5 Lost Photos That Could Have Changed History
You know how there's always that one guy who said he did that one insane thing in high school? Like he swam across an alligator-filled lake with a hand tied behind his back or fought off a cougar with nothing but a lit cigarette and a condom wrapper? The recurring theme of these stories is that you'll just have to take his word for it, because -- wouldn't you know it? -- his mom lost the proof when she threw out his memorabilia box.
Well, sometimes history is like that. There are amazing accomplishments, conspiracy theories and outlandish claims that are all supposedly out there waiting to be proven true, if only we could find ...
The RFK Assassination Photos
If you've only had room in your heart for one Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory and JFK sealed the deal years ago, we'll have to ask you to reconsider, because the death of Robert Kennedy also had some pretty shady business going on.
The story we were told was that RFK wrapped up a victory speech after winning the California primary election for the Democratic nomination. He walked with his entourage through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel when the unfortunately named Sirhan Sirhan shot him. The end.
You have to remember, shooting people was considered rude back then.
At least that's what The Man wants you to believe. Conspiracy theorists have a few different stories. One is that high-level CIA operatives were identified at the hotel that night, one of whom was later quoted as saying, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." Yikes. That's ... an awful and strangely specific thing to say. Then there's the whole gunshot problem. Audio experts swear they hear 13 shots in the footage of the assassination, but Double Sirhan's gun could only shoot eight. Dun dun dunnnn. Then again, there are always conspiracy theorists out there starting shit.
If only there were more pictures of the assassination that might shed some light on the mystery ...
No, that doesn't count.
The Missing Photos:
In 1968, 15-year-old student photographer Jamie Scott Enyart was at the hotel taking pictures of Kennedy and inadvertently photographed RFK at the exact same moment the shots were fired, making Enyart the only photographer there to actually do that. The LAPD snatched the pictures up in the chaos that followed, claiming that the photographic evidence was necessary for catching the assassin. Fair enough. The trial came and went, and Enyart was told that the film had to be sealed away for 20 years, presumably so no other would-be assassins would use the pictures as a tutorial.
"Guns are much better weapons than candy canes. I was a fool."
So 20 years passed, and Enyart marched himself back to LAPD to get his pictures. He was told they were lost. It wasn't until a year later (when the now-middle-aged former photographer got ready to sue the city of Los Angeles) that the hunt for the negatives really began. And guess what? It took six years, but they found them! Yay!
Finally, in 1996 a courier was assigned to deliver the prints and the negatives to Jamie Scott Enyart. Unfortunately, the courier had a flat tire on the way to make his delivery. So he stopped off at a gas station for a few seconds, and BAM.
The car was broken into and the pictures and negatives were stolen.
"Don't mind me. I am just an ordinary thief and am in no way a government official."
What the hell, man?
Evidence of the First Controlled Flight
Have you ever wondered what made the Wright brothers' 1903 flight so damn special?
The big deal is that theirs was the first controlled sustained flight that we know of. Lots of inventors were tinkering around with planes at the time, and plenty of them claim to have made it into the air before the Wrights did. But since not everyone was walking around with camera phones and a constant need to photograph every minor second of their lives back then, documentation was scarce.
But there's at least one maverick who was apparently shut out of history because he didn't have Instagram.
And his mustache was furious.
The Missing Document:
Back in 1901, Bavarian-born Gustave Whitehead was in a bind. He couldn't keep himself from building flying machines that kept crashing into buildings, even though he'd been repeatedly warned by police to stop. So when he finally did succeed at getting a controlled plane into the air in August 1901, he was compelled to keep it on the down low. That didn't stop the local newspaper from reporting the flight four days later along with an illustration of the BATPLANE:
Which ironically looks like something the Penguin would fly.
Hell, it even looks cooler than the Wright brothers' version. The only problems were that no photos were made public and there were only two eyewitnesses, one of whom later retracted his report and the other of whom disappeared. Then, two years later, the story got around that pictures of the flight were in fact displayed at a hardware store, of all places, and in 1906 another photo was displayed at an aviation exhibit. Those pictures later disappeared. And so did the picture allegedly taken by a sea captain.
So by 1903, the story was already set in stone ... in favor of the Wright brothers. Especially since the Wright estate eventually secured a secret contract with the Smithsonian Institution, one where the museum would get to display the Wright's Flyer only if they promised to acknowledge the 1903 Kitty Hawk flight as the hand-to-God first one ever. Don't believe us? Here's the contract -- that black ink is blood:
"Any person making such claims shall be called fat and/or stupid by his peers in a court of law."
Pretty fishy, right? Why would the Wright brothers go through the trouble of a secret agreement if their legacy was rock solid? And it didn't help that Whitehead was of German descent. Despite the sworn affidavit of a person who claimed to have flown with him and the modern replicas that have totally flown successfully, Whitehead's legacy is not much more than a crap sandwich.
Unless someone can find those pictures.
The Photos From (Possibly) the First Summit of Mount Everest
There's something about reaching the summit of Mount Everest that's irresistible to the type of people who are addicted to accomplishing really difficult yet ultimately pointless things. Expert climbers attempted expedition after corpse-making expedition for 32 years before the summit was finally reached in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary. And here's the thing about accomplishing this particular feat: If you don't have evidence that you reached the top, no one will believe you did it. Especially if you die on the way down the mountain.
Pfft. Doesn't look so hard.
Which is (maybe?) what happened to British adventurer George Mallory and his climbing buddy Sandy Irvine in 1924. It's entirely possible that they beat Hillary to the top by nearly three decades, but we'll never know until we find their damn Kodak camera.
The Missing Photos:
In 1924, British mountain climber George Mallory and his ridiculously handsome climbing friend Sandy Irvine ...
He must break you.
... were part of the second expedition to attempt to reach the mountain's summit ... ever. Along with their bottled oxygen, Sherpas, business suits and hipster hats, they brought along a camera so they could record their certain victory and take ironic yet kickass pictures. The one using another human as a footrest is George Mallory himself:
There is every possibility that he thought that guy was Mount Everest.
Unlike other sports like football or water polo, whole teams of people can't summit Everest together. For that last leg of the climb, you can go in pairs, but that's about it. So when Mallory and Irvine made their bid for the top on June 8, 1924, they went alone.
Here's where things got tricky. Later that afternoon, another member of the party claimed that he saw two black dots climbing the Second Step -- the last big ridge before the peak. Were those dots Mallory and Irvine, or a trick of the eyes? Or Yetis? We'll never know, because Mallory and Irvine disappeared later that day. After searching for a few days and a few more futile attempts to get to the top, the rest of the team went down, never to see Mallory or Irvine again, and never knowing if they shouted "First!" upon reaching the top.
"Now I can die satisfied! Also: in terrible pain."
Until Mallory's ice-mummified body was surprise-found by an expedition in 1999, that is. And they knew it was Mallory because his shirt said "G. Mallory" on the tag. It would take a pretty sneaky suicide case to pull off that level of a hoax.
But it's what was missing that was most important. Mallory wasn't carrying his picture of his wife, and his still-intact snow goggles were in his pocket, not on his eyes. The picture of his wife is significant because Mallory had said that if he reached the summit, he'd leave her picture there. And the absence of his goggles was important because in those days you only took your snow goggles off when you were descending the mountain.
And the last thing missing? The camera. Which probably meant Irvine was carrying it ... and Irvine's body hasn't been found yet. Except that a Chinese climber reported seeing it in just about the right location back in the '70s. And get this: If anyone ever found that camera, Kodak says they could possibly still develop the film, perhaps proving that these lucky lads beat the Everest record by 29 years.
And also proving that they did not fuck around when they made cameras in the 1920s.
So what are you waiting for? Go get that film! We'll wait here.
The Missing Apollo 11 Tapes
Quick! What was the most important accomplishment of the 20th century, besides discovering a way to get cheese inside of hot dogs? Landing on the moon, of course. When Apollo 11 touched down on July 20, 1969, the whole world gasped in wonder, therefore causing the global warming that we're now suffering from today. But it was worth it for the pictures. And now think about this: Like the video of your first unassisted steps, the original footage of the moon landing was taped over.
We know what you're thinking ... we've all seen the footage of the moon landing. How can it be lost?
"Eh, I've seen this one. Nothing attacks them, and they get home safe. It's boring."
Well, what we have is an extremely shitty copy, like if the world's only surviving copy of Star Wars was a glitchy VHS recording made off of TV. The original, high-quality version is gone forever.
The Missing Film:
Sending live video of the moon landing back to the world was a huge priority. Otherwise, nutjobs the globe over would think the whole thing was a fraud, and no one would want that to happen, right? But there was a problem -- the technology used to film Apollo 11 was called SSTV, and it was like the HDTV of the Space Age. Meanwhile, most of us on planet Earth were watching primitive TVs that made everything look like the viewer had glaucoma. So NASA pulled off a neat translation trick. The original crystal-clear images were translated into the grainier, ghost-like video that we all know and love.
"There we go, much better. Can we make it have that AM radio squeal, too?"
That was what the people at home saw. But the people at NASA saw pictures so clear you could swim in them. It wasn't until years and years later that anyone realized, hold up, that original footage was still out there, waiting to be revealed to the world.
Except it wasn't. After an exhaustive multi-year search, the official report was that, yep, the tapes had been taped over, presumably by an engineer eager not to miss an episode of Bosom Buddies. But a bright spot was also discovered. When NASA originally did the moon thing, a tracking station in Australia recorded the SSTV signal. And they made backup copies. The originals were shipped to NASA ...
"Hey, the game is on. Got any blank -- never mind, I found some!"
... and were also erased. Also, most of the backups were sent to NASA. And, uh, erased. But there still could still be some out there. Just waiting for someone to find them, and probably erase them.
The Supposed Lost Oklahoma City Bombing Video
Here's the story of the Oklahoma City bombing you probably know: On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a Ryder truck filled with almost 5,000 pounds of explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, walked away and lit two fuses by remote. The truck exploded, killing 168 people and injuring almost 700. McVeigh and his accomplices were caught shortly later, and McVeigh was executed in 2001 -- end of story.
Holy shit, we know 12-year-olds who look manlier than that.
Well, maybe not. See, there persists a theory that there was another guy involved who was dubbed "John Doe No. 2" during the investigation. There are 24 eyewitnesses who claim to have seen this mystery man with McVeigh that day, and some believe he may have been caught on video by the numerous security cameras around the site of the bombing.
The problem is that when those videos were released (after persistent badgering by the family of one suspect), it appeared something -- or someone -- had been edited out of each video.
Perhaps a middle-aged man chain-smoking Morleys?
Who would do such a thing? And why? Here's where it's about to get conspiracy-ish up in here ...
The Missing Footage:
The theory goes that the accomplice in the missing video would be Richard Lee Guthrie, a dude with a history of government hating and a connection to McVeigh. We can't just ask him, because Richard Lee Guthrie died in custody by hanging himself with his bed sheet.
This is the last known photograph of him, wearing his "John Doe No. 2" T-shirt.
OK, so if it was him, why would the government cover up the involvement of some neo-Nazi? What do they care? Hell, they guy is even dead, right? You don't even have to bother to charge him.
Well, the conspiracy theory goes like this: Something went horribly wrong with the investigation into Guthrie and resulted in an innocent guy getting killed. That man is named Kenneth Michael Trentadue, and he was arrested in connection with the bombing. It was never clear why the feds picked him up, but here's the thing: He looked exactly like Guthrie, with the same build, the same facial hair and a similar tattoo. So if, for instance, the feds had seen Guthrie on a grainy security cam, it would have been easy to match it to the wrong mugshot and arrest Trentadue instead.
We're betting he watched a lot of Road House.
So what? you say. That's an understandable mistake, so why cover it up? They did eventually get the real guy, and he's dead, so just turn Trentadue loose and apologize, right? Maybe give him a coupon that says he gets out of one future crime for free. Why destroy evidence to pretend it didn't happen?
Because Trentadue, the innocent one, also died while in custody. Also by hanging himself with his bed sheet.
It gets worse: He had so many cuts, bruises and traumatic injuries on his body that his family began to suspect that he was actually tortured and maybe murdered. This has led his family (specifically, his lawyer brother, Jesse) to speculate that, in fact, the FBI fucked up and grabbed Trentadue by mistake, interrogated him so hard that he either died or was driven to suicide and then, when they realized they had the wrong guy, tried to cover up the whole thing.
"Oh, how clumsy of us -- we thought that file said 'NOT Evidence.'"
But the theory all starts with that surveillance video. After years of badgering, the FBI finally released 20 tapes to Jesse, who says that footage from four different cameras mysteriously goes blank all at the same time in the minutes leading up to the bombing. Trentadue thinks they doctored the video to cut out the bits showing Guthrie (which would, in his mind, start the process of proving that the FBI's actions led to the death of his brother).
So Trentadue went back and asked for more. As of July 2011, the official answer is that if there is more video in the government's possession that "The investigation case files are so massive, it would be impossible to find."
In other words, the key to this conspiracy theory rests in the same government warehouse where they stashed the lost Ark of the Covenant.
If you'd still like to feed your conspiracy side, check out The 5 Creepiest Unsolved Crimes Nobody Can Explain and 6 Crackpot Conspiracy Theories (That Actually Happened).
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover the missing pictures of what happened when John Cheese and David Wong drank soy sauce that one time.
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