55 Of The Scariest Pictures Ever Captured In Human History

Published September 17, 2023
Updated September 20, 2023

Whether it's serial killers, cannibals, or disturbing beasts, the only thing more chilling than these scary photos from decades past are the terrifying stories behind them.

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From the earliest days of photography in the mid-1800s to the social media posts of today, the annals of modern history are filled with real scary pictures more terrifying than anything you'll find in even the most disturbing horror film. The scariest images ever taken run the gamut from fearsome animals discovered in the wild to depraved serial killers to victims' final moments during natural disasters.

Curated with a broad spectrum of fears in mind, the 55 scary pictures above include everything from crime scene photos and sickening human experiments to paranormal phenomena and even cannibals.

Real Scary Pictures With Creepy Backstories To Match

While most of these real scary pictures are plenty haunting even at first glance, others convey a slow-burning creepiness that only reveals itself as you learn the full story behind the image.

Take, for example, the 1929 Christmas portrait of the Lawson family of Germanton, North Carolina. While they look like any other family posing for a portrait, the story behind this photo actually makes it one of the scariest images ever captured.

The family patriarch, Charles Lawson, had bought his wife and children new clothes specifically for a family photo, which was taken in town by a professional photographer just a few days before Christmas. But little did any of the Lawson family know that this would be their last picture ever — as they were all to be murdered by Charles Lawson on Christmas Day.

Creepy Pictures

Wikimedia CommonsThe creepy photo of the Lawson family just before their murder, a strong candidate for the scariest picture ever taken.

And as far as last photos of soon-to-be-murdered people go, the haunting image of the Lawsons is but one example. There's also the case of Daylenn Pua of Oahu, Hawaii, who disappeared on Feb. 27, 2015, after telling his parents that he was going to hike the Haiku Stairs, otherwise known as the "Stairway to Heaven." He was never seen again, but the last photo he sent his parents revealed a blurry figure just behind him — though that person, likely his killer, has never been identified.

The Stories Behind Some Of The Scariest Pictures Ever Taken In History

Backstories aside, some real scary pictures from history are creepy enough to shock you after just one look.

Scary Pictures From History

R. Powell/Daily Express/Getty ImagesAn image of the mask worn by the English serial killer known as "The Beast Of Jersey," one of the most terrifying real scary pictures ever captured.

Perhaps few images are as scary as those depicting the outfit worn by the 1960s serial killer Edward Paisnel, "The Beast Of Jersey." Throughout the '60s, Paisnel crept into neighbors' homes on the English island of Jersey at night in order to assault and rape women and children — all while wearing the same disturbing mask and nail-studded wristlets. Ultimately, police only captured him when they pulled him over for running a red light and found his Beast costume in his car.

Then there are the Soviet cannibal merchants of 1921, captured in one of the scariest images ever taken. This couple from the Samara province was photographed selling human remains at a market stall in the winter of 1921. That year, the nation was in the grip of a devastating famine that ultimately killed 5 million people and saw countless others resort to eating human flesh in order to survive.

Whether it's cannibals or petrifying animals or history's worst serial killers, see more scary pictures that are the stuff of nightmares in the gallery above.

After looking at 55 of the scariest pictures ever taken, see more creepy images from history. Then, take a look at these weird pictures with even stranger backstories.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Margaritoff, Marco. "55 Of The Scariest Pictures Ever Captured In Human History." AllThatsInteresting.com, September 17, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/scary-pictures. Accessed May 23, 2024.