If there is anything that people enjoy a lot it's a mysterious photograph depicting something surreal like a photo of a ghost or another creepy creature. Somehow, these intriguing photographs keep emerging and some people spend quite a lot of time investigating them. Are they real, or do we simply want them to be? I guess it's not uncommon to write something off as paranormal if we can't find a rational explanation for it. On the other hand, we do need a good, creepy story every once in a while to break the routine and give us something interesting to talk about.
It is astonishing how many people believe these photos are authentic. Unfortunately for all the theorists and ghost lovers, almost all of these photos prove to be fake sooner or later. They turn out to be coincidences such as a double exposure suddenly caught on camera. Others were found to be something entirely different that was staring us in the eye all this time but we couldn’t (or didn’t want to) see it. Certain photographs are so convincing that even the biggest skeptics admit they look real. Contrary to what you may think, fake or altered photos aren't just the thing of the modern age and Photoshop. Folks long before the Internet enjoyed picture hoaxes, as you will see today.
A great number of the mysterious photos available online have been debunked, but not all of them. There still remain some that will continue to spark debates across the world regardless of whether we believe them to be authentic or not. Today, we bring you 15 of those mysterious images with stories behind them that were actually fake.
15 The Phoenix Lights
Ever since they appeared on April 21, the Phoenix lights have confused the public and led all the UFO enthusiasts to believe them to be the work of aliens. There were no explanations provided by the Air Force and it seems that people really enjoyed this mysterious theory. The Phoenix lights became a national media story and it seemed that no one was willing to deny it the aliens' spaceships that produced those lights while attacking the Earth. The truth was revealed soon when an anonymous person admitted to being the creator of these lights. He admitted that he produced the “UFO” lights by using road flares tied to helium balloons. The guy was certainly creative and some people were amused by his prank, but it also seems that quite a number of them were angry. Air traffic controllers also declared that nothing showed up on their radars and the lights were clearly not fixed to an aircraft which supports the theory of the hoax.
14 The Loch Ness Monster
Even though the modern story of the Loch Ness monster dates back to 1933, the story revolves around a photo taken by a respectable surgeon, Colonel Robert Wilson, in 1934. He took a photo of what seemed like a serpent sticking its head out of the water. For decades people believed the monster to be real. It was only in 1994 that the truth was revealed when Christian Spurling admitted that it was all a hoax created by Wilson, Wetherell, and Spurling. Wetherell was his stepfather and a man who allegedly saw the footsteps of the monster back in 1933. The story was proven to be fake as the footsteps were made using a dried hippo’s foot and Wetherell was humiliated. That is why he asked his son to create a serpent-like submarine to fool the public. This was his way of retaliating.
13 The Wem Ghost
For a long time, this photo was the long-awaited proof for many that ghosts are real. The photo was taken by Tony O'Rahilly and it shows a girl in a fire at Wem Town Hall back in 1995. The photo quickly became famous and was featured in international newspapers. Everyone seemed to believe that the image is really that of a ghost at a burning building. Some even believed that the girl in the photo was responsible for the fire and identified the girl as Jane Churm, a 14-year-old. The photo wasn't debunked for about 15 years until Brian Liar, a 77-year-old man noticed that the girl in the photo looks a lot like a girl from an old postcard. While the cause of the fire remains unknown, the "mystery" of the Wem Ghost has been debunked.
12 The 9/11 Tourist
Soon after the tragic 9/11 event, a photo appeared in public featuring a tourist posing in front of a camera on top of the twin towers just seconds before the tragedy while a plane is headed towards him. The photo gain popularity and the widely accepted story was that after the tragedy, a camera was found with a picture taken that day, but no one could recognize the tourist. But in November 2001, Jose Roberto Penteado from Brazil claimed that he was the tourist guy. Naturally, he became hugely popular, but his fame soon came to an end when the real “Tourist Guy”, from Hungary not only admitted that it was all a hoax but also provided proof to support his claim. He had photoshopped the plane on a picture taken in New York in 1997. It was meant to be a joke among his friends.
11 The Supermoon Over Rio de Janeiro
A supermoon (or a perigee moon) is a phenomenon that people around the world try to capture on their cameras. Many supermoon photos are fake, but this was a bit extreme. In May 2012, a photo of the supermoon over Rio de Janeiro was taken, supposedly, and it features a gigantic moon over the city at night. Even though people had no reason to doubt this photo, it turned out that it’s actually fake. Albeit beautiful, the photo isn’t real at all. Someone had photoshopped a giant Moon on a photograph which was originally taken in 2008 by Mexican photographer Horacio Montiel. The Moon couldn’t possibly be this close to Earth, anyway.
10 The Spaceman
The Solway Firth Spaceman photo taken in 1964 really shook the public. A man named Jim Templeton was trying to photograph his little daughter and when he developed the film, he was shocked to realize the photo was showing a strange white figure just behind his daughter. This white figure was referred to as “The Spaceman” from that moment on but while the photo itself is real, the story behind it certainly isn’t. The mysterious white figure appearing behind Jim’s daughter was most probably his wife caught in the background. His wife was also with them on that day and according to experts, the photo was over-exposed making her blue dress appear white.
9 The Levitating Man
The Levitating Man is a famous photo depicting a man levitating surrounded by an amazed audience. The man in the photo, Collin Evans, was a Welsh psychic or spiritualist who claimed to be able to levitate thanks to mysterious spirits who lift him up. Evans became rather famous due to his "power" and crowds came to see him perform. But the truth behind the photo from the 1930s is rather disappointing. This psychic simply knew when to trigger the camera to snap a perfect photo. He simply jumped off his chair triggering the camera with a cord in his hand. That's how Evans ended up with a photo showing a levitating man and a surprised audience (how could they not be seeing the man jump all of a sudden).
8 Hook Island Sea Monster
When the story of this sea monster first started in the 1960s, everyone seemed to believe it was real. The “monster” was even photographed in Queensland, Australia, by a photographer named Robert Le Serrec, and it appeared to be about 70-80 feet long. From that moment on, the monster was written about extensively and it was featured in many books. However, a more rational theory is that the French photographer just wanted to become famous as he was in debt so he needed money to get back on his feet. And the monster proved very financially fruitful for him. The giant tadpole monster that is partly overlapped by sand was probably hoaxed for financial reasons.
7 The Cottingley Fairies
It's quite unbelievable to modern viewers, but this hoax goes way back to 1920s when two girls, Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright, took a series of photos in their garden. The girls borrowed a camera claiming that they wanted to take photos of the fairies they had been playing with. Elsie's father showed them how to use the camera and so they took a series of photos of fairies posing with Frances. The photos became a sensation and were widely accepted as genuine. They were not altered so many found them to be the proof of the existence of supernatural beings. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, was convinced of the verity of this story. No one became suspicious until 1981 when Elsie finally admitted that the fairies were actually cutouts. No fairies, sorry.
6 The Time Traveler
The photo that allegedly shows a time traveler wearing modern clothes and clearly standing out from the crowd confused the public. His attire, as well as his sunglasses, seem out of time as he is surrounded by men and women wearing suits and hats. It appears that the photo was not altered in any way but there is a more rational explanation that does not involve time travel. While the man’s style is slightly eccentric for the time, experts came to a conclusion that his modern-looking sunglasses actually first appeared back in the 1920s so they aren’t modern at all. His T-shirt and his camera are also older than it may appear when you first see the photo. The fact that he is surrounded by older men and women who dress age-appropriately also contributes to this rational explanation.
5 The Battle Of Los Angeles
In 1942, the aliens invaded the earth. Except they didn’t. This photo shows an aircraft fire and a UFO which was allegedly hovering above Los Angeles. The newspapers hurried to publish the photo of the UFO as well as a suitable story behind it so the public quickly believed it was indeed a battle with the aliens. The government said it was a misunderstanding but to theory lovers, this seemed as a way to cover things up. After all, all this happened months after the Pearl Harbour attack and people overreacted. A more probable explanation is that fires were shot at weather balloons. The image was even retouched later to make it look like an alien aircraft. Once again the media frenzy had caused this theory to remain out for so long.
4 Mary Todd And Lincoln's Ghost
The first faked photos appeared long before modern photoshop. Mulmer was a jewelry engraver and a photography enthusiast who claimed to be able to take photos of people with their deceased relatives in the background. Apparently, Mulmer was able to photograph dead people and quite a number of people believed him. This turned out to be a lucrative business for Mumler who asked people to send him photographs of the spirits they wish to see, along with money, of course, and they too will have a photo with their deceased loved ones. His most famous spirit photograph is of Lincoln’s widow, Mary, where dead Lincoln appears to be standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders. By 1868, it was already clear that Mumler was a fraud so he was legally prosecuted. Apparently, he achieved this effect by double exposing the film.
3 The Ghost From The Movie
Our imagination has no boundaries and that explains why the story behind this photo is a little too much. In the movie Three Men And a Baby, there is a particular scene where it appears that someone is standing in the background observing the actors. Mystery enthusiasts soon went wild and so rumors spread that the mysterious person standing in the back is actually a ghost of a boy who committed suicide in that very apartment. Not to mention that many people actually believed this story. But the truth was much more ordinary than that. What was thought to be a ghost boy was, in fact, a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson which was accidentally left there.
2 The Falcon Lake Incident
When this photo of a man lying in a hospital with strange dots on his body appeared, it was not difficult to believe his story. Stefan Michalak, an industrial mechanic who was searching for precious metal at the Whiteshell Park, had spotted two large spacecraft descending out of the clear sky. Allegedly, he heard human voices although he couldn’t hear clearly what they were saying. When no one answered his greetings, he approached the spacecraft and even stuck his head inside, something probably no one should do. According to his story, the doors then shut and he was burned badly which left the weird dots on his body. The story loses credibility due to fact that Michalak was a well-known drunk and he was even drunk on that day according to a police report. According to the same report, Michalak flagged a policeman down but then refused to answer questions or gave really confusing responses. Michalak later stated that the policeman actually ignored him and drove past him.
1 The Brown Lady
The endless list of famous “ghost” photos includes this photography taken by Captain Provand and Indre Shira, two photographers who were on an assignment for Country Life magazine. They claim to have seen an ethereal being descending from the stairs and decided to take a photo of it. This ghostly image is supposed to represent the so-called Brown Lady who haunts the Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. Although widely accepted as an actual photo of a ghost by mystery and ghost lovers, many skeptics simply didn’t “buy” it. A more probable explanation can be provided for this photograph. Most likely, the ethereal being on the image was a result of a double exposure and an afternoon light from the window. Also, documents that suggest the photo is fake were found in the manuscript department of Cambridge University.