Top 10 Normal Looking Pictures With Disturbing Backstories



Top 10 Normal Looking Pictures With Disturbing Backstories

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
A picture is worth a thousand words, but some will leave you speechless. For this list, we'll be looking at photos that seem normal at a glance, but have more tragic, dark, or disturbing backstories involving the subjects within. Our countdown includes Christopher McCandless, The Last of John Lennon, Dutch Girls of Panama, and more!
Script Written by Nick Spake

Top 10 Normal Images With Disturbing Backstories

A picture is worth a thousand words, but some will leave you speechless. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Normal Images With Disturbing Backstories.

For this list, we’ll be looking at photos that seem normal at a glance, but have more tragic, dark, or disturbing backstories involving the subjects within.

#10: Christopher McCandless

With a grin across his face, the man in this picture appears to be waving hello, but he was actually waving goodbye. This bearded explorer is Christopher McCandless, the subject of the 2007 biopic “Into the Wild.” Leaving his old life behind, McCandless decided to fend for himself in mother nature’s backyard, eventually seeking refuge in an abandoned Fairbanks Bus 142. In August 1992, the 24-year-old McCandless died at Stampede Trail, Alaska, most likely due to starvation. Based on the last self-photo he took, it’s evident that McCandless knew his days were numbered. While it’s hard to make out, the paper McCandless is holding is his farewell message, reading, “I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!”

#9: Lightning Strike

While the numbers vary, the odds of getting struck by lightning are relatively slim. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take lightning safety seriously, though. This photo of 18-year-old Michael McQuilken and his 12-year-old brother Sean has served as a cautionary tale ever since it was taken in 1975. Posing together at Moro Rock, the brothers were goofing around with their hair standing on end. Their static hair and those storm clouds in the background were more foreboding than either realized, as lightning struck them shortly after their sister took the picture. Another hiker died and while the brothers survived, Sean was left with third-degree burns and took his own life in 1989. Michael continues to spread awareness about the dangers and warning signs of lightning.

#8: David A. Johnston

While not a household name, David A. Johnston was a revered volcanologist who, along with the United States Geological Survey, helped save thousands of people through his on-site work. Tragically, Johnston lost his own life in the process. All seems well in this photo as Johnston sits in a chair outside, looking into the camera. Little did anyone know that within the next 13 hours, Johnston would perish in the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. The eruption, preceded by seismic activity, was first reported by Johnston, who radioed the message, “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” Within the next seconds, the signal went out and Johnston was never heard from again. While his remains were never found, it’s believed that Johnson died at Coldwater II, a post that wasn’t as safe as anticipated.

#7: Mark Jackson’s Basketball Card

For diehard sports fans, you’ll recognize the player on this basketball card as Mark Jackson, who started his NBA career with the New York Knicks and later coached the Golden State Warriors. At first glance, this card would likely blend in with the rest of your collection. Take a closer look at the lower left-hand corner, though. You see those two young fans sitting in the front row? They’re Lyle and Erik Menendez, two wealthy brothers who took the lives of their allegedly abusive parents on August 20, 1989. The brothers weren’t arrested for these crimes until March 8, 1990, and in between that time, they spent an extravagant amount of money. It appears some of that fortune went towards Knicks tickets before their apprehension.

#6: Ayano Tokumasu

Remember that scene in “Superman II” where a little boy falls over the rail at Niagara Falls? Well, that sort of thing happens more often than you think, but Superman sadly isn’t around to save the day. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about this photo, which sees several people gathering at Niagara River. The woman in the red sweater is Ayano Tokumasu, an exchange student from Japan. If you think standing on that pillar seems kind of dangerous, you’d be right. Not long after the photo was taken, she lost her balance and fell over the edge, ultimately going down Horseshoe Falls. Tokumasu was swept from the river’s Canadian side to its American side where her lifeless body was discovered.

#5: Bear Photographer

There are countless photos of bears out there and this one doesn’t look much different from all the rest. Since the picture was taken from a distance and the bear isn’t charging, the photographer seemingly isn’t in any immediate danger. After Darsh Patel snapped this pic using his phone, however, the bear started to follow him and his friends. The group split up as the bear began to close in on them, ultimately pursuing Patel. His phone was eventually found with animal teeth marks while Patel’s body was discovered at a nearby ravine. The bear was still hanging around the 22-year-old’s fatally mauled remains and the authorities took the wild animal out. This photo op came at a steep price for Patel and the bear.

#4: The Last of Lennon

We’re all familiar with the music of John Lennon, as well as his tragic fate. Photographer Paul Goresh couldn’t have predicted it at the time, but this would reportedly be the last picture anyone took of Lennon. The image seems innocent enough as the former Beatle signs his autograph for an apparent admirer. Lennon’s impending demise was creeping up in the photo’s corner, however. The man standing next to him is none other than Mark David Chapman, the one responsible for Lennon’s untimely demise. Six hours or so after the photo was taken, Lennon and Yoko Ono encountered Chapman again outside of their apartment building, the Dakota. With Lennon’s back turned, Chapman drew his firearm and the music world would never be the same again.

#3: BTK at Graduation

Dennis Rader was his church’s president, a Club Scout leader, and an all-around pillar of the community. As you can tell from this photo, Rader was also a family man who seemed quite proud of his daughter Kerri at her college graduation. This would all be overshadowed, though, when Rader was exposed as the BTK Strangler, the letters standing for “bind, torture, preferred MO. Over the course of multiple decades, this seemingly ordinary guy took ten lives. In 2005, the authorities used Kerri Rader’s DNA to link her father to a crime scene, amounting to his arrest. Rader pled guilty and was subsequently sentenced to 10 consecutive life sentences. About 14 years after her father was captured, Kerri released a book entitled, “A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming.”

#2: Dutch Girls of Panama

Scrolling through Instagram, chances are you’ll stumble across a number of pleasant photos like these. Standing against a colorful backdrop with green hills and blue skies, 22-year-old Lisanne Froon appears to have a lovely day ahead of her. Froon was on vacation with 21-year-old Kris Kremers, a fellow Dutch student seen in another photo at the same spot. The two set out for a hike in Panama on April 1, 2014 when these pics were taken. This was also the day that Froon and Kremers disappeared, resulting in a grueling search. Ten weeks down the line, Froon’s backpack was uncovered with her camera inside. Froon and Kremers’ remains were eventually found scattered across the jungle with the cause of death still up for debate.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Haiku Stairs
Mystery Man in the Background

Hiking Tragedy
The Woman in the Photograph Survived, But Her Hiking Friend Didn’t

His Master’s Voice
Logo Was Inspired By a Dog That Heard Its Late Owner’s Voice on a Recording

#1: Tyler Hadley & the Red Solo Cup

Mere hours before raising his red solo cup in this pic, seventeen-year-old Tyler Hadley hid his parents’ cell phone and took three ecstasy pills. Hadley proceeded to bludgeon his mother to death with a hammer and then did the same to his father. After cleaning up the mess, Hadley shared on Facebook he was throwing a party that very night. At said party, Hadley told his best friend Michael Mandell all about his heinous actions. Using his phone, Mandell subsequently took this picture with Hadley, knowing it’d be the last time they ever saw each other. Leaving the party, Mandell hid the pills Hadley planned to commit suicide with and called Crime Stoppers. This led to Hadley’s arrest and life sentence without parole.