A picture is worth a thousand words, they say, but sometimes you can replace words with “howls of pure animal terror.” In this feature, we’ll spotlight ten unsettling photographs that have baffled investigators for years.
The Mary Reeser Death Scene
Murder scene photos typically help investigators put together the pieces surrounding a death, but what St. Petersburg, Florida cops snapped in 1951 has baffled us for over half a century. The death scene of Mary Reeser was a grim and bizarre one – the woman’s entire body had been engulfed by flame in her armchair, consuming everything but her left foot, which was intact. The intense heat had actually shrunken her skull, but bizarrely nothing else in the room was touched. The pictures baffle forensic investigators to this day.
The Bound Children
Not all of the photos in this piece are super old. This disquieting image was discovered in June of 1989 in a parking lot in Port Calico, Florida. The shot, which pictures a panicked-looking boy and girl bound and gagged with duct tape, is believed to portray Tara Calico, who was kidnapped from her New Mexico home the year before, although the evidence is inconclusive. The FBI allegedly has two other photographs of Calico taken after her abduction, but they have never been released to the public and her body was never found.
The Newby Church Ghost
Most ghost pictures can be pretty easily explained away as the result of double exposures or other trickery. But this chilling shot snapped by the Reverend K.F. Lord in the interior of North Yorkshire’s Newby Church has thus far defied any Earthly explanations, despite being examined by multiple experts. The shot shows a spectral figure wearing a cowl and standing by the altar, but Lord swears there were no people in the church when he took the shot in 1963. It’s one of the most famous paranormal photographs of all time.
The Lady Of Zeitoun
One of the most famous religious apparitions of all time, Our Lady of Zeitoun was observed over a staggering two-year period starting in 1968. First spotted by a Muslim bus mechanic, the glowing form of the Virgin Mary was mistaken for a woman preparing to jump from the roof of the Church of St. Mary. Police investigated and found nobody on the roof, but from that point forward the glowing ghost of Jesus’s mother appeared multiple times a week, being photographed many times without any real explanation as to the cause of the phenomenon.
The Giant Mummified Finger
Nearly all human civilizations have legends of giants, men standing many feet taller than the average with titanic strength. But no fossil evidence has ever been found of one – unless you count the disturbing photographs taken by a man named Gregor Sporri in 1985. On a trip to Egypt, Sporri met an old grave robber who was in possession of a mummified finger measuring 15 inches long – one that would have had to come from a man at least 12 feet tall. Nobody’s ever been able to explain or debunk the pictures he took.
The Falcon Lake Burns
Images of UFO activity are usually explained away by dust on the lens or otherwise messed-up films, but the bizarre burns in this picture of Stephen Michalak can’t be dismissed so easily. While searching for minerals on the shore of Falcon Lake, Michalak was shocked by a pair of flying objects, not to mention the odd humanoid figures that exited from them. When the mysterious craft took off, he was sprayed with super-hot gas through an exhaust grate, which left a grid-like pattern of burns on his chest that have still not been adequately explained.
The Hinterkaifeck Murder Scene
This photo is certainly unsettling, but it’s the backstory behind it that puts it into full-on creepy territory. In April of 1922, the residents of the Bavarian region of Groebern realized they hadn’t seen the family of Hinterkaifeck Farm for some time. A party went out and discovered all five family members and a maid brutally butchered and laid to rest in the barn covered in straw. Bizarrely, few valuables had been taken, with jewelry and gold left out in plain sight, and the animals had been fed recently even though the family had been dead for a week. Police interviewed over 100 people but never even found a suspect, and the case is still a mystery.
The Naga Fireballs
Most atmospheric phenomena are easily attributed to swamp gas or other natural phenomenon, but this photo of the Naga lights over the Mekong River in Vietnam has baffled scientists for decades. The red-hot fireballs jet out of the water and ascend hundreds of feet into the air before disappearing, and can be seen in the hundreds some night. What’s bizarre about these is that they rise so high – typically these phenomena are fixed at ground level. There are plenty of local superstitions as to what causes them but no definitive explanation.
The Ghostly Hand
Most ghost images look pretty fake to the modern eye, but this shot by Montague Cooper is pretty disquieting. Taken in the early 20th century at the request of a furniture dealer who bought the impressive bureau for a song, when the film was developed the spectral image of a hand became visible reaching out from one of the drawers. Photo analysts have worked over the image and been unable to find any signs of tampering or double exposures, which is pretty unsettling.
The Lead Mask Death Scene
Let’s close with another mysterious crime scene that features the victims in a very unusual state. On the evening of August 20,1966, the bodies of two men were discovered in the foothills around Rio de Janeiro. When police came to investigate, a few things stood out. One, the men had absolutely no signs of any physical trauma. And two, they were both wearing thick lead masks over their eyes. The discovery of a cryptic notebook didn’t help matters much, nor did the multiple UFO sightings in the area. The cause of their deaths is still unknown half a century later.