Chilling Images From History
By | November 23, 2022
The Perverse Glee Of Shameless Racism...
In 1957, 15-year-old Dorothy Counts attended Harry Harding High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, for four days. The school was all white, and Counts had been one of a small number of black students to apply and be accepted to attend white public schools in North Carolina under the Pearsall Plan.
On her first day, Counts was met by hundreds of students who tried to block her from entering the school; many settled for throwing rocks at her or spitting on her. The racism in the school was intense; Counts was harassed constantly, and any white students she spoke with drew criticism from the mob as well. While Counts' expression in this photo demands sympathy, what's truly fascinating -- in the worst way -- is the looks on the faces of the white students behind her. So indoctrinated are they by tradition that they see this courageous, barrier-breaking student as some sort of joke.
Even Wonder Woman Has A Shocking #MeToo Story
As Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter was TV's greatest female superhero -- but even Wonder Woman had to deal with Hollywood's culture of harassment. In the wake of allegations against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, Carter came forth with her own untold account of crappy creepiness. In a post titled "This Is My #MeToo Story," she shared it with readers of The Daily Beast.
Carter says that during her Wonder Woman run, a member of the crew drilled a hole in her dressing-room wall to watch her undress. "They caught him, fired him, and drummed him out of the business," she recalled. But Carter has another horror story she won't tell. It has to do with a man who was, in 2018, coming under fire for his past actions. While Carter was tempted to join the women accusing him with her own testimonial, she held back because her participation would be a distraction from the legal case being prepared. She said:
I can't add anything to it. I wish I could. But there's nothing legally I could add to it, because I looked into it. I'm just another face in the crowd. ... I don't want it to be about me, it's not about me. It's about him being a scumbag. So legally I can't do anything. If I could, I would.
Warning: This Teenage Boy's Story Does Not End Well
In 1970, fourteen-year-old Keith Sapsford of Australia decided he'd had enough of his Catholic boarding school. He escaped to Sydney Airport, with plans of leaving the country as a stowaway. Back then, security at airports was very lax by today's standards, and Sapsford was able to sneak onto a DC-8 bound for Japan. But he wasn't in the cabin or the cargo area -- he was hiding in one of the plane's wheel wells.
Sapsford was apparently not an expert on the mechanics of a plane -- the wheel well may have seemed a safe place before the jet took off, but that would soon change. Once aloft, the plane would need to retract its landing gear, and to do so the wheel well would open up like a trap door. Sapsford had no chance; he plummeted 200 feet to his death.
Photographer John Gilpin happened to be taking pictures at the airport, and by pure coincidence he snapped one that captured Sapsford in midair, moments before his death.
Imagine Losing Everything, Then Getting Shoes
This photo of a young Austrian orphan appeared in Life magazine twice. The first time, his presence was touted as a heartwarming story amid the death and chaos of World War II:
Werfel, a 6-year old Austrian orphan, beams with unbounded joy as he clasps a new pair of shoes presented to him by the American Red Cross.
In 1951, reader Mrs. Richard Henry Wehmeyer wrote the magazine saying that she had saved the clipping from that older issue, as a grim reminder to herself and others that most of us have it better than we think.
'Every time I heard some petty complaint,' she says, she told friends about the little boy with the new shoes, and unfolded the clipping to show them. ... 'This picture of a child's ecstasy over a pair of shoes has meant something personal to me for a long time.'
Many years after that, the rock group The Pretenders used the same image as the sleeve art of their debut single, which carried the same message Mrs. Wehmeyer had expressed. The song was "Stop Your Sobbing."
Gotham's Female Crime Fighter Had To Fight For Fair Pay
Yvonne Craig was a talented dancer and a charismatic actress, and -- let's face it -- a beautiful woman whose TV presence saved the Batman series of the '60s. Tough the show starring Adam West and Burt Ward had been a massive success in its first two seasons, it needed a dose of girl power by the third, and Craig, cast as Batgirl, was just the thing.
Craig's onscreen portrayal of Batgirl, and her alter ego Barbara Gordon, seemed to be a timely acknowledgement of gender equity. But Craig knew there was more to be done, which is why she signed on for a 1973 TV commercial advocating equal pay for women. The public-service announcement (PSA) showed Batman and Robin in a helpless situation, with only Batgirl (Craig) able to rescue them. Craig wonders aloud why she should be expected to save their butts when she wasn't paid as much as Robin. Batman (played by Dick Gautier) tells her to stop joking.
"It's no joke," she replies. "It's the Federal Equal Pay Law." The statute had been enacted a decade earlier.
These Train Passengers Just Escaped Certain Death
On April 13, 1945, near Magdeburg, Germany, American soldiers came upon a train full of civilians. The German soldiers tasked with guarding the train had fled, and the women, children and few old men emerging, bewildered, were former prisoners from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. An American soldier had the presence of mind to snap this picture of people who'd been through hell and were learning, at that very moment, that the tide of the war had turned and that they were going to survive.
One of the women on the train, Hilde Huppert, recalled that a jeep approached,
manned by four G.I.s with steel helmets coated in dust. They pulled up and approached us warily: a motley crowd of women and children together with a couple of men here and there, all clad in rags and tatters. We must have been a pitiful sight. ‘Who are you?’ they demanded. ‘Hello friends!’ we shouted back in a chorus [in English]. ‘We love you! We are Jews!’ They slipped off their helmets and mopped their brows. One of them pointed to the Star of David he wore on a chain around his neck. ‘So am I.’
Not For The Squeamish: The Four-Legged Girl
Myrtle Corbin was a dipygus, which means that the axis of her body split into two halfway down. She was born with two pelvises, side by side, and two pairs of legs. Her two inner legs were underdeveloped, and although she could move them she could not use them to walk or stand. Her outer legs were fairly normal, except that she had a club foot (her right), which gave her an odd gait.
Corbin was born in Tennessee in 1868, and by the 1880s was an extremely popular sideshow attraction, billed as the "Four-Legged Girl from Texas." Corbin had two separate sets of sexual organs and two uteruses, and was, as amply proven, capable of bearing children. She married James Clinton Bicknell when she was 19, and with him had four daughters and a son.
When Corbin died at the age of 59, her family buried her in a concrete-encased coffin to prevent grave-robbing. She had proven to be such an attraction on the sideshow circuit that competitors had created knockoffs using prosthetic limbs, and it would hardly be out of character for a sideshow promoter to display the Four-Legged Girl even in death thanks to preservation through taxidermy.
The Disturbing Gaze Of A Killer Before His Own Execution
General Anton Dostler was a defendant in the first war crimes tribunals after the end of World War II, and he was found guilty. In this colorized photo from December 1, 1945, he takes a final unrepentant look at the camera as he is tied to a stake in Aversa, Italy. Moments later, a hood was pulled over his head and he was shot to death by a 12-man firing squad.
Dostler's crime was the execution of American prisoners of war. Fifteen U.S. soldiers had been captured by a combination of German and Italian forces in March 1944. Dostler's superiors ordered them executed under the Commando Order of 1942, which Adolf Hitler had issued. The Commando Order specified that all commandos and saboteurs should be executed, but there was a problem -- the American soldiers were all wearing uniforms. While the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War allowed for the execution of saboteurs or spies, it forbade the execution of those who'd been captured in uniform.
Lovers Conquer Religious Division In Death
Visit the large municipal cemetery in Roermond, the Netherlands, and you'll find a famous pair of graves, known as the "grave with the little hands." The two plots lie on either side of a wall; one is in the Catholic section of the cemetery while the other is in the Protestant section. In the late 19th century, the graveyard was strictly divided into Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish areas, and it was strictly forbidden for anyone to be buried in a section that did not match their faith.
In 1842, a young Dutch Catholic noblewoman married a Protestant commoner who was an officer in the Dutch cavalry. J.C.P.H. van Aefferden was destined to be buried with her family in the Catholic section of the cemetery, but her husband J.W.C. van Gorkhum would not be allowed into the family plot. Van Aefferden came up with a solution, ordering two extra-tall grave markers, one with a male hand protruding and another with a female hand. When her husband died in 1880, he was buried in the Protestant section beside the wall; when she died eight years later, she was interred just on the other side of the wall, in the Catholic section. The eternally-locked hands have become a symbol of love conquering religious division.
Nikola Tesla Unlocks The Awesome Power Of Electricity
In this colorized photo we see electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla sitting in his Colorado Springs laboratory -- it appears he's calmly reading a book while his enormous Magnifying Transmitter throws lighting bolts 22 feet across the room. The photo was taken in 1899 for Century Magazine, and it's one of the most famous early examples of photo fakery.
Over 120 years ago, thotographer Dickenson Alley wouldn't have PhotoShop or any other sort of image manipulation software at his disposal. He had to do it the old-fashioned way, using a double exposure. In his Colorado Springs Notes, Tesla wrote of the photo, "Of course, the discharge was not playing when the experimenter was photographed, as might be imagined!"
The Magnifying Transmitter was one of the largest Tesla coils ever built. Using input power of 300 kilowatts, it could produce potentials of around 12 million volts at a frequency of about 150 kilohertz, creating "lightning bolts" stretching up to 130 feet.
A Single Man Refuses To Give The Nazi Salute
On June 13, 1936, the naval training ship Horst Wessel was launched from the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany. Factory workers celebrated the event with the Nazi salute, which was typical -- in fact, an edict in 1933 made the sieg-heil gesture the mandatory greeting in Germany, thus politicizing everyday interactions.
The photo of the man who wouldn't give the Nazi salute has become a symbol of refusing to cave to herd mentality -- but who was he? He was identified as August Landmesser by his daughter, Irene Eckler. Landmesser had been a Nazi, but was kicked out of the party when he became engaged to Irene Eckler, a Jewish woman. Landmesser continued his relationship with Eckler and consequently was sentenced to prison for the crime of "dishonoring the race." While Landmesser certainly would have had good reason to refuse the Nazi salute, some historians point out that photos of Landmesser don't really resemble the man in this picture, and feel that it's actually a different Blohm+Voss employee, Gustav Wegert.
A Race Official Attacks Kathrine Switzer, First Woman To Run (Officially) The Boston Marathon
In 1967, women's sports were eyed with suspicion -- while there were female Olympians and professional tennis players, the notion that a woman could or would want to do something as strenuous as run a marathon was dismissed out of hand. Though women had participated in the Boston Marathon, they'd only done so unofficially, never as registered competitors. Under the rules, official entrants had to be men.
Kathrin Switzer, an enthusiastic college runner who'd trained to go the 26.2 mile distance, changed that when she registered (as "K.V. Switzer") and did indeed run the race. When race officials got wind of her presence, one of them, race manager Jock Semple, attempted to rip the numbers off of her sweatshirt. Semple was actually a respected key figure in the history of the Boston Marathon, and helped build it into the institution it was at the time; he was not against women competing in sports but he was an ardent enforcer of rules -- and the rule at that time said: Only men can run as registered (i.e., number-wearing) competitors. Semple's clumsily violent attempt to enforce the rule during the event, with an expression resembling rage on his face was, as we now say, a bad look. Though Switzer and Semple later became friends, his behavior on that day spurred her to not only finish the race, but to become a leading advocate for women's sports as well.
A Surprising Photo Of A Pre-'Wonder Woman' Lynda Carter At A Crossroads
It's always interesting to look at celebrities of superhuman beauty and wonder what might have happened. What might have happened... if. Today, we see Lynda Carter as the perfect actress to portray Wonder Woman -- indeed, the more recent Wonder Woman Gal Gadot is a fantastic Wonder Woman, but is she the Wonder Woman? To the viewing public, probably not. Lynda Carter is one of the immortal castings in screen history -- like the choice of Yul Brynner in The King And I.
The funny thing is, before she was saddled with the massive responsibility of being the avatar of Girl Power, Lynda Carter was (like many others) an actress looking for a gig. It's not like Lynda Carter arrived in Hollywood and declared she was there to fight evil in star-spangled hot pants. Things might have gone quite differently. How differently? Well, two appearances point to an alternate career for the canonical Wonder Woman. First, she tried out to be a Playboy Playmate, and though she was never published in Hugh Hefner's magazine her centerfold image is seen in the movie Apocalypse Now. Another interesting diversion from the Wonder Woman image is Carter's movie debut in Bobbie Jo And The Outlaw -- a 1976 movie featuring racy scenes that came out four months before her Wonder Woman debut.
A Shocking Discovery For A Young Deaf Child: Sound
Harold Whittles was born deaf -- and perhaps it is true that you can't miss something you never had. When a doctor fitted him with an earpiece and turned on the hearing aid, the young boy heard sound for the very first time, and the surprise is written all over his face. This is a person suddenly discovering a whole new dimension to the world.
The photo was snapped in 1974 by Jack Bradley, a photographer with the Peoria Journal Star. The image became famous when it was published in Reader's Digest, one of the largest magazines in the world. Reader's Digest included it as an "unforgettable moment caught on film," and it certainly was -- for Harold Whittles most of all.
The Disturbing Double Standard That All But Ended Suzanne Somers' Career
Suzanne Somers became famous for playing Chrissy Snow on Three's Company. Her performance as the ditzy California blonde was note-perfect, and her wardrobe and physical comedy ushered in what became known as "jiggle TV." She was certainly a major attraction for the hit show, but she left after four seasons. One version of the story is that she demanded too much money, and ABC turned her down. It was a power move by a celeb who was too big for her britches, and it failed.
But there's more to the story, and Somers' reputation as a money-grubbing diva may not be deserved. Somers really was a strong draw. And while Somers' requested raise, from $30,000 per episode to $150,000 per episode, was huge, it wasn't ludicrous. Male stars such as Alan Alda and Carroll O'Connor were making that kind of money -- in fact, Somers' own co-star John Ritter was making that kind of money. It was an ambitious move, and was destined to fail (as ABC had just given raises to Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley), but that doesn't change the fact that Somers, like many women in TV at the time, was woefully and unfairly underpaid.
The Doomed Crew Of The Space Shuttle Challenger, All Smiles On The Morning Of Their Fatal Launch
On January 28, 1986, the vaunted United States space program suffered its greatest tragedy when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded moments after launch. All seven crew members died.
The Space Shuttle was a revolutionary craft in the history of space travel in that it could be launched from a rocket and land like a plane, thus enabling its reuse. The doomed launch was the 25th Space Shuttle mission, and the 10th trip to space for the Challenger. While Americans were somewhat used to Space Shuttle launches, this one was different because of the much-touted presence of Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher who'd been selected to make the trip. Because of the publicity, approximately 17% of Americans tuned in to watch the launch, many of them schoolchildren. For Gen-X Americans, "where were you when the Challenger exploded" became a touchstone in the same vein as the assassination of John F. Kennedy had been for their parents.
In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry, and all seven crew members were lost.
A Chilling Foreshadowing Of Princess Diana's Struggle As A British Royal
In 1983, Princess Diana and Prince Charles embarked on a tour of Australia. The two had been married for less than two years, and it was their first trip abroad as a royal couple. They were greeted like rock stars -- well, one of them was. The Australian people were enamored of Diana, with massive crowds showing up to cheer wherever she went. Mirroring Beatlemania nearly two decades earlier, the phenomenon was dubbed "Dianamania."
While the Princess' popularity was clearly on display, so were her problems with it, at times. In one revealing photo, Diana was snapped crying after an appearance outside the Sydney Opera House. The trip was unpleasant from the get-go, as the Royal couple essentially had to perform for the public upon landing, which was rough on Diana -- not only was she unprepared for this level of celebrity, she was also jet-lagged and anxious; we later learned that she was suffering from bulimia as well. Charles, as the heir to the British throne, was unhappy about playing second fiddle to his new young wife, and it's said that he shared his feelings of jealousy with her in private. Diana was in a no-win situation -- damned if she played to the crowds, and damned if she didn't -- that would persist throughout her marriage to her boring husband. In this photo, the stress has gotten the better of her, and she visibly loses her composure in front of an admiring crowd.
Shock And Shame As German POWs Are Forced To Watch A Film Detailing Holocaust Atrocities
Sometimes evil comes into being suddenly, but more often it happens by degrees. Over time, influenced by fear, propaganda, and mob mentality, people with functioning moral compasses can lose their way and descend into sadism and savagery. In this photo of German prisoners of war from 1945, it's hard to know what each man is feeling as he watches footage of Nazi atrocities perpetrated against Jews, but clearly some of them are overcome with shame.
The issue of the culpability of German soldiers in the Holocaust was greatly debated following the Allies' victory. In the famous Nuremberg trials (1945-46), which were military trials held to determine punishment for the crimes against humanity committed by Nazi Germany, defendants tried to argue the "superior orders" defense, which also came to be known as the Nuremberg defense. Should soldiers who commit atrocities be held accountable if they were acting on orders from their superiors? Were these men "just following orders"? Ultimately, the Nuremberg courts ruled that following "superior orders" did not excuse a soldier's war crimes altogether, but could lessen the punishment.
He Was The Joker Before There Was A Joker
Debating the faithfulness of screen portrayals of superheroes is a favorite pastime today -- Robert Downey Jr. was a pretty great Tony Stark, but was Paul Rudd the best choice for Ant-Man? Since the '80s, we've been given not one, two, or three cinematic Jokers, but four: Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto and Joaquin Phoenix. We can ask and debate which of these best portrayed the character of the joker on screen -- but let's also ask where the Joker came from.
The Joker first appeared in comics in 1940, as the villain in the debut issue of Batman. (The character of Batman had premiered in Detective Comics a year earlier.) We think of comic books as driving the movie industry, but at the time it was the opposite -- silent movies predated what we consider "com ic books," and definitely predated comic book superheroes. While The Joker's frightening rictus no doubt struck fear into the hearts of young Batman fans, they probably didn't know that is was copied from a 1928 German silent film. Look at this image of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, and it's chillingly obvious -- this was The Joker before there was a Joker.
The Cruelty Of Dividing Families With Concrete And Barbed Wire In Berlin
Following World War II, Germany was divided into administrative zones overseen by victorious Allied nations: The United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Berlin, which was entirely surrounded by the Soviet zone of occupation, was also divided, and the US-French-British areas became an oasis of democracy within socialist East Germany. East Germans and East Berliners soon tired of dreary life in the Eastern Bloc, and flocked to West Berlin, from which they could escape to West Germany and freedom by airplane. By the summer of 1961, some 3.5 million East Germans had left the country by this route.
On August 13, 1961, the East German government took action to stop the tide of emigrating citizens, erecting the Berlin Wall overnight. The wall surrounded West Germany, dividing the two populations and in many cases severing families. Family members in East Berlin were not permitted to visit their relatives in West Berlin, lest they escape, and family members in West Berlin were unlikely to relocate to East Berlin. These West Berliners are holding their children up so that the children's grandparents can get a glimpse of them over the Berlin Wall.
Like, A Virgin? A Teenage Madonna Is Already Smoldering
In this photo from 1974, Madonna Louise Ciccone is 16 years old. She's a student at Rochester Adams High School in southeastern Michigan, where she is a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad. What do you see, a regular kid or a future celebrity and provocateur? In truth, she was navigating her teenage years like anyone else, but even then had a vague idea that she was different, and wanted to do something different with her life.
She recalled her high school experience for Vanity Fair:
I wasn't a hippie or a stoner, so I ended up being the weirdo. I was interested in classical ballet and music, so the kids were quite mean if you were different. I was one of those people that people were mean to. When that happened, instead of being a doormat, I decided to emphasize my differences.
Three Acrobats Flirt With Death Atop The Empire State Building, 1934
The Empire State Building was constructed between March 1930 and April 1931. Not only was this a fast turnaround, it was also something of a miracle, as the country was in the depths of the Great Depression, brought on by the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The Depression would persist through the late 1930s, and photographs showing its ravages on a poor, unemployed populace are plentiful.
But even in the hardest of times, people will try to give each other hope or at least provide some distraction. The acrobats known as "The Three Jacksons" (actual names: Frank Kirigin, Jewell Waddell and Charley 'Jarley' Smith) managed to make the newsreels and newspapers of the day with this awe-inspiring stunt, executed atop the world's tallest building on August 21, 1934. The feat of physical prowess, dubbed "The World's Highest Allez-oop" by the New York Journal, was never attempted again.
35 Years Later, A Photographer Realized He'd Snapped One Of The Great Entertainers Of The Era
Did you know that Robin Williams got his start performing as a mime in New York City's Central Park? Photographer Daniel Sorine sure didn't. Sorine was a young photographer in 1974 when he took a series of photos of mimes in the park. The images remained in a suitcase, all but forgotten, for 35 years.
Decades passed, and although Sorine didn't realize he'd captured a future famed entertainer, he did recall that the two men were good mimes. Sorine told PetaPixel:
What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality and physical fluidity. When I approached them with my Pentax Spotmatic they allowed me to invite them into my camera instead of me having to chase after them.
A Florida Judge Gets A Shocking Eyeful At A Stripper's Exhibit A
The year was 1983, and three strippers were on trial for violating the obscenity laws of Pinellas County, Florida. The ladies were accused of showing too much of their private area while performing, a charge they contested. The case was likely to descend into he said-she said -- whose word would carry more weight, the arresting officer's or the stripper's?
This exotic dancer decided her best defense was to show, not tell. Wearing the same underwear she had performed in on the night of her arrest, she demonstrated to Judge David Demers that the panties covered all the appropriate bits by bending over and letting him see for himself. The dancer was acquitted, and the jarring photo gained national exposure when it was published in Playboy's annual "Year In Sex" feature.
Is This A Picture That Will Come Back To Haunt Someone?
Growing up as a child of a celebrity has its challenges -- sure, it has plenty advantages too. But living your early years in the spotlight invites a lot of judgment, especially when ou're a girl whose mother was a model and whose father runs an international beauty pageant.
From a young age, Ivanka Trump was hailed as an exceptional beauty, in the mold of her mother Ivana Zelníčková, who married Donald Trump in 1977. Ivanka's father would eventually become President of the United States, but during her teenage years she had to contend with a media-hungry father who was prone to macho statements that amused some and creeped out others. When 16-year-old Ivanka Trump was hosting the 1997 Miss Universe pageant, Donald Trump asked the title holder, "Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?"
In 2006, when he and Ivanka were appearing on The View, he he made another statement that struck many watchers as inappropriate:
I've said if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her. Isn’t that terrible? How terrible? Is that terrible?
Was it a genuine statemen t, or was he just throwing some raw meat to the tabloid press? He said he'd date his daughter, yet somehow tried to negate the statement at the same time. Such is the magic of Donald Trump.
Unnerving, Intimate Moment With The Young Lovers Who Murdered 13 People
Bonnie Parker joined up with lifelong criminal Clyde Barrow when she was only 19 years old. Their crime spree started when she smuggled a gun into the prison where Barrow was being held to help him escape. He was caught and sent back to jail, but was paroled in 1932. That’s when the real trouble began. The two stole a car, which resulted in a trip to the slammer for Parker.
Following her release in 1932, Bonnie and Clyde robbed a series of banks across the American south with a group of Barrow’s childhood friends. Even though they were dangerous criminals who killed an estimated 13 people, Bonnie and Clyde gained folk-hero status as Depression-era Robin Hoods who who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.
Paris, 1932: A Rare Glimpse Of A Lesbian Couple Enjoying A Night Out
This photo by Brassaï is sometimes called "Lesbian Couple At Le Monocle, Paris, 1932" but is more specifically known as "Fat Claude And Her Girlfriend." Like many photographers, Brassaï sought to tell the stories of people who existed at the fringe of society. He became famous for capturing images of the unseen Paris, the people and performers who thrived at night and found community with their own.
Brassaï had a particular skill for endearing himself to his subjects and earning their trust. He was a Bohemian, an outsider and a creature of the night himself (who was, in fact, born in Transylvania). Rather than some sort of sneakily-snapped photo of an exotic and forbidden same-sex couple, this is a straightforward portrait. These are people whose lifestyle was foreign and even disturbing to much of society at the time, but who seem unapologetic and completely comfortable in their skins.
Still Unsettling: The Man Inside The Eerie Xenomorph From 'Alien'
Few creatures are as fear-inspiring as the Xenomorph from the 1979 sci-fi/horror film Alien. The sinewy space predator was portrayed by the tall and slender Nigerian art student Bolaji Badejo, who was 6'10" with remarkably long legs. It was the long legs that made Badejo's portrayal of the alien so convincing, as the creature's proportions seemed to be significantly different from that of a human. When designing a scary costume for a film, the last thing you want is something that looks like a costume with a human inside.
Once Badejo put on the H.R. Giger-designed exoskeleton his appearance became otherworldly. Even without the costume's headpiece, he's still a fearsome vision.
Badejo did not appear in the sequels to Alien, and in fact he never acted in another film. He returned to Nigeria, where he opened an art gallery in 1983, and he died in 1992 of sickle cell anemia.
The Fury Of The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Split The Ground Open Miles Away From The City
The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake stands as the deadliest natural disaster in California history, and is among the deadliest in U.S. history. Initial estimates of the death toll ranged from 375 to 500-plus, but the numbers were vastly undercounted. As the quake affected the densely populated city, including somewhat mysterious districts like Chinatown, getting an accurate count of the dead was simply not possible.
In addition to the shaking of the ground, which caused buildings to topple, the quake left giant fissures -- literally, cracks in the earth where the ground split apart. These were visible throughout the region, even many miles north of the city of San Francisco. This photograph from 1906 shows a woman staring at a rupture northwest of Olema in Marin County. In fact, the quake was felt all up and down the California coast, from Eureka in the north down to the Salinas Valley, south of San Francisco.
You'd Never See This Sadistic 1947 Hangover Mask Today
A hangover is tough on the brain, and if you're suffering one it's a good bet that your face looks worse for wear as well. What's an image-conscious woman to do for the sake of restoring her beauty after a wild night out? Maksymilian Faktorowicz -- who would later be known as cosmetics king Max Factor -- figured he could pull a woman's face back together by strapping a couple dozen ice cubes across her flesh.
The ice cubes were not ice, but rather plastic shells that contained a cooling element. Still, this does not look remotely comfortable, nor does it look like something that would actually work. But in the pursuit of beauty, humans have tried all manner of outlandish gadgets and strategies over the centuries. Perhaps the hangover mask is a better deterrent than cure: if this is what you'll have to do to look human the next day, maybe you'll cut yourself off a few drinks earlier.
Not Suitable For All Viewers: R. Budd Dwyer Moments Before He Committed Suicide At A Press Conference
R. Budd Dwyer served as the Treasurer of the state of Pennsylvania from 1981 to 1987, and during that time became embroiled in a scandal involving taxes and bribes. The details are intricate, but the upshot is that Dwyer was found guilty on 11 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, perjury, and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering. Dwyer professed his innocence, complaining that the jury was not educated enough to understand the case. Nonetheless, Dwyer was scheduled to be sentenced on January 23, 1987.
Dwyer announced a press conference for January 22, 1987, and did not explain the topic. His aides and other officials assumed, or at least hoped, that he would use the opportunity to resign. That wasn't Dwyer's plan -- far from it. With the press assembled, Dwyer read from a long, rambling statement, continuing to insist he was innocent. It took Dwyer nearly half an hour to get through the statement, and some members of the press got bored and left. Finishing his remarks, Dwyer produced a manila envelope, then reached in and pulled out a .357 Magnum revolver. He then proceeded to shoot himself in he head, killing himself instantly. TV stations around the state aired some version of the press conference later in the day; while most of them opted not to show the actual moment of death, some of them broadcast the footage unedited.
The Eerie Reunion Of A Father And Daughter Who Are Strangers
World War II in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, but for German prisoners of war held in the Soviet Union, the process of repatriation dragged on for years. And it wasn't a small number of prisoners -- the Soviet army held some 2.8 million German POWs at the end of the war. By 1949, when the socialist Eastern Bloc-state German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was created, the Soviets had released all but 85,000 of those prisoners. Many of those who remained had been convicted of war crimes and sentenced to years of hard labor in gulags.
The last German POWs held in the Soviet Union were released in 1956. This photo shows one of them reunited with his long-lost daughter. When he left to fight the war, she was one year old, which may help us decode the expression on her face. While she is undoubtedly happy to have a father again, the man she is meeting can be little more than a stranger to her.
Warning: Dog Lovers May Not Want To Look At This One
The Soviet scientist and doctor Vladimir Demikhov is seen in this photo with his handiwork -- and no, it was not created using PhotoShop. Demikhov was a brilliant man who pioneered the science of organ transplantation, but he was also obsessed with the notion of transplanting a dog's head onto another dog. He attempted to graft the head of a living dog onto the body of another living dog -- resulting in a two-headed dog -- at least 24 times.
In this colorized photo, we see Demikhov's most famous two-headed dog -- to make it, a smaller dog's body was amputated and then grafted onto a German shepherd's back. This experiment from 1959 became famous because it was publicized outside the Soviet Union with photographs that ran in Life magazine. This two-headed dog lived just four days, which was a far cry from Demikhov's most successful abomination, a two-headed dog that lived for 29 days after surgery.
An Insane Solution To A Desperate Plight: Sell The Kids
This colorized photo from 1948 shows Mrs. Lucille Chalifoux of Chicago turning shamefully away from the camera as a sign announces that her four children are for sale. Could this even be real? Indeed, it was -- her husband was an out-of-work coal truck driver, and they had decided that they could not afford to raise their children. Their decision was to sell them. Adding a further wrinkle to the tragic story, Lucille was pregnant at the time this photo was snapped.
The children were indeed sold, and their lives didn't necessarily get any better. Rae Ann and Milton were sold to a couple who renamed them Beverly and Kenneth, and put them straight to work. Milton was called "slave" by his new father, and the term was apt -- the siblings often slept chained up in a barn. Rae Ann was kidnapped and raped, and sent away to a home for pregnant girls to have the baby, which was put up for adoption. The years of beatings caused Milton to become violent, and was put into a mental institution after a judge deemed him a menace to society.
David, unborn at the time the above photo was taken, ended up in a household that was strict but loving. Lana died in 1997 or '98, but Rae Ann, David and Milton were able to locate Sue Ellen before her passing in 2013. When reporters covered the story, Sue Ellen told them that their mother "needs to be in hell burning."
A 16-year-old German Soldier Tries To Process What He Has Just Witnessed
This colorized photo of 16-year-old Hans-Georg Henke, taken in May 1945, captures his expression of despair and shock at the end of World War II. Henke had joined the Luftwaffe (German air force) at age 15 and was assigned to an antiaircraft unit. But why, exactly, is he crying? The details and meaning of the photo are up for debate.
The photo has been characterized as expressing a young idealist's realization of defeat -- like an athlete who's lost the championship game. But there is evidence that Henke's not in mourning for his country here. According to one report, Henke was part of a 120-soldier antiaircraft battery that was defeated by the U.S. 9th Army. Henke was one of just five German survivors of the attack. He's likely not sad about German defeat so much as he is traumatized by having just witnessed so much death firsthand.
James Dean, The Car He Died In, And The Trailer That Would Have Saved His Life
James Dean's death, on September 30, 1955, may be the most famous premature demise in Hollywood history, and every detail of his final day has been documented and analyzed. This gas station, located at the intersection of Beverly Glen and Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, became a landmark simply because Dean filled up there before he died. His plan was to drive up from Los Angeles to Salinas to compete in an auto race -- but he never made it to Salinas.
You probably recognize Dean, and you may recognize his famous Porsche. But how about the station wagon behind him? That, too, was Dean's, and the trailer attached to it was for transporting his Porsche. So why was Dean even driving that day?
Though Dean had planned to transport his car using the trailer, he decided on the morning of the trip to drive Porsche himself. His friend, mechanic Rolf Wutherich, advised him to do so because the car was so new -- reasoning that the it needed to be driven to "break it in" and Dean needed more time behind the wheel to get the feel of it. This change of plans turned out to have been the difference between life and death.
(Wutherich rode shotgun in the Porsche, and survived the crash.)
She Survived The Plane Crash -- But Could She Survive Alone In The Amazon Rainforest?
On Christmas Eve 1971, an airplane departing from Lima, Peru was struck by lightning and broke apart at 10,000 feet. Passengers and wreckage plummeted to the ground, crashing in the Amazon rainforest. Teenager Juliane Koepcke, who was still strapped into her seat, fell nearly two miles to the remote rainforest below, and was the only passenger to survive.
Koepcke had a broken collarbone; a large, swollen bruise to her right eye; and a deep cut on her right arm. Fortunately, she had spent plenty of time in the rain forest and knew how to survive. She kept herself alive for ten days with little more than some candy from the plane to eat. Koepcke found a river and waded downstream, hoping to find civilization. She eventually did find a hut and a boat, and used gasoline from the boat's motor to clear her wound of maggots. The owners of the boat, local fishermen, eventually returned and took her to their village. From there she hitched a plane ride with a pilot and was soon reunited with her father.
The year is 1976, and this 18-year-old student is attending the University of Michigan on a dance scholarship. Within two years of this photo being taken, she would drop out of school and head to New York City to pursue a career in dance. She'd go on to do a lot of dancing in her career, and she'd become mega-famous but it wasn't for her ballet or tap skills.
It's Madonna, of course. Michigan native Madonna Louise Ciccone went on to cause a sensation on the pop charts and in the new-ish medium of music videos, gaining fame and notoriety for wearing her bra outside her clothes and singing about feeling "like a virgin, touched for the very first time." Just when you think you've seen Madonna in every outrageous outfit, here she is in the most surprising one of all: a cute sundress.
Humiliation Of Going Home In The 'Drunk Basket'
Running a bar has its challenges, and one of them is handling overserved patrons -- drunks. Those who are too drunk to stand, or at least too drunk to leave and go home. Today we might whip out the iPhone and call someone an Uber, but in the 1960s in Istanbul, Turkey, the solution was much more low-tech.
The inebriated, like this angry fellow, could be spirited away by a man wearing a "drunk basket" -- like a backpack capable of holding a human. The urban sherpas who carried the drunk baskets (and the drunks) needed to be sturdy, and in fact many of them were off-duty hotel porters who carried heavy things for a living.
In Turkey, the description "küfelik olmak" is still used today -- it means "so drunk you must be carried home in a basket."
The Desperation Of The Jobless Masses During The Great Depression
Kicked off by the stock market plunge on October 24, 1929 -- known forever after as "Black Thursday" -- the Great Depression saw American workers lose their jobs in unprecedented numbers. By January 1930, the number of unemployed jumped from 429,000 (in October) to 4,065,000. By October 1931, 9 million Americans were unemployed.
The Great Depression affected all strata of society, from laborers who were previously making modest wages to the highly educated. What good is all that education and knowledge when there simply are no jobs to be had? This man, at the end of his rope, walks the city streets advertising his qualifications on a handwritten sign. He's an impressive individual with skills, training and experience -- but he's as helpless as anyone in the face of massive financial calamity.
A Frightening Moment On The Ledge As The Champ Talks Him Down
On January 19, 1981, a man known only as "Joe" stood on a ledge of one of the high-rise buildings that line the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. He was threatening to commit suicide, shouting "I'm no good!" and "I'm going to jump!" A minister, a psychologist, and the police were all trying to talk him out of it, with little success. A friend of Muhammad Ali happened to be on the scene, and he phoned the boxing champ to see if he could help.
A police officer who was there later recalled what happened next for WBUR:
We saw a Rolls Royce drive up […] Muhammad Ali came out and shook my hand, and we talked a little bit, made kind of a game plan, and some kinda rules of engagement, we didn’t want him to grab the guy or do any of that kind of stuff. So he went up there, talked to the man, and kept him in conversation for some time […] He was kind of the last resort, I didn’t have any tools in my toolbox, he was kind of a gift.
[…] When they came down Ali said that he had promised the man a ride in his Rolls Royce. […] I said yeah, he can [ride with him] as long as we have a police officer in the car as well.
Is This A Hannibal Lecter Convention? No, It's A Beauty Pageant
Beauty pageants were once a big thing, with local promoters and publicity departments awarding tiaras at the drop of a hat. Comb through photo archives and you'll find lovely young ladies who've been crowned Miss Atomic Bomb 1957, Miss Lemon 1930, Miss Donut Queen 1948, Miss Magic Marker 1954, and so forth. One very curious subgenre of beauty pageants is the type that focused on just one thing.
The women in this colorized picture are competing for the title of Miss Lovely Eyes, circa 1930, in Florida. The contest was about the loveliness of the eyes and only the eyes -- so the contestants wore these odd masks that covered the mouth, cheeks, jawline and forehead. You have to be a stickler about this kind of thing if you want the Miss Lovely Eyes title to mean anything.
In the early hours of August 9, 1969, actress Sharon Tate and four of her house guests were murdered by the so-called "Manson Family," a cult lead by the depraved and desperate Charles Manson. Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time, a detail that somehow makes the murders all the more shocking and brutal. This photo was taken just days before she was killed.
Whatever you think of Roman Polanski, who was charged with raping an underage girl eight years later and fled the United States, you have to sympathize with the man and his situation as it was in 1969. He and Tate had been married for about 18 months, and he was in Europe making a film at the time of the murder -- he flew to California as soon as he learned that his wife and unborn son had been murdered.
His most recent film, the successful horror flick Rosemary's Baby (1968), dealt explicitly with Satanism. Polanski maintains the press initially attached the lurid fictional subject matter to his real-world tragedy. In 2019, he told interviewers:
I was already going through a terrible time, the press got hold of the tragedy and, unsure of how to deal with it, covered it in the most despicable way, implying, among other things, that I was one of the people responsible for her murder, against a background of satanism. For [the press], my film Rosemary's Baby proved that I was in league with the devil! It lasted several months, until the police finally found the real killers, Charles Manson and his ‘family.’ All this still haunts me today.
A Sweet Young Girl Whose Life Would Take A Shocking Path: Diana Spencer in 1972
Every celebrity starts out as a child, with childhood innocence and pleasures. Diana Spencer would grow up to become Princess of Wales, married to the presumptive heir to the British throne, and she would die in a tragic automobile accident in 1997. But in 1972 she was an 11-year-old girl who loved her guinea pig, Peanuts.
Ok, there is more to the story of young Diana -- her family was prominent and aristocratic, not royalty but royalty-adjacent. Queen Elizabeth II of England was her brother's godmother, which doesn't just happen. Diana and her family were very familiar with the royal family socially, and Prince Charles met Diana when he was in his teens and she was a pre-schooler.
You know what this means: Peanuts the guinea pig had many advantages not available to the common guinea pig. We just hope Peanuts was grateful for the life of privilege he or she enjoyed.
The Haunting Final Photo Of Vladimir Lenin. Did He Die Of (Gasp!) Syphilis?
This is the last photo taken of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov -- the man known to history as Lenin, one of the leaders of the Russian revolution. Lenin was a co-founder of the Bolshevik party, which also counted Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky as members, and it was this communist faction that seized control of Russia in the October 1917 Revolution, establishing it as Soviet Russia, which would later become the largest republic in the Soviet Union.
This photo dates from 1923, just six years after the October Revolution. Lenin had been shot in an assassination attempt in August 1918; though he survived, the wound affected his health greatly. In 1922, he suffered two strokes, and then in 1923 he had another one, all attributed to his precarious physical state since the assassination attempt. Lenin spent the last two years of his life as an invalid, often in a wheelchair or confined to bed, and sometimes without the capacity for speech. Nonetheless he remained the head of the Communist Party until his death.
Though the official story ties Lenin's string of health problems to the assassination attempt of 1918, some historians have advanced a different theory: that Lenin's long decline was the consequence of syphilis caught from a French prostitute. Rumors at the time, and descriptions of his symptoms, suggested syphilis as the true cause, and recent investigations by historians come to the same conclusion.
The 'Noble' Jewish Doctor Who Cared For Hitler
Dr. Eduard Bloch was a doctor in Austria at the turn of the century -- one of many, no doubt. But Bloch took on a young man as a patient named Adolf Hitler, and this one case would change his life immensely. For better or worse? It's hard to say -- he survived the Holocaust, and was able to emigrate to the U.S., but not without a serious blow to his dignity.
Bloch's treatment of the young Adolf Hitler was unremarkable; as the Hitler family physician he also treated Adolf's mother. When she became terminally ill with breast cancer in 1907, Bloch treated her with the accepted procedures of the time, and because the Hitler family was so poor, did so at reduced rates and sometimes for free. Hitler always remembered Bloch's kindness to the family and his mother (who died in December 1907). Many years passed, and Hitler became the bigoted and murderous dictator we all know. He retained his respect, in a way, for Bloch, calling him an "Edeljude" ("noble Jew"). Though Jews of Austria were being persecuted and killed left and right, Hitler made sure Bloch was immune, and facilitated his emigration to the United States in 1940. Bloch landed in The Bronx, and died in 1945.
Shirly 'Cha Cha' Muldowney, Glamorous Vixen Of The Drag Strip, Before Her Injuries
Shirley "Cha Cha" Muldowney is a motorsports pioneer known as the "first lady of drag racing." While motorsports have traditionally been the domain of male competitors, Muldowney took to the track (or rather, the drag strip) from a young age, and began competing in organized drag racing while still in her teens. In 1965, she obtained her professional license from drag racing's governing body, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).
Though Muldowney added glamor and sex appeal to the sport, she got no breaks for being the girl in a boys' club. To the contrary, she experienced sexism every step of the way -- many people simply didn't want her on the track at all, eve though she won the NHRA Top Fuel Dragster world championships followed in 1977, 1980, and 1982. Fred Farndon, one of the elder statesmen of the drag strip called her "best 'natural' driver (top fuel or funny car), no question.
Muldowney didn't just battle sexism -- she also faced physical calamities that could have killed her. Crashes are a fact of the drag-racing profession, and in 1984 she had one that sidelined her for years. The wreck crushed her hands, pelvis, and legs, and put her into physical therapy for 18 months.
Predecessor To Annihilation: 'The Gadget' Was The First Atom Bomb
You may have learned that "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" were the first atomic bombs, but that's not the case. Before either of these fearsome weapons were dropped over Japan, the U.S. nuclear program, dubbed Trinity, made great strides in understanding the deadly power with a bomb-like construct known as "The Gadget."
"The Gadget" was an implosion-design plutonium device, similar mechanically to Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Months earlier, on May 7, "The Gadget" was detonated, releasing the explosive energy of about 22 kilotons of TNT (92 TJ) on New Mexico's Jornada del Muerto desert. The explosion was comparable in intensity to the Fat Man detonation three months later.
When Susan Sarandon Was Just Another Morsel Of Eye Candy At Cannes
The Cannes Film Festival has long served two roles. On the one hand, it's a showcase for some of the greatest new films to be released in a given year. And because of all the film-industry brass in attendance, it's a place to pull sexy stunts that will capture the press's attention and -- one hopes -- land movie roles. This is the recipe followed by a young Brigitte Bardot, who made waves with photo shoots on the beaches of Cannes that helped publicize her and sell her films worldwide.
Susan Sarandon was not a young Bardot in 1978, when this photo was snapped -- she was actually 32 years old. She had already made a movie that would become the definition of a cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but mania over that movie was still an underground phenomenon. Was this a pivotal moment in Sarandon's career, meriting the ultra-sexy shirtless pose? Well, she clearly upped her game in the movies that followed, including the Louis Malle-directed pictures Pretty Baby and Atlantic City.
Here's one thing we can say for sure: New Balance sneakers never had a better photo shoot than this one.
All Smiles The Moment Before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Is Assassinated
In late March and early April 1968, the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis, Tennessee to support black sanitation workers, who were striking. As was his practice, King delivered stirring oratory -- some of it based on a premonition that he was about to die. And he had reason to think so: His flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat.
Here, on the landing of the Lorraine Motel, King is seen with other civil rights leaders (notable Jesse Jackson, who is smiling) moments before his assassination by James Earl Ray. Did King know he was about to die? Here's what he said the day before:
We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. ... [But God has] allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.
Disturbing Replicas Of The Living Looking Dead
Wax figures are remarkably lifelike -- it's an art form that has kept many a museum in business, and the most famous is Madame Tussaud's in London, England. Wax is a great medium for sculpting human likenesses provided there's not an intense source of heat anywhere near -- in other words, a fire. In 1925, just that fate befell Madame Tussaud's, when a fire ripped through the upper floor. Celebrities, heads of state, and historical figures alike were melted like characters at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
This colorized photo shows the aftermath of the event. And it's chilling -- if we buy into the wax figures as likenesses of real people, then we buy in to the damage and dishonor done to them. These are not real people, no. But these stand-ins for people have suffered in their own way. At best, they've been moved into a storeroom like the inanimate objects they are; some have been stripped of their clothing. And an unfortunate few are just disembodied heads, left sitting on the ground.
Can You Handle The Bulging Veins Of Charles Bronson?
In today's era of supplements, crossfit, protein bars and Thighmaster, seeing a buff couple like this isn't out of the question. Good for them, you might think. Look a little closer, though, and you might recognize the pumped-up stud as a major movie star, Charles Bronson.
Bronson played a tough guy on TV and in movies for years -- he had that sort of facial expression and delivery that implied a caged, dangerous animal. If you were acting in a western or a war movie with Charles Bronson and your characters crossed paths -- you could bet that your job was done.
In this photo, the 50-year-old Bronson is waking with his second wife, the model and actress Jill Ireland, who is merely 36.