26 Famous Photos (With Eyebrow-Arching Backstories)

Cracked pays people to make smart memes. Visit the Photoplasty and Pictofacts Workshop to get in on it.

There are certain photos that are iconic and recognizable, and have become well-known cultural touchstones. But as it turns out, some of those well-known images have virtually unknown backstories. And some of them have even been heavily edited. Which is saying something, in the pre-Photoshop era.

For example ...


The nurse in the V-J Day kiss photo wasn't game for it. Greta Friedman has recounted how this stranger just grabbed her. In other photos, she has her

Entry by HarpoSpeaks

This photo was taken for Rolling Stone the same day John Lennon was murdered. Photographer Annie Leibovitz wanted both Lennon and Yoko Ono nude, but O

Entry by Nightfly

CRACKEDCO COM OPENEER Christopher Columbus didn't actually look like this. This portrait was painted by Sebastiano del Piombo, who never met Columbus.

Entry by ditmarscage

One of Abe Lincoln's most famous portraits is a fake. They didn't have any heroic likeness of the president- so they just pasted his face onto South

Entry by ChevySpoons

CRACKED.COM Winston Churchill was surly because the photographer took his cigar. Already in a bad mood, Churchill refused to give up his cigar. The ph

Entry by GrannyGrump

Harold Lloyd wasn't clinging with two complete hands here. NI M A I Lloyd had been maimed in an accident before filming Safety Last! He wore prostheti

Entry by ChevySpoons

This is Tenzing Norgay atop Mt. Everest. The photo was taken by Edmund Hillary after the first ascent of the mountain ever. There's no photo of Hillar

Entry by Sksmith

Get up and fight, sucker! Muhammad Ali was yelling here. Ali was furious when Sonny Liston fell down after a phantom punch. Speculation abounded t

Entry by gicusudoru

Ulysses S. Grant was never here. GRANT The picture is a composite of Grant's head on the body of Major General Alexander McCook. The background is a p


This iconic photo was altered to avoid accusations of looting. Raising a Flag over the Reichstag, taken after the Battle of Berlin, was edited by its

Entry by PandaPoo

No, President Bush wasn't holding a book upside-down. BLCA The Phesimhe to the S Cosstinition MUBIC TA Peaml Coiaatie Amserica LIV This image that wen

Entry by Jordan Rudow

Did these rats get cancer from eating GMOs? No, they didn't! These are Sprague Dawley rats, which develop tumors naturally regardless of what they eat

Entry by AM Smiley

No, photos like this don't prove that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16. We know from her clothes that she was a size 8 for most of her career, and never e

Entry by Mad Mann

A Rolling Stones album cover rewrites history. 1971-2003 ROLLING STONES RARITIES The cover for Rarities 1971-2003 features an old photo of all Stones

Entry by PandaPoo

Snowball is a monster cat. Except that he isn't. This photo of Snowball went viral in 2000. A year later, the owner admitted he edited the image on

Entry by Quo

CRACKED COM This inspirational iceberg never existed. Part of the iceberg was photographed in Alaska, and the rest in Antarctica. In all, four separat

Entry by Phighter

This is an uncropped photo of the Tiananmen Square Tank Man. T Seeing the whole picture, you can appreciate the sheer magnitude of what this ballsy

Entry by Richie Ryan

This photo of Bob Dylan and Hurricane Carter was staged. Upon visiting the wrongfully jailed boxer, Dylan was disappointed there weren't any bars fo


The Cottingley Fairies fooled grown-up people. Both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Kodak Company said the photos showed no signs of faking. As it turn

Entry by curbowman

There's more than one first in this photo. This was the first time an airplane took off. It was also the first time the photographer had ever used a c

Entry by gicusudoru

The little girl with Stalin didn't get much kindness from Stalin. Being used as a propaganda prop didn't help Gelya Marzikova or her family. Her fathe

Entry by PandaPoo

Mussolini wanted this photo all to himself. The fascist dictator didn't look heroic enough with a guy handling his horse- so the guy was edited out. C

Entry by zoke

Clarence H. Long was the original Marlboro Man. A ranch foreman, his picture in Life magazine inspired Marlboro execs to use him in a campaign to bran

Entry by ChevySpoons

Bobby Kennedy literally fell out of this busboy's grip. Juan Romero was the first person to assist Kennedy because he was shaking the presidential can

Entry by Kanklefest

These workers were only pretending to take a break. It was part of a promotional photo shoot. The potential 840-feet fall with no safety harnesses was

Entry by GrannyGrump

This was the second flag raised at Iwo Jima. The first flag was too small, and they had to procure a bigger one.