Seemingly innocent photos might be far more disturbing than you realize. And it goes to show just how important context is and that we should never judge a book (well, in this case, a photo) by its cover. There are secrets hidden behind sweet smiles and plenty of skeletons in happy-looking people’s closets. And don’t forget that even villains laugh and have fun.
Redditor KermitTheFraud92 started up a fascinating thread on r/AskReddit about the hidden sides of ‘normal’ photos. They asked people to share images that have incredibly disturbing backstories, and these are so vividly dark, they might keep you up at night.
Before you start scrolling down and upvoting the stories that drew you in the most, a small note of warning: make sure there’s plenty of light and people around you. We wouldn’t want to spook you too much, dear Pandas. I had a chat with the author of the thread, redditor KermitTheFraud92 from Australia. Be sure to read on for Bored Panda's full interview with them below.
A small note of warning: some of these stories might be too much for some of you Pandas. Read at your own risk.
This Photo May Not Look Like Much At First
Now, have a look at the guy in the background, top left. Have a look what's in the background, top right.
That's the Tank Man from the Tiananmen Square massacre. Thought to be student Wang Weilin, this photo was snapped minutes before the famous one was taken.
Nobody knows what happened to Weilin. He may have been executed, he may still be in prison, he may have fled to another country.
Camp Staff Taking A Day Off
These photos of Auschwitz staff enjoying pleasant days off always stick with me. They look like camp counselors, but their job is killing people in horrible ways, and they enjoyed it. Most probably took lives not shortly before or after the photos were taken.
Jewish Children Holding Hands As They Unknowingly Walk To Their Deaths In The Gas Chambers At Auschwitz
Redditor KermitTheFraud92 was very open that they "can't really take credit" for the question that they posted on r/AskReddit. They were inspired by other similar questions, asked by other site users before. "I have seen similar questions posted on the sub in the past and they have always gained good results. It’s always interesting to ask it again every couple of years because you may get different results and even new ones," they told Bored Panda.
In the redditor's opinion, the thread appealed to people because of how interesting the topic was. "I'm pretty overwhelmed by the responses and am still yet to get through them all myself," they said that they got lots of feedback from other redditors.
This Is A Pic Of The 1970's-Era Gameshow, The Dating Game
The circled man is serial killer Rodney Alcala. By the time of that appearance on the show, he had raped several women and murdered at least one.
He won the game, but the woman never went on the date with him. You can imagine how relieved she is.
This Photo Always Gets To Me Somehow
Just a couple of astronauts posing in zero gravity happy to have such an incredible opportunity, like astronauts often do. Meanwhile they have no idea that their space shuttle is irreparably damaged, and in fact will be dead in a few days during reentry (which was considered “safe” until then).
It’s the crew for Columbia for those who don’t know, whose tiles were damaged during the launch of the shuttle into space by foam. No one knew how bad the damage was until it disintegrated.
Father And Daughter In Omagh, Northern Ireland
This happy photo of the father and daughter was taken moments before the Omagh car bombing in 1998.
The bomb placed by a group known as the Real IRA was in this red car and killed 29 people, including the photographer who took this photo. Both the father and daughter survived.
In KermitTheFraud92's opinion, we "definitely" can't determine what a person's truly like, based on their photos alone. A photo "may give you hints and whatnot, but you can never truly tell what a person is like just from a photo." The redditor pointed out that the truth can be incredibly disturbing when you learn it: "Some of those photos show people smiling at the camera when they just murdered a loved one a few minutes ago."
Redditor Kermit’s thread went viral almost immediately. The question got more than 57.2k upvotes and got so many awards, it was declared to be a ‘Top Awarded’ post. The thread had nearly 17k comments at the time of writing. And it’s no surprise because the topic is absolutely fascinating. It draws you in and doesn’t want to let you go. Just like the abyss.
This Photo Creeps Me Out
John Lennon signed an autograph for his killer, Mark Chapman, just a few hours before the murder and then asked him "Is that all?". Chapman even had a gun on him at the time.
The Hartley Violin
This is the Hartley Violin, owned by Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster and lead violinist on the Titanic. It was the one he carried with him and played on the night the ship sank. Survivors reported seeing Hartley and his band on the deck of the ship during the sinking, playing to calm passengers as they boarded the insufficient lifeboats. Hartley and every member of the band died in the sinking. We have his violin because at some unknown point before his death, Hartley tucked the violin back into its monogrammed case for safekeeping. That's how it was found, floating in the debris field, by one of the ships sent to recover bodies from the wreck. They were able to identify it as Hartley's because of an engraved brass plate, and it was returned to his fiancé, who kept it until her death. Her family authenticated it and sold it for $1.6M to an organization that collects Titanic artifacts."
Genie Standing For A Photo
Genie was a 'feral' child. She was tied to a chair in a room her whole childhood and punished when she made noise.
She was found, rescued, and they tried to teach her to speak, and she actually managed to learn to communicate a bit. By all we know now, she was curious, intelligent, and eager to learn. Her brain had just literally missed the window to learn language.
As far as we know, she's been in an assisted living facility somewhere.
Kermit’s thread touches upon the dark side of humanity and proves that we wouldn’t always be able to recognize complete monsters. Because they look and act just like us. Because they seem completely normal. And it’s only after you learn that you’re looking at photos of killers and kidnappers that you begin to search for any indication that beneath those innocent exteriors and friendly facades lie hearts and souls filled with malice and pure evil.
Despite the fact that some psychopaths blend into society like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, there are some subtle signs that you should keep an eye for. Keep in mind though that not everyone who’s evil is a psychopath and not every psychopath is necessarily evil. However, psychopaths do veer towards manipulating and hurting others, lacking empathy for their fellow human beings.
American Physicist Harold Agnew
This is physicist Harold Agnew holding the nuclear core of the Fat Man atomic bomb, which was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
The bomb ended up killing about 80,000 people, many of whom died from the long-term effects the bomb caused, like radiation illness and leukemia.
Franklin Delano Floyd And Suzanne Marie Sevakis
This is the leading image on Franklin Delano Floyd. In actuality, the little girl is Floyd's stepdaughter, Suzanne Marie Sevakis, who he'd kidnapped around 1974, when Suzanne was under 10 years old.
He would go on to raise her as his daughter, putting her through high school under several pseudonyms, have a son with her in 1988, and marry her in 1989, under the name Tonya Hughes.
By 1990, Suzanne had decided to leave Floyd and take her son, Michael, with her. In April of that year, she was found beaten and bruised on the side of a highway, and she subsequently died in the hospital. Michael went into foster care and was adopted, only to be kidnapped by Floyd in 1994 and to never be seen again.
If You're British, And Of A Certain Age, You'll Probably Be As Haunted By This Grainy Image As I Am
I still distinctly remember the first time I saw it. At the time, James Bulger was only missing, and it was regarded as a cause for optimism that he was last seen with other children. The truth was far worse than anyone imagined, and still inspires a visceral reaction unlike any other crime in my lifetime.
Healthline points out that psychopaths are often deceitful, reckless, and take part in risky behavior. They’re also socially irresponsible, tend to completely disregard the rights and opinions of others, and have a very difficult time distinguishing between what’s right and what’s wrong. In other words, their metaphorical moral compass is either dysfunctional (i.e. they’re acting immorally because they choose to do the wrong thing) or non-existent (they’re being amoral and can’t tell between good and evil).
What’s more, psychopaths also rarely show empathy or remorse for their actions, lie often, manipulate and hurt others, and generally disregard responsibility and safety. As a result, they can often have continuous problems with the law. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell these things just from a picture. Evil smiles, too.
American Volcanologist David A. Johnston
13 hours after the photograph was taken, on May 18, 1980, the volcano erupted and killed 57 people including the volcanologist.
This Photo Of Howard Ashman And Alan Menken, Who Wrote The Lyrics And Music Respectively For The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast And Aladdin. In This Photo They Had Just Won Oscars For The Little Mermaid
That night Ashman told Menken they needed to have a serious talk when they got back to New York, and when they got back a couple days later, Ashman told Menken he had AIDS and was going to die. They had been songwriting partners for over a decade and were in the middle of working on Beauty and the Beast.
So it looks like a happy photo of two men achieving their wildest dream, but it's really a record of the last normal moment they had together. And while Menken is all smiles, if you look closely at Ashman you can tell something's wrong.
John Edward Robinson And His Family
This is serial killer John Edward Robinson (yellow sweater) holding baby Tiffany Stasi, whose mother he murdered the day before.
He later gave baby Tiffany to his brother, saying she was adopted. His brother, along with Tiffany, didn’t find out the truth for 15 years.
Only eight of his victims have been identified, and he's been on death row since 2000.
The Final Picture Of The Webster Sisters And Their Friend
Taking a selfie, they all look so carefree and then you see the bright light behind them and just want to yell at them to get out of the way of the train
Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571
This picture was taken of a group of survivors of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash in the Andes. They were eventually saved but had to resort to cannibalism to survive. They are all smiling in the photo, but it becomes eerie when you see the human spine to the right of them in the picture.
Polish Constitution Day Celebration In Chicago
This is a picture of First Lady Rosalynn Carter in 1978 shaking hands with serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was active in politics at the time. By that time, he had already killed over 20 young men. He's wearing an "S" on his lapel, which was given to him by the Secret Service to indicate that he'd been given security clearance. The picture was even signed, "To John Gacy, best wishes, Rosalynn Carter."
JP Morgan And Lya Graf
This photo of JP Morgan and Lya Graf, a performer for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, caused her to become an overnight sensation, but she couldn't deal with all the attention. So she moved back home to Germany, where she was later arrested and sent to Auschwitz for being Jewish and she was deemed an unfit human.
Not much is known about her, but it's assumed that she and her family did not survive.
Two Trails In The Snow. Only One Is Leading Back To Life
This is the photo Kurt Diemberger took after his companion, the illustrious alpinist Hermann Buhl, fell into the abyss on the Himalayan mountain Chogolisa. Buhl was walking behind Diemberger and momentarily left the trail after which he fell through an overhanging cornice. He remains in the ice.
A Still Photo From A Video
A man who swam to his girlfriend in their underwater hotel room while on vacation in Tanzania, and proposed to her with a note and a ring. He died before he could resurface from the water.
La Mataviejitas, Juana Barraza
Here is Juana Barraza, former Luchadora and Mexican serial killer. Her mother sold her to a man for three beers when she was 12 until her stepdad found her at 17. Ended up with four failed marriages and four kids and worked doing odd jobs as a cleaner. She strangled old ladies that reminded her of her mother by pretending to work for the government.
Photo Of Serial Killer Christopher Wilder Lurking In The Background During A Seventeen Magazine Fashion Show At The Meadows Mall In Las Vegas On April 1, 1984
Wilder would kidnap and kill 17-year-old Michelle Korfman after meeting her at this fashion show (Standing in the foreground)
Missing Big Island Hiker
A kid went missing while hiking a spot on the Big Island of Hawaii. He texted some pictures of the scenery while he was hiking. After he never showed up at home, his family noticed somebody lurking in bushes in the photos he sent. [If I remember correctly], my family that live in Hawaii said the spot is illegal to hike at, so it’s not like it would have been a heavily populated trail.
Tyler Hadley's Florida House Party
This is a photo of Tyler Hadley, the one holding a cup, at a party at his house.
Just before this party, he murdered his mother and father with a hammer and hid their bodies in the master bedroom.
During the party, Tyler showed his best friend, Michael Mandell, the room where he killed his parents, and he took this photo because he wasn't sure when he'd see Tyler again.
In The "Old Days" It Used To Be Common To Take Pictures With Dead Relatives. The Woman In The Middle Is Already Dead
The Menendez Brothers Appeared In The Background Of A Basketball Card With The Photo For The Card Being Taken After They Had Killed Their Parents
Two Guys Going For A Coffe At A Gas Station
That's Salah Abdeslam and his driver on their way back to Belgium. The night before he ordered the 2015 paris attack that killed 131 people
This Photo Of Travis Alexander By Jodi Arias... Moments Before She Killed Him. It's Haunting To Me
The Whitakers At A Graduation Dinner
The kid on the right, Bart Whitaker, had paid two of his buddies to murder his family that night. They would kill the mother and brother, but the father, who took the photo, survived.
Bart was later sentenced to death, but after his father strongly opposed it, Texas Governor Greg Abbott granted him clemency, and he is now serving a life sentence.
Note: this post originally had 33 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.