We’ve all seen images on social media that we immediately dismiss as hoaxes. Yet these images, no matter how bogus, often spread throughout cyberspace, and many gullible people come to accept them as fact. On the other hand, some real photos are so incredible, skeptics often wrongly dismiss them as bogus. We’ve collected 10 of our favorite photos in this category. They are all authentic, even if many discerning people would glance at them and say, “No way.”
10. Massive Tornado Threatens Small Town
Nothing makes for a more sensational photo than one that has elements of danger. Hence the number of bogus tornado and shark photos circulating in cyberspace. This one is legit, however, although it likely depicts a wall cloud from a mesocyclone, not a true tornado. The USA Today reports that this photo was taken in Orchard, Iowa, in 2008. The photographer, Lori Mehmen of Orchard, said the funnel pulled back into the clouds without touching the ground. No injuries were reported.
9. Jet Buzzes Apartment Tower
Residents of this apartment building get a close look at a U.S. Navy F/A 18 Super Hornet jet during an exhibition in Detroit in 2009. The pilot got clearance to fly lower than normal regulations during a flyby as part of powerboat races on the Detroit River. Detroit Times photographer Steve Perez’s angle and telephoto lens make the jet appear much closer to the building than in reality, although this was clearly a close encounter for residents. Navy officials reported, “no one on the ground or in a building was ever at any risk.”
8. Deer Caught in Forest Fire
A couple of deer are framed against a raging fire in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest. John McColgan, a fire behavior analyst with the U.S. Forest Service, captured this photo on Aug. 6, 2000. What makes people skeptical about this photo is that it makes the rounds on social media seemingly every time there’s a major forest fire, each time labeled as a “new” photo.
7. Big Horn Sheep Defy Gravity on Dam
They’re not bighorn sheep. And they’re not clinging perilously to a dam in Montana or Wyoming. But this is a real image of Alpine ibex goats appearing to defy gravity as they walk across the face of Italy’s Cingino Dam. The goats walk out on the rocky surface to lick salt from the rocks. No word on this, but one would assume a hapless goat occasionally makes a misstep and plummets to its death.
6. Camel Spiders Threaten U.S. Troops
This one is definitely not for anyone who has arachnophobia. This photo began circulating shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, reportedly showing two camel spiders. Camel spiders are very real, a member of the Arachnida class. But virtually all the other details in the emails or social media posts that usually accompany this photo are pure urban legend. The spiders did not attack American soldiers. They cannot run 25 mph, and they don’t scream when they run. And the skewed perspective in the photo makes them appear far larger than in reality; full-grown camel spiders only grow to about 5 inches or so.
5. Drug Bust Yields Stacks of Cash, Weapons
What does almost a quarter of a billion dollars in $100 bills look like? Now you know. Even in the world of big-money drug dealers, it’s astounding to think law enforcement could make a bust of this magnitude. But according to the BBC, this drug bust really happened in 2007. Mexican police raided a luxury home in Mexico City, and confiscated more than $205 million in U.S. currency, along with drugs, weapons and other currencies.
4. Sandstorm Bears Down on Iraq
Many people who live in a desert region can quickly vouch for the authenticity of this photo: Sandstorms not only look this scary, they are potentially dangerous for motorists, and those with respiratory conditions. This photo was captured in Iraq during a large sandstorm in 2005, but similar images have been taken of monster sandstorms approaching Phoenix and other areas in the American Southwest.
3. Giant Crocodile Killed in Africa
Photos of enormous animals are always popular on social media. This photo that made the rounds in early 2012 reportedly shows a 20-foot crocodile killed in Zimbabwe. The crocodile is real, although the perspective of the photo makes it seem far more immense than its actual size (notice how far back the people in the background are posing). One cryptozoology website, noting the largest crocs on record are in the 21-foot range, estimated the length of this creature at 14-15 feet. That’s about average for an adult croc, hardly the dinosaur-like scale this image portrays.
2. Shark Stalks Kayaker
Several years ago, biologist and photojournalist Thomas P. Peschak began using kayaks to track great white sharks off the coast of South Africa. Mission accomplished — here, Peschak captures an image of a great white following fellow researcher Trey Snow. The image, first published in Africa Geographic, earned Peschak worldwide recognition. Media outlets called and emailed, all wanting to know the same thing: is the photo real? Peschak insists it is authentic, and details how he took the photo on his website, www.thomaspeschak.com.
1. Tornado and Lightning
This looks far too spectacular to be real, a jagged bolt of lightning illuminating the perfect funnel cloud. Taken by National Geographic photographer Fred K. Smith over Lake Okeechobee, Florida, in 1991, this photo has since become probably the most famous tornado photo on the planet, buzzing around social media almost any time there is a deadly tornado in the news. It is actually a waterspout, basically a tornado that occurs over water.