26 Creepy Photos That Will Give You the Chills
Warning: These creepy photos may just give you nightmares!
Creepy photos worth at least 26,000 chilling words
Nothing gets us into the Halloween spirit quite like creepy photos. While they can be eerie and scary, they’re also extremely fascinating. How did they come to be? What are their true origin stories? Are the depictions of Halloween monsters real? We’ve got some haunting photos that are sure to send chills down your back … if you dare to look.
A quiet country home?
What looks like a lovely country home in upstate New York is actually one of 42 buildings that made up the Trudeau Sanatorium for people with tuberculosis (before the advent of current antibiotic treatment). Located in the Adirondack Mountains, this was America’s first such sanatorium. In this photo taken in 1948, you can see a white-clad nurse ascending the front steps to care for her patients.
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Creating a model of a murder victim
Between 1972 and 1978, John Wayne Gacy murdered at least 33 men in Cook County, Illinois. In 1980, forensic artists were recruited to reconstruct the facial features of nine unidentified victims so that photos could be released by the media in an attempt to identify them. Gacy was known as the “Killer Clown.”
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This 1928 image of Lon Chaney as a super creepy clown (a still from the silent film Laugh, Clown, Laugh) may be one reason some people are afraid of clowns.
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The ghostly figures shown in this mural in the Karl-Lehr-Strasse tunnel in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, depict the 21 young people who died in a stampede in 2010 at Love Parade, a German music festival. At least 500 others were injured in the devastating tragedy.
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Death’s relentless pursuit
Death is one of life’s realities, and yet the notion of death remains mysterious, if not terrifying. One reason may be the way burial grounds tend to become crowded, a constant reminder that death is always in pursuit. Such is the case with this section of North London’s Highgate Cemetery, resting place for close to 200,000 people since 1839, where the gravestones appear to be collapsing in on themselves.
The sleeping dead
Another haunting image from London’s Highgate Cemetery is of this statue of a sleeping angel. The reposing figure was erected, no doubt, with the intention of bringing solace to mourners, yet it so vividly conjures the image of death that it may haunt you in your dreams.
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Church spire struck by lightning
An ordinary church spire. An ordinary act of nature. Yet the image of the damage a bolt of lightning caused to a stone church spire in Denny, Scotland, feels more spooky than ordinary.
San Francisco earthquake
The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 was another natural event that wrought devastating destruction to the lives and plans of the unsuspecting humans in its path. These Victorian homes on Howard Street near 17th Avenue were among the 28,000 homes destroyed in the disaster.
It’s estimated that approximately 3,000 lives were lost in total. Take a look at these other historical photos that bring the past to the present.
The remains of a fire
As a result of a wildfire in Mati, Greece, in 2018, more than 100 people were either killed by the flames or drowned while trying to flee into the nearby sea, with another 250-plus people injured. Local fishermen and private boat owners were able to save many, but the sight of a burned soccer ball is a haunting reminder of the devastation left behind. It’s a story worthy of any horror movie.
A lonely crime scene
Between 1947 and 1949, a divorcée by the name of Martha Beck and her boyfriend, Raymond Fernandez, went on a killing spree, murdering as many as 20 women whom they’d met via newspaper personal ads.
After the so-called “Lonely Hearts Killers” were apprehended for the murder of Delphine Downing and her 2-year-old daughter, Rainelle, the investigation took police to this basement in Queens, New York, where the body of another victim, Janet Fay, was unearthed from beneath the floor.
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The doomed Lonely Hearts Killers
In this 1949 photo, convicted Lonely Hearts Killer Martha Beck meets with her attorney in an anteroom of the Bronx Supreme Court in New York. This was the same day Beck admitted to abandoning her two children to the Salvation Army a year prior so that she could continue her relationship with Raymond Fernandez. Beck and Fernandez were each convicted of capital murder and were put to death via electric chair in 1951.
This creepy photo from April 2020 shows the empty streets of Shanghai during the COVID-19 lockdowns. In a city with a population of more than 25 million, seeing the usually bustling streets empty and quiet is definitely eerie.
A different George Washington, a different fate
The George Washington whose gravestone is pictured here was not the first U.S. president, but the first prisoner executed via electric chair in Texas. On Feb. 8, 1924, Texas executed a total of five inmates using its brand-new electric chair, which remains a state record for the highest number of executions in a single day.
This haunting image of convicted capital murderer Karla Faye Tucker illustrates why the public was divided over Texas’s decision to execute her on Feb. 3, 1998. After Tucker confessed to murdering two people during a robbery, she made a public conversion to Christianity and captivated many Americans with her charm and claims of having reformed. Her execution (via lethal injection) was the first of a woman in Texas since 1863.
A legacy of torture
Pictured at the Palacio de los Olvidados—Palace of the Forgotten—in Granada, Spain, these gallows were used to murder prisoners during the Spanish Inquisition.
Tsunami ghost ship
Ghost ships are haunting by nature, particularly when no one can really say what happened to the disappeared crew. But this ghost ship is haunting for a different reason: It was inadvertently launched into the sea as a result of a tsunami off the coast of Japan in 2011 (along with about 5 million tons of debris).
Because it was a threat to maritime traffic and a potential threat to the environment, the U.S. Coast Guard sunk the ghost ship in 2012. Pictured here is the plume of smoke that remains.
Remains of a pirate shipwreck
Lots of creepy things can be found at the bottom of the ocean. This is one of them: a bell once belonging to a pirate ship (the “Whydah Gally”), discovered in the murky waters off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Hedda Nussbaum, New York City
Those who lived in New York City during the late 1980s will remember the tragic tale of Lisa Steinberg, the 6-year-old girl who was beaten to death in 1987 by her “adoptive” father, Joel Steinberg.
Steinberg’s then-companion, Hedda Nussbaum, is pictured here with 6-month-old Lisa shortly after the illegal adoption, and long before Nussbaum became a late-’80s face of domestic violence.
The doomed Romanov family
In the wee hours of July 17, 1918, Russia’s entire royal family, as well as several of their servants, were murdered, bringing a swift and violent end to a 300-year-old imperial dynasty. The family had been imprisoned by the Bolsheviks since February of 1917.
Prior to that, the patriarch of the family, Tsar Nicholas II, had made some ill-advised decisions, including leading the country into World War I in 1914, the same year this creepy photo was taken.
The scariest swimming hole
This is Jacob’s Well, located in the Hill Country of Texas. A 13-foot-wide mouth descends into a 30-foot well disappearing into blackness. A natural spring below keeps it cool and almost irresistible to swimmers in the hot Texas summer, but as many as eight people have tragically died here, most from diving too deep. Tunnels and currents link to a network of subterranean caves and holes at the bottom of the well, making it one of the most dangerous places to swim in the world, as well as a subject for seriously creepy photos.
Karl Wallenda in a triumphant moment
This one might not immediately seem to belong on a list of creepy old photos, but there’s a twist. Karl Wallenda, of the “Flying Wallenda” family of amazingly airborne circus performers, is pictured in a triumphant moment in 1978, just after he crossed the Tower Bridge in London by tightrope. Sadly, Karl died during a tightrope walk later that year in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the age of 73.
The Challenger explosion
On Jan. 28, 1986, during its 10th flight, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart a mere 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members, including a school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who’d been selected from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project.
On this table, an autopsy has just been performed, and another will soon begin. (An autopsy is a postmortem examination to discover the cause of one’s death.) It’s hard to imagine a colder, more clinical view of the end of life than the one found in this creepy old photo.
In case you need a refresher for these creepy photos, in 1986 a routine safety test went horribly wrong at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union. One of the four nuclear reactors overheated and exploded, starting a fire and spewing radioactive material into the air, which remains in the area today to some degree.
Here, an old armchair with a doll’s head sits in what was once a kindergarten in the Chernobyl zone. It’s not hard to see why it’s one of the most haunted places in the world.
Abandoned military tunnel
Located in St. Aubin, Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands just off the coast of France, this old wartime tunnel is disturbing in a different way. It’s more about what we can’t actually see at the end that makes this creepy photo so eerie.
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Does this remind anyone else of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 psychological horror movie, The Shining? When it comes to creepy photos, this one definitely makes the cut. However, it’s likely just a case of a film camera double exposure, causing the image of the little girl to appear twice. The old black-and-white aspect just makes it that much creepier.
Looking for more scares? The only thing spookier than these creepy photos are these ghost stories.
- Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: “Tuberculosis sanatorium regimen in the 1940s: a patient’s personal diary”
- United States Geological Survey: “Casualties and damage after the 1906 Earthquake”
- Greek Reporter: “Deadly Fire at Mati Still Haunts Greece Three Years Later”
- History.com: “The Lonely Hearts Killers are executed”
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice: “Death Row Information”
- Al Jazeera: “US coast guard sinks tsunami ‘ghost ship’”
- Brittanica: “Karl Wallenda”
- NASA: “Astronaut Bio: Christa McAuliffe“
- SwimTrek: “10 Waters That Will Give You Chills”