A Collection of Mind-Boggling Historical Photos
This world is full of surprises, especially in today's day and age where everything is captured in photos or film. The interesting part is that the most mind-boggling actions to have happened mostly happened in the past since it was much easier to get away with things. From daring feats to confusing images, our history tells a tale of people trying to go beyond what they thought was possible, and sometimes, they were even ahead of their time. If you would like to see a collection of mind-boggling historical photos, scroll through this gallery and see which ones surprise you the most.
The Gigantic Mark Twain Tree
You won’t find a lot of gigantic trees on this list but this one deserves a spot due to its monstrous size and the context of its picture. The Mark Twain tree makes one wonder how such a big tree existed on the planet; unfortunately, it has since been hacked down, which is a real shame.
The tree was located in the Sequoia National Park in the Kings Canyon but because traveling all the way to see the tree posed a bit of a challenge, the tree was cut down by the army in 1891 and put on display in British and American museums. Safe to say the tree was much more beautiful in its natural habitat.
Vikki Dougan’s Legendary Dress and Physique
You need to have an incredible physique to be the inspiration for the voluptuous cartoon character, Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Vikki Dougan’s incredible stature inspired more than just the Jessica Rabbit character; her physique was put to good use in Hollywood where she earned the nickname, "The Back."
This picture lets us all see just how awe-struck everyone was by her looks; they appear to be at a dinner and Dougan was busy serving herself while the woman next to her couldn’t keep her eyes in front of her. If the women couldn't keep their eyes to themselves, imagine how the men felt.
The Incredible Horse Diver
The photographer that captured this image did a great job at capturing both the incredible danger of the stunt and the priceless reaction of the audience that was there to watch. The star of the show here is The Duchess of Lightning, Sonora Webster Carver, who was one of the most popular horse divers in the world back in the day.
In this picture, Carver rode her horse to the top of a 40-foot tower before diving into a huge pool with it; she performed dangerous stunts like this all the time. The stunt is so dangerous that it is easy to mistake this as a painting or drawing, but it actually happened.
The Spooky Beauty Machine
Max Factor created a terrifying technological invention that he called the "Beauty Calibrator," for something with such a name, the device itself looks quite spooky and creepy. It looks more like a torture device than a beauty machine, in fact, something Jigsaw would use in the Saw movies.
It genuinely looks like something that can be used to yank a person’s head off with ease. But beyond its spooky appearance, Max Factor’s creation was a winner that allowed the face of a woman to be measured within one-thousandth-of-an-inch.
What a Leap
Regardless of their individual sizes, cats of all kinds are skilled hunters equipped with all the right tools to catch the animals they prey on. Cats have incredibly flexible spines that allow them to leap quite high at a moment’s notice. The bird in this picture must have been unaware of the cheetah’s uncanny ability to jump high.
The bird appears to have just taken flight but it was within the cheetah’s reach if it leaped high enough, and that’s exactly what the smallest big cat did. Better luck next time, birdie. If you look closely it looks like this big cat is imitating the Michael Jordan logo, once you see it, you can't unsee it.
The First Alien in 1979
The first movie of the Alien franchise was released to the delight of sci-fi fans in 1979; the Alien franchise has since terrified viewers and fans for many decades. However, the first Alien wasn’t just a prop as it had a human being in it.
That person is Bolaji Badejo, a Nigerian graphic design student that was at a pub when he got cast to play the role. He didn’t have to audition or fuss over landing the role; he was simply sighted and cast for a role that was typically reserved for tall sportsmen.
Mona Lisa’s Road Trip
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa piece is a masterpiece and one of the most remarkable paintings in history. People normally associate the painting's presence with the Louvre because it basically never leaves there and has been there for ages.
But then, there was a point in the painting’s history when it was taken on a trip; like other valuable paintings, the Mona Lisa was taken out of the museum and put in an abbey. In this photo, the Mona Lisa’s trip back to the Louvre Museum is captured.
Perfectly Timed Shot of a Swimmer
Look closely at this picture, and look again; you’d be forgiven for thinking the subject here is a weird creature or alien because of the angle and the timing but it’s really just a swimmer. What makes this shot so priceless is the timing of it first of all, and then the fact that the water the subject emerges from looks like a weird gel or something, and the subject itself doesn’t exactly look human.
Honestly, the picture looks like it wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie. It's crazy what you can capture with the perfect timing, and you can't help but wonder what would happen if one day water decided to not let you out since the picture looks like the water has a hold on you.
Chester Macduffee’s Submarine Armor
A lot of incredible inventions have been created over the years, some more useful than others, and many have long been forgotten by history. Chester E. Macduffee’s Submarine Armor was created for deep-sea diving and looks like a robot from the 18th century but it is in fact quite real.
It was a reflection of many people’s dreams of going deeper than anyone ever did. Macduffee’s armor was completed in 1910 and it allowed whoever was wearing it to reach an incredible depth of 212ft; it also had a robotic hand that allowed the diver to pick up items from the ocean floor.
George Harrison’s Taj Mahal Selfie
Today, selfies taken in front of the Taj Mahal have become a lot more common but this wasn’t always the case. George Harrison from the Beatles is one of the people that launched the trend of Taj Mahal selfies as you can see in this picture. He became the first person to take a selfie in front of the popular building in 1966 after traveling to the Eastern country out of curiosity.
Harrison stopped in front of the famous building like other tourists and popped out a fish-eyed camera with which he took this photo. Notice how confused the people in the photo look, whereas nowadays when people take selfies no one even notices since it has become so common.
The Jazz Legend and the Sphinx
This photo of the legend of jazz and soul, Louis Armstrong, playing the trumpet to his wife, Lucille, in 1962 is an incredible sight indeed. You’d normally picture the Great Pyramid existing peacefully and holding within it ancient mysteries but this photo shows they can be much more.
It is a meeting of two legends captured on camera; the ancient statue that had been there for ages, and one truly legendary jazz player just doing his thing for the love of his life. The depth in which this picture was taken is great too and it makes everything seem small in comparison to the two love birds.
The Parrot Lady
In the old days, they had trick shots designed to sell postcards; these days though, the perfect shots are all about perspective and angles. Getting creative shots can be a simple matter of exploring the many angles of a camera.
This is depicted perfectly in this photo where the photographer captured the right position and angle at which the bird and the lady’s head merged perfectly, therefore creating an illusion that they are one and the same. It looks like a fantastic fantasy creature or a Halloween mask.
Perfectly Timed Shot
Taking a photograph of a storm is difficult but capturing a bolt of lightning is even more so; achieving this is so difficult because it requires specific camera settings and the shot has to be taken at the perfect time. There’s also an element of luck in getting it right, so you have an idea of the complexity of getting this shot right.
The photographer here did a great job capturing a flash of lightning when it hit the Statue of Liberty in its torch. This is a rare occurrence that makes the picture all the more valuable. It can also be interpreted in two ways, the lighting hitting the statue or the statue releasing lighting from its torch.
The Dolphin and the Soldier
Dolphins are super-intelligent marine animals known for being highly trainable and incredibly social. This background is required for comprehending the incredible moment captured here; a gigantic dolphin appears to jump out of the water to touch the hand of a soldier nearby.
The likely explanation for what we see here is the dolphin and the soldier had known each other prior, and this shot isn’t a trick shot or an illusion or whatever because you can see clearly how the other people nearby are also taking photos. Kudos to the man since he is able to hold a leaping dolphin back with just one hand.
The Spooky Alaskan Snowman
To have fun in the unforgiving climate of Alaska many years ago, people built snowmen. Those in the region had the two major requirements for building snowmen; some free time and lots of snow.
Despite the fact that the people in this particular picture appear to be having fun building a snowman, the entire setting of the picture just looks spooky. The snowman in this picture had a carrot for a nose with some buttons; it was also built on the Muir Glacier in Alaska.
The United States Cavalry’s Tribute to Horses
Millions of soldiers and civilians perished in World War I while the war was ongoing but people weren’t the only victims of the terrible war; as horses were still a prevalent means of transportation, thousands of them died in the war also fighting for the country.
So many horses were used for food supplies, for conveying weapons, and for wounded soldiers as well. The United States Cavalry were obviously thinking about the many ways horses contributed to the war effort when they gathered to pay tribute by creating a form of a horse’s head as we see in the picture.
Graham Bell’s Tetrahedral Kite
Alexander Graham Bell will forever be remembered for inventing and patenting the telephone, and therefore revolutionizing communication forever. But it turns out Graham Bell did more than just invent the telephone, although it was his most important invention.
He was a brilliant engineer that was also thrilled by aerodynamics and therefore spent a lot of his time around kites. That’s what makes this picture such an incredible sight; it serves as proof that Bell’s legacy wasn’t just about telephones and he was fascinated by gigantic kites that could convey people to the sky.
The Grizzly Giant
This incredible photo of the Grizzly Giant would be incomplete without the presence of the U.S. cavalry soldiers that posed beneath it on their horses in 1900. The photo proves that gigantic trees are more than just elements of fairy tales and legends; they actually do exist too.
This photo shows how tiny the soldiers on the horses look with the gigantic tree looming in the background. The best part is the Grizzly Giant still stands today, and it can be found in the Yosemite National Park; it stands a ridiculous 209 feet tall and its estimated age is 3,000 years old.
Spooky Halloween Costume
The costume of the chap in this picture, combined with the spookiness of the house in the background all make for an eerie scene. The picture proves that spooky Halloween costumes have been a thing for a while now because a lot of the vintage Halloween photos available today are truly creepy.
The subject in the picture here has a pumpkin mask on, another pumpkin around his neck, a rag or cloth in his hands, and an ancient-looking carriage-Esque object laden with equally creepy-looking objects. By today's standards, this would be considered too spooky to wear out to Halloween, and authorities may be called.
Rotza Shanina the Soviet WWII Hero
The beautiful Rotza Shanina was only 19 years old when she participated in WWII; at that age, you’d think the beautiful teenager would be content to seek lovely dresses and have some fun but Shanina wasn’t built like that.
She quickly proved her incredible ability as a sniper after joining the military in 1941; she had nearly 60 kills and did all her damage from the frontline. She, therefore, deserves a place on our list; her photo here shows how incredible danger can be had from the most unassuming, beautiful faces.
Man on Fire
This one’s a bit confusing honestly; at first glance, it appears to be the subject emitting fire from his butt like some kind of fart. The shot is great but it doesn’t make figuring out what exactly happened any easier.
There appear to be people watching the man go at it from a safe distance like there was a rocket test going on. It could be a circus or magic trick though, that’s the most logical explanation of it at this point because shooting fire from the butt isn’t a superpower we’ve heard humans possess.
What was happening here?
In the mid-18th century, the spotlight was on spiritualism and occult practices became quite popular and widespread all of a sudden. The practice of speaking to the dead and communing with them grew in popularity as people became desperate to communicate with loved ones that had died.
This picture was however taken in the early 19th century when two sisters began speaking with spirits. Lucky for us now, the photographers of the time tuned in to the action, allowing us to see something we can’t quite explain ourselves.
A Couple of Acrobats on the Empire State Building
The 381-meter architectural marvel that is the Empire State Building was completed in 1934. Back in the early 19th century when the building’s construction was underway, it was the construction workers that had to climb to terrifying heights to get stuff done.
But because the building was completed during the Great Depression and was the tallest building in the world at the time, it became a source of joy to many. This picture serves as proof that acrobats found the building inspiring too; these 3 daredevil acrobats attempted a stunt that probably no one will attempt in the modern age.
Marilyn Monroe in all her Glory
Marilyn Monroe is so popular that finding someone who doesn’t know her name can be quite challenging indeed. She has all the star power courtesy of being one of the most famous celebrities in recent times; it also helps that she forged her own path by creating a distinct style that many have since taken inspiration from.
The photo here captures the star in all her glory when she stood on a subway grate and let her dress get blown by the wind while thousands of fans gathered to watch and dozens of crewmen and cameramen recorded the events. The white dress in this photo has since become iconic.
The Dancer in Morocco
This incredible shot was taken by Hungarian photographer Nicolas Muller, who escaped from Hungary after the Anschluss and spent a lot of his time touring countries like Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and France. Muller was fascinated with culture, and life and would therefore take photos in the places he toured.
He took this incredible photo in Larache, Morocco; the subjects here are a Moroccan dancer flanked by a lady to her left and a man from which she’s trying to grab what looks like a cigarette to her right. It is an incredible display of culture and we are glad Nicolas Muller decided to stop and capture this moment for the world to see.
A Brave Ironworker
At 933 ft, the Columbia Tower in Seattle used to be the state of Washington’s tallest building, and also the tallest building on the West Coast. It has since been overtaken by buildings in San Francisco and Los Angeles but none has managed to do so in Seattle.
The building’s construction began in 1982 and was completed in 1985; it was quite dangerous for the workers as well, and fortunately, this picture captures how dangerous it was. The brave ironworker on display here looks happy where a lot of people would be scared crazy.
The Bomb that Launched the Atomic Age
The bombs that the US dropped on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki towns, Little Man and the Fat Man, get all the hype during discussions on how the atomic age began, but only a few people know that there was an atomic bomb test about three weeks before those bombs ended the war in Japan.
The bomb in this picture was called The Gadget; it was developed for the Trinity Test 100 miles from New Mexico. Engineers had no idea how much damage the bomb could cause at the time but went ahead anyway. Years later we know exactly how much wreckage this can cause, and if the man sitting there knew as well, he probably wouldn't want to be so close to it.
Workers on the Eiffel Tower
Till today, the gigantic Eiffel Tower remains an engineering marvel, and arguably one of the greatest ever. Since the iconic tower was built in 1889, it has stood erect without being bothered by seasons despite the influence of the rains on its metal.
The Eiffel Tower doesn’t have a secret formula for avoiding corrosion but it is simply repainted periodically to prevent oxidization; the tower is repainted every 7 years or so, and because of the importance of this structure, the tower is manually repainted. This backstory is what makes this picture of workers repainting the tower so marvelous.
Ball to the Head
These days, anyone can become an instant internet meme face as all it takes is a bad moment being captured on camera. Former Manchester United midfielder Fellaini can tell you all about it; his face became immensely popular all of a sudden as a result of this picture.
In it, the ball appears to hit his face hard during a soccer game; makes you wonder how the photographer managed to capture the shot at the perfect moment. Wonder if he was okay when this picture was taken, but we do know he survived it and had a laugh when he saw the picture.
The Statues of Easter Island
Easter Island is home to some mysterious statues regarded as one of the recent wonders of the ancient world. Although the statues and the island itself are quite popular, so many questions still surround the statues that to this day have yet to be answered, and probably never will be.
The view of historians is that the Rapa Nui Island was inhabited by humans as early as 1200 BC but even they do not know how the island dwellers managed to build the gigantic statues in an era where building them must have been quite difficult. It resembles the great mysteries of the pyramids.
Incredible Circus Acrobatic
People have been enjoying circus performances for many centuries because the practice is an old one. Phillip Astley is regarded as the founder of the modern-day circus because he built an amphitheater that launched Europe’s first circus.
His circus might have been popular and revolutionary, but it wasn’t exactly original because ancient African and Chinese cultures involved acrobatic dance groups and routines, and rope dancing was prevalent in Greek culture. This picture demonstrates how skillful ancient circus acrobats were; the acrobat here must have been very flexible in order to achieve this feat.
Synchronized swimming is lots of fun but the magic of it can only be fully enjoyed in person; watching trained gymnasts engage in this is tons of fun. Good thing then that we have eagle-eyed photographers like the one that captured this beautiful shot.
The picture depicts the heart of water gymnastics. The main subject is a female contortionist supported by several swimmers below; from observing her stance alone, it is evident that her pose would be difficult for most humans to attempt.
The Macabre Mona Lisa
A girl known only by her nickname, The Unknown Woman of Seine, became the subject of a truly disturbing art piece in the late 19th century. No one really knows what happened to her but what we do know is that it was an era in which people became fascinated with spirituality and death.
After the lady in the picture here died by drowning in the Seine, a plaster cast of her facial expression after she died was made at someone’s request. Because of this, copies of her dead face soon sprang up in French souvenir shops. One of those things you wish you never saw.
The Most Famous and Awkward Kiss in History
You’d expect lots of kisses from a mother to her child, or between two lovers, but something you wouldn't expect would be to find two leaders sharing a romantic kiss, but this picture again proves that you can’t always tell what will happen.
The photo here captured what is arguably the most famous and awkward photo in history merged into one; this happened when the Socialist party members met for some events and two of them, Leonid Brezhnev and Erick Honecker, shared a kiss. This happened in 1979.
Lee Merlin, Miss Atomic Bomb
Today, Las Vegas has become the fun capital of the world and is home to some of the best casinos and gambling experiences in the world. But back in the day, the city was known for something much darker; atomic bomb testing. The grounds where atomic bombs were tested weren’t quite far from Las Vegas so the explosions could be seen from the city.
The dangerous radiation-emitting tests became a way for the city-dwellers to make some money; some even had atomic bomb-inspired shoots. This photo is one of them; it features Miss Lee Merlin posing in an atomic cloud swimsuit.
That Jump Looks Painful
Being a world-class athlete requires a lot more dedication and commitment than many people realize; athletes basically have to push themselves to their limit to perform at peak levels and because of this, even the best athletes have their weird moments too.
The best part is that photographers are again, never far away from the action; we can only thank the one that captured what appears to be a painful and awkward jump. Take a look at the diver’s face to see all it has to say about his jump.
The Gigantic Bear Man
Exploring the Arctic is a heroic act, and that’s what makes this picture great; the man in this photo is Peter Freuchen, a real-life survivor, explorer, anthropologist, and journalist. That’s a lot of occupations for one person, but what stood out the most about Freuchen was his survival instinct.
He once got trapped in ice and he could only escape by making a tool with his frozen feces after which he crawled for many miles. The Bear Man had learned the feces survival trick from the Inuit tribe. He posed with his wife, Dagmar Cohn, in this picture, showing how bear-like he truly was.
The Balancing Chair Act
Michael Thonet and his No. 14 chair are a remarkable and memorable part of the history of furniture. The bentwood method with which the chair was made by the designer is as remarkable as the chair and the picture we see here.
This photo features what is one of the most recognizable chair designs in the 19th century; the Brentwood technique permitted the use of the chair in this chilling balancing act executed on a building’s rooftop. The chair and daredevil act are certainly not for the faint-hearted.
The Swiss Monowheel
Four-wheel vehicles are some of the safest means of land transport but for some people, the safety of it doesn’t make up for the relative lack of excitement so they opt for bikes instead. However, this picture proves that even bikes weren’t exciting enough for some people back then.
They wanted something more dangerous so M. Gerder, a Swiss inventor, created a Motorwheel, which is a vehicle with one wheel where the driver sits atop the wheel. It was too dangerous for many though, so in the end, the design was rejected, but we are sure he had lots of fun with his invention.
Creepy Freaky Egg Costume
We’re back on Halloween costumes from the 19th century on this one. The kind of costumes people wore back then is an indication of how things were done differently in that era as spooky and freaky costumes reigned supreme.
Back then, the kind of stuff regarded as being overly creepy now was the trend as people used their imagination to create lots of weird costumes. The costume in this one doesn’t look overly spooky but it is weird regardless; apparently inspired by the Humpty-Dumpty character from Alice in Wonderland.
Nikola Tesla’s Incredible Gap Transmitter
Nikola Tesla was a pure genius who was way ahead of his time with his thinking and inventions. A lot of his work formed the foundation for inventions without which it would be difficult to imagine how the world would function today. Tesla laid the foundations for wireless communication and modern electricity.
The genius inventor experimented extensively with wireless power generation, and in the process, he created the technology that revolutionized electricity forever. He was working at his Colorado Springs lab in this picture, perfecting a gigantic spark gap transmitter that he built.
The Fire Heart
The beauty of fire fascinates many, and it is the reason why some people enjoy staring at the fire during nights out or on camping trips. Because fire can take on different shapes, it can appear as a demon or reptile for those that look at it long enough.
But even then the shape-shifting of fire is often temporary; it comes and goes quickly so capturing it on camera is challenging. In this picture though, the photographer captured a heart-shaped fire just as a dancer was performing it, who knows if this was his intention, but it is a great dichotomy between love and fire.
The Kiss at Times Square
When people are in love, they tend to kiss a lot, and even more when something worth celebrating happens. The intimate act is sometimes engaged in by people overtaken by emotions who suddenly appear to forget they are in the midst of a crowd of people.
This kiss was captured at Times Square in New York, and it is one of the most famous kisses in history; it was captured the day Japan announced its surrender. The sailor we see here was filled with joy and kissed a nurse he had just met. Fortunately for us all, a photographer and journalist named Alfred Eisenstaedt was there to capture the magic of the moment.
Female Martial Artists
The ferocious male fighters from feudal Japan dominate discussions of samurais and there are even movies and video games made about them. However, people don’t know there were many female samurais as well, who fought just as valiantly as the male samurai.
The female warriors were equally skilled with katanas but historians don’t talk about their travails nearly as much because they are rare and so many haven’t heard about them. But apparently, they existed, and this is proof that the female martial artists known as onna-bugeisha fought for honor and nobility like their men.
The Head of the Statue of Liberty
Talk about an incredible picture of a historic landmark; the statue of liberty just might be the most recognizable statue in the world. However, despite how famous the statue is, its head doesn’t get a lot of attention, probably because of how high and far away it is.
This incredible shot was taken from the Statue of Liberty’s top in 1930; at first glance, it looks like someone with a crown on his head but it's just the hair of the statue that makes it look so real. What makes this shot so great is the unique view of the statue and its surroundings that it captures.
The 1937 Hindenburg Crash captured on Camera
Before airplanes reigned supreme in the sky, there were other kinds of flying machines called Dirigibles which weren’t as fast as airplanes but they got the job done because they could carry a number of passengers over considerable distances.
The first Zeppelin was created in 1900 as a result of Count Ferdinand con Zeppelin’s mission to build a gigantic vessel to convey people from place to place. However, the inherent danger in this means of transportation was captured in this photo which explains why the 1937 Hindenburg crash caused people to focus on other means of air travel.
Historic Photo of Princess Leia
Carrie Fisher is best known for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, and even those that aren’t fans of the Star Wars movies know about her slave look. The slave look here references Princess Leia’s historic photo that was taken on the set of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
In the photo, Fisher is captured in her gold metal bikini on set, and although the actress looks good from nearly every angle, she wasn’t thrilled to wear it. Her trim look was quite inconvenient as well because she had to lose a lot of weight to look that way.
Ohh That Snake
Snakes are unique animals in the sense that people either love or hate them, and there’s no in-between when it comes to the slithering reptiles. Some people can’t be around them while others keep a couple as pets; there are some that simply check them out at carnivals or zoos to get a closer look.
The lady in this picture must have been taking a closer look when the reptile returned the favor; difficult to tell if the snake saw the woman as prey or it was trying to snuggle up to her, but whatever the case, it was certainly heading in the wrong direction.
The Monster Grasshopper
You’d expect to see the subject of this picture in a scary movie for children, not on a postcard because it is difficult to imagine a monster like this actually existing. However, the truth is people have been messing around with pictures using trick photography and photo composition.
This allows them to create incredible shots to be sold as postcards. They were called Exaggeration Postcards, and this one is quite good. It appears to depict an abnormally big grasshopper that had to be shot near Miles City, Montana.
One of the Most Famous Images in the U.S.
Back in the day, taking a couple of pictures was a great way for actresses to become more popular so in 1941, up-and-coming actress Rita Hayworth decided to take a couple when she needed some more publicity. Kind of no different from the things that are done today by beautiful social media influencers.
What Hayworth didn’t know was that one of the pictures from that shoot would become one of the most popular images in the United States. The pictures were taken at the right time too, just a couple of months before the U.S. went to war; a lot of American soldiers took this very picture with them to war.