The True Stories Behind 6 Famously Mysterious Photos

ghost photos

Though it may seem like it’s all cat memes and Beyonce GIFs, the internet is actually full of other photos — and even a few photographic mysteries waiting to be solved.

To celebrate Halloween in our own way, we’ve dug into the stories behind six famously spooky images. Sure, we don’t need to know what’s going on in these eerie mysterious photos for them to pack a more powerful punch, but taking a behind-the-scenes look is super-fun — not to mention educational for all you photography enthusiasts out there.

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Getting a sneak peek into the unseen world of a timeless image is thrilling, so get into the Halloween spirit and check out the stories behind these six freaky photos.

1. The Phoenix Lights

Multiple landscape photos document The Phoenix Lights, a mysterious event in Arizona where thousands of people witnessed what was said to be a UFO hovering over Phoenix on March 13, 1997. Apparently, there were actually two light shows on that fated night — a group of bulbs attached to a seemingly solid unidentified flying object (aka a UFO) that passed over the city, and a triangular-shaped group of stationary lights, seen in the photo above. So, what’s really going on in this picture? The US Air Force claims the lights in the famous photograph are simply flares that were being used during a training exercise, which is largely believed to be true. Except by the UFO enthusiasts out there, of course….


2. The Solway Firth Spaceman

This picture was taken in 1964 by photographer Jim Templeton, who was trying to take a cute photo of his daughter in the English countryside. But you’ll notice that this little lady isn’t the only star of the picture — there appears to be a man wearing a spacesuit behind her, who Jim says most definitely wasn’t wandering around the hills that day. Apparently, Jim took three pictures of his daughter in a similar pose — and only the middle image featured the mystery man. The photo remains a mystery to this day, though one explanation could be that Tim’s wife’s over-exposed image happened to be caught in the background of the image, giving her a spaceman look. Either way, the photo itself is definitely real — Kodak even offered a reward to anyone who could prove it was fake!

mysterious ghost photos

3. The Brown Lady

Arguably one of the most famous “ghost” photos, this picture appeared in Country Living magazine and was shot by English photographer Captain Hubert C. Provand in 1936. The photo was widely accepted as an actual image of an ethereal being, and even has a great deal of mythology attached to it. However, modern skeptics have largely debunked the image as clearly a double-exposure.

4. The Loch Ness Monster

This picture of the Loch Ness Monster (aka “Surgeon’s Photograph”) is probably the most famous of Nessie sightings, but sadly it isn’t real. The image was initially attributed to Dr. Robert Wilson, who said he saw the monster and quickly snapped a few photos. However, the real story came out when a man named Christian Spurling admitted that he’d made Nessie out of a toy submarine and some wood. Turns out Mr. Spurling was the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell, who wanted revenge on The Daily Mail after his own personal coverage of The Loch Ness Monster was debunked. Marmaduke and Spurling provided the photos to Dr. Wilson so he could get them into the public eye — but of course this giant hoax doesn’t mean the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t exist! Then again, pics or it didn’t happen.

5. Bigfoot

The world-famous image of Bigfoot is actually a still from a film shot by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, who claim they saw the ape-like creature up close and personal in California. Apparently, Bigfoot was about 25 feet tall and ran away from them, so they had to sprint after him (or her) to get their somewhat choppy video footage. The film quickly went the 70s version of viral, but it’s largely considered to be a hoax featuring a man in an ape suit. That being said, no one has categorically proven that Roger and Robert pulled a fast one on Bigfoot Believers — and the creature’s strange gait is the number one indicator that he’s something other than human.


6. Hook Island Sea Monster

If we’ve learned one thing from this series of photos it’s that there are all kinds of terrifying monsters lurking in innocent bodies of water, and The Hook Island Sea Monster appears to be one of them. This tadpole-like creature was spotted in 1964 by Robert Le Serrec and his family while they were boating around Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island.

The gang took several images of the sea monster (which they estimated at 30 feet long –– horrifying!), and eventually went underwater to film before it opened its mouth and scared them off. The monster is believed to either be real (a completely terrifying possibility), or simply a strip of plastic sheeting that was weighed down by sand. Either way, we doubt many people are willing to swim in the waters of Hook Island.

 Photo by Robert Le Serrec.

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Mehera Bonner is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and two children.