Haunting Historical Photos And The Stories Behind Them
By | November 28, 2022
The "Beast of Jersey," Edward Paisnel wore a rubber mask and wig during a decade long crime spree terrorizing women and children
Prepare yourself for a chilling look into history that will fill you with fear and stick in the dark parts of your mind for days. These haunting photos feature unexplainable phenomena, disturbing final photos, and vintage medical practices that will make you thankful that you live in the modern era.
Be courageous as you learn the backstories behind some of history’s darkest moments, and discover the truth behind mysterious photos that have haunted viewers for decades. Diving into these photos isn’t for the weak of heart, so leave the lights on or maybe scroll with a friend. You’ve been warned, now onward.
It’s rare that real life creates a monster that can rival something from a horror film but from 1960 to 1971 Edward Paisnel stalked the Island of Jersey, in the British Channel off the coast of Normandy in a black woman’s wig, while wearing a disfigured rubber mask, attacking innocent women and children.
According to witnesses at his trial, Paisnel worked by day as a carpenter and helped his wife run an orphanage, but at night he prayed at an alter to Satan before dressing in his hideous garb and carrying out a vicious series of assaults. He was caught after running through a police barricade in a stolen car...the "Beast" mask and outfit were found in the trunk of the car before being convicted of 13 counts of disgusting crimes and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The "Elephant's Foot" in the basement of Chernobyl
What happens when a solid mass of melted nuclear fuel mixes with concrete, sand, and core sealing material that’s been melted by nuclear waste? It forms into a giant glob of deadly debris that’s shaped somewhat like an elephant’s foot. Located in the basement of the Chernobyl plant, the “elephant’s foot” is directly beneath the original location of the core. 10 years after the disaster the foot was still emitting radiation, and at only one-tenth of the radiation it once had it still threatened to cause fatal radiation sickness with anyone who comes into contact with it for any substantial amount of time. Still contained within the structure of Chernobyl, the foot is a monument to man’s destructive power.
Lord Combermere returns to his favorite chair
Do you believe in ghosts? If not, this photo might make you think otherwise. Taken on December 5, 1891, four days after 73 year old Lord Combermere passed away after forming a blood clot in his heart during complications following an accident with a horse. His body as transported from London to his final resting place in Wrenbury, where he was interred after a short service. During the service a photographer named Sybell Corbet took a long exposure photo of the empty library at Combermere Abbey - four miles away from where the Lord’s service was taking place. When the photo was finally developed it appeared that Lord Combermere was once again sitting in his favorite chair.
A cult-like, early meeting of the Mickey Mouse Club
Imagine sitting down in a theater to watch a series of Mickey Mouse cartoons with a group of people in masks like these, would you feel comfortable or would you just head home? In the early 1930s fans of the mouse couldn’t just throw on the TV to watch their favorite Mickey Mouse cartoons, instead they formed their own Mickey Mouse clubs where they piled into theaters and took in new shorts. This shot shows a group of early fans all wearing their spooky masks, and rather than wield the power of this group Disney shut the clubs down in 1935.
A chilling note left by the Lipstick Killer
On December 11, 1945, the body of the second victim of the Lipstick killer, a 32-year-old woman named Frances Brown, was discovered dead from a stab wound and a gun shot in her apartment in North Pine Grove Avenue, Chicago. Police found a bloody thumbprint on the door handle along with this terrifying note written in lipstick on Brown’s wall. The message was too good for the papers to ignore and they immediately started reporting on the killer and giving him his frightful nickname. There was only one more murder in killer’s spree before the crimes came to an end, however there’s still debate over whether or not the right person was fingered for the crime.
A shell shocked soldier in the trenches of World War 1
While the horrors of war are understood on a base level, it takes serving during a skirmish to truly understand the way that fighting can break down someone’s mind and leave them altered forever. This photo shows a soldier during World War One cradling himself in the trenches, fully panicked and freaked out from the constant fighting that occurred on the front. What we now call PTSD was called “shell shock” at that time, and by the end of the war the British army catalogued at least 80,000 cases of this extreme brand of trauma. The soldiers suffering from this faced all different kind of unseeable atrocities, many of which were things that no person should have to experience.
One of Hiroshima's many death shadows
Following the bombing of Japan on August 6, 1945, the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were vaporized within seconds of the explosion. The bombs didn’t just destroy the cities, but they tattooed a permanent reminder of the destruction by leaving “shadows” of the victims. There were so many people incinerated by the bombs, and the area was so radiated that an accurate count was never made of the dead.
These death shadows are caused because a nuclear explosion emits thermal radiation, which essentially bleaches whatever gets in its way, kind of like the way UV rays give people a sunburn. In this case the radiation fills the body which acts as protection against whatever’s behind it.
Emmett Kelly was a sad clown who helped put out the Hartford circus fire
Send in the clowns - to put out a fire that is. Kelly was circus clown who created the character “Weary Willie,” who was based on Depression era hobos. On July 6, 1944, Kelly was preparing for his matinee performance in front of 6,000 people at the Ringling Brothers circus in Hartford, Connecticut. 20 minutes into the show, the circus tent caught fire and began melting down onto the audience. Kelly leapt to attention and helped audience members escape from the burning tent before helping extinguish the fire. 168 people lost their lives that day, but there could have been more if it weren’t for the efforts of Kelly.
Two men pose with a mountain of buffalo skulls
America was once a land filled with bison, great beasts that roamed the plains in numbers that ranged from 30 to 60 million. Settlers taking part in manifest destiny made sure to bring those numbers down a startlingly low numbers between 1800 and 1900 when hunters on cross country trains shot the animals as they cross the country, many of the animals were left to rot in the wild. By the end of the century there were only about 325 bison left in the United States, a number that’s depressing any way you slice it. At least these guys got a great photo out of the atrocity.
A Polish girl rescued from a concentration camp after she was asked to draw her "home"
This photo of a Polish girl rescued from a concentration camp following World War II shows the mental anguish placed on children during an atrocious time in World history. This mentally traumatized girl was asked to draw a picture of her home, and she simply continued to draw wretched spiral after spiral until her photo was snapped by David Seymour for Life magazine. According to Time Magazine, researchers tracked the girl down and discovered that her name was Teresksa. In her teens she became violent and Tworki Mental Asylum near Warsaw, in 1978 she accidentally passed away after choking on a piece of sausage stolen from another patient.
A tent belonging to the missing campers of the Dyatlov pass
In 1959 the Ural Polytechnic Institute went off on a trip while following Igor Dyatlov, a fifth year student, and these missing people have become one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century. Their friends and family realized the group disappeared after they failed to send a telegram from a small village called Vizhay. Six days after a search group went out to find the missing campers on February 20 they found a sliced up tent followed by the bodies of two campers over a mile away, stepped to their underwear near a fire. No one has ever discovered what actually happened to the students.
Indigenous Australians underwent brutal and horrific treatment throughout the 1960s
According to an Australian urban legend, indigenous Australians were considered animals under the flora and fauna act until 1967. Supposedly they weren’t considered human beings until a referendum to the country’s constitution, but ABC.net reported that the claim was a myth, and that the indigenous people were never legally considered animals, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t treated horribly by colonialists.
They underwent brutal and inhumane treatment where they were locked up and placed in concentration camps known as mission while the women were forced into slavery. They were placed in chains and shown off as property, which is absolutely reprehensible.
Capuchin Crypt, where the dead reign
Below the center of Rome stands the Museum and Crypt of the Capuchin Friars which is made up of a series of small chapels beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione del Cappuccini. It’s believed that there are the remains of around 4,000 people that’s meant to serve as a reminder of our mortality and not a grim tourist attraction. After passing through the museum you’ll find the crypt, which is made up of human remains that are kept on display and ornately placed against the wall in twisting Baroque patterns. Some of the bones are even formed into chandeliers, it's a goth paradise.
The last known photo of Judy Dull, taken by her killer Harvey Glatman
Young women looking to become a star in the 1950s had to have glamour shots taken so they could give the studios a look at their whole vibe, while most photographers were on the up and up, Harvey Glatman was the lowest of the low. A serial killer and sexual predator, Glatman was known as the “The Glamour Girl Slayer” because of his predilection for tying women up, taking photos of them, and offing them before disposing of their bodies in the desert.
He was arrested in 1958 while trying to arrest what would have been his fourth murder victim. He willingly confessed his crimes and was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin on September 18, 1959.
A young Russian boy suffering from Ambras syndrome
No, it isn’t a full moon and this boy isn’t suffering from a strange Eastern European curse, he’s actually dealing with extreme Ambras syndrome. This photo was captured in 1857 by Russian dermatologist Nikolai Mansurov. People suffering from this malady tend to be covered in long, silky hair that covered falls across their face and curls from their ears. It's a terrible affliction that luckily doesn't affect many people.
It’s believed that Ambras syndrome comes from the short arm of chromosome 8 where the duplicated DNA that causes growth in hair follicles is repeated over and over like someone is hitting copy and paste.
A look inside the Cabaret de l'Enfer, 1920s
Paris isn’t just the city of lights, it’s one of the party capitals of the world, and in the 1920s it was an expatriate’s dream. One of the most hopping nightclubs was the surreal Cabaret de l'Enfer, otherwise known as the "The Cabaret of the Inferno.” Revelers were treated to a bar filled with heated walls, smoke spilling from the walls and flames that burst from rocks. The bar was filled with strange rooms to offer patrons a chance to experience the nightmare to its fullest extent. Supposedly there was an actor who played Satan that was keen on insulting the guests in a room with incredibly hot stone walls.
The gruesome sight of a headless woman performing in a Coney Island sideshow, 1945
This photo of the headless girl sideshow attraction at Cony Island is a strange image, and it must have been absolutely horrifying when onlookers saw it in the 1940s. Shocked onlookers surely recoiled at the sight of this headless torso sitting and doing everything that a body can do, you know, except without a head. The sideshow claimed that the headless body was kept alive by feeding tubes and technology that the visitors to the sideshow couldn’t possibly understand. In order to make this attraction all the more realistic the sideshows that used this illusion included a whole backstory for how to the woman lost her head.
The most powerful men in America, the Skull and Crossbones fraternity at Yale
Skull and Bones, that mysterious frat that has played host to world leaders, titans of industry, and the incredibly wealthy. The club was based on Oxford's Bullingdon, another cultish college group, and it got its beginning after two clubs broke up in 1832. It was founded by future businessman William Huntington Russell and Alphonso Taft, father of president William Howard Taft.
This secret society began as a faux occult group who made up a goddess to worship named “Eulogia.” The group’s crest is the Jolly Roger, the same flown on a pirate ship's flag with the date 322 at the bottom. The group meets in “The Tomb,” a private space built in 1856. Aside from operating in secret on the Yale campus, the group owns Deer Island, a 40-acre country retreat on the St Lawrence River in New York State where they once hosted private events. How many of the world’s events were decided by this group?
These melted mannequins were some of the only survivors from the fire at Madame Tussauds
This haunting photo that’s sure to fill your nightmares full of fun isn’t a shot of actual charred bodies, it’s actually a photo of melted and disfigured mannequins who were damaged during the 1925 fire at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London. According to witnesses of the fire, the sound of sizzling mannequins could be heard throughout Baker Street.
On March 18, 1925, the museum caught fire and the blaze lasted for an hour and a half before local firefighters could finally extinguish the flames. Onlookers said that the flames leapt 50 feet from the dome of the building, it’s amazing that any mannequins survived at all.
A "spirit" floats across a family in this ghostly photograph
In the late 19th century photographer William H. Mumler began taking portraits of people and families while superimposing “ghosts” and claiming that he was capturing the spirits of loved ones who had passed on in the shots. The photos were an instant sensation, thanks to people across America being desperate to see their former family members.
Mumler charged $10 a sitting (which translates to around $300 today), and would edit the photos with a skilled hand to make it look like they were being haunted by someone whom they cared about. He was finally arrested for fraud and put on trial in 1869, although he was acquitted because no one could prove how he was making the photos.
A boy is treated for a bite from a Russell's viper as his father watches on
After he was bitten by a Russell’s viper, one of the most venomous snakes that exists in India, this boy was brought to the Central Research Institute in Kasauli. Once his father brought the snake that bit him to the Institute the doctors were able to fully diagnose him and save his life. The snake is highly venomous and doesn’t have any qualms about attacking anyone that gets in its way. These snakes are responsible for 30–40% of all snakebites in Sri Lanka and most of the life threatening bits in the country. Their bites can paralyze a victim while sending them into shock.
Doll heads drying in a factory, waiting to roll into your nightmares
There’s nothing like a bunch of dripping doll heads to really get your day going. By themselves dolls may not be the scariest thing to crawl out of from under your bed, but there’s something about the disconnected parts of these dolls that just makes them terrifying - and if they’re dripping while they hang from a wax soaked carousel? Even creepier.
These doll heads waiting to dry in a factory feel like something that you’d see in the background in a Saw film, just imagine them revolving slowly, their wax dripping to the ground in a moonlit factory. It’s just the kind of place where there’s definitely a creepy guy in a mask skulking around.
Do you have a crab on your head or are you happy to see me?
The League of Women Voters convention is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, but their website doesn’t say anything about participants wearing crab hats. There’s something unsettling about this photo, was there a crab theme one year? Or did she just want to wear a crazy crab hat to a political convention? Maybe it was her political party. Was it a fun thing to wear crab hats? Or was it more a vague deep sea hat type thing? If anyone has any information about these strange hats it would be interesting to find out what the deal is.
An early piece of medical photography by French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne
French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne not only discovered several nervous and muscular disorders in the 19th century, but he developed treatments such as electrodiagnosis and electrotherapy to ease the suffering of his patients. In order to document his treatments he pioneered the use of photography in his work in order to accurately show his findings. Even though he was helping his patients the photos look like he’s torturing them, which compared to our modern methods of neurology he might as well be. Many of his most horrifying photos come from experiments that he carried out between 1854 and 1856 to discover how the muscles in the human create facial expressions.
A German mental patient forced to stand in the crucifixion pose, 1890
This photo may look like its an excerpt from a horror film but it’s actually a snapshot of the mental health world of Germany in 1890. This patient was forced into the crucifixion pose and forced to face down a wall for an unknown amount of time. At the time forced standing was seen as a legitimate form of treatment for mental illness, although it only seems to have existed in order to tire out the patients rather than actually help them in any way. It’s not clear what ailment this woman was suffering from, but there’s no way that she was helped by being strapped to a wall and forced to stand for hours on end.
This Disney caveman robot is more human than the human
No, this isn’t a chilling shot from some horrific robot slaughter, but rather a photo from 1964 showing two engineers operating on a caveman robot for Disney’s foray into the New York World’s Fair. The photo originally ran with an article called “Automated Caveman Gets a Rear-End Drive” which detailed the lengths that Disney was going through in order to impress attendees to that year’s Fair where the caveman and many other robotic delights were displayed in the Ford exhibit.
According to the article, the robotic cavemen, “grin, groan, and grunt, view a giant bear with alarm, point, push, and haul a dead mammoth, draw wall pictures, and create fire. One of them invents the wheel.”
Ho, ho, ho Santa Claus wants your soul
Taken in Chicago in 1902, this photo shows the absolutely horrific photo of a man in a disfigured Santa Claus mask while he asks for money on a busy street in Chicago, Illinois. Not for nothing but if this is what Santa actually looked this ragged and not jolly then there’s no way he’d be welcomed down the chimneys of millions of families each year. It’s not clear what this creepy Santa actually wants donations for, but hopefully he made enough dough to buy some new digs and a couple of new masks to make sure he didn’t freak out the kiddies of Chicago.
Oh hello, it's the pig man
Oh nothing to see here, just the pig man waiting near the women’s wash room. You know how everyone - men, women, and children love to see the pig man waiting for them near the bathroom. His presence makes everyone more comfortable. In fact, a visit to an outdoor bathroom isn’t complete without a doff of the hat from the pig man. Where did this guy get such a creepy pig mask? Did he make it? Or was there a shop selling terrifying masks that could be used to shock and horrify friends, neighbors and strangers? Let us know if you've got a line on a pig mask.
The hot new trend, gas masks for babies
During the early 1940s in England the fear of a gas attack by Germany was not only on everyone’s minds but it was very real. Citizens of London had to live through the blitzkrieg, more than a year of attacks on the city that left the buildings in ruins. The military warned that a chemical weapons attack could happen at any time. Gas masks were constructed for people of all ages, something that’s absolutely terrifying to think about. Some gas masks for babies could even fit over their bodies leaving nothing exposed except for their legs. They weren't comfortable but they were for everyone's good.
Lon Chaney as a clown in "He Who Gets Slapped"
Is it any surprise that the actor who brought the terrifying Phantom of the Opera to life also managed to make clowns look like a horrifying creature from the depths of your nightmares? In the 1924 film He Who Gets Slapped Lon Chaney played a former scientist who was so thoroughly embarrassed by the Baron Regnard that he ran away from his life and became a clown.
The silent film is one of the more upsetting films of the early 1920s, and it’s likely that Chaney played a major part in creating the idea of the scary clown that creeps kids out to this day.
A woman has her freckles frozen off
The search for beauty has led people down some horrible roads, but one of the most upsetting procedures of the early 20th century was the one that Italian doctor M. Matarasso created for removing freckles that literally involved him freezing your face and digging them out of a person’s face. A person would be placed in Matarasso’s chair and have their freckle patches frozen with carbon dioxide. From there, the doctor would peel the skin away until their patient’s face was devoid of all freckles. Patient’s usually healed within two weeks of the procedure, but the memories were forever.
Just a cat wearing a mask and pretending to wear a tiny book
Cat photos were a thing a long time before people on the internet started sticking their furry feline friends in memes. The thing is, most vintage photos of cats are fairly cute. They’re either dressed in bonnets or little costumes; some of the photos are a little a little distressing, but they’re no way near as creepy as this photo of a cat wearing a mask a tiny mask that was made for it. How would you feel if you walked into your living room and saw this furry little figure reading a book at its own little table. That’s a big no thank you.
A Victorian girl prays to a ghost
Victorian photo manipulation is some of the most fascinating and genuinely strange pieces of ephemera that’s ever been gifted upon the world. The photo looks to show a young girl praying to the ghost of her mom or an older sister, or maybe she’s being watched over by the specter? It’s honestly hard to tell what’s going on here. The biggest question here is why Victorians loved editing photos like this. Were they obsessed with ghosts or were they simply trying to figure out the limitations of the format? Either way it’s an interesting look at a strange era.
Lieutenant Herman's horrific ventriloquist dummy horrified audiences in the 19th century
Touring New Zealand from 1877 – 1882, Lieutenant Herman performed shows with his gruesome ventriloquist dummy. The creation was so starting to audiences that when one unknowing woman at a Swanston Street hotel opened a “mysterious box” continuing the dummy she thought that she was looking at an actual dead body. On the 16th October 1893, The Coburg Leader reported:
Visions of “Jack the Ripper” and Deeming floated through her mind, and shrieking loudly she soon attracted a large crowd, who were at a loss to discover the cause of the commotion, owing to Miss Hebe’s hysterical condition. However, becoming somewhat calmer the frightened lady pointed to the box. A “counsel of war” was held and a policeman called in, who said it was a clear case of double murder. He was just about to convey the gruesome objects to the city morgue when the ventriloquist returned and quietly explained the situation.
Josephine Smith digging a grave at the Drouin Cemetery during World War II
During World War II the town of Drouin in West Gippsland, Victoria, Australia dealt with a lack of manpower in the only way that they knew how to. Everyone pitched in where they could. The whole town rationed and people worked jobs that they never had to before. This photo shows Josephine Smith, a woman in her 80s who took on work digging graves at the Drouin cemetery. This photo is one of those that’s slightly unsettling at first, but when you get to know what’s happening you realize how uplifting it really is. Do you think Josephine kept her job as a gravedigger after the war ended?
"Kindertransport" was a program that saved 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazis in the early stages of World War II
This devastated young girl is being ripped from her family in a heartbreaking but necessary program referred to as “Kindertransport.” This act rescued thousands of German and Polish Jewish children into Britain once Hitler ramped up his anti-Semitic activity in 1938. The program saved around 10,000 children under the age of 17 between 1938 and 1939 when the war effort kicked into high gear, although children were still being whisked into Britain as late as 1940. Most of the children rescued during the Kindertransport campaign never saw their families again. One of the biggest success stories of the program came from Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, a Dutch woman of the Christian faith who helped 600 children escape on a train from Vienna.
Two soldiers horse around in the bone yard
In 1898 the place to visit in Havana, Cuba, was the boneyard of skeletons dug up by officials after family members stopped paying the fee to keep their loved ones in the ground. If people didn’t keep up with their payments the bones were dug up and dumped into a boneyard that was so filled with human remains that it grew to be 30 feet deep.
As dark as it is, the boneyard was a popular place for tourists to visit, especially by soldiers serving during the Spanish-American war. It’s likely that the boneyard was such a hot ticket because Americans weren’t used to seeing this kind of thing, even though the “pay or lose your plot” policy was normal in Europe and Cuba.
A mannequin nuclear family, literally
Ah, there’s nothing like a bunch of mannequins standing around like a family. Surely they’re going to live a long life. What’s that? They’re being used as nuclear testing dummies? Well it was nice knowing them. While testing atomic blasts, the US military populated areas in the Nevada desert with what they called "Doom Town," as it was an area that was meant to be destroyed. The towns were complete with houses, neighborhoods, and utilities, the only thing that was different from a normal neighborhood was that the towns were outfitted with mannequin families rather than real flesh and blood folks. Technicians dropped a 16-kiloton bomb on the towns so see how they’d fair in a nuclear blast. Big surprise here, there are no surviving remains of Doom Town
A Chinese child cries in the aftermath of the Shanghai Railway Bombing
World War II devastated every country it touched, and while the West wasn’t as aware as Japan and China’s gruesome battles as it was with its own fight against the Germans and Japanese, the battles in the Far East laid waste to the country, leaving orphans stranded in wastelands that were once cities. This photo shows the aftermath of the Japanese air raid on Shanghai’s South Railway Station, a brutal act that ripped the city apart. This child lost its mother in the bombing, but its father survived and was able to rescue the child. It’s a rare silver lining in such a brutal war.
Dorothy Counts was one of the first African-American students to attend an all white school, she was ridiculed every day
When Dorothy Counts became one of the first African-American children to attend a previously all-white school, putting an end to segregation, she didn’t do so to the applause from the nation. Instead, she faced jeers from her fellow students and their families. She was abused and threatened so much that she had to be withdrawn from school after less than a week. Counts, now Counts-Scoggins, told NPR in 2019 says that when she went to school on the first day her father had inspiring words for her:
That morning before I left home, my father said to me, remember who you are. Remember you are inferior to no one. And remember that you can do anything you want to do and to hold your head up high.
A photo of the bomb over Nagasaki mid-explosion
Taken seconds after the second atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. exploded over Nagasaki, this photo shows the destructive nature of the bombs that U.S. dropped over Japan. It’s horrifying to think about the photographer standing still and snapping this picture as the massive destruction of “Fat Man” stretches out across the city. The 10,000 pound bomb with a 22-kiloton blast was dropped on August 9, 1945, however the destruction of Nagasaki was less so than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima due to the area’s hilly terrain. Still, between 39,000 and 80,000 people passed away in this explosion.
Vintage spirit photography shows a woman covered in “ectoplasm”
Spirit photography is a phenomenon that took place throughout the 19th century usually following periods of war or mass unhappiness, when people were looking for anything to connect them to a world beyond our own. Following the Civil War in America and the war of 1870 in France spirit photography became a very hot topic of contention, with mediums and spirit summoners trying to out do one another in order to prove their ability to touch base with the other side. This photo shows a medium covered in “ectoplasm,” a mucous-like substance said to be a visible manifestation of the spirit world, that just so happens to bare a resemblance to stretched out cotton balls.
Everyone lean in and take a lick
In the early 20th century people weren’t able to make ice as easily as they can now. Not only were refrigerators and freezers not common, but the amount of electricity it takes work a freezer wasn’t something that a lot of people had. Ice had to be manufactured in huge buildings with an engine room, a tank room, and a storage room for the ice where 300 pound blocks of ice were produced and delivered to homes and businesses around the country by mule and wagon. It’s likely that these young boys wee just trying to beat the heat.
It's time for bed mother
People didn’t start manipulating photos with the advent of Photoshop in the late 20th century, in fact, folks have loved messing with their pictures and playing with perspective and size for as long as the rudimentary tools for photo editing have been around. These editing capabilities are thanks to William Henry Fox Talbot who first patented the calotype—the first practical photographic process to create a negative that could generate multiple copies. By the mid 20th century, people were getting weird with their pictures, as evidenced by this giant baby looking in or their mother as she lies in a crib.
A young woman lies in bed with smallpox
Throughout history no viral disease has had quite the same effect as smallpox, an infectious disease that dates back to 3rd century BCE in Egypt. The disease is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century alone, and that’s after its decline in the 19th century. It’s believed that the rise of immigration and travel made the disease more prevalent amongst western cultures. The disease attacked skin cells, causing pimple like lesions that spread across the body over the course of 24 to 36 hours. Hopefully Lydia Jane made a full recovery and didn't infect whoever was taking this photo.
Nothing to see here, just a briefcase full of glass eyes
What’s creepier than a case of glass eyes? Obviously there’s nothing wrong with having a glass eye, people can’t help it if they have to use something like this in order to feel comfortable around the public, but there’s something that’s a little creepy about a case of glass eyes just sitting open on a table somewhere.
It’s highly likely that a salesman just carried this case around waiting to find the right person to whom they could peddle their wares. Can’t you imagine them walking down the street, their brief case rattling with a bunch of glass eyes?
Nothing weird here, just kids bobbing for apples with their hands tied behind their backs
There’s nothing inherently eerie about what’s going on here, kids have been bobbing for apples forever, but you can file this photo under things that wouldn’t be allowed to happen today. First of all the kids have their hands tied behind their back, either that or they’re very good at keeping their hands clasped (that’s not something we could ever master). Aside from that they’re just being whipped in the face with swinging apples, that has to hurt a little bit. If a parent suggested kids do this today they’d be pelted with candy corn until they left the PTA meeting.
Dolls should not be that big
Well this is just unsettling. Dolls are creepy enough as is, but when they’re the size of the person that’s playing with them they get even more creepy. Hard plastic dolls like these were first introduced in the 1940s after materials developed during World War II were transferred to private industries. These plastics made it so dolls could be pressed from a regular mold rather than built one at a time, which meant more money. The molds also made it so dolls could be pressed at whatever size you like, so it’s possible that a doll the size of a house could exist some day. Yikes.
Is anyone else creeped out by these plastic masks from the 1970s?
What is it about these cheap masks made from plastic molds that makes them so creepy? Is it the way their faces never change or how they fix an anonymous blank stare to anyone who wears the mask? Or is the way the masks look almost human? Even though these were meant for kids to wear it’s likely that they were too freaky for any children and that they were just used by adults looking to steal candy on Halloween or rob a convenience store. Even looking at them now it’s hard to look them directly in the eyes, there’s something that’s just so disturbing about them.
This rat catcher is living the high life
There’s nothing like the sight of a rat to get your heartbeat racing. The sound of their scurrying, their beady red eyes, and their leathery tails, there should be someone whose entire job is getting rid of them. In the 19th century that was totally a thing. These rat catchers weren’t just exterminators, they focused specifically on the most disgusting of rodents. Men like this guy in the photo went into the dirtiest parts of the city to catch and kill these nasty little creatures. It must have been good work while it was still going on because this guy looks like he’s having a ball with that rat.
The empty morgue on Alcatraz
Out of all the haunted places in the world, Alcatraz is supposedly at the top of that list, which means that the morgue at Alcatraz has to be absolutely filled with ghosts. The underground section is situated on the northwestern side of the island, below the recreation yard. That’s right, when the prison was still active the prisoners had to get their exercise on top of the morgue. Some people have claimed that they’ve seen and felt a presence in the morgue, whether it’s the spirit of a former prisoner or a doctor is unknown, but what do you see?
Robins making a nest out of a skull, 1932
There’s something unsettling about seeing a group of playful robins, creatures who are so full of life, making a nest from the physical representation of death. Birds make nests out of anything they can find, so if they think they’ve found a good spot they’ll build a home wherever they can, and it’s all the better if it’s the right space for a bird and their babies. This eerie photo is up there with images of wasps building homes around masks, what is it about seeing a creature live where it shouldn’t that’s so upsetting? Why don’t we like these things?
Santa brings terror door to door
Never mind the fact that Santa is supposed to be taking his sleigh around the world with his reindeer to drop off gifts, the scary thing about this Santa’s waxy visage, the rosy cheeks that make him look like a burn victim, it’s like a twisted version of the Santa that we know and love. The angle of his body, the way she’s trying to close the door, it’s like a still from a real life slasher movie. Keep this photo in mind come next Christmas, if you see a Santa who’s going door to door make sure you keep your door closed.
Hey guys, anyone gonna untie me?
Tied to a tree, even if it’s for a photo has the potential to be risky. It’s hard to tell if this woman is just posing or if she’s genuinely freaked out, but either way she has to be a little bit worried that she’s never going to be untied. This wouldn’t be the first photo we’ve seen of a woman tied up before her untimely end, and it’s not out of the question for serial killers to take photos of their victims. Hopefully that’s not what’s going on here and she’s just taking part in some good old fashioned horseplay.