The common phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” proves itself to be true through these nine photos. Often, a photo offers a viewer just a snapshot of an event, making these normal-looking photographs much creepier once you know their background. Here are nine pictures that seem rather mundane at first glance, but their backstories make them a whole lot scarier.
1. American volcanologist, David A. Johnston
Here is American volcanologist David A. Johnston sitting comfortably in a folding chair. However, only thirteen hours after this photograph was taken on May 18, 1980, the volcano Mount St. Helens erupted, killing 57 people, including Johnston.
Johnston was the first individual to report the Mount St. Helens eruption, transmitting what his last known words were: “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” before being swept away by the lateral blast of the volcano. His body has never been found, but remains of his USGS trailer were found in 1993.
2. Father and daughter in Omagh, Northern Ireland
This father-daughter photo was taken only moments before the Omagh car bombing on August 15, 1998. The red Vauxhall Cavalier pictured to the right in this photograph contained a bomb that killed 29 people, including the photographer. The father and daughter pictured survived the bombing, and the camera was later found in the rubble.
3. Harold Agnew holding Fat Man’s core
Here we see physicist Harold Agnew holding the core of the Fat Man atomic bomb that would be dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. It seems unbelievable that the lunch-box-sized item Agnew is holding would come to kill 80,000 people.
4. A girl who grew up in a concentration camp draws “home”
This photograph was taken by David “Chim” Seymour in 1948, of a young girl named Tereska who grew up in a concentration camp during the Second World War. In 1948, she lived in a home for emotionally disturbed children located in Warsaw.
In 2017, researchers believe they identified the girl in this photograph. During the bombing of Warsaw by the German Luftwaffe, four-year-old Tereska’s home was destroyed and she was struck by a piece of shrapnel that gave her brain damage. Fleeing Warsaw after the bombings with her 14-year old sister Jadwiga, Tereska spent three weeks trying to reach a village forty miles away, which left her starving. Since the mid-sixties, she spent her life at the Tworki Mental Asylum near Warsaw, where she passed away in 1978.
5. Lightning strikes
Here we see Michael and Sean McQuilken laughing at their hair standing up. Little did they know that only seconds after this photo was taken they would be struck by lightning. The brothers and their sister Mary were hiking at Moro Rock in California’s Sequoia National Park on August 20, 1975. Luckily, both brothers survived the lightning strike.
Michael McQuilken later recalled, “at the time, we thought this was humorous. I took a photo of Mary and Mary took a photo of Sean and me. I raised my right hand into the air and the ring I had on began to buzz so loudly that everyone could hear it. I found myself on the ground with the others. Sean was collapsed and huddled on his knees. Smoke was pouring from his back.”
6. Tragedy by the sea
In the spring of 1954, Los Angeles Times photographer John Giant was in the front yard of his beachfront home when he heard a commotion coming from the beach. He grabbed his camera and rushed to the shore. When he arrived he saw the couple in the photograph above holding each other. This couple’s 19-month-old son had been playing in their yard when he wandered off to the beach and vanished into the water. The baby was later found deceased one mile offshore.
7. SS Grandcamp
This is a photo of the ship SS Grandcamp, taken on April 16, 1947. The men on the dock are members of the Texas City Volunteer Fire Department who are trying to extinguish a fire in the ship’s hold. However, the SS Grandcamp’s cargo included 2,200 tons of ammonium nitrate.
Only a few minutes after this photo was taken, the ship exploded, causing one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history. All but one of the firefighters in the photo above were killed instantly, along with around 500 other people who died.
8. Eyes of hate
Here we see Nazi propagandist and politician Joseph Goebbels before and after finding out his photographer is Jewish at the League of Nations meeting in Geneva, September 1933. Taking the photo was Alfred Eisenstaedt (who also captured the iconic photograph of a sailor and nurse kissing in Times Square on V-J Day), a German-born American photographer. Goebbels allowed for Eisenstaedt to snap a few initial photos of himself in a happy mood. However, upon learning that Eisenstaedt was Jewish, he scowled at the camera which resulted in Goebbels wearing his “eyes of hate.”
9. John Lennon giving an autograph
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Here we see former Beatles member John Lennon giving an autograph to a man on the right. Although this was a common occurrence for Lennon, this autograph was given only six hours before his assassination on December 8, 1980. The man on the right is Mark David Chapman, who would shoot Lennon only hours later. Lennon was signing a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman when this photo was taken.