15 Mind-Blowing Old-Timey Photos You Won't Believe Are Real
As we've reminded you before, people in the past just didn't give a shit. They were too busy being crazy and taking pictures of it to be bothered with how those pictures would make them look in 80 or 90 years. It's like they're daring us to make sense of them, and once again, we've risen boldly to the challenge.
"That's Two People Sharing a Costume, Right?"
OK, this is definitely some kind of optical illusion. The little girl's real legs are clearly hidden behind that log or something, because otherwise they would've had to spend a lot of time digitally erasing all of the villagers trying to set her on fire.
Pictured here is Ella Harper, a Tennessee native better known across the country as the Camel Girl. She suffered from congenital genu recurvatum, which is a disorder that weakens the ligaments in the knees and causes them to bend backward, gradually or all the damned way. Like many people with physical deformities in the 1800s, Ella was a star circus attraction for many years, which presumably then segued into a featured role in Charlie Sheen's The Arrival.
It kind of looks like she has two geese in a leg lock.
She actually made a good living this way, at one point taking home $200 a week, or the equivalent of $5,000 a week in today's money, and was able to retire from the sideshow business in 1886, which we're thinking is a happier ending than what other sideshow attractions got back in those days.
Hey, speaking of which ...
"Those Are Just Wacky Novelty Shoes, Right?"
Clearly, this woman stabbed Mr. Potato Head in the YMCA locker room and made off with his shoes. But, no, there are huge feet inside there:
"Someone find me a pair of boogie boards to use as flip-flops."
That is Fannie Mills, better known as the Ohio Big Foot Girl.
"Marriageable men take notice."
She is believed to have suffered from Milroy disease, which turns the lower half of your body into a Ninja Turtle and the upper half into a low-wage carnival worker. She was otherwise healthy and could actually walk (although with some difficulty). She was married and lived a normal life, aside from her career being a "look at my giant feet" sideshow freak.
Her disease did unfortunately mean that she would pass away at age 39, but then again, average life expectancy at the time was only 49, so it could have been worse.
UFOs Caused the Dust Bowl
Those men are not running in terror from an alien spaceship or a time traveler's pod arriving from the year 2250. It's just a tetrahedral kite, developed by Alexander Graham Bell in an attempt to build kites large enough for people to ride in. Which, you have to admit, sounds awesome.
The idea was also to make them so a motor could be installed, thus creating the first manned aircraft, but the end result was just a bunch of admittedly cool-looking kites that could only ever possibly be piloted by G.I. Joes.
"Come on ..."
"Come on ..."
"Oh, who am I kidding? Let me quit fucking around and just invent the goddamned telephone."
Fritz the Talking Nazi Bear
Despite the perfectly legible road sign, these Nazis decided to stop and ask a bear for directions and were delighted to find him sympathetic to their cause! See, kids, cartoons are real! But only for the Nazis!
Honestly, that isn't far from the truth. This is literally a road sign somewhere between Berlin and St. Petersburg hilariously outfitted with a Nazi bear (it's just a stuffed bear, sadly). These guys stopped and took a picture because you totally would have, too.
That's not an isolated situation, by the way; for some reason that the History Channel has never bothered to explain, Nazi funny bones were well and truly tickled by taxidermy bears. And they were all adorable!
AAAAAHHHH, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!?
Depression-Era Robot Porn
What, you thought robot porn was invented in Internet-era Japan? That picture up there is from 1935, bitches. We bet you didn't think they even had robots back then.
This is in fact a picture of some guy dressed up as Alpha the Robot, a popular World's Fair attraction, for the 1935 World's Fair in San Diego. He just happened to stumble across some nudists, who for some reason were also at the World's Fair, and posed with them for a few pictures, most of them containing way more FDR-era nudity.
"Any of you ladies want to go to space? Because that's totally where I'm from."
Time-Skipping Bounty Hunter
This guy looks like he's about to storm a hive of bees and assassinate their queen, or collect a bounty on Jackson Pollock.
In reality, that second joke isn't far from the truth -- the man in the picture is about to engage in bloodless dueling, essentially the precursor to paintball.
Although the battlegrounds were designed with somewhat less imagination.
It was popular in the early 20th century, and for some reason required everyone to dress like the futuristic guards from the Christian Bale movie Equilibrium:
There really isn't any imaginary explanation for this one that's weirder than the truth: This is a photo of the remains of the Two-Headed Boy of Bengal. It currently resides in the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of London, because when the boy's parents refused to donate his body after he died from a cobra bite at the age of 4, the English courageously dug him up and chopped his head off. For science.
Because let's be honest, no one is going to believe this nonsense.
The Sphinx, as Seen in a Dystopian Future
This looks like the Great Sphinx of Giza got buried in the sand after the Mummy threw his angry-face sandstorm tantrum at Brendan Fraser in one of those movies. Or maybe it's what the Sphinx will look like a thousand years from now, after mankind is no longer around to maintain it.
It's actually the opposite of that -- this is just what the Sphinx used to look like, before excavators finished uncovering it in the early 20th century. Today it looks like this:
"Finally, some damn leg room."
Which could lead you to believe that the ancient wonder was in pristine condition when it was built 4,500 years ago, and has steadily degraded to its current state over the centuries. The reality is that it got completely buried in sand a few thousand years ago, and stayed that way until the 1800s:
"C'mon, guys. If we dig down a little bit further, there have to be boobs."
Multiple attempts at excavation and restoration have been undertaken over the last 35 centuries or so to turn it into something tourists would actually drive to see.
And sometimes dudes would just stop and have lunch on it.
The Corduroy Werewolf
Clearly, the film universes of Michael J. Fox have collided, and Teen Wolf's dad has traveled back in time to put on a suede jacket and pose for a picture. That, or it's Stephan Bibrowski, a man made famous by Barnum and Bailey Circus as Lionel the Lion-Faced Man, for reasons that should be immediately apparent.
Because they didn't know who Chewbacca was back then.
The super-hairiness is the result of a condition known as hypertrichosis. But all we can think about is how impeccably groomed he was. Look at him! He must have spent a solid hour combing that shit every morning.
Welcome to Eternal Torment Burger
Wait, did we just make a joke about this being an old-timey demon-theme restaurant? Because that's actually exactly what it is. That cavern of writhing demon statues is Le Cafe de L'Enfer in Paris, one of the world's first theme restaurants. It opened its doors back in the 19th century, roughly 100 years before Rainforest Cafe had theirs blown closed by the cruel winds of indifference.
The cafe featured waitstaff dressed as devils and a doorman who screamed damnation at customers as they came in to be seated for the most uncomfortable sandwich in the history of time. Though it's not like you wouldn't know what you were getting into when you walked into the place:
"Bring the kids!"
The Real-Life Shrek
Actually, this is Maurice Tillet, a professional wrestler from the mid-20th century known as the French Angel. His face looks like that due to a condition called acromegaly, a gland problem that makes the bones grow to an abnormal size. There has long been a rumor that DreamWorks used his face as the model for Shrek ...
... but we can find no source verifying the truth of that. We're not sure if it's true and the studio just never said so publicly so they wouldn't have to pay royalties to Tillet's estate, or if it's just a coincidence that the man looked like Shrek from every possible angle:
5-to-1 says his girlfriend turns into an ogre, too.
"And They're Off!"
So ... are these men betting on the pigs humping somehow? Or is this what passed for a strip club in the loneliest parts of the early 20th century world? Either way, money has almost certainly changed hands here.
Actually, this is a postcard -- yes, a postcard -- from World War I era Germany. The caption at the bottom reads "The meat supply of Germany," because evidently Germany wanted the world to know that they fed their soldiers a hearty diet of wackiness.
"Boy, that was just a hoot and a holler! OK, guys, let's take these shovels and dig out some trenches for us to get shot to death in."
Actually, the world was so full of pork-based whimsy back then that we're now wondering if it wasn't some kind of meme. Just take a look at this ...
This stone-faced man in a wacky meat costume is George J. Nicholls, author of the 1917 book Bacon and Hams, posing for the dust jacket photo of that very book. He clearly wanted to leave no question of his authority on the subject.
In the text of the bio, he was equally sure to note that his side-of-bacon costume won first prize at the 1894 Covent Garden Fancy Dress Ball, a sentence that really should impress on you the urgency of building a time travel device as soon as possible.
Nazis in England
Compared to the bizarre freak show gallery above, this probably looks like a generic "invading Nazis marching down our street" photo from, say, World War II era France or Poland. But then you see "Lloyds Bank" in the background and realize you're looking at something you thought never happened: Nazi boots were on the ground in Great Britain.
Actually, this is a photograph of the Nazis during their occupation of the Channel Islands between 1940 and 1945, the only part of the British Isles Germany ever successfully invaded.
Due in large part to the efforts of Wilhelm, who single-handedly conquered the Royal Air Force.
The Nazis (being Nazis) didn't bother to recognize anything about the territory they had seized, issuing their own money, installing their own road signs (and making everyone drive on the right instead of the left) and even changing the time zone to be in synch with mainland Germany.
They're watching the last of the fucks they gave disappear over the horizon.
Ms. Burlap Sack
OK, on this last one we're going to guess "sexiest interrogation ever" or "a dating show for serial killers."
The answer, as it turns out, is that this is a photo taken at a beauty pageant that wanted to be progressive and judge the contestants on something other than their looks. We will now point out that the purpose is instantly defeated once you put them in bathing suits.
Also, once you put them in terror masks.
The ante was upped by the "Miss Lovely Eyes" pageant in Florida sometime around 1930, wherein contestants put on Hannibal Lecter masks and presumably won if they could maintain eye contact with the judges for the longest without crying.
And that, once and for all, proves that people back in the day just had no concept whatsoever of "creepy," for the same reason fish have no concept of "wet."
For more old-timey goodness you can't find in a bottle, please follow Jacopo della Quercia on Twitter.
For more batshit crazy things old-timey folks did, check out 8 Terrifying Instruments Old-Time Doctors Used on Your Junk and 7 Songs From Your Grandpa's Day That Would Make Eminem Blush.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 People Who Cheated Death Using Cartoon Physics.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover how old-timey folks used to two-step like a boss.
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