One day you'll be dead, and the people of the future will look at your photos and wonder about the strange days you lived in. But for now you can look back on your ancestors and be reminded that the past contained a lot more mind-numbing terror than history class was comfortable revealing to you. Get warmed up with parts one, two, three, and four, and then gaze even deeper into history's dark abyss.
#16. "Would You Kindly Let Me Drag You To The Watery Depths?"
Even today the depths of the ocean remain mysterious, with every deep-sea creature we discover looking more terrifying than the last. In 1926 we knew full well that horrors were awaiting us in the dark below, so apparently we decided to make our diving suits so terrifying that even the most disgusting monsters would flee before us. Just look into that man's shadowy eyes. That's a person who knows he's going to have to punch at least one ichor-spewing fish-man in the face and is fully prepared to do so. And by 1931, terror-suit technology had only grown more advanced.
Imagine being a fish, just minding your own business, when that hulking monster lumbers into view. Now imagine being a human on a beach when it walks out of the waters, looking like it intends to kidnap you and take you to its watery kingdom.
#15. The Elephant Parade Didn't Go Well
Holy shit, how big of a steamroller do you have to build before you can crush an entire elephant? OK, fine, that's not what happened, but those staff members of the American Museum of Natural History sure went out of their way to make it look like that's the case. They're cleaning the museum's elephant skin on a beautiful day in 1933, because back then we didn't view elephants as a majestic endangered species so much as a mobile source of ivory for fancy snuff boxes. And we all know that at least one of those workers wore that elephant like a cape and ran around trumpeting to scare passersby.
#14. Getting Ahead In Medicine
That's a 6-foot-tall model head in the German Health Museum, because in 1955 Germany was experimental and still trying to find itself after the war. "It will stand before awestruck visitors emitting an inaudible and interminable, 'Aaah,'" Life Magazine tells us, because why calmly report the facts when you can write a sentence that you know will unsettle people for decades? Hey, do you think the head looks any weirder from the back?
Of course it does! But it inspired imitators as well as nightmares, because in 1960 Britain's Royal Air Force conceived of this dental hygiene training tool/constant mocking reminder of our mortality.
It seems there were a few brief years in human history where all medical knowledge had to be passed along with the aid of giant, grotesque models, which makes me a little concerned about what sex education looked like in the '50s.
#13. Welcome To The Petting Then Fleeing In Mortal Peril Zoo
In 1907, an alligator park where you could just walk right up to the gators opened in California, because people had only like a 50-50 shot of living to old age anyway and figured they might as well live (in the face of reptiles that could rip them to pieces) a little.
Just imagine that photograph being taken today without an endless series of waivers, lawsuits, protests, and BuzzFeed articles full of GIFs of television characters looking shocked and appalled. Now imagine this one:
There's no denying that showing that to your grandkids 70 years down the line would make you the world's coolest grandma. There's just a decent chance that you'd have to handle the photo with the nubs of what used to be hands.
#12. "Fragile, Handle Carefully"
This is supposed to be a fun, lighthearted photo of a 1900 mail carrier. But because no one from the era could take a picture without looking like a dead-eyed victim of a medical experiment gone horribly wrong, it instead looks like the man is going to stab you and the baby is going to feed on your still-warm flesh.
But don't worry, it's all perfectly innocent. They're simply mocking the idea of sending a child through the postal service. Because that's a thing that actually happened. People slapped stamps on their children and shoved them into trains with mail carriers to keep an eye on them. Never, ever forget that the past couldn't give less of a fuck.
#11. "Would You Like Some Flesh? I Mean ... Chocolate Flesh?"
In the old days, every holiday was about horror. Those children know full well that this 1950 Easter bunny has no intention of returning them to their family or their former state of youthful innocence. They will paint eggs now and do nothing else until they grow old and meaty enough to be turned into the slurry that fills them.
That's a "Happy Easter" card from 1921, because when you've just emerged from years of war and a flu pandemic your memory of what happiness is becomes as cold and distant as that rabbit's eyes. That bunny bears no chocolate gifts. That bunny bears a reminder that the Easter spring of your youth will soon become a dark, dark winter.
#10. A Pandemic Is No Excuse To Not Have A Little Fun
Speaking of one of the deadliest diseases in human history, the 1918 flu pandemic understandably had people reacting in ways that would make our recent Ebola scare look like a lighthearted inconvenience. But life still had to go on, and Netflix hadn't been invented yet, so Americans would gather for some happy-go-lucky games of plagueball.
But it wasn't all fun and praying you wouldn't suffocate on your own blood. Seattle's police force looks ready to either take on a zombie uprising or drag you from your home in the middle of the night to perform an ancient, arcane ritual with unspeakable intent. Or both, if they have time.
#9. Possibly Insane Bleeding Peasants For Jesus
No, that's not a screenshot from the upcoming American Horror Story: Nuns, Or Whatever, Fuck It. That's Therese Neumann, a German peasant who lived from 1898 to 1962 and who claimed to be a stigmatic. If you need a brush-up on your religious miracles, a stigmata is a mystical wound that corresponds with the wounds Jesus received when he was crucified, and Neumann's made her look like Carrie on prom night. Depending on whom you ask, Neumann was either a miraculous servant of God or a lying crazy person, but either way there's no denying that she knew how to make herself look metal before metal existed.