19 Rare & Haunting Photographs That Will Make You Reconsider History

Some images define history: an early snapshot of the Statue of Liberty; Neil Armstrong first setting foot on the moon; a defiant man standing before a tank in Tiananmen Square; the Beatles walking down Abbey Road. But the other angles are rarely seen: the Statue of Liberty under construction in France, for example; or the man in Tiananmen Square fleeing from the tanks in the background; or even the Beatles, flipped around, walking down Abbey Road in the opposite direction. Check out the full series here:

Some of the images twist and meld our perceptions of people and events, and shed light on moments once cemented in society’s collective memory. Take, for example, the beautifully restored shot of Helen Keller meeting, and feeling the face of, silent film star Charlie Chaplin. (Who knew they even met? How was she able to appreciate his art?) Another telling photograph shows an American citizen punching out a South Vietnamese man, presumably to ensure his own spot on an evacuee helicopter.

One photo of the bunch, however, has been proven false: the alleged snapshot of a 1971-era Osama Bin Laden in Sweden, clad in trendily colorful clothes, second from the right in a green shirt and blue pants:

Osama Bin Laden’s family? Not quite. (Via Imgur. Click for larger image.)

Not only was the original image in black-and-white, but the decade-old hoax was officially debunked by journalist Steve Coll in his book The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in an American Century:

“Years later, one of the boys in the photograph, the second from the right, would be routinely identified in media accounts as Osama Bin Laden. There is certainly a resemblance, but Bin Laden family members said emphatically that this was a case of mistaken identity—Osama did not travel to Sweden with the group and was not in the picture. The family’s testimony seems convincing, as it comes from varied sources, including some, such as Carmen Bin Laden, who have been adversaries of the family.”

Don’t let that spoil the 19 other photos, though. They’re still lost gems in their own right.

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  1. Bruce Carleton says:

    The info about the man punching the evacuee in Vietnam is almost all wrong. He was a businessman who organized flights into Danang (not Saigon) right before it fell. It was an airplane (not a helicopter). The plane was already dangerously overloaded but panic stricken people, some of them fleeing ARVN soldiers, kept trying to get on. If he hadn’t prevented them, the plane couldn’t have taken off. The flight he had organized and paid for himself was a humanitarian gesture, and somehow he’s being remembered as a selfish creep. It makes me wonder about the rest of the captions.

  2. Philip Kilvington says:

    The description of the American evacuee fighting for a place on a chopper during the fall of Saigon is incorrect. The photo was taken during the evacuation of Da Nang and it shows a crew member of a rescue Boeing 727 trying to shut the cabin door against a tide of terrified people, after the aircraft was totally full.

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