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10 Unexplained Photographs and the Stories Behind Them

A photograph captures a single moment by freezing whatever is happening at that instant. Sometimes a photograph captures things that we cannot explain. They could be anomalies or things that didn’t necessarily exist at the time the photograph was taken. They could be pictures of people whom no one could identify and their presence in those photographs is inexplicable. They could also be strange occurrences that no rational person could find an explanation for. So, here are some of those unexplained photographs and the stories, or rather mysteries, behind them.

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1. In 1989, a Polaroid photo of an unidentified young woman and a boy, both gagged and bound, was shown on television after it was found in the parking lot of a convenience store. To this day, no one knows who these children are or where the picture was taken. 

Unknown Kidnap Victims
Image Source: wikipedia

On July 15, 1989, a woman found the photo in a parking space where a white Toyota cargo van was parked when she arrived at the store in Port St. Joe, Florida, driven by a man with a mustache in his late 30s. After the photo was shown on television, one woman came forward saying she was “convinced” the young woman is Tara Calico, her daughter, who disappeared on September 20, 1988. Another woman also came forward saying that she was “almost certain” it was her son Michael Henley. The Polaroid officials who examined the photograph said that it was taken after May 1989 since the film used was not available until then.

It was believed to be unlikely that the boy in the photo was Henley as his remains were discovered in the Zuni Mountains seven miles off his family’s campsite in June 1990. The identity of the woman was also inconclusive. While Tara Calico’s mother and Scotland Yard were convinced it was Tara Calico, analyses by Los Alamos National Laboratory and the FBI were inconclusive. A six-person task force was assigned to re-investigate Calico’s disappearance in October 2013, but no arrests have been made to date.(source)

2. This 1998 NASA photo shows an unidentified object that many conspiracy theorists believe to be a “Black Knight satellite,” a spacecraft in polar orbit around the Earth since the 1960s having technology neither Russians nor Americans were capable of at that time. 

Black Knight Satellite
Image Source: NASA

The first instance of this rumor happened when, in 1954, UFO researcher Donald Keyhoe told the newspapers that the US Air Force reported that two satellites orbiting Earth were detected. This was, however, considered tongue-in-cheek as Keyhoe was promoting a UFO book he wrote at that time. In 1960, TIME reported that the US Navy detected a dark object which later turned out to be just “…the remains of an Air Force Discoverer VIII satellite that had gone astray.”

In 1963, astronaut Gordon Cooper supposedly reported a UFO sighting while in orbit on Mercury 9 which was also confirmed by a tracking station, though there is no evidence of it. Scottish author Duncan Lunan in 1973, suggested that the long-delayed radio echoes heard by amateur radio operator Jorgen Hals of Norway and others in the 1920s could possibly originate from a 13,000-year-old alien space probe. Regarding the 1998 photo, NASA stated that it was most likely space debris, maybe a thermal blanket lost in previous missions.(source)

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3. Since the 1930s, Norwegians have witnessed nocturnal lights known as “Hessdalen lights” that appear out of nowhere and seemingly for no particular reason.

The Hessdalen Lights
Image Source: uapreporting

In the village of Hessdalen Valley, unusual lights have been reported since at least the 1930s. They are of unknown origin, appear at day and night, above or below the horizon, in either bright yellow, white, or red colors, and seem to float through and above the valley. They last anywhere from a few seconds to over an hour. They sometimes move at great speeds and at other times just sway back and forth slowly. According to a hypothesis, it could be a result of ionized iron dust from nearby mines, or the ionization of air and dust by alpha particles during radon decay.(1, 2)

4. In 2000, an anonymous woman mailed two photographs to the police of what she believed to be an escaped orangutan in her backyard. The animal was never caught or identified through such pictures became popular among Bigfoot enthusiasts as “skunk ape” photos.

Skunk Ape
Image Source: blumhouse

The anonymous woman mailed the two photographs to the Sheriff’s Department of Sarasota County, Florida, along with a letter in which she complained that the animal entered her backyard on three different nights and stole apples. The “skunk ape,” also known as the “swamp cabbage man,” “stink ape,” “Florida Bigfoot,” or “Myakka skunk ape” is said to be a Hominid cryptid believed to be found in Florida, North Carolina, and Arkansas. It is claimed that its appearance is accompanied by a very unpleasant odor. Before 2000, reports of sightings were quite common in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1974, a sighting of large, foul-smelling, hairy creature walking on two legs was reported in the suburbs of Dade County, Florida. The United States National Park Service considers “skunk ape” to be a hoax.(source)

5. During the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a woman was observed who might have photographed the events that occurred when the President was shot. However, she has never been identified and none of the pictures she took ever surfaced. 

The Babushka Lady
Image Source: axar

In 1963, an unidentified woman wearing a headscarf similar to that worn by Russian women, giving her the nickname “Babushka Lady,” was seen in various films and photographs taken at that time. She is seen to be holding a camera and standing on the grass between Elm and Main streets. After the assassination, she was seen crossing Elm Street. None of any photographs or films taken clearly captured her face because she was either facing away from the camera or had her face obscured by her own camera. So, neither she nor the photographs she had taken that day were ever found.(source)

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6. Taken in 1919, this is the photograph of Goddard’s squadron which served in WWI and allegedly contains the ghost of a deceased member named Freddy Jackson who died in an accident two days before the photograph was taken. 

WWI Airman Ghost of Goddard’s Squadron
Image Source: skeptic

The photograph was first published by Sir Victor Goddard, a retired RAF (Royal Air Force) officer and taken at Cranwell at the time of armistice after the First World War. It shows the members of Goddard’s squadron who served in WWI at the HMS Daedalus training facility, now known as the Royal Navy and Air Service (RNAS) Lee-on-Solent. Freddy Jackson was an air mechanic who was accidentally killed by an airplane propeller two days before the photo. His funeral was conducted on the very day the photograph was taken.(source)

7. In 1942, the US Military ordered a total blackout of Los Angeles, fired 1,400 anti-aircraft artillery shells and several .50-caliber machine guns at something that no one knows much about. Known as “The Battle of Los Angeles,” the attack lasted from late February 24 to early February 25. 

Battle of Los Angeles
Image Source: LA Times

The attack took place over Los Angeles, California less than three months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and one day after the bombardment of Ellwood. On the night of 24-25 February, air raid sirens were sounded, a total blackout was ordered, and thousands of air raid wardens were summoned to their positions. The firing started at 3:16 a.m. The 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing .50-caliber machine guns, 12 eight-pound anti-aircraft batteries, 1,400 shells in total, into the air at a reported aircraft. The firing continued until 4:14 a.m., and the “all clear” was sounded at 7:21 a.m. The firing damaged several buildings and vehicles, three civilians in car accidents because of the chaos, and two died of heart attacks caused by stress. After the war ended, the Japanese declared that they had not flown any airplanes over Los Angeles. In 1983, the US Office of Air Force attributed the entire episode to “war nerves.”(source)

8. In 1984, a man was found dead on a beach with a piece of paper with the words “Taman Shud” on it. The book from which it was torn was found in a nearby car and contained a mysterious code visible only under UV light. Neither the code nor the man’s identity has ever been solved.

Mystery of the Somerton Man
Image Source: Australian Police

On December 1, 1984, the police were informed at 6:30 a.m. about a dead body across from the Crippled Children’s Home on Somerton beach, Glenelg, Australia. A scrap of paper was found in the deceased’s fob pocket, and the police enlisted the help of public library officials who translated the words “Tamam Shud” to mean “ended” or “finished” and taken from Omar Khayyam’s book Rubaiyat. With the public’s help, the police were able to find the book to which the scrap of paper belonged. The book contained a telephone number and indentations of writings that resembled encrypted text.

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On January 14, 1949, a suitcase with no label, clothes, along with other belongings were found at the Adelaide Railway Station. The autopsy revealed the deceased had suffered a severe lack of blood flow to his brain, kidneys, and liver, and had been hemorrhaging in his stomach and kidneys. Though it is believed he died of poison, tests did not reveal any foreign substances in the body. As the Cold War had recently started increasing international tensions, the man’s mysterious death, the involvement of secret code, and the inability to identify him sparked intense speculation.(source)

9. There is a photograph in the Virtual Museum of Canada dated 1941 that allegedly contains a time traveler. One of the people in it is a man claimed to be wearing modern clothing and sunglasses giving him the name “Time Traveling Hipster.”

Time Traveling Hipster
Image Source: express

The photograph, considered authentic, was taken in 1941 at the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in Gold Bridge, British Columbia. The man in the photo is seen wearing sunglasses and a printed T-shirt. He stands apart from all the other people around him who are wearing formal clothes common during that period. It is debated whether the photograph genuinely shows a time traveler, is a photomanipulation, or just mistakenly seen to be anachronistic. It is suggested that he may not be wearing modern clothes but just dressed unusually in garb that was available during that time. The style of sunglasses he was wearing first appeared in the 1920s, and the T-shirt could be a sweater with a sewn-on emblem of the Montreal Maroons, an ice hockey team of that time.(source)

10. In December 2009, there appeared a large beam of light in the night sky over Norway with a grayish spiral emanating from its end. It sparked several theories among UFO enthusiasts and an unclear explanation from the Russian Ministry of Defense. 

2009 Norwegian Spiral Anomaly
Image Source: an-Petter Jørgensen

Also known as the “Norwegian spiral anomaly of 2009,” the spiral light appeared on December 9, 2009, visible across three northern counties which compose all of Northern Norway and two counties in the south. According to witnesses, it looked like a blue light coming from behind a mountain that stopped in mid-air and started spiraling outwards. Some of the speculations about the lights are that it could be a fireball meteor or a rare variant of Northern Lights that have never seen before.

UFO enthusiasts speculated that it could be something to do with extraterrestrial intelligence, a wormhole opening, or something to do with the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. The next day, the Russian Ministry of Defense suggested an explanation that it could be one of their missile tests gone wrong, adding that, “At least this failed test made some nice fireworks for the Norwegians.”(1, 2)

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