments later he heard a crash and saw a crowd converge on 34th street. Evelyn had jumped, cleared the setbacks, and landed on the roof of a United Nations Assembly Cadillac limousine parked on 34th street, some 200 ft west of Fifth Ave. Across the street, Robert C. Wiles, a student photographer, also noticed the commotion and rushed to the scene where he took several photos, including this one, some four minutes after her death. Later, on the observation deck, Detective Frank Murray found her tan cloth coat neatly folded over the observation deck wall, a brown make-up kit filled with family pictures and a black pocketbook with the note which read:
“I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or remembrance for me. My fiancé asked me to marry him in June. I don’t think I would make a good wife for anybody. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”
As per her wishes, her body was cremated and interred in an unmarked grave.