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Top 10 Disturbing Pictures to Keep You Up at Night
By Robert Grimminck,
Toptenz, 20 December 2015.

The clichéd saying that a picture is worth a thousand words couldn’t be truer about these pictures. They capture shocking and disturbing moments in human history and since they’ve found their way to the digital age, they will probably be around until people don’t use the internet anymore. They are stark reminders of the vulnerability of life and the depth of human tragedy.

10. The Ghost of Mary Lee


The Waverly Hills Sanatorium, located in Louisville, Kentucky, was opened in 1910. Originally, it was only supposed to house 40 to 50 patients suffering from tuberculosis, but then the United States was hit with a TB pandemic that was spreading across the world and the hospital was expanded to house more patients. With so many patients suffering from the fatal disease, a lot of people never left the hospital alive. Between 1924 and 1961, approximately 6,000 people died in the sanatorium. One of the more interesting aspects of the sanatorium is the “body chute.” It is a 485 foot long tunnel that is on a 45 degree angle and once someone died, their body was put down the chute. The sanatorium was shut down in 1961 after the cure for TB was found, and it has been abandoned ever since.

In 2005, a paranormal researcher was visiting the abandoned buildings and snapped this picture. On the right hand side of the picture in the hallway, there appears to be the ghost of a young girl. The researcher believes that it is the spirit of a nurse named Mary Lee, who is pictured on the left. According to the story, Mary Lee had a relationship with one of the doctors and she found herself pregnant. She was unwed, and out of shame, she hanged herself in room 502. Unfortunately, her body wasn’t found for some time. Also, according to the story, another nurse leapt to her death from room 502, but she was not identified.

9. Columbine Senior Class Picture


At first glance, this looks like a typical class picture from the late 1990s. What is actually so eerie about this large group of smiling students is that this is the 1999 senior class photo from Columbine High School. This was the second of two photos taken of the students. The first one was just a normal picture, and for the second picture they were allowed to act a bit more silly and wild. If you look to the top left hand corner (or the insert picture below), you’ll see 17-year-old Dylan Klebold and 17-year-old Eric Harris, along with their friend, Brooks Brown, and they are pretending to aim guns at the camera.


This photo was taken in the spring of 1999, just weeks before the April 20th mass murder. On that fateful day, Brooks saw Klebold and Harris arrive late to school. Harris told Brooks to leave school, then he and Klebold walked into their school cafeteria and started shooting random students. Over the span of 50 minutes, the pair murdered 12 students and one teacher, along with injuring 21 other people before taking their own lives.

8. The Grand Canyon Reaper


This picture was taken in the early 1970s or early 1980s, and it was uploaded to reddit by a user named ZombieGandaffi in 2013. According to ZombieGandaffi, the man in the picture standing near the cliff is his uncle. A few weeks after the picture was taken, his uncle had the pictures developed, and that is when he noticed that as he stood on the cliff, a young, tall, pale, and bald man wearing a black hood was standing behind him in the bushes, staring at the camera. The user who posted the picture said that neither his uncle nor the photographer noticed anyone standing behind him when the picture was taken.

There has been a lot of speculation as to who, or even what, the figure is. Some people think the figure is the embodiment of death. Or another theory is that it’s a young man who planned on pushing the uncle off the cliff, but when he saw the camera and a witness, he changed his mind and remained hidden.

7. Starvation in the Sudan


This heartbreaking photo was taken by James Nachtwey, a photographer for Time Magazine. The picture was taken in 1993, and the man, who is too weak to stand, is dying from starvation at a feeding center in the South Sudan. The famine in the country stemmed from a civil war that started in 1983. And sadly, this picture doesn’t even depict the famine at its worse. In 1998, the famine reached epidemic levels and it is believed that over 70,000 people died due to a lack of food and water, while over a million people were affected. Currently, famine is still a problem in the Sudan, with 4.2 million people expected to be affected by it and 30,000 are expected to die unless something is done to address the issue.

6. Dean Corll’s Unknown Victim


The picture above may not be the clearest, but it is one of the most terrifying pictures on the list. It is a Polaroid that was found in the possession of a man named Elmer Wayne Henley.

In 1971, when Henley was 15-years-old, he met a man named Dean Corll, who lived in Houston, Texas. Corll told Henley that he would pay him US$200 for every boy that Henley brought to him. Over the next two years, Henley, and another accomplice named David Brooks, brought Corll victims and Corll ended up torturing and murdering at least 28 boys. Corll, who was given the nickname “The Candy Man,” was shot to death by Henley on August 8, 1973. Henley and Brooks were arrested and given life sentences.

The boy in the picture, who looks terrified, is handcuffed, and in the foreground is Corll’s toolbox full of his torture devices. The boy has never been identified, but police believe that he is Corll’s 29th victim.

5. The Fire Escape Collapse


On July 22, 1975, photographer for the Boston Herald, Stanley Forman, was heading home for the day when he learned there was a fire at a row of old Victorian houses nearby. Forman arrived in time to see 19-year-old Diana Bryant and her 2-year-old goddaughter, Tiare Jones, on a fire escape at the back of the building about 50 feet above the ground. A firefighter was on a ladder and he asked for Diana to hand over the toddler. Before she could, the fire escape gave way and Diana and Tiare fell. Diana was severely injured and died as a result of the fall later that night. Diana actually ended up saving Tiare by breaking her fall.

The accident led to stricter laws and regulations regarding fire escapes throughout the country. Forman won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography and the World Press Photo of the Year for the series of five photographs of the tragedy unfolding.

4. Regina Walters’ Last Picture


This is a picture of 14-year-old Regina Walters, a runaway from Pasadena, Texas. Sadly, this is the last picture of her ever taken, and the reason she looks so terrified is because of the man who took it. His name is Robert Ben Rhoades, a serial killer who kidnapped Walters two weeks before the picture was taken.

In early 1990, Rhoades, who drove an 18-wheeler, picked up Regina and her boyfriend, Ricky Jones, in Texas. Rhoades quickly murdered Jones and then locked Regina up in his torture chamber in the cab of his truck for two weeks. While Regina was held captive, Rhoades cut all of her hair off and made her wear the dress and high heeled shoes in the picture. Shortly after taking the picture, Rhoades murdered Regina and left her body in an abandoned barn.

Rhoades was arrested about two months later and was convicted of kidnapping and murder. In 2012, Rhoades confessed to two additional murders, a newlywed couple he killed in 1990. He is currently serving life in prison.

3. Keith Sapsford


Fourteen-year-old Keith Sapsford had developed a taste for travel after his family went on a trip around the world in 1969. Looking to go on more adventures, Keith hatched a very dangerous plan. On the morning of February 22, 1970, wearing nothing but a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, Sapsford walked to the Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney and was able to hide in the wheel well of a plane bound for Tokyo. When the plane took off, the doors of the wheel well opened up and Sapsford fell 150 feet to his death.

2. The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel


In 1975, an older woman noticed that there was something odd about 23-year-old Anneliese Michel, who lived in Klingenberg, Germany. Anneliese would avoid a certain picture of Jesus, she wouldn’t drink from a holy spring, and she smelled bad. An exorcist from a nearby town came and examined Anneliese, and he determined that she was possessed by a demon. The bishop in the area consented to the exorcism and over the course of six months, three priests and Anneliese’s parents took part in 67 exorcism rituals to rid Anneliese of the demon. Sadly, Anneliese ended up starving to death in July 1976.

The picture on the left was Anneliese before the exorcisms started and the picture on the right was taken after the exorcisms had been going on for a few months. After Anneliese died, two priests and her parents were arrested and convicted of manslaughter. Anneliese’s story was the basis for the 2005 movie, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

1. Dennis Rader


The person in this picture may look like he or she is the victim of some deranged person, but it is actually a picture of notorious serial killer Dennis Rader, otherwise known as the BTK killer. Rader murdered 10 people, some of them children, in and around Wichita, Kansas, between 1974 and 1991 and then suddenly stopped. During his killing spree and the time period after, Rader led a normal life. He was married with two kids and was an active member of his church. He was finally arrested in 2005 after he resumed sending letters to the police and media, taunting them and threatening to start killing again. After he was arrested, he confessed and was given 10 life sentences.

When looking through Rader’s possessions, the police found a disturbing array of pictures of Rader indulging in bondage, wearing women’s undergarments and a mask, or other times he was wrapped in plastic, or partially buried in a grave. Through a complicated system, he would tie himself up and then have the camera on a timer. One time while he was chaperoning a Boy Scout camping trip, he snuck away and tied himself up too well and almost wasn’t able to free himself. He did only after hours of struggling.

Top image: Starvation in the Sudan: Kevin Carter's Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of a Sudanese child and a vulture. Credit: Kevin Carter/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]