25 Historical Photos That Will Give You The Creeps

Posted by , Updated on April 24, 2024

Historical photographs aren’t just images of sculptures and serious explorers on the vast landscapes. They frequently reveal shocking, spine-chilling scenes that leave us with goosebumps. The instances documented in these photographs comprise some of the most unnerving visuals ever recorded. They’re disconcerting, and each one carries a backstory that is guaranteed to unsettle you profoundly.

Consider yourself warned, the pictures included here might upset you but they’re all important snapshots of history that show a creepy moment that you won’t be able to shake no matter how hard you try. Read on… if you dare.


Michael and Sean McQuilken, moments before a lightning strike


On August, 20, 1975, Michael and Sean McQuilken were hiking through Sequoia National Park with their sister when the sky grew dark and the air started to change. As the trio climbed Moro Rock and the weather worsened, positive charges rose, bringing their hair up with it. It was a clear sign that lightning was about to strike. Shortly afterwards, white light cracked across the sky in a disastrous arc that struck Sean, the younger brother directly, leaving him with third degree burns across his back. Later, the brothers discovered that Sean was one of three people directly struck by a three pronged lighting bolt.


An exotic dancer has to show a judge in Florida that her dance attire covers everything


When three exotic dancers were arrested in Pinellas county in 1983 for going nude in an establishment that served alcohol they were put in the awkward situation of proving that even though they were working at a strip club at the time, that they were actually clothed. Judge David A. Demers watched as the women bent over and showed that their bikini bottoms covered their private parts, and that the arresting officers must have been dreaming when they collared the women, or that there was simply a wardrobe malfunction on the night in question. After the photo went out on the AP it was picked up by Playboy Magazine as a part of their “Year In Sex” issue.


Neil Armstrong’s Family watches as Apollo 11 blasts off


You know the pit in your stomach that you feel when your significant other is leaving for a long trip? Imagine if they were leaving for the moon, and no one else had been to the moon and they weren’t sure if they were even coming back. Janet Armstrong and her family must have been feeling that mixture of intense worry, melancholy, and pride as Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969. When the crew landed back on Earth on July 24 they were met by their wives and immediately went on a world tour to discuss their dangerous space flight. Shortly after finishing his work with NASA Neil and Janet Armstrong moved to a farm in Ohio where they kept away from the public eye.


Dorothy Arnold went shopping one day and never came back


On December 12, 1910, Dorothy Arnold, the daughter of a wealthy importer and the niece of a Supreme Court Justice went shopping for an evening gown in New York City. After stepping out of her home she bumped into her friend Gladys and that was the last time anyone saw her. When Arnold didn’t return home that evening her family started to call around to her friends, but when Gladys called to check in on her friend, Arnold’s mother said that her daughter was in bed with a headache. For six weeks the family carried out their own investigation without contacting the police. When they finally reached out to the authorities the police brought her disappearance to the press but by then the trail had gone cold. No one knew what became of her and she was never heard from again.


A soldier helps a boy cross the Berlin Wall


Before the Berlin Wall went up, Berliners were allowed to travel freely between both sides of the city, but in 1961 that came to an end when soldiers stabilized a barbed wire fence down the center of Berlin that separated the more “free” section of West Berlin from the Soviet-controlled “East Berlin.” When the initial version of the Wall went up no one was allowed to travel across regardless of their age, health status, or anything else that might have previously helped them get through Checkpoint Charlie. This photo shows an East German soldier helping a boy slip through the wall and back to his family. While it’s clearly the human decision to make, it was still a no-no, and the soldier was reportedly removed from his post.



Notorious drug dealer Pablo Escobar and his son posing for a photo in front of the White House, 1981


Drug dealer, criminal, cocaine cowboy, Pablo Escobar was one of the most infamous and wealthy cartel leaders of the 20th century. While making more than $400 million a week in the drug trade he still liked to travel. It’s unclear how Escobar was able to travel within the states, although it’s likely that someone with that much money was able to purchase a passport so they could travel legally within the United States. Having his photo taken in front of the White House was definitely a power move, and while he was definitely being watched by the government at the time, Escobar made it back to Medellin to continue his drug reign.


In 1981 Muhammad Ali talked a veteran down from a ledge


By January 19, 1981, Muhammad Ali was a shadow of his former self. No longer the championship boxer of his youth, he was working with Jimmy Carter on various diplomatic assignments, and while in Los Angeles he heard that a man named Joe was attempting to jump from an office building in the Miracle Mile area. Ali drove straight from his hotel to the building where he made his way to a nearby window where he started talking the man down. Ali shouted, “You’re my brother! I love you, and I couldn’t lie to you,” before pulling the man inside and driving him to a local V.A. hospital.


Martin Luther King Jr. removes a charred cross from his lawn as his son watches


In spite of his peaceful message of non-violent protest as a means for ending segregation Martin Luther King Jr. was a lightning rod for death threats. As upsetting as this photo of King removing a cross from his lawn is, it’s not the worst thing he endured during his time as a civil rights leader. In 1956 his home in Alabama as bombed, blowing out the windows and destroying his domicile, so in 1960 he moved to a new house and this is how he was greeted. It’s an unfortunate and sad state of where the world was in the ‘60s that this is how such a great man was treated.


FDR’s secret train beneath Grand Central Station


During World War II the president wanted to make sure he stayed in the public eye as possible without looking weak, even though he was suffering from polio, something that paralyzed him from the waist down. At the time the President traveled by train frequently, thus U.S. Car No. 1 was born. FDR’s ride was a bulletproof rail car that weighed nearly 285,000 and had two escape hatches. Whenever the train arrived in New York City it stopped directly under the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, from where the president was driven out of the train and into the city. The car still sits in Grand Central Station on the railway line that’s known as “Roosevelt’s Station.”


This 19th century bear baiting suit is pure nightmare fuel


No, this isn’t a detailed Hellraiser cosplay or the kind of thing you wear to your in-law’s place for Christmas, it’s a suit from Sibera that was created as a way to keep someone safe from bear attacks. While it’s been said that suits like this were used for hunting bear, it’s more likely that they were created to be worn while baiting bears in order to hunt them later. The suit is made of leather pants and jacket, an iron helmet and it’s covered in a layer of one-inch metal spikes, it doesn’t exactly have mobility spelled all over it but it is fairly creepy to look at.


Children wearing gas masks during World War II in England


During World War II the London blitz carried out by Germany nearly destroyed the city. From September 7, 1940 to May 11, 1941 the Nazis struck the city relentlessly, sending Londoners underground in order to survive the bombing, but the threat of chemical warfare led people to don gas masks in order to go about their day to day lives. Photos of the era are surreal and chilling portraits of people attempting to go about real life under the threat of imminent destruction. One of the most upsetting things about this photo is that there are gas masks for children, it’s truly frightening.


The last shot from the Hindenburg’s final flight, hours before it exploded


The Hindenburg disaster of 1937 put a full stop on airship travel in spite of the many aesthetic pleasures that these blimps offered. On May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg flew over New York City towards a New Jersey air force base. Everything went well until the ship touched base with its mooring mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey. As soon as it connected the ship burst into flames and began a rapid descent to the ground. Everyone who survived the explosion escaped by the skin of their teeth. Survivors had to dive out of the ship as it fell close to the ground, and many of them suffered substantial injuries.


A butcher shop, High Wycombe, England lets it all hang out


A modern-day butcher shop would be run out of town if they covered their building in carcasses like this, but in the 1930s it wasn’t out of the ordinary to hang their pickings up for everyone to see. Diets in the early 20th century were much more meat-focused so it’s not out of the question that this shop would be picked clean by the end of the day. A well-stocked butcher’s shop was something that people wanted to see. If a butcher’s shop had scant offerings, it probably wasn’t a place where you wanted to buy from.


This vintage Halloween costume will seriously haunt your dreams


Think of the scariest movie monster you’ve ever seen, there’s no way that it holds a candle to the vintage Halloween costumes that people wore in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These outfits were 100 percent homemade and while they aren’t as elaborate as the costumes that people purchase today, they still manage to be freakier than anything you’ll see while you’re out trick or treating. Even within the context of knowing this is a Halloween photo, it’s still hard to wrap your head around something this strange. What’s this mask made from? What’s it supposed to be? Feel free to write in with any ideas.


Ettore Majorana was a brilliant scientist who disappeared in 1938


The world is rarely gifted with the kind of mind who can rival someone like an Einstein or a Newton, and Ettore Majorana was one of those geniuses. This Sicilian scientist was an isolated young mind who studied physics and focused on discovering problems in atomic spectroscopy. By 1933 Majorna was noticeably exhausted and living with poor health while working on papers on geophysics and relativity. In 1938 while taking a boat from Palermo to Naples he disappeared with only a note sent to Antonio Carrelli, Director of the Naples Physics Institute as an apology for leaving so suddenly. It was believed that he offed himself, but in 2015 Roman authorities discovered that Majorana secreted himself away to Valencia, Venezuela where he lived until the 1950s.


This dystopian waterpark in Vietnam is slowly being taken back by the Earth


Travelers searching for a dark holiday should look no further than the Ho Thuy Tien waterpark in Vietnam, although you won’t be able to find it on a map. This former waterpark-aquarium is crumbling back into nature and visitors who’ve managed to find their way into the park have described it as “spooky” and “surreal.” Anyone who finds their way to this park that’s watched over by a fierce dragon will find rides and exhibits that were once full and crocodiles who live in and around the park. Mold covers the walls, the exhibits are filled with water and nothing else.


George Metesky, the mad bomber who terrorized New York City in the 1940s and ‘50s


This disturbing image shows the smile of a demented bomber named George Metesky who placed at least 33 bombs around New York City for 16 years during the 1940s and 1950s. After he was laid off by Consolidated Edison, Metesky began leaving pipe bombs around the city, often with notes directed at his former employer. He took a brief break from his insane activities for the duration of World War II, but he got back at it in 1950. Over the next five years, he left nearly 30 bombs at Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Radio City Music Hall. Even though only half of them exploded, he managed to injure dozens of people. James A. Brussel, a private psychiatrist, created a profile of the bomber that pretty much matched Metesky to a T, down to the double-breasted suit that he changed into after his arrest. After the police brought him in Metesky was found unfit for trial and was remanded to the Matteawan Asylum in 1957. He was released in 1973 and was taken home to Connecticut where he lived until he passed away in 1994.


Mussolini's Italian Fascist Party is always watching


Does anyone else feel like they’re being watched? The Palazzo Braschi in Rome served as the headquarters of the Fascist Party Federation, but it’s worth noting that it wasn’t always decorated like this. The ominous ace and “SI SI” wrapping were added for the 1934 elections where Italian citizens were tasked with voting for or against the current fascist regime. This building was just the beginning of Mussolini’s grand design scheme for the city. If he would have had the way he would have covered the city in propaganda that felt similar to the front of this building. Can you imagine the romance of Rome if it were covered in giant, angry faces?


Having trouble focusing at work? Why not wear “The Isolator?”


Do you have trouble focusing at work? Can you never seem to get your work finished on time? What you need is to focus, you need “The Isolator.” Hugo Gernsback, a speculative fiction author who published Science and Invention magazine, created this chilling invention in 1925. He believed that the helmet would cut out all the noise from your life while forcing you to focus on what was directly in front of you. The biggest problem with the helmet was the lack of oxygen available. People wearing this device had to hook up an oxygen tube in order to breathe. The invention never made it beyond the testing phase.


Tim Burton’s Halloween costume from 1967 is pure terror


Tim Burton has always been a director who’s made his darkest thoughts come to life, but that didn’t start when he was behind the camera. At the tender age of eight-years-old Tim Burton and his mother worked together to create this super creepy costume for Halloween and it’s basically a proto Jack Skellington costume. Growing up in Burbank, Burton wasn’t exactly surrounded by the gothic atmosphere that he enjoyed later in life so he had to exercise his gloomy imagination in other ways. He drew, he made strange movies, and he wore skeletal costumes like this while on his Halloween hunts for candy.


The final photo of Howard Hughes, taken 15 years before his death


Everyone knows the myth of Howard Hughes, the business magnate, pilot, and film director whose reclusiveness increased the older he got. He moved around the world, from South America to London, and Las Vegas while maintaining his intense privacy but he never stopped working on his personal projects as he grew mad from sleep deprivation and drug abuse. This photo was taken of Hughes in 1961, 15 years before his death, on one of his few public appearances. Hughes was always someone who was clearly obsessed with his public image, but by the early ‘60s, he was lost in a haze of delusion.


This face mask from the 1920s was either meant for swimmers or deranged psychopaths


One of the biggest worries about going into the sun on a summer’s day is getting a terrible sunburn. We’ve all had one and they’re not fun, but would you wear this rubber face mask to keep from burning? Even though it’s probably the best bet to make sure your skin stays burn free, the question of comfort is out the window. Unless you’re into this kind of thing there’s no way that wearing a rubber mask in the water is comfortable. Can’t you feel it now? The wet rubber on your skin as you dive to the bottom of the pool, the water pooling up inside your mask as you try to claw it off, the look of abject terror on the faces of everyone around you; maybe just wear extra sunscreen instead.


The amusement park in Pripyat following the Chernobyl disaster


On April 26, 1986, families in and around the Pripyat area in north Ukraine were looking forward to taking in this amusement park that had been built just or them – the employees of the Chernobyl nuclear facility. No one was actually able to enjoy the rides at the park as it was set to open on May 1 of that year. It’s believed that the park was operational briefly on the 27th and 28th of April as a way to keep the people of Pripyat entertained after the explosion, but before long it was clear that the park was radiated to the point of no return. Many of the rides are still standing today as an enduring ruin and a reminder of the destructive nature of nuclear power.


Horsemanning, the spooky photo craze from the 1920s


Before people thought about things going viral, this photo craze was a viral phenomenon. Known as horsemanning – as in the Headless Horseman who tortured Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – the puckish photos show people young and old pretending to be decapitated. The photos are achieved by various means, and they’re all very creepy. Aside from showing how morbid life was back in the early ‘20s, these photos also show the ingenuity that people had. As simple as this photo is, it was made without any editing, just a simple perspective trick. Or some monster actually beheaded a person.


Alice Copper struggles with one of his many snakes


Even if you’re not the kind of person who’s not bothered by snakes, you have to admit that there’s no way that you want one crawling across your face. After all, there’s a difference between seeing a large boa constrictor and having it slither around on your body. Shock rocker Alice Cooper is used to letting snake crawl around on him as they’ve been a part of his live show for decades, and while they may not be a terror on stage they can be a terror for hotel staff. One snake, a 12-foot boa constrictor named Yvette, disappeared down the toilet of a hotel in Knoxville only to slither her way back up the pipes two weeks later while country artist Charlie Pride was staying in the room. Note to self: never stay in a hotel room after Alice Cooper’s been there.

Photo: 1. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 2. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 3. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 4. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 5. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 6. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 7. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 8. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 9. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 10. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 11. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 12. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 13. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 14. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 15. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 16. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 17. www.imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 18. www.imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 19. www.imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 20. www.imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 21. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 22. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 24. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 25. imdb.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only)