Unreal Photos Taken Before the Most Tragic Moments in History

Photographs are a permanent, magical-seeming glimpse into a fleeting moment. They offer a peek into another time and place through the perspective of another person’s eyes. Unfortunately, we sometimes find ourselves glancing into a moment of pure misfortune, one that the subjects of a simple photograph would never see coming before it was too late.

Unimaginable Fear

This is beyond disgusting and possibly the most horrifying entry on this list. A 14-year old Texas girl named Regina Kay Walters was held hostage by a crazed serial killer, who took photos of her in distress. He eventually killed Walters, after cutting off her hair and dressing her in a black dress and heels. She is clearly terrified here. Robert Ben Rhoades, “The Truck Stop Killer” was subsequently found guilty of her murder and remains imprisoned today. He is thought to have killed over 50 women, although he only has three confirmed victims.

Love Gone Wrong

In 2008, a salesman named Travis Alexander was killed by his ex-girlfriend, Jodi Arias. This photo of him was taken in the shower, at 5:29 p.m. on the day of his death. His lifeless body was later discovered on the bathroom floor in that same room after he had been stabbed and shot. It is thought that only moments after this photo he was killed.

Stowaway Nightmare

In 1970, 14-year-old Australian Keith Sapsford inexplicably hid in the wheel well of a Japan-bound flight out of Sydney. An amateur photographer testing his new camera lens unintentionally captured the young boy’s free-fall to his death. He dropped an estimated 200 feet until he hit the ground without living to tell the tale.

Wildlife Hazards

A hiker named Darsh Patel was killed by a bear while hiking through New Jersey woods in 2014. He managed to capture images of this 300-pound animal right before it gored him to death. Patel’s phone was later recovered, although quite noticeably, with the bear’s teeth marks in it.

Figure Skating Team Perishes

In 1961, a Boeing 707 aircraft crashed while traveling from New York City to Belgium. 73 people were killed in the tragic crash. This tally, unfortunately, included the entire U.S. figure skating team, which was en route to the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague. Here, the team looks happy to be embarking on their journey.

Fate of a Daredevil

Russian daredevil Pavel Kashin is seen here as he attempts a backflip on a wall next to a 16-story drop. He lost his balance after he landed, and is about to plummet to his death in this photo.

Titanic Disaster

This is the last photo taken of the doomed luxury liner Titanic before she sank in the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. More than 1500 people perished in the horrifying maritime accident.

The Fury of Going Fast

Here’s actor Paul Walker getting into the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT that he ended up dying in just minutes later, after a collision and a fire. Paul’s young daughter Meadow later filed a wrongful death suit against Porsche.

Tsunami Tragedy

Devastation struck Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004, when a massive tsunami pummeled the coastline. 230,000 people perished in the disaster. 31-year-old Deborah Garlick was on vacation in Thailand at the time and was killed by the tsunami. Deborah’s parents found this photo, undeveloped, on her camera after they retrieved her belongings.

Tragedy at Sea

Andrew McAuley was a born adventurer. A passionate mountaineer and sea kayaker, McAuley made two attempts to cross the Tasman Sea. He first attempted the feat in 2006 but halted the mission after just one night because he was unable to keep warm. He tried again in January 2007 but he was presumed dead the following month when his partially flooded kayak was found off the coast of his destination. He was just a day away from completing his mission when he put out a distress call, but it was too late and his body was never found.

Air Disaster

This is the disturbing last photograph of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182. The doomed aircraft collided with another plane over San Diego On September 25th, 1978 at 9 a.m. All 137 passengers aboard were killed, as well as seven civilians on the ground. Twenty-two homes were destroyed as a result of the impact.

On-Air Suicide

Budd Dwyer was the Treasurer of Pennsylvania during the 1980s. On January 22, 1987, he called a news conference. To everyone’s surprise, he pulled out a .357 Magnum revolver and shot himself in the head. His suicide was viewed on television sets across the state. This photo was snapped right after Dwyer pulled the gun out.

Deadly Selfie

Gigi Wu/Facebook
Gigi Wu/Facebook

Gigi Wu was a Taiwanese social media star who was known by the nickname “Bikini Climber.” She rose to fame by posting photos of herself as she climbed mountains while wearing nothing but a bikini. She once said of her hobby, “I put on a bikini in each one of the 100 mountains [I have climbed]. I only have around 97 bikinis so I accidentally repeated some.”

Tragedy struck in January of 2019, when Wu fell from a ravine at Taiwan’s Yushan National Park during a solo hike. The star froze to death, despite having tried to reach friends using her satellite phone. When rescuers finally located Wu, it was too late.

NYPD’s Heroic Finest

Moira Smith, an NYPD officer, is shown below assisting an injured man away from the World Trade Center just after the 9/11 terror attacks. Minutes later, she rushed into the south tower of the WTC to help evacuate more victims when the building collapsed. She was the only female NYPD officer to be killed in the attacks. She was also the first police officer to report the attacks after she witnessed the first building hit by the plane.

Subway Sorrow

Ki-Suk Han, a 58-year-old father, and husband, is pictured below just before his untimely death. The picture was taken after he had been pushed in front of an oncoming train in the New York City subway. By looking at the photo we can clearly see this poor man’s ill-starred fate.

An Unthinkable Kidnapping

An innocent young boy named James Bulger was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten-year-old boys in England in 1993. Poor James was taken from a local shopping center, his abduction was captured in this surveillance footage.

Challenger Tragedy

In 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger broke apart just 73 seconds after launch. All seven crew members were killed. Here they are as they jubilantly prepare to board the craft just hours earlier.

Early Ebola Outbreak

The first outbreak of Ebola, in 1976, killed 280 people. This is a nurse named Mayinga N’Seka, pictured just days before she succumbed to the virus she had helped to fight.

Tempting Fate for a Selfie

This is Xenia Ignatyeva. The 17-year old wanted a dramatic selfie, and she got it. Right after this photo was snapped, she lost her balance and fell to her death.

A Mayoral Disaster

William Becker was the mayor of St. Louis from 1941-1943. On August 1, 1943, he participated in a demonstration for a new aircraft. As soon as it took off, its right wing broke, and all ten passengers were killed. This is the group pictured before takeoff.


This family photo of two brothers (Michael McQuilken, right, 18 and his brother, Sean, 12) was taken on a camping trip in 1975, in California’s Sequoia National Park. The brothers were both struck by lightning soon after the picture was snapped and fortunately, both survived.

The Ultimate Wedding Tragedy

Groom Martin Colquhoun was heartbroken when his beloved mother perished in an auto accident on her way home from his wedding reception. This is the last photo taken of her. What was previously a joyous occasion, will now be remembered for the tragic event afterward.

Terrifying Domestic Terrorist

In the background of this photo you are able to see, domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh with the rental truck that carried the explosives that killed 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. This surveillance photo was captured right before the bombs went off.

A Flight’s Final Moments

This is the 2000 Air France Flight 4590 (from Paris to New York City) as it caught fire during takeoff. All 109 aboard died. The majority of the passengers onboard were on their way to New York to embark on a cruise all the way to Ecuador. This was the only fatal accident ever for the Concorde airplane. After this crash, this type of plane was retired from use.

Horrifying Nightclub Fire

1980s rock group Great White held a reunion show at a nightclub called The Station in 2003. Tragically, the venue caught fire and burned to the ground, killing 100 people. This photo seems to show a band member noticing the flames. It remains one of the deadliest nightclub fires in history. Both the tour manager of Great White and the club owners later stood trial for the deaths.

Niagara Falls Parachuting Nightmare

In a noble attempt to raise awareness for the homeless, Robert Overacker attempted to jet ski over Niagara Falls in 1995. He fell to his death when his rocket-propelled parachute failed to open. Here he is, heading over the falls.

Hindenburg Crash

In 1937, the German passenger dirigible (similar to a blimp) named the Hindenburg caught on fire and crashed in New Jersey. 36 people died in the incident. Here is the aircraft shortly before disaster hit.

A Rap Legend’s Demise

This candid photo was taken just before Biggie Smalls was shot four times in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, California. He died about an hour after the shooting.

Risky Business

This is Brazilian Formula One auto racer, Ayrton Senna, just before the crash that killed him in Italy in 1994. He is remembered as one of the best Formula One drivers of all time.

Politics as Usual

Filipino politician Reynaldo Dagsa was assassinated on New Year’s Day 2011. As you can see, he actually captured a photo of his killer when he took this photo of his wife, daughter, and mother. The assassin is already aiming at Dagsa. This photo provided valuable evidence in the murder trial. Dagsa was only 35 years old at the time of his death.

Dangerous Selfie

A young man named Oscar Otero Aguilar was drinking heavily with his friends one night in 2014. He made a poor choice while drinking and decided to take a photo of himself holding a gun to his head, intending to use it as his Facebook profile picture. The gun went off, killing him instantly. Aguilar was only 21 years old. This photo was taken the night of his death.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was the first Soviet cosmonaut to fly into outer space more than once, and he became the first human to die on a space mission—he was killed when the Soyuz 1 space capsule crashed after re-entry on April 24, 1967, due to a parachute failure. However, because he died when the capsule crashed into the ground, he is not considered the first human fatality in outer space. The above photograph shows the charred remains of Komarov being looked over by Soviet officials during his open casket funeral. Only a chipped heel bone survived the crash.

Foreboding Horror

This photo is just plain spooky! It shows British student Meredith Kercher appears in costume at a Halloween party, next to someone wearing a blood-covered mask. Later that evening, she was brutally murdered in a crime scene resembling a Halloween horror movie set. Originally her roommate Amanda Knox was imprisoned for the crime. Later investigators found evidence that 24-year-old Rudy Guede was found guilty of murder and sexual assault, but many people believe notorious American foreign exchange student Amanda Knox played a role in her grisly death.

Joy Division’s Despair

Ian Curtis was the singer and songwriter for Joy Division, a cult-favorite punk band from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Curtis struggled with depression and epilepsy for most of his life, and his despair was evident in his song lyrics. Curtis is pictured here with his baby daughter Natalie, just days before he took his own life at the young age of 23.

Ride of a Lifetime

Reggaeton Artist Ramon Gonzalez, better known to fans as Jadiel, was killed in a Rochester, N.Y. motorcycle at the age of 27. This was the last photo he ever posted to Instagram… showing that he was a safe rider who used both a helmet and a face protector. Sadly, the protective equipment was not enough to protect him from the crash.

A True Daredevil’s End

Circus legend and famed high-wire walker Karl Wallenda was a true daredevil and often worked without a safety net. In 1978, at age 73, he embarked on a walk 121 feet above the ground, between two hotel towers in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, he did not complete this walk and fell to his death. The accident was captured on film… this photo is from the beginning of Wallenda’s ill-fated walk.

A Pregnant Woman’s Horror

Sharon Tate was a famous actress and model in the 1960s. She and her director husband, Roman Polanski, were two weeks from the due date of their first child when she was brutally slain by members of the infamous “Manson Family” cult, under the direction of Charles Manson. Four other people were killed in the attack. This photo was taken shortly before that fateful and tragic night.

Fiery Plane Crash

In this haunting 2012 photo, Latin American pop star Jenni Rivera is seen hamming it up for the camera on a flight, along with her attorney, publicist, makeup artist, and stylist. Shortly after this happy photo was posted to Instagram, the plane crashed. No one aboard survived.

Car Bomb

This photo appears to depict a normal, smiling group of friends as they hung out in downtown Beirut. But the horror that struck right after the picture was snapped is difficult to believe. Moments later, a bomb ripped through the crowd and killed the 16-year-old boy in the red hoodie, Mohammed Shaar.

Another Human Tragedy

September 10, 2001: James Joseph Kelly took his two sons to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. The game was canceled due to rain, but the three had a great time anyway. Tragically, Kelly was killed the next day during the terror attacks on the World Trade Center.

Texting and Driving Disaster

There are a lot of tragic selfies on this list. In this one, 32-year-old Courtney Ann Sanford grins into the camera in a shot she posted to Facebook while she was driving. Distracted, she crossed the median and was killed in a gruesome car accident. The caption she posted with this selfie? “The happy song makes me HAPPY!”

A Fall of Epic Proportions

A tourist named Colleen Burns of Orlando was visiting the Grand Canyon with friends in 2016. She moved to the side of a trail to allow another hiker to pass, slipped and plummeted 400 feet to her death. Burns had posted this happy photo to Instagram just hours before her fatal accident.

Twilight Zone Tragedy

During the 1982 filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie, a freak helicopter accident killed actor Vic Morrow and two child actors. Six additional helicopter passengers were injured. The entire scene was captured on film and led to an overhaul of movie safety laws. This photo shows the moment directly before Morrow was decapitated. Director John Landis and several other members of the production team including explosives specialist Paul Stewart were taken to court on manslaughter charges. They were subsequently acquitted. The actors’ families later settled out of court for millions of dollars from civil lawsuits.

Violent Prison Murder

In 2010, Australian named Carl Williams was serving out a 35-year prison sentence for murdering three people and planning to murder a fourth. On April 19 of that year, he was beaten to death by another inmate, who used a piece of metal from an exercise bicycle. This CCTV photo shows one of Williams’ last moments alive.

Mount Everest Demise

This photo shows explorers, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, as they attempted to climb Mount Everest in 1924. Unfortunately for them, it was the last photo taken before they both perished. It is unknown to this day, whether they actually reached the mountain’s peak before they died.

Beas River Tragedy

In 2014, 24 engineering students drowned in India when the nearby Larji hydroelectric project unexpectedly released a large amount of water upstream from their group. This group photo was taken just prior to the flooding.

A Historic Moment

This is a photo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife, Sophie, who was the duchess of Hohenberg. They’re shown here in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, moments before both were assassinated. Their murder led Serbia’s allies to declare war on each other, precipitating the beginning of World War I.

Ill-Fated Auto

This was the final photograph taken of legendary, Hollywood heartthrob James Dean. He’s momentarily captured at a gas station with his Porsche 550 Spyder in 1955. This picture was taken just hours before Dean’s fatal car crash in that same car. The totaled automobile mysteriously disappeared in 1960 from a shipment container after being shown at a safe driving presentation.

A Dark Day in American History

On November 22, 1963, a motorcade was driving President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as they were heading through Dallas. This is the final image taken of JFK while he was still alive. He was shot and killed by assassin Harvey Lee Oswald, who was posed at the school book depository building, just moments later.

On-Stage Death

Darrell Lance Abbott, best known as “Dimebag Darrell,” was the songwriter and guitarist of the metal band Pantera. During a December 8, 2004, performance, former Marine Nathan Gale stormed the stage and fatally shot Dimebag Darrell. He also killed three others. Fans attempted CPR on the beloved guitarist, but it was too late and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Hot Air Disaster

On January 7th, 2012, a hot air balloon struck a high voltage power line, and violently caught fire as it was attempting to land. It crashed just north of New Zealand town, Carterton, killing 10 passengers and the pilot. It was the deadliest air disaster to occur in New Zealand since 1963.

Horrifying Plane Crash Kills Entire Soccer Team

It was an incredibly tragic turn of events, for the sports world, in November of 2016. A Brazilian soccer team, Atletico Chapecoense, was headed to a championship game in Medellin, Colombia. They chartered a plane and took this photo in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where they had a layover, before boarding their final flight. Several other soccer players excitedly shared their photos on social media moments before take-off. It would be the last time they’re heard from again. The captain made an emergency call Monday night, reporting electrical failure. Just after, the plane crashed into the mountains, killing 71 people. There were only six initial survivors, but later another soccer team member passed away from injuries in the hospital.

Students’ Demise on Sinking Ferry

More than 300 people, most of them high school students, were killed when a Sewol ferry sank on April 16, 2014. The ferry was reported to be overloaded and not structurally sound. Just before the boat capsized and sank students took video and sent messages to their parents. The crew had instructed the panicked students to stay in their cabins while they filled with water. Some joked around, not knowing how serious the event was about to become. Below is a screenshot from a video a student was taking as the ferry filled up with water.

Captain Lee has been sentenced to 36 years in jail for abandoning passengers as he and several of his crew members escaped death. They failed to give evacuation orders and told the children to stay in their cabins as the ferry sank to its watery grave, 144 feet below sea level. 250 high school students and teachers were killed.

“If You’re Alive Raise Your Hand”

A gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida was attacked on June 12, 2016, when Omar Mateen opened fire on club-goers. The shooting became the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest act of violence against the LGBT community. The shooting lasted for three hours, as Mateen brutally murdered victims with a Sig Sauer MCX rifle and a Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol that can hold 17 rounds. Those still alive were held hostage during the standoff with police. Moments before, and during the attack, victims took videos and sent messages to loved ones. Amanda Alvear was one of the victims in the attack. She took video and posted it on Snapchat just as the first shots were fired into the club. When officers first responded to the horrifying scene, they yelled out this haunting line, “If you’re alive, raise your hand.”

Last Photo Combat Photographer Took

Being a combat photographer means putting yourself in danger every day on the job. Army Specialist Hilda Clayton was doing her job in Afghanistan, documenting a live fire training exercise in July of 2013. However, something went wrong during the exercise and a mortar tube exploded, unplanned. Clayton was killed just seconds after taking this photo, along with four soldiers of the Afghan National Army.

A Long-Lost Photo Of Amelia Earhart

In 2017, a photo was discovered deep within the National Archives. This particular photo is of great importance because it appears to show missing aviator Amelia Earhart and seems to indicate that it was taken post-crash. This means that although she initially survived the crash, we don’t know her fate as she was never seen alive again by those searching for her. The photo, although intriguing, doesn’t answer the 80-year-old mystery of her disappearance.

The Ultimate Fan Horror

Pictured here is legendary Beatle, John Lennon, as he signs autographs for fans outside of his New York City apartment. The man standing next to him is Mark David Chapman, who shot and killed Lennon just moments after this photo was taken. It is one of the most famous assassinations in human history.

A Tragic Final Selfie

Anna Sergeeva was a 25-year-old beautician embarking on a vacation. She booked a last-minute flight to the city of Rostov-on-Don, where she had lived prior to moving to UAE to work in the beauty industry. The photo above shows a selfie Anna snapped before the flight took off. Devastatingly, it would be her last. Flight FZ981 crashed in southern Russia killing all 62 passengers and crew members on board.

Live Wire Tragedy

Many people go to extreme lengths to take a crazy selfie and sometimes it ends in disaster. Anna Ursu was an 18-year-old from Romania who burst into flames after she accidentally touched a live wire while trying to take a selfie on top of a train. The overhead cables sent 27,000 volts through Anna. She later died in the hospital with burns covering 50 percent of her body.

Tragic Train Disaster

Savannah Webster, Kelsea Webster, and Essa Ricker were in their own little world snapping selfies on a train track in Utah’s Spanish Fork Canyon. The three were so preoccupied trying to get a photo next to a passing train that they didn’t even notice the train barreling towards from the other direction. Despite the conductors blasting the train’s horn, the girls still didn’t notice and were hit head on claiming each of their lives.

Moments After The Eruption

On May 30, 1980, a then 19-year-old Jim Hobson and friends were water skiing at Saddle Dam Park. Little did they know that Mt. St. Helens was about to erupt right beside them. The eruption came after a series of earthquakes in the area and is considered the most disastrous volcanic eruption of the century. Miraculously, the boys weren’t harmed by the eruption and even continued to ski while watching the eruption in awe. while the boys were fine, 57 people died from the tragic event.

Calm Before The Storm

This is a haunting image of the World Trade Center during a dramatic storm. It was snapped on September 10, 2001, one day prior to the 9/11 Attacks. Even amidst the turbulent winds, cracking thunder, and stone-cold rain, the towers stand tall and strong for their final hours. This photo not only serves as a reminder to the American People of September 11th’s events but symbolizes the strength needed to endure a difficult time.

The Wedding That Was Just Not Meant to Be

These two happy young women, Collette Moreno (left) and Ashley Theobald (right), were on their way to Collette’s bachelorette party in Missouri when they snapped this car selfie. The women were in a head-on collision just moments later, and Collette didn’t survive. She suffered fatal injuries from the crash and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Doomed Selfie

This is 15-year-old Gary Slok, alongside his mother as they departed for a vacation together. A mere three hours after this beaming selfie, the plane, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, they were traveling on was shot down by a missile. All 296 passengers and crew members perished, including Gary and his mother.

Train Trouble

Jared Michael did not necessarily think this plan through. In an attempt to get a selfie standing in front of a moving train, he put himself directly into harm’s way. He decided to position himself on the tracks, directly into the path of the moving train. However, Jared should be thanking his lucky stars for what happened next…

Lesson Learned

Jared Michael is one of the lucky few on this list. The train conductor spotted Jared just in the nick of time. He was actually able to kick his foot out of the moving train and he pushed Jared out of the way with his work boot. This is one of those moments where you learn a valuable life lesson.

Columbine Hero

David Sanders was a teacher at Columbine High School during the Columbine shooting. The 1999 massacre was carried out by two unhinged seniors. Sanders was captured in a still image here, as he warns students in the cafeteria that there were gunmen on the loose. Immediately after this image was captured, he ran into the hallway where he was gunned down by the psychopaths.

All Smiles

This is a photo that a loving father took of his wife and four-year-old daughter as they headed towards a vacation. All smiles in the picture, this family has no idea that the MH17 plane they’re on is about to be shot down over Ukraine, killing everyone aboard. Investigators believe that passengers remained alive and conscious during the three-to-four-minute plummet from 33,000 feet.