They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Though it is an overused, old adage, it remains true to this day. Sometimes, a single picture can convey emotions that no amount of words can describe. However, in some instances, the story that a picture tells is not immediately apparent. These photos look ordinary at first glance, but they take an entirely new and sometimes sinister meaning once you get to know their backstory. Here are 10 such seemingly normal images with disturbing backstories.
1. This photo was taken shortly before the Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland. The red car beside the man and the child contained a bomb that exploded, killing 29 people and injuring 220 others. The pair in the photo miraculously survived, but the photographer did not.
When you look at this photo, you see a father and son smiling brightly on what appears to be a great day to be out and about. However, this simple picture marks an important piece of Irish history.
The photo was taken on 15 August 1998 on Market Street in the town of Omagh in Northern Ireland. The father and son were standing beside a red Vauxhall Cavalier car, which contained a bomb.
Moments after the photo was taken, the bomb went off, killing 29 people and injuring 220 others. The camera was later discovered in the rubble. According to reports, the pair in the photo, Spanish native Gonzalo Cavedo and his son, miraculously survived the blast, but the photographer did not.
The Omagh bombing was carried out by a group that called themselves the “Real IRA” or the “Real Irish Republican Army.” They were a splinter group of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and they opposed the IRA’s ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed earlier that year.
2. This is the last photo of David A. Johnston taken 13 hours before the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. His last words were over the radio where he said, “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” before going silent. His body was never found.
David Alexander Johnston, an American volcanologist, was the principal scientist on the USGS (United States Geological Survey) monitoring team. His career took him all over the United States, where he studied various volcanoes.
As a talented and meticulous scientist, Johnston was known for his analyses of volcanic gases and their relationship to eruptions. His positive attitude and enthusiasm made his co-workers love and respect him.
Johnston once famously told reporters that being on Mount St. Helens was akin to “standing next to a dynamite keg and the fuse is lit.” He was also one of the first volcanologists to arrive at the scene when signs of eruption first appeared.
Shortly after his arrival, he was made the head of volcanic gas monitoring. In the months leading up to the eruption, Johnston and his co-workers saved thousands of lives by preventing people from going near the volcano. They sealed off the area despite facing tremendous pressure to re-open it.
A number of USGS scientists were part of the team that monitored the volcano. For over two weeks before the eruption, graduate student Harry Glicken was manning the Coldwater II observation post, and he was supposed to be relieved by a USGS geologist named Don Swanson the evening before the eruption. However, for some reason, Swanson could not make it and asked Johnston to take his place, and he agreed.
While manning the Coldwater II post, Johnston’s main role was to observe the volcano and note further signs of an eruption. Before leaving the post on May 17, around 13 hours before the eruption, Harry Glicken took the famous photograph that we see here. Johnston was sitting beside the observation post trailer with his notebook, smiling.
The next morning, on May 18 around 8:32 a.m., the volcano erupted. Johnston was the first person to report the eruption, and he was able to make one last radio transmission saying, “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” before being swept away by a lateral blast. (1, 2)
3. Darsh Patel was killed by a 300-pound black bear while hiking in New Jersey. Moments before he was chased and mauled to death, Patel had clicked photos of the beast. These were the last photos he ever clicked.
In 2014, Darsh Patel, a 22-year-old student of Rutgers University, went hiking in the Apshawa Preserve in New Jersey with four of his friends. While exploring the 576-acre natural area, the group came across a black bear. They stopped and took pictures of the 300-pound beast with their cell phones.
After taking the photos, the group started to walk away, but the bear had noticed them and it started walking towards them. Frightened by the approaching bear, the five friends split up and ran in different directions, but the bear kept chasing them. When the four of them regrouped after some time, they noticed that Patel was missing, and they called the police.
Upon arrival, the police searched the area, and after two hours, they discovered Patel’s body. The bear was lingering around the body and was shot dead by one of the officers. Autopsy of the bear revealed that it had ingested human blood and tissue along with clothing, and it also had human blood on its paws.
A few weeks later, the police released six photos that Patel had taken on his phone. The photos show how the bear approaching closer and closer. It eventually chased him and mauled him as he was trying to run away. (1, 2)
4. This selfie was taken at the party that Tyler Hadley (on the left) threw a few hours after beating his parents to death. Their bodies were lying in a bedroom in the house while the party was taking place.
On July 16, 2011, 17-year-old Tyler Hadley bludgeoned his parents to death, put their bodies in the master bedroom, and then threw a massive party at his house. Shortly before five in the evening, that day, the Florida-based high school student took his parents’ cell phone.
He then took three ecstasy pills and went to stand behind his mother while she was working on the family computer. He then beat her with a hammer, again and again until she was dead. After hearing the mother’s scream, Tyler’s father rushed from the bedroom to the scene.
They stared at each other for several moments before he did the same to his father. He spent three hours cleaning up the bloody mess, hid their bodies in the master bedroom, and got ready to throw the party of his lifetime.
After murdering his parents, Tyler sent several Facebook messages to his friends, inviting them to his party. Since he had been grounded for days before this, his friends expressed concerns about whether or not his parents will let him have the party. To that, Tyler said that they won’t be home, and when they asked him about the possibility of them showing up during the party, he coldly replied, “They won’t trust me.”
After this, he stopped at an ATM and picked up some of his friends. Around 60 people gathered at his house, playing beer pong, drinking alcohol, smoking cigars, and causing a ruckus. That night, Tyler told Michael Mandell, his best friend, that he had bludgeoned his parents with a claw hammer.
He took Michael to the master bedroom and all the blood that was there. After processing what Tyler had just told him and what he had just seen, Michael took that now-infamous selfie, thinking that he would never see him again. Soon, the news of the crime spread, and Tyler was arrested the next morning.
As a teen, Tyler was disturbed and had mental health issues. He was known for skipping school and taking drugs. His parents had also taken him to a psychiatrist and outpatient substance abuse and mental health programs. Tyler had also committed crimes such as arson in the past and expressed a desire to die. In 2014, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. (1, 2)
5. This photo captures the last moments of Ayano Tokumasu, the girl wearing the red sweater in the background. She slipped and fell into Niagara Falls shortly after this photo was taken.
In 2011, authorities recovered the body of a woman from the Niagara River. She was later identified as Ayano Tokumasu, a 20-year-old international student from Japan. While visiting Niagara Falls with a friend, Tokumasu climbed over a railing to pose for a picture. She was straddling the railing to look at the falls, and when she stood up, she lost her footing and fell into the river 24 meters upstream from the brink of the falls.
Moments before the tragic accident occurred, an Ontario-based couple was also taking pictures of themselves, and they captured what is thought to be the final moments of Tokumasu. In the photo, she can be seen in the background. She is wearing a red sweater and appears to be standing on top of the rock barrier. The picture does not show whether she was standing on the railing. The incident was captured in CCTV surveillance and no foul play was involved. (1, 2)