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Shocking Historical Photos ?

Every once in a while, a photographer captures an image that is so shocking it can change the course of history. They say a picture says a thousand words.

We’ve compiled a huge list of some of the most iconic pictures in history. Many of them were taken decades ago. There are even a few from as far back as the American Civil War.

Son Dying of AIDS

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Published in November of 1990, this LIFE magazine photo changed the way America viewed AIDS. A son, dying of AIDS, is comforted by his father and family.

Bison Skull Mountain

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By the 1870’s, bisons had been hunted to near-extinction. Here’s a picture of a mountain of bison skulls, to show just how many were killed in a short time.

Frozen Soviet Soldier

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The Finnish were no fans of the invading Soviet troops from Russia. They decided to use this frozen Soviet soldier’s body as a scare tactic to demoralize the approaching Soviet troops.

Swimming Lessons With No Pool

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In 1922, if you had no access to a pool but still wanted to learn how to swim, you had to make do.

Spontaneous Human Combustion Victim

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This is a 1972 picture of a victim of spontaneous human combustion, where a person suddenly burst into flames for no apparent reason.

Collapsed Fire Escape

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A babysitter and girl falling from a collapsed fire escape in 1975 during a fire. They were seconds away from being rescued by a fireman. The child survived by landing on the babysitter’s body.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

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In 1937, if you lived in the city and wanted your kids to get some sun and fresh air during the day, this is what you got them! What could possibly go wrong?

Eerie Gravesite Photo

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In the early 1900’s, this photo was taken at a gravesite. The eerie visitor was not discovered until years later!

Monstrous Grasshopper

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This is a real photo from 1937 of a man in the American midwest after he had shot a grasshopper.

Staked Vampire Heart

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Auguste Delagrange was supposedly a vampire who killed over 40 people. In 1912, he was killed and his killers even staked his heart, just in case.


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In 1925, there was no Disney World! Instead, the happiest place on Earth (if you’re white) was KKKLand in Canon city, Colorado! Ps. KKKLand is not the real name of the amusement park.

A-Bomb Scars

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A Hiroshima A-Bomb victim shows his scars, 6 years after America dropped the bomb on the Japanese city. America would drop a second bomb on Nagasaki just 3 days later.

Who Needs Gun Control?

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The NRA would be proud of this bad boy. This is the “Punt Gun,” which could kill 50 ducks in one shot. It was so bad, they outlawed it IN THE 1860’s!

Terrible Human Being

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Turkey is responsible for the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Here’s a photo of a Turkish official teasing starving children with a piece of bread.

The Hindenburg Disaster

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While we all love airships from any steampunk themed movie or anime, real life airships proved to be quite dangerous. The Hindenburg disaster in 1937, which crashed in New Jersey, is the most notable example.

Tower Of Booze

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Witness the tower of booze. Unfortunately, this picture was taken in 1924, near the beginning of Prohibition. What followed could only be described as a crime against (drunk) humanity. The entire stash was set ablaze to rid the world of this alcoholic scourge.

Photographer On The 69th Floor

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This photographer’s name was Charles Ebbets. He took his famous “Lunch Atop A Skyscraper” photograph just after this picture was taken, in 1932. Behind him you can see New York City as seen from the 69th floor of the GE building.

Executing A Communist

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This picture of German soldiers executing a communist in Munich in 1919 might have been staged. It is unknown whether it is German propaganda or communist propaganda, but judging by how “bravely” the communist is standing, it’s probably the latter.

Boy And Dead Brother

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This heart-wrenching 1945 photograph shows a young boy standing at attention after having brought his dead brother to a cremation site.

Anthony Biddle

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This famous colonel’s name was Anthony Biddle. He was a hand-to-hand combat expert and dared his soldiers to try an kill him after surrounding him. They were never able to and he managed to disarm them all… everytime!

Hitler & Frostbitten Soldier

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This early 1940’s photo has Hitler comforting a frostbitten German soldier who tried to salute him.

Fell From Space

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Vladimir Komarov, a Soviet cosmonaut, lost control of his space craft and fell to Earth, where he managed to successfully re-enter the atmosphere… only to have his space craft crash into the Earth in 1967. These are his remains.

Pyroclastic Flow

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When Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted on June 17th, 1991, it spewed forth huge amounts of pyroclastic flow, which you see this truck attempting to escape. Pyroclastic flow can move in excess of 600 mph.

Bill Gates & The CD-ROM

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In 1994, Bill Gates demonstrated the efficiency of CD-ROM storage while introducing the new technology. The CD held more information than all the papers below him.

Passed-Out Guard

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This British foot soldier was either too hot, or too overwhelmed with Queen Elizabeth II’s visit, and passed out in June of 1970.

Saigon Execution Of War Criminal

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In 1968, this Viet Cong war criminal was executed by the Saigon Police Chief. The photo was used by American anti-war activists, but did not tell the whole story. The photographer said he felt terrible for ruining the Police Chief’s life since he had been correct to execute the murderer, who had killed many government officials, as well as their families.

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Mannequins After Fire

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The mannequins that were damaged by a fire at Madam Tussaud’s famous Wax Museum in London in 1930.

Kids For Sale

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This woman (and her husband) had trouble keeping a roof over their heads and were unemployed, so they sold their kids in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The children did not have good lives and some were abused in their new homes. The mother never regretted her decision when they eventually found her, and didn’t love them. She had 4 more kids later.

Harvey Milk Verdict Riot

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In 1979 San Francisco, when the judge returned a verdict of involuntary manslaughter for Dan White, who had killed Harvey Milk, the gay community lost it. This is a picture of the protest/riot that followed immediately afterwards.

MLK, Jr. Removes Burnt Cross

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After someone had set crosses on fire in front of a house, Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen removing their burnt remains from the grass.

Einstein’s Undisturbed Desk

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Albert Einstein’s office in Princeton, New Jersey, the way he last left it. He would die later that night. [1955]

Babe Ruth’s 700th Homerun

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On Friday the 13th 1934, Babe Ruth hit his 700th HR

The Unsung Beatle

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Jimmie Nicol filled in for Ringo Starr when he had tonsillitis. Here he is photographed after the tour, departing Melbourne Airport, on the cusp of returning back to his bland, normal life. [1964]

German Soldier Buries English Soldier

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A German soldier in WWII buries an unknown English soldier that was killed in air combat in the Egyptian desert.

Early 20th Century Mental Asylum

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Asylum from the early 1900s. So creepy that these things are all over the US, just sitting abandoned.

Early Surfer

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Legendary Surfer Buzzy Trent with a Hawaiian “gun” surfboard getting ready to surf 40 foot waves (1955)

Check Out My New Ride

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In 1924 Ohio, these young men were enjoying their brand new vehicle. It traveled a mind blowing 25 miles per hour.

Space Invaders Championship

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The National Space Invaders Championship held by Atari in 1980.

First Chimp Back From Space

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A happy chimp holding a newspaper after surviving his trip to space.

Nuclear Test Near Las Vegas

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A mother and her child in Las Vegas watching the nuclear testing just 75km away

It’s Lonely In Montana

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Before the advent of Tinder and, Woodsmen in Montana put out an advertisement. [1901]

Soviet In Berlin With Hitler’s Head

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A Soviet soldier carrying Hitler’s head, after capturing Berlin in 1945.

Queen Elizabeth II & Marilyn Monroe

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In October of 1956, Marilyn Monroe meets Queen Elizabeth at a film premiere in London. Both women were 30 years old at the time.

Earth Pic

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Michael Collins, the astronaut who took this photo, is the only human, alive or dead that isn’t in the frame of this picture, 1969

Girl With Doll During WWII London

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Little Girl With Her Doll Sitting In The Ruins Of Her Bombed Home, London (1940)

Child With Bear During WWII

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Little Girl With Her Doll Sitting In The Ruins Of Her Bombed Home, London (1940)

Original Mt. Rushmore Plan

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The original prototype of Mt. Rushmore in 1941- this was before funding ran out.

Cathedral of Amiens In WWII

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The inside of the Cathedral of Amiens during World War II.

Dear Hitler, Signed Gandhi

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Letter from Gandhi sent to Adolf Hitler in 1939.

The B**C* Of Buchenwald


Ilse Koch, the “bitch of Buchenwald”, in captivity. Her atrocities involved making human skin lampshades. 1941

Priest & Dying Soldier

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The priest and the dying soldier, 1962

Final US Public Execution

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The last ever public execution in the United States, 1936.

Civil War Rations For Prisoners

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Union prisoners receive rations at Andersonville in 1864.

Meteor Bruise

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The only person ever struck by a meteor, Ann Hodges survived and was left with this massive bruise. Dr. Moody Jacobs shows off this unbelievable tale of survival. [1954]

Manly Presidential Pitch

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President George H.W. Bush throws out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers’ opening night game in 1991, Arlington, Texas.

First Niagara Falls Survivor

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Annie Edison Taylor, the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, 1901.

James Bond Signs Coconut Autograph

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Sean Connery signing a coconut for a Jamaican child on the set of Dr. No in 1962.

WWI Trench Warfare

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Trench Warfare captured by a British photographer during World War I. These are mortar rounds firing back and forth. [c. 1917]

USSR’s Kalinin K-7

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The Kalinin K-7 was a heavy experimental aircraft designed and tested in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.

Japanese Assassination

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Socialist Politician Asanuma as he was assassinated by 17-year old Yamaguchi in Tokyo, 1960.

Moving To/From Suburbs

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Moving day for the folks in the suburbs, 1950s.

Onions Are Too Much For Soldiers

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Soldiers use gas masks to stop them from crying while peeling onions. [1941]

Civil War 50th Anniversary Reunion

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On the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, veterans of the Union and Confederacy reunite civilly, and shake hands. [1913]

Leaving Alcatraz

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Last prisoners of Alcatraz leaving, 1963

Cuban Missile Crisis Briefing

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JFK and LBJ during the Cuban Missle Crisis (1962) – The crisis brought the US within an eyelash of World War III

Pre-WWII German Shooting Practice

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Shooting practice for German soldiers in 1935.

Einstein’s Desk

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Einstein’s desk photographed a day after his death.

King Tut’s Sarcophagus

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The Greatest treasure find ever. Opening of King Tut’s sarcophagus (1924)

Young Arnold Schwarzenegger

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The year was 1963, and it was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first bodybuilding competition. He was 16 at the time.

Human Ashes At Concentration Camp

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Soviet soldiers stand dumfounded at a large pile of human ashes found at the Majdanek concentration camp in 1944

Shell Shock

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The Face of Crazy. The severe effects of shell shock, what we now know as PTSD, on a WWI soldier. 1919

Drug Advertisement

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Advertisement for Atabrine, anti-malaria drug, in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Famous Mime

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A photographer was walking through Central Park in 1974, when he ran into these young mimes. 30 years later, he realized he had photographed a young Robin Williams.

The Eagle’s Nest

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Dick Winters and Easy Company (Band of Brothers) are pictured at Hitler’s residence, the Eagle’s Nest.

Famous Intern

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President Clinton poses with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, ever heard of her? [1995]

New Uniforms?

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Rescue at Rabaul, 1944

Twain & Tesla

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Mark Twain inside the laboratory of Nikola Tesla (1894)

Safety First

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The Telefontornet, which connected 5,000 phone lines in Stockholm. (1890)

Lifeguard On Duty

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Lifeguard on the coast, 1920’s


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This early photograph was developed and the image is shocking. There is no explanation. (1928)

Machu Pichu Discovered!

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The first photograph upon discovery of Machu Picchu, 1912

First Dog In Space

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Laika, the first dog in space, has her capsule built around her. No provisions were made for her return, and she died in orbit. [1957]

Young Morgan Freeman

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Morgan Freeman sporting an afro in one of his first television roles. (1974)

Baby Got Bass!

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The World’s Record black sea bass caught by Edward Llewellen. It weighed 425 lbs. Allegedly, he brought it in alone. [1903]

General “Sideburns” Burnside

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Ambrose Burnside Civil War General who coined the term “sideburn”

Winnie The Pooh

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The real Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, ca. 1927

German Cannibalism Evidence

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Artifacts and remains from an ancient city within Germany known as “Hexelheim”. It dates from over 7,000 years ago, and these items and bones show clear signs of flesh stripping in preparation for cannibalism.

Pool Closed For Decontamination

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This is a real dead body at the bottom of a swimming pool. The picture was captured during a photoshoot for the hotel. 2006

Cold War Standoff

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US Tanks facing Soviet Union Tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin (1961)

Eagle 5, Coming In

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A B-17 Bombardier heading toward Germany during WWII. This is one of the few color photos taken from that era. [c. 1940’s]

Bomb Aftermath In London

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Wormwood Street in the city of London after the IRA detonated a truck bomb [April 24, 1993]

Blood Drinker

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Image of Loana the Bloodthirster, who died in 1909. It is purported her death was from the drinking of her own blood.

Say Your Prayers

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This disembodied head was kept as a relic of the first “possessed” nun.

Source: detonate


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