Since the invention of photography in 1839, humans have been obsessed with capturing the world around them through the use of a camera. Be it a simple family portrait back in the 19th century or a selfie with the President of the United States in the present decade, photographs have encapsulated the world around us for hundreds of years. They have represented the sometimes strange and weird traditions of the past, like living family members taking photographs with deceased loved ones or hanging the bodies of hundreds of animals from a storefront. Photographs have also sometimes displayed things they didn’t intend to capture, such as ghost-like figures or potential alien contact.
While most photographs can be rationalized with a simple explanation, others have been shrouded in mystery for decades. Some are on this list because of the mysterious subject of the photo. Others were not considered strange and terrifying until after the photos were developed. Then, unexplained figures mysteriously appeared and brought the pictures into question. Here are 15 vintage photos that we have no explanation for, and they continue to haunt us.
15 Newby Church Ghost
The Church of Christ of the Consoler is located on the grounds of Newby Hall in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom. The photograph was taken in 1963. If you look closely, you can see a terrifying figure on the right side of the image. The ghostly figure has been named The Spectre of Church of the Newby Monk, as it seems to resemble the figure of a human. Some have speculated that it looks like a 16th-century monk wearing a white shroud to cover up leprosy or some other disfigurement. The figure appears to be nine feet tall but since it’s feet are not visible, it is possible that it is standing on a box of some sort. While some believe that the photo is not a result of double exposure, some, think it might be fake. Regardless, this photo is absolutely terrifying and confirms many people's belief in the paranormal.
14 Diablo Dam
The Diablo Dam can be found in Washington. Construction of the dam was finished in 1930 and it was able to generate electricity in 1936. It is part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project that is supplying Seattle with a larger portion of its power. The dam is still found in Diablo Canyon. When it was completed, it was the tallest in the world. The photograph was taken in 1946 and can now be found in the Seattle Municipal Archives. While the location of the photograph can be explained, the eerie nature of the figure or the reasoning behind the shot has not been revealed. Who is that mysterious figure lurking in the dam? Why does this photograph look like something out of a sci-fi horror thriller? No one knows.
13 Tulip Staircase
In 1966, a clergyman from White Rock, British Columbia took a photograph of this lovely spiral staircase known as the Tulip Staircase. It can be found in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. After he developed the photo, he discovered something inexplicable. It looks like there is someone climbing the stairs and holding onto the railing. The photo was studied by several experts, such as some from Kodak, and they concluded that it was authentic and had not been altered. Along with the photograph, the 400-year-old building has seen many other potentially paranormal incidents. Others have claimed to see unexplained figures on the staircase and to have heard mysterious footsteps as well. Some claim that a maid was thrown from the highest banister of the staircase 300 years ago, and she continues to climb up and down the stairs forever.
12 Battle of Los Angeles
Less than three months after the United States entered into World War II, the supposed Battle of Los Angeles occurred. Late on February 24th and early into the morning on February 25th, the city of Los Angeles believed that it was being attacked by a Japanese aircraft. Allegedly, 1400 shells were shot into the sky of the city. However, they strangely hit nothing. Once all the smoke cleared, what actually occurred in the sky was called into question. This strange incident has yet to fully be explained. Some believe that it was simply a weather balloon. Others think that it was an extraterrestrial attack. The photographs of the incident appear to back this theory. The L.A. Times published a photograph in 1942 that appeared to show a saucer-like object hovering over the city. As of now, no one knows indefinitely what flew over LA that day.
11 Eerie Meeting
A group of people mysteriously walking around in hoods has never represented anything good. Combine that with masks covering their faces, an eerie backdrop in a spooky mountain temple, the ritualistic stance that they seemed to be posed in, and you have one creepy meeting. It looks like they are on their way to some sort of human sacrifice or ancient cult meeting. They could also be witches who wish to hide their identity as they perform some sort of magic. Since they had many people frightened of their powers, they were constantly being hunted. This led them to practice in secret and attempt to hide their identity from the world. The photo was taken in Spain in 1940 as part of a ritual where people repent their sins the week before Easter. Why they felt the need to be in such nightmarish robes remains a mystery.
10 Amityville Ghost
A Dutch colonial home located in Amityville, New York is said to be the most haunted house in America. On November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald Defeo shot and killed all six members of his family. He was given six life sentences for his crime. Along with their three children, George and Kathy Lutz moved into the home in 1975. Immediately, they began to notice creepy things happening in the house. Every morning, George would wake up at 3:15, the same time the murders happened. The family fled the home just 28 days after moving in. In 1976, Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were two demonologists, visited the house to investigate the alleged hauntings. They set up infrared cameras that supposedly caught a ghost of one of the murdered children. Others believe that the person in the picture was someone assisting with the cameras.
9 Mysterious Satellite
In 1954, a mysterious object was photographed orbiting the Earth. Both the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the San Francisco Examiner ran stories about this unidentifiable floating object. The stories were originally attributed to UFO researcher and retired naval aviation major Donald Keyhoe, who said the Air Force detected a satellite orbiting Earth. The mysterious part is that no one at the time had the technology to launch a satellite into the air. This has created many stories in relation to the origin and definition of the object. Some believe that it is a satellite that dates back 13,000 years and they have given it the nickname of “Black Knight.” They also think that this elusive object has apparently been beaming signals to Earth and NASA has been covering it up. Others think that it is just a thermal blanket that got lost and caught in the Earth’s orbit.
8 The Masked Man
Back in the day before modern medicine, it was up to people to experiment in order to find effective methods of treatments and medicines. It was not uncommon for people to use whatever was around them to try to treat a host of illnesses. The system was mostly one of trial and error, and they often used strange things mixed together to try to produce results. Given the objects surrounding the man in this photo, it is likely he was one of those people that experimented. It would make sense that in order to protect their faces that they would wear masks, but why would you choose to wear such a creepy mask? There is a possibility, given that there is a pumpkin with cut-out witches on paper flying around it, that this man is simply posing in a Halloween costume, but that remains unclear.
7 Terrifying Family Portrait
Since the invention of the camera, family photographs have been a tradition that has for years captured the happiness and love that families share. This family portrait, however, does not seem to give off the same warm and fuzzy feeling like it should. From the child’s apprehensive and confused face to the parents' stern and terrifying look, the photograph looks like one that would be used in a horror film. The most disturbing part of the picture, the part that makes one shrink back a little bit, is the father’s sunken in and ghost-like appearance. It is possible that he was not alive at the time the portrait was taken. Back in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, post-mortem photography was a popular way to help families through the grieving process. While there is no way to confirm, given the age of the photograph, this would explain the dad’s creepy look and the child’s frightened reaction.
6 Hook Island Sea Monster
A French photographer, Robert Serrec, was hanging out off the coast of Queensland, Australia in 1964 when he noticed mysterious shadow lurking in the water. He claims that the shadow moved towards his ship with its mouth open ready to attack. Almost as soon as the thing came towards them, it swam away. Intrigued by the unknown creature, he snapped a quick picture of the object. From the size and outline of the object, it looks like a monster slithering through the water. The snake-like creature has captivated wanderers for decades. Many have speculated that it is a yet to be discovered animal of some sort. They have dubbed it the “Hook Island Sea Monster.” However, doubters of the photo claim that it is just a large tarp floating in the water. To this day, no credible explanation or evidence has been presented to explain this mysterious photograph.
5 The Appearance Of The Deceased Freddy Jackson
Freddy Jackson, an air mechanic who served in World War I, was tragically killed in 1919. His squadron took a group photo two days after he passed away. When the photo was developed, something terrifying was discovered. At the back of the photo, a mysterious face appears. Members of the squadron immediately recognized the face as Jackson’s. To everyone’s dismay, the entire shocked crew confirmed that the man in the photograph looked suspiciously like Jackson. The strangest part is that the picture was taken the same day as his funeral. It is believed that his spirit was unaware that he has physically passed away and shown up for the photograph as scheduled. No other evidence has been presented as to who the identity of this man could be.
4 House Of Meat
An English butcher in 1937 decided that rather than making his customers walk into his stand to view the meat available for purchase, he would hang everything available from the outside of the butcher shop. Little did he realize he was creating a scene out of some people’s worst nightmares. The various dead carcasses can be seen fully intact still hanging upside down in rows and rows. Sure, customers can simply walk up to the outside and point to what they want, but why the butcher thought this was a great idea is still a mystery. Furthermore, there are the various health and sanitation concerns that need to be taken into account. Who knows what happens to the products when it rains or how much the pollution from the street will affect the taste? Either way, it remains a mystery why he decided to exhibit his storefront in this manner.
3 Eerie Bouvet Island
Bouvet Island is located in the furthest reach of the Southern Ocean. It is considered the most isolated spot in the world. The island itself is covered in a few square miles of uninhabited volcanic basalt under several hundred feet of glaciers. It has no trees, no shelter, and no landing places. The nearest land to the island is the coast of Antartica, and even that is still 1,750 kilometers south. In 1964, the South Africans embarked on an exhibition to make landfall. On April 2nd, the crew was able to land a helicopter on the island. It was then that they discovered a lifeboat laying in a small lagoon surrounded by seals. The boat appeared to be still intact and ready to be ridden. Given the remoteness of the island and the dangerous coast of the island, it is a mystery how the boat survived making it to shore.
2 Hinterkaifeck Tragedy
This photo depicts one of the victims who was mysteriously killed, along with five others, in the Hinterkaifeck murders. In 1922, the murders of six people in Hinterkaifeck, Germany shocked the country. Over 100 people were interviewed in relation to the tragedy but no one was ever arrested and no leads were ever generated. The case still remains unsolved to this day as no motive was ever established to explain the killings. Supposedly, the previous maid had left the farmstead six months before the murders, stating that the house was haunted. A new maid had arrived at the place just hours before being murdered. The oddest part of the incident is that the perpetrator appears to have remained on the property for several days. The cows were fed, the food in the kitchen had been eaten, and the neighbors had seen smoke coming from the chimney during the time after the murders would have taken place.
1 Elephant Man
While today you can change the way you look through makeup, other beauty products, and even surgery, centuries ago it was not so easy. In fact, if you had any type of deformity, especially one on your face, then you were forced to remain isolated from the world or wear a mask to cover up. Modern medicine had not been advanced enough to help those with severe defects. It is hard to tell what type of deformity this man had. Was he born with it or did he have some unfortunate accident? It may be entirely possible that he does not have anything wrong with him and is just wearing the mask to creep others out. Perhaps he is getting ready to go on a potential killing spree, or simply hiding his real face from the world. Either way, that mask is doing nothing to help him appear to be a part of normal society.