At one point or another, everything winds up on the internet.
Whether it’s a funny meme, a Wikipedia article on an obscure piece of history, or the full DNA sequence of the human genome, you can trust this digital library of Alexandria to have it all. These days, it seems like everything you need to know or would ever want to know is a click or tap away. But not everything online is so easily explainable.
Once in a while, assuming you spend a lot of time on the internet, you’re bound to come across some creepy stuff that just can’t be explained. Some of these unnerving images are so disturbing you end up awake all night, turning in your bed, either terrified, curious, or both.
So, why don’t we try answering a few of these mysteries?
1. An Alien Face on the Surface of Mars
If you’re an astronaut, this is probably the last thing you want to see when you look out the window while drinking your space coffee.
Mission control staff at Jet Propulsion Lab were managing the trek of NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft as it circled Mars. Viking 1 was just the first of its kind, designed to gather information that was crucial for NASA’s upcoming launch of the Viking 2.
The mission was to document possible landing spots for Viking 2, a task that required Viking 1 to snap several photos of Mars’ surface. When the ship passed over Cydonia, a region named after an ancient Cretan city-state, it found a massive human face staring back at it.
The staring contest between Viking 1 and the formation, later nicknamed the “Face on Mars”, ended when the spacecraft shifted positions. The face was just a trick of the light or, rather, shadow since the shadows cast over the curves of the formation created the illusion of a human face.
2. Murder Caught on Google Maps?
You don’t have to be an astronaut to be able to take unnerving images from above. Just open Google Maps on your device and enter the coordinates “52.376552,5.198303.”
Considering how blurry the view that Google Maps give us is, the only things that stand out in the photo are a dark, reddish stain that marks the surface of the viewing deck. As if that isn’t bad enough, there seem to be two people standing over what looks to be a black body bag. The creepy scene suggests that someone has been murdered and their body is being disposed of in the lake.
But the photo taken of Beatrixpark Dock in the Netherlands is fortunately not a murder scene. More eagle-eyed viewers noticed the sheen on the “body bag” that looked like light reflecting on fur. From there, it wasn’t hard to figure out that the tracks were actually water bringing out the reddish color of the wood.
Despite its mundane explanation, it looks like Google changed the image of the viewing deck. If you click the coordinates provided above, you’ll find a regular scene of two people enjoying the lake view.
3. Photobombing a Family Photo
Try taking a family photo in your dining room. If you see a dead body falling from the ceiling, it might be time to move.
This unnerving image is known as the “Cooper family photo.” Now, no members of the supposed Cooper family stepped forward to share this as their family horror story. But the Coopers allegedly moved into an old house in Texas sometime in the 1950s. Perhaps the family decided to celebrate the move by taking a photo. Mom and grandma are sitting on two dining chairs with the family’s sons in their lap. All four smile at the camera. Snap!
When the photo was developed, the family was understandably horrified. Along with the four photo subjects they knew of, there was what appeared to be a disfigured and faceless body of a man dropping from the ceiling.
The lack of details on the actual family members and even testimonies from the subjects themselves point to the image being a hoax. Hoaxes.org, a site dedicated to debunking fake mysteries, pointed out that the image’s vignette is too symmetrical to be true to the times. However, neither of the photos’ first uploaders, Xavier Ortega and Sam Cowan, has admitted to being the creators of the image. But whether it’s real or not is for you to decide.
4. The Photo That Started It All
There are tons of unnerving images on the internet but this creepy photo of a Japanese art installation is the only one to spawn an entire fictional universe centered around it and objects like it.
This bizarre, alien-like creature was created by the artist Izumi Kato who called it “Untitled 2004.” But the internet would come to know the piece as SCP-173. The sculpture gained internet horror cult status after a user uploaded it to 4chan’s /x/ board in 2007.
The board deals with paranormal images, stories, and topics meaning that the image wasn’t anything special on its own. What made it stand out was the way it was described — a scientific log intended to document the behaviors and containment procedures for SCP 173. Soon, more stories explaining the supernatural followed, making 173, despite its number, the progenitor of the entire SCP Foundation.
5. Slenderman’s Asian Cousin
Let’s keep on with our international search for unnerving images with this unexplained photo from the Philippines.
A Facebook user by the name of Rafael Montayo messaged MilkyClear‘s page with a story of his encounter with a supernatural being. According to him, he was riding home on his motorcycle when he smelled a foul scent that he described as a mix of “the smell of a pigsty, petrol, and cigarette smoke.”
The scent was so terrible that Montayo had to pull over and puke. When he did, he noticed the sound of loud laughter. He turned to look at where it was coming from and saw a tall, thin humanoid creature with straw-like hair laughing at him as it walked away.
He initially thought that his mind was playing tricks on him but he later saw the photo above on a Facebook page that posts weather reports in his area.
Montayo says the photo was taken near his house.
6. Nessie: The Classic “Unexplained” Photo
“Untitled 2004” may have been the granddaddy of the SCP Foundation, but the actual granddaddy of unexplained and unnerving images is this photo taken in 1934.
The picture depicts a long-necked creature surfacing from the Loch Ness lake. The photo was later sold by Dr. R. Kenneth Wilson to the London Daily Mail who ran the image that would later be known as the “Loch Ness Monster” or, if you want a cuter nickname, “Nessie.”
He claimed that the photo was taken during a trip near Inverness where he was photographing birds with a friend.
Most people took him on his word, assuming that such a respectable doctor wouldn’t fabricate a hoax. But 60 years after the photo was published, people began to speculate that the photo was designed to fool the Daily Mail. Several people who were associated with Dr. Wilson came forward to claim that the Loch Ness photo was just a model submarine with a neck-like sculpture attached on top of it.
7. Floating Shadows
This is one unnerving image that’s difficult to explain largely because of the lack of information about its origins. Its most well-known appearance seems to be this 9GAG post from May 21, 2016 entitled “At 3 AM, there is always someone watching you.”
The photo depicts eight humanoid figures floating in the air outside what seems to be an abandoned house surrounded by dead trees and thick fog. A closer look at the foreground reveals two more figures, one on the far left and another crouching near the middle, slightly to the right.
Attempts at reverse image search turn up nothing that can explain the origins and nature of the image. We might never know where, when, and how this photo was taken but there’s info out there on the nature of these shadow people.
8. The Severed Heads of Our Enemies
If those look like tiny human heads to you, that’s because they are.
This unnerving image features real shrunken heads of tribesmen with their lips stitched shut. Despite what proponents of primitivism — a school of thought that idealizes the lives of “primitive” tribesmen as utopian societies free from the horrors of violence and capitalism — would have you believe, native peoples did, in fact, wage wars against each other. While not grand in scale, conflicts are long and bitter, involving generations of blood and trophies in the form of shrunken heads.
Called tsantsas, the Shuar and Achuar peoples of Ecuador and Peru used to make these heads to restrain the souls of their enemies. The practice of preserving the heads involves several reshapings of the skull cavity topped off by sewing the facial openings shut.
The goal is to prevent the soul of the dead from escaping which supposedly prevented them from reincarnating. Sadly, curious foreign tourists coming to the tribes in search of shrunken heads created a demand during the late 1800s to early 1900s that resulted in tribes killing each other just to create souvenirs for tourists.
9. Just Another Weird Looking Sculpture?
Did you think we were done with human bodies? Think again. This unnerving image blends the uncanny with sculptural art weirdness.
Meet Radiana, a lovely robotic lady created by Dutch Professor J. Popjie. Popjie introduced Radiana to the public during a flight over Brighton, England. In a bizarrely steampunk version of automated driving, Radiana flew herself and the professor in a straight line over Brighton’s airspace. A clipping from the February 1931 issue of Popular Science described her as “the latest in automatic controls for aircraft.”
Other great feats performed by Radiana include driving for Popjie and shaving audience members.
Yes, audience members.
Though advertised as a real “scientific marvel” with bold claims that they’ll pay a thousand pounds to anyone who can debunk Radiana, the mechanical wonder was more biological than electronic.
“According to Great-Aunt Kathleen’s son, the top picture was taken around 1927 when Kath was 21. ‘She was small enough to fit inside the sphinx and manipulate the head, hands and legs. She worked for Popjie for 3 years. He proposed marriage to her – which was not accepted…” The author of an expose on the “robot” explained.
So much for scientific advancement.
10. A Mid-Aerial Burial
It’s a cliff with a bunch of wooden signs. What’s it doing in a list of unnerving images, you ask?
Look closely and you’ll notice that they aren’t wooden signs so much as they’re coffins containing actual human remains. The hanging coffins of Sagada, Philippines, are something of a morbid tourist attraction.
Local tribespeople have been hanging their dead ancestors for nearly 2,000 years, a burial practice that developed out of the belief that it’s easier for a soul to transition to heaven if the body is placed in high altitudes.
The practice was once observed in China as well, with most of the hanging coffins in the country having been discovered along the length of the Yangtze River.
Considering how hard it is to bring a coffin hundreds of feet into the air, this has to be one of the most daredevil ways you can be put to eternal rest.