Since its invention, photography has been used to capture stunning images that record human life as we know it, as well as some pivotal moments throughout recent history. However, the pictures a camera takes aren’t always easily explained. Sometimes what’s caught on camera puzzles the mind, from hidden figures to unsolved mysteries.
Despite experts’ best efforts, here are fifteen photos science just can’t explain.
An extra thumbs up
This seemingly normal photo shows four young boys posing for a picture. But on a closer look, you will notice an extra hand (giving the thumbs up), sticking out behind the kid in the black T-shirt.
Both the photographer and the boys were unable to explain who owns the extra hand and how it appeared in their picture.
The Cooper family photo
The Cooper family took this picture after they moved into a new home in 1950. A shadowy body can be seen hanging from the ceiling in the developed film. The family claimed no one else was with them when the photo was taken, leading to no plausible explanation for the extra figure in the photo.
This led to the speculation that the home was haunted by the ghost of the former homeowner.
The Bachelor’s Grove Phantom
Located in a Chicago suburb, Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery is one of the most haunted places in the United States and the subject of several ghost stories.
In 1991, members of the Ghost Research Society were called to investigate supernatural occurrences in the cemetery, and this picture was taken by one of their members. You can see a ghostly apparition sitting on a tombstone, even though there was no one else in the cemetery on the day this picture was taken.
The backseat passenger
Mabel Chinmery visited her mother’s gravesite with her husband. She took this picture of her husband sitting alone in the front seat of the car. From the image, however, you can see another passenger sitting behind Mr. Chinmery, who apparently doesn’t belong in this world.
A time-traveling hipster
At first, nothing seems amiss with this ordinary-looking older photograph. But upon closer inspection, you will notice this young man who looks out of place in this older setting. The youngster is dressed much too modernly for the 1941 setting of the photo. The only explanation, although implausible, is time travel.
The Tulip Staircase Ghost
Reverand Ralph Hardy had only wanted to capture the elegance of the Tulip Stairs when he took this picture. Located in the Queen’s House (a former royal residence in London), the picture not only captured the grand staircase but also something chilling: a dark, ghostly being clutching the railing.
According to experts, the film was not tampered with. So what was that on the staircase?
The 9/11 survivor
In this picture, a lone woman is seen standing and calling for help amongst the debris of one of the Twin Towers after it was struck by a plane during the infamous 9/11 terrorist attack. Though she survived the initial attack, no one has been able to identify the woman from the picture, and whether or not she was able to exit the building before the tower’s eventual collapse.
An alien satellite?
In 1998, NASA captured images of this strange object found floating just outside Earth’s atmosphere. While NASA claims it was just space debris, the unidentified object’s unique, sleek shape has left many wondering if this was some kind of satellite or ship sent from another planet to observe Earth.
Freddy Jackson’s ghost makes it into the group photo
Airplane mechanic Freddy Jackson tragically lost his life while working on a plane in 1919. A few days after his death, Jackson’s squadron took this group photo. Strangely, Jackson’s image showed up on the developed photograph, baffling his crewmates who had no answers as to how their dead crewmate could appear on film.
Faces in the waves
Two crewmembers died while cleaning the oil tank aboard the S.S. Watertown ship and were given a sea burial. The next day, the faces of the two men were seen in the water off the side of the ship. The faces were so clear and unmistakable that the captain had a picture taken to document this strange and eerie phenomenon.
The most beautiful suicide
What pushed the beautiful Evelyn McHale to jump to her death from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, we may never know. But the intriguing thing is, for someone who fell from such an enormous height, her body remained strangely intact.
Robert Wiles, the photographer who took this now-iconic picture of McHale’s body was shocked by how normal McHale looked, almost like she was sleeping instead of dead from a life-ending injury.
Elisa Lam’s death
Elisa Lam was a 21-year-old student found dead in the water tank of a large hotel in Los Angeles. How Lam got onto the locked roof and into the barricaded tank was not the only mysterious thing about her death.
On the day Lam died, video footage from an elevator showed her acting paranoid, gesturing in the hallway, entering and exiting the elevator, and trying to hide inside the elevator while it was malfunctioning.
The Amityville Ghost Boy
Famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren captured this image with an automatic camera. The photo was taken inside the Amityville horror house, located in Amityville, New York. The new owner called the Warrens to investigate some strange happenings in the house.
In a seemingly-empty hallway, the investigators caught a picture of this ghostly-like boy on camera.
A student’s dream
It’s not unusual for medical students to pose for a picture with their deceased patients. But this particular medical student apparently wanted to pretend to be the corpse, while arranging the cadavers as “people.” How he managed to arrange the cadavers and take this spooky picture remains a mystery.
A baby ghost
Australian mother Mrs. Andrews was visiting her daughter’s grave when she took this picture, and caught more than just a photo of her child’s resting place. She caught what looks like a baby ghost on camera!
Since the child looked nothing like Mrs. Andrews’ daughter (who had died at 17), the graveyard was later investigated by paranormal researchers, who discovered that two infants were buried in graves nearby.
A time traveler
This image is from footage shot for a Charlie Chaplin film in 1928. There is a woman who appears to be talking on a mobile phone which looks perfectly normal. The odd thing, however, is that mobile phones wouldn’t exist for several more decades.
The Worstead Church Ghost
Peter Berthelot took a picture of his wife Diane when they visited the Worstead Church in Norfolk, UK. What they discovered in the developed picture terrified them.
Diane wasn’t the only person Peter had captured in the photo, as a ghostly figure could be seen sitting right behind her. The figure is believed to be the White Lady, the ghost of a healer who has been sighted several times around the church.
The babushka lady
When JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, people took cover and ran away to protect themselves from the gunshots. But several photos from that day show this woman in a dress and head scarf who stood unaffected and still taking photos of the scene around her.
In the decades since, no one has been able to identify this woman or has seen the pictures she took.
The Solway Firth Spaceman
In 1964, Jim Templeton photographed his daughter Elizabeth while visiting the Solway Firth, a sea inlet that forms part of the border between Scotland and England. You can clearly see a figure resembling a spaceman behind the young girl. However, Templeton swears there was no one behind Elizabeth when her picture was taken that day.
Some have suggested Elizabeth’s mother must have been caught on camera with her back turned. However, she was wearing a blue dress, and the figure in the photograph is clothed in white and more masculine-looking.
The Hook Island Sea Monster
This shadowy form looks just like a giant snake-like creature resting in the water, or at least, that’s what the French photographer who took this picture thought.
The photo was taken in the waters around Hook Island, located along the northeastern coast of Australia. To experts’ best abilities, the strange shape’s identity is still unknown. Could there be a sea monster lurking in the ocean that humans haven’t discovered?
A UFO in a 16th-century painting?
Painted sometime in the 16th century, this painting can be found on the wall of a 14th-century church in Sighișoara, Romania. Sighișoara is believed to be the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, on whom the Count Dracula legend is based.
What strikes many as confusing about this artistic work is the silver disc seen hovering in the clouds. While some believe it may be an attempt at religious imagery, others claim that it’s clearly a flying saucer.
A homecoming horror
A sweet homecoming photo becomes sinister when you look closely at this photo. In the window in the top left corner of the frame, you can see a spooky white face, perhaps someone wearing a hockey mask, peaking out of the shadows. How terrifying!
The Hessdalen Lights
In the rural Hessdalen Valley in central Norway, these strange light phenomena have been spotted countless times. The Hessdalen lights appear both day and night, as bright streaks and orbs of white, yellow, and/or red light traveling at various speeds across the valley sky.
While a number of scientific studies have been done to try and explain what makes these lights appear, currently, there isn’t a confirmed scientific explanation for their existence.
In 1907, nine fishermen claimed to have caught a Cadborosaurus, a sea serpent common in the folklore of the Pacific Northwest. Many claimed the fishermen’s find was a hoax, and yet a number of have scientists tried and failed to identify the creature in the above photo. If the fish’s body was fake, wouldn’t the scientists have just said so, instead of working so hard to uncover the truth?
A tiny watch found in a tomb
In 2008, a team of Chinese archeologists was excavating a tomb that hadn’t been opened in over 400 years. Imagine their surprise then, when they discovered this tiny, golden wristwatch ring amongst the tomb’s artifacts. Was it just a hoax dreamed up by one of the researchers as a joke, or did someone, somehow get into the tomb, perhaps by way of time travel?
A pyramid on the Moon?
During Apollo 17’s final lunar mission in 1972, the following photograph was captured and then immediately discarded, with NASA declaring the photo as damaged by either over- or under-exposure.
While NASA claims this photo is insignificant, looking closer at the image, it’s hard not to see the shape of a pyramid. Did Egyptians make it to the Moon, or was it really aliens all along that taught humans how to build these giant structures?
The skunk ape
Dubbed the “skunk ape,” this strange, monkey-like creature was captured on film in Florida in the year 2000. Some have claimed the creature is a Sasquatch, while others believe it’s a black bear or orangutan. However, none of those creatures is native to the Florida setting, leaving this animal’s identity a mystery.
A screaming figure in front of the altar
Though faint, it’s hard to ignore the tall, grim reaper-like screaming figure that appears in this photo. The minister who took this picture claims he so no one when taking the shot. What gets even more concerning is that when experts analyzed the photo, they estimated this spooky figure would be over 9 feet tall!
A 15-inch finger
Photographer Gregor Sporri snapped a picture in 1985 of a mummified finger shown to him by a grave robber. The digit measured 15 inches long, meaning if it had been attached to a proportionate human, that person would have been around 12 feet tall (the world’s tallest man was only 8′ 11″).
Suspicious lights in LA
In Los Angeles in 1942, a host of anti-aircraft fire lit up the night sky. Authorities cited the usual excuses: it was just a training exercise or it was a rogue weather balloon, but locals and conspiracy theorists alike never bought it. Some believe the light show was an undocumented Japanese attack on US soil, while others believe it was UFO activity.
A ghostly visit from a deceased spouse
While she was having her photo taken, the woman pictured above appeared to be all alone in the frame. But as she and her family found out after checking the developed photo, the woman wasn’t alone. Standing directly behind her appeared to be the image of her late husband, who had died a few years prior.
A flying saucer in a painting of Jesus and the Madonna?
The 15th-century painting Madonna and Child with the Infant St John is often referred to as the Madonna dell’UFO and Our Lady of the Flying Saucer. In the painting’s background, a man can be seen viewing a strange, circular object floating in the sky.
A UFO perhaps? Maybe, though some religious scholars believe it to symbolize God or an angel in the form of a cloud.
A light on the horizon
At first, this seems like a normal photo of a landscape with a light on the horizon, perhaps of a cottage on a hilltop. However, this photo was actually taken on the surface of Mars, which makes the origins of this light concerning.
Our Lady of Zeitoun
In the Zeitoun district of Cairo, Egypt, many people have claimed to have seen a glowing apparition, perhaps of the Virgin Mary, atop the roof of St. Mary’s Coptic Church. The figure was spotted multiple times and photographed throughout 1968 and 1969.
Bigfoot is that you?
Oh boy, there’s nothing quite like a potential photo of everyone’s favorite large-limbed urban legend. Is this Bigfoot? A mountain ape? A broad-shouldered man in a dark suit? We may never know, but the creature’s mysterious presence at the edge of this pasture is sure to raise plenty of questions.
Beaming up Jesus
This painting by artist Aert de Gelder is called Baptism of Christ and was completed in 1710. While some interpret the cloud and beams of light raining down as a divine blessing, many UFO enthusiasts are happy to point out that regardless of the artist’s intent, this image looks remarkably like something out of a science fiction novel.
A lighthouse lady
Seemingly out of a seaside novel is this image of a woman perched on the edge of a lighthouse lookout. However, there’s no evidence of a woman having visited this lighthouse at the time this picture was taken, and her position on the lookout’s edge is fairly unsettling.
Snuggling with a ghost
When two siblings visited a graveyard late at night (while intoxicated), they took a picture of the brother lying down atop a grave. When the film was developed, the brother and sister were chilled by the realization that a ghostly figure seemed to be hovering above the brother, probably politely asking him to get off his grave.
A Grim Reaper in the midst of touch football
A group of friends was having a nice, normal day in the park playing two-hand touch football when a parent snapped this photo of the boys playing. To everyone’s shock, a mysterious, haunting figure clothed in all black appeared in the photo. Perhaps he was wanting to play too?
Spaceships at the Crucifixion
If you look closely at this 1350 fresco painted in a monastery Kosovo, Serbia, you’ll notice two strange forms on the painting’s top edge. Two people or perhaps angels are seen in what could be holy clouds or radiant chariots, and yet could also be people or aliens in spaceships.