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The Hoax Photo Archive — Photo Fakery Throughout History
Category: Death
The Missing Pole. (May 4, 1970) This photo of a young woman screaming with grief over the body of a shot student at Kent State University is one of the most famous images of the 20th Century. But in the original version of the photo, a fence pole was positioned directly behind the head of the woman. Sometime an unknown photo editor airbrushed it out. More…
The Falling Soldier. (September 5, 1936) Despite allegations that Robert Capa staged this famous war photo, historical research shows that he did not. More…
Death in the Air. (Published in 1933; debunked in 1984.) Spectacular images of World War I dog fights were eventually exposed as photos of model airplanes. More…
Ada Emma Deane’s Armistice Day Series. (November 1924) Spiritualists claimed this image showed the spirits of dead war heroes. A newspaper identified the faces as living football players. More…
Ocean Execution. (December 1913) The New York American ran this photo, claiming that the parents of the children had been killed by Mexican soldiers. It said, "The children were driven into the water, forced to hold their hands above their heads, and shot in the back." This was a case of false captioning. The picture was actually an innocent snapshot taken by a holidaygoer in British Honduras. The children had been playing in the waves and raised their arms in order to make a better picture. More…
The Martyr Lincoln. (late 1860s) Following the assassination of Lincoln, the Army didn't allow any pictures to be taken of him in his casket. Therefore, con artists stepped in to fill the demand. This image was one of many that circulated purporting to show the dead President, but it's fake. It shows a man lying down, probably only pretending to be dead. But that man is not Lincoln. More…
A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep. (Taken in 1863. Exposed as a fake in 1961.) Civil War photographers used a corpse as a movable prop. More…
Mumler’s Spirit Photos. (1861-1879) Image created by William Mumler, 1872. "Bronson Murray in a Trance with the Spirit of Ella Bonner." Mumler created the genre of the spirit photo: ghostly images supposedly caught on film. More…
Interior of the Secundra Bagh. (March or April 1858) Human bones were disinterred and scattered around to recreate the aftermath of a battle. More…
Portrait of the Photographer as a Drowned Man. (1840) Louis Daguerre was the first to patent a photographic process. But Hippolyte Bayard had independently invented a rival photographic process known as direct positive printing, and had done so as early as Daguerre, but his invention didn't earn him fame and riches. Frustrated, he created a photograph to express his feelings, showing himself pretending to be a suicide victim. More…

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.