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Seemingly Innocent Photos of Some of History’s Most Infamous Monsters

Photo Credit: 1. Bettmann / Getty Images 2. Albert Foster / Mirrorpix / Getty Images (Colorized by
Photo Credit: 1. Bettmann / Getty Images 2. Albert Foster / Mirrorpix / Getty Images (Colorized by

History remembers several individuals for the horrific things they did during their lifetimes. Names like Ted Bundy and Saddam Hussein strike fear into the minds of many for very different, yet horrible reasons. These people weren’t committing atrocities 24/7, as shown by these photos of when they arguably looked their most sincere.

Regardless, even with these images, it’s hard to think of them as anything less than monsters.

Fidel Castro with Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway speaking with Fidel Castro
Ernest Hemingway with Fidel Castro, 1959. (Photo Credit: American Stock Photos / Getty Images)

During his rule, Fidel Castro converted Cuba into a one-party Communist state, imprisoning opposition, restricting freedom of speech and carrying out human rights violations against the country’s population. Despite his reformist and anti-imperialist policies, he ran Cuba through a totalitarian lens for almost 50 years.

In the above photo, Castro can be seen speaking with Ernest Hemingway. The image was captured just over a year prior to the American author’s death, and the pair were known to sometimes go fishing together.

Charles Manson as a young man

Portrait of Charles Manson
Charles Manson, 1947. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Charles Manson was a cult leader in the 1960s who formed what he called the “Manson Family.” Its members were devoted to his leadership and they committed nine murders on his behalf, including that of actress Sharon Tate on August 9, 1969. Manson was imprisoned for his crimes in 1971, where he remained until his death in 2017.

The above photo is of a young Manson, aged 12-13. No one could have predicted the monster he’d become.

Saddam Hussein cheesing

Portrait of Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein, 1983. (Photo Credit: Jacques Pavlovsky / Sygma / Getty Images)

Saddam Hussein was the dictator of Iraq from 1979-2003. He was an aggressive leader known for using violent tactics to remove opposition, and his power only came to an end when the United States led an invasion in search of him. After being captured, a trial was held, where he was convicted of heinous crimes against humanity. Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging, with his life coming to an end in 2006.

This photo was captured during Hussein’s dictatorship. In it, he flashes a smile for the French press.

Jim Jones and his family

Portrait of the Jones family
Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple, and his family, 1976. (Photo Credit: Don Hogan Charles / New York Times Co. / Getty Images)

Jim Jones was an American cult leader who created and led the Peoples Temple between 1955-78. He and the cult are known for the massacre that occurred in the remote jungle commune of Jonestown, in Guyana, on November 18, 1978; nine hundred and nine members died after drinking cyanide-laced Flavor Aid. 

This portrait of Jones with his family doesn’t appear to hint at the sinisterness that underlined the Peoples Temple. If we went by the smiles on everyone’s faces, we’d think everything was A-OK.

Joseph Stalin hugging a child

Little girl hugging Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin hugging a child, 1952. (Photo Credit: Fototeca Gilardi / Getty Images)

While dictator Joseph Stalin pushed the Soviet Union into becoming a modern superpower, his methods for doing so were what made him infamous. He exercised mass political repression, forced labor, the deportation of minorities and orchestrated mass famines that killed millions. 

You wouldn’t know it, however, by looking at this photo. Captured in 1952, it shows a young girl hugging Stalin.

Benito Mussolini skiing

Benito and Romano Mussolini cross-country skiing with an unknown man
Benito Mussolini with his son, Romano, 1930s. (Photo Credit: ullstein bild / Getty Images)

Founder of the National Fascist Party in Italy, dictator Benito Mussolini ruled from 1922-43. He was an extreme nationalist with a serious expansionist foreign policy approach and used the military to try his hand at colonial conquests in Africa. He passed laws that ensured the fascist party would remain unopposed, promoted mass violence and destroyed democracy in Italy for a period.

In a scene captured prior to the Second World War, Mussolini can be seen cross-country skiing with his son, Romano, on Monte Terminillo.

Ted Bundy in high school

Portrait of Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy. (Photo Credit: Associated Students / Woodrow Wilson High School / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Ted Bundy was a serial killer who kidnapped, assaulted and murdered dozens of women throughout the 1970s. Before confessing to 36 killings across seven states, he used his charm to lure young women to him, before committing heinous atrocities against them. He used this same charm to convince law enforcement of his innocence. He was finally caught in 1978 and executed in ’89.

Before he was one of the most infamous serial killers in history, Bundy was your average high school student, as seen in this photo taken during those days.

Shirō Ishii tipping his hat

Shirō Ishii tipping his hat while sitting in the back of a vehicle with another man
Shirō Ishii. (Photo Credit: Buyenlarge / Getty Images)

Shirō Ishii served as the director of Unit 731, a biological warfare unit of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during the Second World War. As a microbiologist and medical officer, he had extensive knowledge of human biology and used this to conduct several experiments on human subjects. He killed thousands of individuals in his attempts to develop biological weapons, and was eventually arrested on charges of war crimes.

In this photo, Ishii is captured tipping his hat for the camera, not even offering a glimpse at the evil that lay within.

Idi Amin Dada Oumee clasping his hands

Idi Amin Dada Oumee clasping his hands in front of the entryway to an aircraft
President of Uganda Gen. Idi Amin Dada Oumee waving goodbye following a visit to Kinshasa, Zaire, 1975. (Photo Credit: Daily Mirror / Mirrorpix / Getty Images)

Idi Amin Dada Oumee was the third president of Uganda from 1971-79. He ruled as a military dictator and was responsible for the systematic persecution and murder of between 100,000-500,000 innocent Ugandans, committing rampant human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings. He is remembered as one of the most brutal tyrants in modern history.

You wouldn’t know this, however, by the smile on his face in the above image. This was captured prior to him boarding a plane to return to Uganda after a visit to Kinshasa, Zaire in 1975.

Harold Shipman long jumping

Children watching Harold Shipman jumping into a sandpit
Harold Shipman doing long lump at Pavement High School, 1961. (Photo Credit: DENNIS HUSSEY / Daily Mirror / Mirrorpix / Getty Images)

Dr. Harold Shipman was a general practitioner in England who’s considered to be one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history. Using his profession to serve his desire to kill, he murdered an estimated 250 victims. He’d administer fatal amounts of drugs to his patients and transfer their assets into his name. In 2004, four years after his incarceration, he took his own life.

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The above image was taken in 1961, well before Shipman became a doctor. It shows him as a teenager, partaking in long jump while a group of fellow students watch.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!