Shocking Historical Photos
Every once in a while, a photographer captures an image that is so shocking it can change the course of history. They say a picture says a thousand words.
We’ve compiled a huge list of some of the most iconic pictures in history. Many of them were taken decades ago. There are even a few from as far back as the American Civil War.
Son Dying of AIDS
Published in November of 1990, this LIFE magazine photo changed the way America viewed AIDS. A son, dying of AIDS, is comforted by his father and family.
Bison Skull Mountain
By the 1870’s, bisons had been hunted to near-extinction. Here’s a picture of a mountain of bison skulls, to show just how many were killed in a short time.
Frozen Soviet Soldier
The Finnish were no fans of the invading Soviet troops from Russia. They decided to use this frozen Soviet soldier’s body as a scare tactic to demoralize the approaching Soviet troops.
Spontaneous Human Combustion Victim
This is a 1972 picture of a victim of spontaneous human combustion, where a person suddenly burst into flames for no apparent reason.
Collapsed Fire Escape
A babysitter and girl falling from a collapsed fire escape in 1975 during a fire. They were seconds away from being rescued by a fireman. The child survived by landing on the babysitter’s body.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
In 1937, if you lived in the city and wanted your kids to get some sun and fresh air during the day, this is what you got them! What could possibly go wrong?
Eerie Gravesite Photo
In the early 1900’s, this photo was taken at a gravesite. The eerie visitor was not discovered until years later!
This is a real photo from 1937 of a man in the American midwest after he had shot a grasshopper.
Staked Vampire Heart
Auguste Delagrange was supposedly a vampire who killed over 40 people. In 1912, he was killed and his killers even staked his heart, just in case.
A Hiroshima A-Bomb victim shows his scars, 6 years after America dropped the bomb on the Japanese city. America would drop a second bomb on Nagasaki just 3 days later.
Who Needs Gun Control?
The NRA would be proud of this bad boy. This is the “Punt Gun,” which could kill 50 ducks in one shot. It was so bad, they outlawed it IN THE 1860’s!
Terrible Human Being
Turkey is responsible for the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Here’s a photo of a Turkish official teasing starving children with a piece of bread.
The Hindenburg Disaster
While we all love airships from any steampunk themed movie or anime, real life airships proved to be quite dangerous. The Hindenburg disaster in 1937, which crashed in New Jersey, is the most notable example.
Tower Of Booze
Witness the tower of booze. Unfortunately, this picture was taken in 1924, near the beginning of Prohibition. What followed could only be described as a crime against (drunk) humanity. The entire stash was set ablaze to rid the world of this alcoholic scourge.
Photographer On The 69th Floor
This photographer’s name was Charles Ebbets. He took his famous “Lunch Atop A Skyscraper” photograph just after this picture was taken, in 1932. Behind him you can see New York City as seen from the 69th floor of the GE building.
Executing A Communist
This picture of German soldiers executing a communist in Munich in 1919 might have been staged. It is unknown whether it is German propaganda or communist propaganda, but judging by how “bravely” the communist is standing, it’s probably the latter.
Boy And Dead Brother
This heart-wrenching 1945 photograph shows a young boy standing at attention after having brought his dead brother to a cremation site.
This famous colonel’s name was Anthony Biddle. He was a hand-to-hand combat expert and dared his soldiers to try an kill him after surrounding him. They were never able to and he managed to disarm them all… everytime!
Hitler & Frostbitten Soldier
This early 1940’s photo has Hitler comforting a frostbitten German soldier who tried to salute him.
Fell From Space
Vladimir Komarov, a Soviet cosmonaut, lost control of his space craft and fell to Earth, where he managed to successfully re-enter the atmosphere… only to have his space craft crash into the Earth in 1967. These are his remains.
When Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted on June 17th, 1991, it spewed forth huge amounts of pyroclastic flow, which you see this truck attempting to escape. Pyroclastic flow can move in excess of 600 mph.
This British foot soldier was either too hot, or too overwhelmed with Queen Elizabeth II’s visit, and passed out in June of 1970.
Saigon Execution Of War Criminal
In 1968, this Viet Cong war criminal was executed by the Saigon Police Chief. The photo was used by American anti-war activists, but did not tell the whole story. The photographer said he felt terrible for ruining the Police Chief’s life since he had been correct to execute the murderer, who had killed many government officials, as well as their families.
Kids For Sale
This woman (and her husband) had trouble keeping a roof over their heads and were unemployed, so they sold their kids in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. The children did not have good lives and some were abused in their new homes. The mother never regretted her decision when they eventually found her, and didn’t love them. She had 4 more kids later.
Harvey Milk Verdict Riot
In 1979 San Francisco, when the judge returned a verdict of involuntary manslaughter for Dan White, who had killed Harvey Milk, the gay community lost it. This is a picture of the protest/riot that followed immediately afterwards.
German Soldier Buries English Soldier
A German soldier in WWII buries an unknown English soldier that was killed in air combat in the Egyptian desert.
Check Out My New Ride
In 1924 Ohio, these young men were enjoying their brand new vehicle. It traveled a mind blowing 25 miles per hour.
It’s Lonely In Montana
Before the advent of Tinder and Match.com, Woodsmen in Montana put out an advertisement. 
Soviet In Berlin With Hitler’s Head
A Soviet soldier carrying Hitler’s head, after capturing Berlin in 1945.
Queen Elizabeth II & Marilyn Monroe
In October of 1956, Marilyn Monroe meets Queen Elizabeth at a film premiere in London. Both women were 30 years old at the time.
Michael Collins, the astronaut who took this photo, is the only human, alive or dead that isn’t in the frame of this picture, 1969
Girl With Doll During WWII London
Little Girl With Her Doll Sitting In The Ruins Of Her Bombed Home, London (1940)
Child With Bear During WWII
Little Girl With Her Doll Sitting In The Ruins Of Her Bombed Home, London (1940)
Cathedral of Amiens In WWII
The inside of the Cathedral of Amiens during World War II.
Dear Hitler, Signed Gandhi
Letter from Gandhi sent to Adolf Hitler in 1939.
The B**C* Of Buchenwald
Ilse Koch, the “bitch of Buchenwald”, in captivity. Her atrocities involved making human skin lampshades. 1941
Priest & Dying Soldier
The priest and the dying soldier, 1962
Final US Public Execution
The last ever public execution in the United States, 1936.
Civil War Rations For Prisoners
Union prisoners receive rations at Andersonville in 1864
The only person ever struck by a meteor, Ann Hodges survived and was left with this massive bruise. Dr. Moody Jacobs shows off this unbelievable tale of survival. 
First Niagara Falls Survivor
Annie Edison Taylor, the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, 1901
Socialist Politician Asanuma as he was assassinated by 17-year old Yamaguchi in Tokyo, 1960.
Onions Are Too Much For Soldiers
Soldiers use gas masks to stop them from crying while peeling onions. 
Civil War 50th Anniversary Reunion
On the 50th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, veterans of the Union and Confederacy reunite civilly, and shake hands. 
Last prisoners of Alcatraz leaving, 1963
Pre-WWII German Shooting Practice
Shooting practice for German soldiers in 1935.
King Tut’s Sarcophagus
The Greatest treasure find ever. Opening of King Tut’s sarcophagus (1924)
Human Ashes At Concentration Camp
Soviet soldiers stand dumfounded at a large pile of human ashes found at the Majdanek concentration camp in 1944
The Face of Crazy. The severe effects of shell shock, what we now know as PTSD, on a WWI soldier. 1919
The Eagle’s Nest
Dick Winters and Easy Company (Band of Brothers) are pictured at Hitler’s residence, the Eagle’s Nest.