Today, a picture has zero credibility as proof of anything.
But a long time ago – before everyone had an HD (phone) camera in their pocket, and before each 8th-grader in the world knew how to use PhotoShop – it was almost impossible to alter a photograph. Plus, thanks to modern tech, experts can determine if a picture was tempered with 100% of the time.
The point is – some old photos as real as the mysterious circumstances surrounding them. Some of them have been widely debated for decades, while others don’t leave much room for debate in the first place. Nevertheless, they all share one thing – no one can give a logical explanation as to their origins.
Here are the 19 most mysterious photographs in history.
Follow along to find out what they are and why they remain unsolved to this day.
1. Spontaneous Human Combustion
Unlike most crime scene photos, this one raises more questions than it answers. The remains of a woman, found inside her Florida home in 1951, consist of two well-preserved legs and a pile of ash. Her skull was shrunk, indicating very intense heat, but nothing else inside the house was burned. To this day, forensic experts remain clueless as to the circumstances surrounding this photograph.
2. Time-Travelling Hipster
The red circle depicts a man sporting a portable camera, wrap-around sunglasses, a T-shirt and a hoodie. All that would be fine if the photo wasn’t taken in 1941…
Aside from the fact that his outfit is nothing like what people wore in the 1940’s (or 50’s for that matter,) wrap-around sunglasses weren’t even invented yet. And, compared to an average camera from that period – like the one circled in blue – his is way too slim.
Is he a time traveller who forgot to change out of his 90’s outfit? Probably not. But is he any more likely to be a visionary inventor with a knack for fashion design, who we’ve never heard of?
3. JFK Assassination & Secret Agent Babushka
When it comes to unsolved mysteries, you’d be hard pressed to find one more famous than the assassination of John F. Kennedy’s. Yet, most people haven’t heard about the FBI’s most intriguing suspects. ‘Babushka’ (Russian for “old lady”) – a middle-aged woman, dressed in traditional Soviet clothing – had a front row seat to the shooting, filmed it and then disappeared, never to be heard from again.
Babushka Lady first became a person of interest to the FBI because she had footage of the shooting from a unique angle. Later, declassified footage revealed that she was within 10 feet of JFK when it happened.
Everyone except her was subjected to background checks, audits and interrogations by the FBI. Meanwhile, authorities we never able to identify Babushka Lady or recover the film.
4. The Black Knight
The Black Knight satellite has been the subject of conspiracy theories ever since 1998, when NASA’s Apollo 17 spacecraft first photographed the object. Later, authorities claimed that it was merely an unrecorded piece of space debris. However, no one has been able to locate the Black Knight in Earth’s orbit ever since.
5. Skunk Ape
Even though the photos are blurry, experts were able to determine one thing – the mysterious animal has a set of features that doesn’t correspond to any known species.
During the summer of 2000, the Sarasota County (Florida) Sheriff’s Dept. received an anonymous letter containing photos of an unidentified ape-like creature. The woman who sent them was convinced that she found an escaped orangutan. She described seeing it steal fruit from her porch and asked the Police to get back to the zoo safely.
There are people who believe the Skunk Ape is hiding out somewhere outside of Sarasota to this day. And even those who don’t love the mysterious creature for driving tourists to their little town, or as they now call it “Skunk Ape Territory.”
6. Hessdalen Lights
If you’re planning a trip to Norway, always remember to dress warm and pack extra mosquito repellant. Oh, and disregard any bright lights floating around at night – that’s just the Hessdalen Lights.
Apparently, sky-bound light displays of unknown origin can still be seen 1-2 times per month in the Hessdalen Valley region of Norway. They occur at various altitudes and hover for as long as 6 hours at a time, before they disappear.
Scientists agree that Hessdalen Lights are natural phenomena, though that’s pretty much all we’ll ever know about them. There are numerous theories but none that explain why the lights appeared about 50 times more often from 1981 to mid-1983. During that time period, the mysterious phenomenon could be seen 2-4 times per day.
7. Moon Pyramids
Ever wonder what the dark side of the moon looks like? According to modern science, it’s just like the side we see but a lot colder due to the constant darkness. But, according to one photo captured during the last Apollo mission, that frozen dessert has a mysterious resemblance to sunny Egypt.
Even the skeptics can’t deny that it’s nearly impossible for such a proportional structure to form by accident. UFOlogist, statistician and creator of Above Top Secret, Jim Egnimus estimates that the chances of that are slimmer than “winning the lotto every day for five years in a row.”
The most unsettling part of the story is – NASA edited the photo, marking it ‘BLANK’ in their directory. That doesn’t prove anything. But, what are the chances of a rocket scientist making a labeling error, or deciding that this photo is “blank?”
The story behind this photograph dates back to 1907. Nine fishermen claimed to have caught the last existing Cadborosaurus – a giant, prehistoric eel that was reportedly spotted by dozens of early American settlers. Since then, the creature’s existence has been disputed as widely as the Yeti’s. And, while there may be no others left, the authenticity of this photo is undeniable.
9. Phantom Backseat Driver
If you thought your overprotective aunt was a bad backseat driver, you’ll be glad all you had to do was keep both hands on the wheel at all times. This photo was taken in 1959 by Mabel Chinnery, who wanted to have a picture of her husband behind the wheel of their brand new towncar. The Chinnerys just so happened to have stopped by a cemetery to take it. As such, after developing the photo, they could only speculate as to who the creepy figure in the backseat was.
10. The Wosthead Church Ghost
A small church in the Norfolk region of England is widely rumored to be haunted. But, unlike most similar places, there’s actual photographic evidence that coincides with its story. Locals say a priest, possessed by a demon, murdered two nuns in cold blood inside the church. Now, it haunts the place but the spirits of those two nuns prevent it from possessing another victim. They appear as white, transparent figures.
And here’s the infamous demon, in a photo taken after the church was restaurated in the 1930’s.
11. Watertown Phantom Faces
The oldest unsolved photograph on our list depicts two S.S. Waterton crew members – James Courtney and Michael Meehan. They died on board of the ship, as a result of a gas leak that wouldn’t have been discovered otherwise. After they were buried at sea, Courtney and Meehan came back in the form of reflections that stuck around long enough to be photographed by the captain.
Sure, we’ll never know if that’s how those two sailors look. But the integrity of the photo is undeniable and who would dare question the integrity of 74 S.S. Waterton crew members?
12. Hanging Body
After their first family dinner at their new home, the Coopers gathered around the table for a family photo. No one is exactly sure what happened next, but they definitely didn’t need a picture to remember that night. Maybe a body fell through the ceiling right when they were saying “cheese;” maybe this was meant to be a prank photo; or maybe the Coopers were actually a bunch of murderous psychopaths with hoarding issues. Either way, we’re pretty sure this is the creepiest group pic in their family photo album.
13. Man-Eating Cave Monster
British or not, get ready to say “what the (actual) devil?”
This photo was snapped by two tourists wandering around in the Ras el Khaimah caves. After getting a glimpse of what you see below (when the camera’s flash went off) they did what most of us would do – ran for their life, screaming on the top of their lungs. The tourists reported what they saw to the authorities who were sceptical at first, but not so much after they found a mutilated human body inside the same cave…
14. Baby Ghost
Believe it or not, it the early 1900’s, it was a normal practice to keep tombstone photos from loved ones’ graves inside the house. However, this picture a mother took of her daughter’s grave is anything BUT normal. The toddler figure is clearly transparent and it wasn’t there when the picture was taken.
In 1990, a paranormal TV show investigated the story. They just so happened to have found two infant graves within yards of the tombstone.
15. The Unlikely Survivor
Taken during the most terrifying day in modern American history, this photo has been the subject of meticulous debate ever since September 11, 2001. The woman depicted among debris of the second World Trade Center tower didn’t just witness the worst of the carnage up-close, she also lived to tell the tale. How she managed to get out alive is anyone’s guess – though she was identified, the woman still refuses to talk about that horrific day.
16. The Sea Monster of Hook Island
The only documented sighting of the Hook Island Sea Monster occurred in December of 1964. However, during a scientific expedition launched shortly after, countless similar photos came to light. On top of that, most native Hook Island residents claim to have seen the creature at least once.
When they first spotted it, Robert and Marie Serrec were snorkeling off the coast of Hook Island – a popular vacation destination in Australia. The enormous snake-like creature was resting on the ocean’s floor, so the Serrecs swam over it to get a closer look. They found out just how quickly they can swim after the ‘sea monster’ woke up and coiled around nearby coral reefs.
17. Elisa Lam’s Last Moments
The murder of Elisa Lam is as tragic as it is baffling. The only piece of evidence is elevator security cam footage depicting the last minutes of her life. In it, Elisa seems to be desperately hiding from someone/something in the hallway. She keeps pressing the “Lobby” and “Doors Close” buttons but the elevator remains in place. After carefully peeking outside, Elisa finally exits and, seconds later, the elevator doors close behind her.
Lam’s body was found inside a water reservoir, on the roof of a Los Angeles hotel. Aside from the fact that the roof entrance was barricaded from the inside and locked from the outside, Elisa’s blog was updated for months after she was killed.
18. The Portrait of Freddy Jackson’s Ghost
Freddy Jackson was an Air Force mechanic who died in 1919, due to a propeller malfunction. Two days later, just before Freddy’s funeral, his squadron gathered to take a scheduled group pic. When everyone finally got a copy (at the time, it took weeks to develop photos), they couldn’t believe their eyes – Freddy Jackson was clearly present!
The squadron concluded that their mechanic’s spirit didn’t know Freddy was dead yet, so it showed up for the photoshoot as scheduled. And, while that bit of logic isn’t very sound, 3 dozen eyewitness accounts are proof that Jackson is in the picture.
19. The Flying Spaceman
The invisible flying spaceman is among the very first ‘viral’ pics in history. Jim Templeton took a pictures of his daughter while they were out on a picnic in Cumbria, Great Britain. But, according to Jim, there was no one behind her – certainly not a spaceman in mid-flight. He even went as far as contacting the police, though they dismissed his claims as non-threatening.
After a few local newspapers printed the story, dubbing the white figure ‘Solway Firth Spaceman,’ UFOlogists from all over the world began debating it’s origin. It only took a few hours for Templeton’s flying spaceman to take over the Internet.
Skeptics say the mysterious white figure is just an overexposed outline of Jim’s wife standing behind her daughter. But the truth is – the spaceman’s proportions and location in the photo indicate that he/she either hovered above ground level, or has 5-ft. long legs. There might be a simple explanation here but, if so, Templeton is the only one who’ll ever know for sure.