76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

We debunked dozens of fake photos this year, covering everything from Charles Manson’s baby photos to John Lennon’s skateboarding skills, and everything in between. It was another busy year for anyone spreading fake images on the internet.

Below, we have 76 photos that you may have seen floating around the internet in 2015. Some are deliberate photoshops created by people who want to deceive. Others are just images that got mixed up in this big, weird grapevine we call the internet.

If you get to the bottom of the list and you’re hungry for even more fakes, check out last year’s round-up.

1) Is this Charles Manson as a baby?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Despite what historical picture accounts on Twitter might insist, this isn’t Charles Manson as a baby. I contacted Jeff Guin, author of the definitive biography, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson. He said that it’s almost certainly not him.

From Guinn:

While I was researching my book, Manson’s sister and first cousin shared family photo albums with me. That photo was not present in either instance, and in no way matches the verified photos I have of Manson as a baby. (The facial features above all.) I have never seen this picture before. Anything’s possible, but I very much doubt that this is a photo of Baby Charlie.

My guess? This one likely started as a joke on Facebook or Reddit and spread quickly as a real photo after losing context from the original poster.

Fake image via HistoryInPics and Imgur

2) Is this a behind the scenes photo from National Geographic?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

It’s an amusing photo. But that image of National Geographic photographers running from a bear has definitely been photoshopped.

As commenters on Reddit point out, there are actually a few clues that this is a fake. But the most damning bit of evidence in the photo? The bear appears to be from a stock photo.

Below, a side-by-side of the image with the stock photo. Notice the shape of the bear’s head and the green piece of grass in front of the bear’s right arm.

The redhead in the photo, Tim Sparks, has confirmed via Twitter that it’s a fake that they made back in 2011 during a film location scout in Colorado. He says it was posted to Facebook and it went viral from there. I spoke with him for a follow-up.

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Fake image via HistoricalPics

3) Is this an old magic trick gone wrong?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

With a caption like “magic trick gone wrong”, it’s easy to imagine the photos above as depicting a magician nearly escaping from drowning. We’re left to think a scantily clad performer heroically grabbed an axe and freed a grateful woman. The problem? That’s not what these pictures show at all. And in fact, the real story is far more interesting.

The woman with the axe, Kitty West (also known as Evangeline the Oyster Girl), smashed the glass box in rage. West was a burlesque performer on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during the late 1940s. Her act included emerging from an enormous oyster shell, thus the name Oyster Girl. One night in 1949 a rival performer from out of town, Divena the Aqua Tease, got top billing over West, which seemed to really upset her. Divena’s act involved an underwater strip tease in a giant glass case filled with water. So you can see where this is going.

“I just wanted to break the tank in a million pieces,” West would later recall. Life magazine reported that 1514L of water poured onto the stage, causing many in the audience to flee. Once the water had drained, West attacked Divena by pulling her hair. West was promptly arrested, and the whole thing (complete with photos of West at the police station) was published in Life.

Inaccurate photo description via OldPicsArchive

4) Is this Princess Diana giving the finger?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, that’s not Princess Di flipping the bird. It’s another photo by Alison Jackson, a British photographer known for her staged images of celebrity lookalikes.

Historical photo accounts on Twitter are constantly posting Jackson’s images. Twitter is littered with countless Marilyn Monroe and JFK images that are actually Jackson’s handiwork using lookalikes. Throw this one on the pile.

Fake image via OldPicsArchive

5) Is this a photo from NASA of India during Diwali?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As the space debunker FakeAstroPix points out, this “NASA photo” of India during the Hindu festival of Diwali is fake. It’s actually quite an old fake as well, dating to at least 2012. But that doesn’t stop so many OMGSPACE and OMGSCIENCE Twitter accounts from sharing it here in 2015.

What does it really show? It’s a composite of satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2003 that has been shaded different colours. The different colours are supposed to show population growth over time. Cool image? Sure. But not what so many people say it is.

Fake photo via AmazingPicX

6) Is this an anti-weed ad?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, this isn’t an anti-drug ad. it’s actually a photo by Martin Ferko of Anna Guimm, a designer whose method of creating ceramic dolls involves putting them in an oven. Someone has photoshopped anti-weed messaging onto the image.

Normally, this kind of thing would be done in a kiln, but Guimm’s DIY oven method seems to work perfectly fine for her. Even if it makes for a terrifying image when taken out of context.

And before you rush down to the comments to let me know that nobody thought this was a real ad, allow me to assure you that there is always someone who thinks it’s a real ad.

Inaccurate photo via Reddit

7) Is this a 1950s car show?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

The photo above does come from a car show that took place at a Thrifty Drug store parking lot in Los Angeles on 15 May 1954. But it’s not exactly as it would have appeared to people who were actually there.

The photo was colorized by Rik Hoving back in 2006, though the HistoryInPics version crops out mention of his name. Colourised photos aren’t necessarily “fake”. But as I’ve said before, we have to ask ourselves what happens to history when a colourised photo supplants the original in web searches.

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

HistoryInPics often tweets colourised photos without identifying them as such. To be honest, this seems like a rather minor sin compared with all the other misinformation they spread. But it’s something that we need to keep in mind with all these historical photo accounts.

Who decides that the green car is actually green and not blue or black or even purple? Photo colourisers are often dedicated people who painstakingly research possibilities before altering historical documents. But when their work is shared without any mention that the photo has been colourised, the people of the future are left with a rather skewed impression of history.

Colorized photo via HistoryInPics

8) Is this a shooting star and its reflection?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As the always excellent Twitter photo sleuth PicPedant points out, the picture above isn’t a shooting star. It’s actually a 2-minute long exposure of a space shuttle launch in 2010. By leaving the camera’s shutter open for 2 minutes, the launch appears to be a long fiery trail. But it’s most definitely not a shooting star.

Inaccurate photo description via TheMindBlowing

9) Is this a kitchen chair floating in space, referred to as “Escape Vehicle No. 6” by astronauts?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Could there really be a kitchen chair in orbit? No. This image comes from a 2009 ad campaign by Toshiba for LCD TVs. Sadly, there is no chair currently circling the globe.

The title “Escape Vehicle No. 6” comes from a 2004 art piece by Simon Faithfull that was similar in concept. Faithful says that Toshiba’s ad agency approached him about a collaboration but he didn’t work on the ad.

Fake image via HistoricalPics and SciencePorn

10) Is this an “incredibly rare” black lion?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, there are no black lions. As the Museum of Hoaxes points out, this is a pure photoshop job. The original photo shows that the lion is actually white.

Fake image via TheMindBlowing

11) Is this an 1880s female street gang from London called the Clockwork Oranges?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Those are some dapper looking women who might rough you up if you met them in a dark alley. But whoever they were, they weren’t an 1880s female street gang called the Clockwork Oranges.

There were indeed female street gangs in 19th century London. But the term Clockwork Orange wasn’t used in reference to a street gang until Anthony Burgess’s 1962 book. According to Burgess, the book gets its title from an old cockney slang phrase “as queer as a clockwork orange.”

As the caption to the obviously cropped photograph reads: “group of women having a smoke, gelatin silver print c. 1896.”

Fake image via OldPicsArchive and the Victorian Academy of Magick

12) Is this really Einstein riding a bicycle near a nuclear test?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

This photo may seem like one of those that’s so absurd, no one could ever believe it deals. But people do. And they keep sharing it far and wide across social media. Like a cockroach scurrying around during Nuclear Winter, the image just won’t die. But yes, it’s a fake.

Fake photo via OldPicsArchive

13) Is this scientist Marie Curie?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, that’s not the world renowned scientist Marie Curie. As Joe Hanson from PBS points out, the photo on the left actually shows Susan Marie Frontczak, a stage performer who plays Marie Curie in a production called Manya. The real photo of Curie circa 1913 appears on the right.

Embarrassingly it’s not just spammy Twitter accounts that have mistaken the actor for the real Curie. The country of Togo even based a postage stamp on the photo of Frontczak. Yikes.

Fake image via OldPicsArchive

14) Is this Vladimir Putin in 1988 posing as a tourist to spy on Ronald Reagan?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Everybody knows that Vladimir Putin was is a former KGB agent. But is that actually Putin in 1988 posing as a tourist behind the boy that’s about to shake Ronald Reagan’s hand? Nope.

This fake has been around for a few years now. And to be honest, the guy doesn’t even look like Putin if you ask me. Now it’s entirely possible that the guy is an undercover KGB agent. The photographer who took this shot seems to think so. But Putin was stationed in Dresden when this photo was snapped in Moscow. It’s almost certainly not Putin.

Inaccurate description via Reddit

15) Is this Heath Ledger as The Joker kick-flipping over Batman?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Notoriously awful Twitter account HistoryInPics posts a lot of fake content. And sadly they don’t even tell the truth when their “history” is a recent as 2008.

No, that’s not Heath Ledger on the set of The Dark Knight kick-flipping over Christian Bale. The funny part? Ledger was actually known for skating around on location while shooting in Chicago. But the photo above is totally fake.

Fake image via HistoryInPics

16) Is this a group of prohibitionist women?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Ever wonder why everyone in this “prohibitionist photo” has such a cartoonish expression? Because they were actors. This image actually comes from an old Thomas Edison film made sometime between 1893 and 1901.

Edison’s early films often parodied suffragists and women of the temperance movement during the late 19th century. This pro-temperance message wouldn’t have been out of place in some circles at the turn of the 20th century. But it’s an image that was meant to lampoon the anti-alcohol movement. And it appears that it’s still working over a century later.

Fake image via OldPicsArchive

17) Is this Salvador Dali drawing a penis on a woman’s forehead?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Salvador Dali never painted a cartoon penis on a woman’s forehead, signing it Picasso. Or at least if he did, it was never photographed. The woman in the photo is Dali’s wife Gala and the painting he’s doing is known as Medusa’s sleep.

Fake image via OldPicsArchive

18) Is this a rare photo of an Onna-bugeisha, one of the female warriors of Japan?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, this photo doesn’t show a female warrior from 1870s Japan. As the debunker website Hoax of Fame explains, the image actually shows a kabuki actor. This photo went up for auction back in 2012.

Inaccurate photo description via ThatsHistory

19) Is this a hockey goalie in 1966 before masks became standard equipment?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As the always brilliant PicPedant points out, this photo indeed appeared in the pages of Life magazine in 1966. But the scars and wounds of this hockey goalie were applied by a make-up artist. They were intended to represent all the injuries this hockey player received during his career.

As Life explained in 1966:

This face belongs to Terry Sawchuk [wrote LIFE], a 36-year-old goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Re-created here, by a professional make-up artist and a doctor, are some of the more than 400 stitches he has earned during 16 years in the National Hockey League. Sawchuk has sustained other injuries not shown here: a slashed eyeball requiring three stitches, a 70% loss of function in his right arm because 60 bone chips were removed from his elbow, and a permanent “sway-back” caused by continual bent-over posture.

So yeah, it’s kinda real. But the photo tells a misleading story when you strip out the context from the magazine and add your own caption about safety equipment.

Fake image via Historyepics

20) Is this an Earthrise from the perspective of the moon on 24 December 1968?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

On 24 December 1968 the astronauts of Apollo 8 took a gorgeous shot of the “earth rise” as came from the dark side of the moon. It was the first photo of our planet from the perspective of another planetary body. In 2013 NASA produced a computer-generated re-creation of what those astronauts saw, in full colour. But ever since, people have been passing the re-creation around as an authentic photo. The original is the black and white photo on the right.

Fake image via HistoricalPics

21) Is this the bodies of two people in Nevada thought to be buried alive in 1993?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

These aren’t the bodies of two people horrifically buried alive in the 1990s. They’re actually the bones of two people found outside Mantua, Italy back in 2007. And the bones date back as much as 6000 years.

The two people are thought to have been no more than 20 years old and were deemed the Lovers of Valdaro because they were found locked in an embrace. We don’t know how they met their end exactly. But the one thing we know for sure is that they weren’t buried alive in the Nevada desert during the Clinton administration.

Fake image via NotExplained

22) Is this a real screenshot from Wheel of Fortune?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

You may have seen this Wheel of Fortune screenshot gag going viral recently. Is the answer really “Luck Be In the Air Tonight”? Nope. It’s just a photoshop job from start to finish.

The big clue that this one is fake? If the answer is really supposed to be “Luck Be In The Air Tonight,” then why is the letter I missing from the word “air”? The only logical explanation? The answer must be the lewd one everybody was thinking.

Fake image via jmoneytooreal

23) Are these real penguins with donated jumpers?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

You may have recently seen the heartwarming story of Australia’s oldest man (109 years young!) who knits jumpers for penguins. The story is currently making the rounds with an adorable photo purporting to show the grateful penguins of Australia’s Phillip Island. The only problem? Those penguins in that particular photo are totally fake.

The photo comes from the Penguin Foundation’s Facebook page. As they explained in the comments to the photo when questioned about the fake-looking birds:

We had a little help from some toy penguins, Jenny. Our photographer tells us they’re the best models he’s ever worked with – no demands for water that’s been purified by unicorns in Peru and minimal make-up required because they’re all naturally good looking. Plus, we’re all about positive body image and welcome toy penguin models of all shapes and sizes!

So there you have it. The other thing that the aggregated and regurgitated stories scraping the original (and true!) story from Nine News don’t mention? The penguins don’t really need jumpers anymore. Jumpers were originally used on penguins after a 2000 oil spill. They kept the birds from preening themselves and potentially ingesting oil before they could be properly cleaned. Many people jumped at the chance to help, but pretty soon, the clean-up organisations had more penguin-sized jumpers than they would ever need.

There was another call for penguin jumpers in 2014 by the Penguin Foundation to stockpile in case another oil spill ever happened. But, again, they were quickly inundated with more jumpers than they could handle.

As the Penguin Foundation noted after the outpouring of jumpers, they don’t need any more:

** Please note that we have plenty of penguin jumpers at this time donated by generous knitters across the globe for rehabilitation in the event of an oil spill, fundraising and education programs and do not need any further donations at this time. Thank you kindly for your interest in knitting to support the little penguins of Phliip Island! Further information on the program and how penguin jumpers benefit little penguin conservation can be found below. Thank you! **

To be clear, the story of Australia’s oldest man and his earlier efforts to make knit jumpers is totally real. But that photo and the impression that this is an ongoing need is simply not true.

24) Are these school lunches from around the world?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

They look pretty delicious, but those “typical” school lunches from around the world aren’t so typical. They’re actually misleading promotional photos from an advertising campaign for a health food store called SweetGreen.

As Mother Jones points out, the photo purporting to show a typical school lunch in Greece should have been a big red flag. Sadly, given the country’s financial woes, Greece doesn’t have the resources to provide the kind of meal pictured. They point to an article in the New York Times that explains schools in Greece, “do not offer subsidized cafeteria lunches. Students bring their own food or buy items from a canteen.”

This isn’t to say that American public schools aren’t woefully lacking in nutrition compared with much of the industrialized world. But these staged photos are far from an honest depiction. SweetGreen updated their post to admit nearly as much, even if they hedged in the process: “These images are not intended to be exact representations of school lunches, but instead, are meant to portray different types of foods found in cafeterias around the world.”

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Fake images via Tumblr

25) Is this a whale swimming through Venice?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, that’s not a whale making its way through the canals of Venice. It’s actually a composite image by artist Robert Jahns, who’s responsible for another famous viral fake involving Venice freezing over. It’s a cool picture, but not a true one.

Fake photo via SundayFundayz

26) Are these the tallest mountains on earth as seen from space?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As Twitter user Janne Ahlberg mentions, the image is actually completely computer generated. It was created by Christoph Hormann back in 2006. And to be honest, the more I look at it the more I want to play Myst.

Fake image via BEAUTIFULPlCS

27) Is this a whisky vending machine in a 1960s office?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Yes, that’s a whisky dispenser. But it’s not from an office in the 1950s or ’60s, as it’s so often captioned. According to Getty, it’s from a vending machine exhibition in London in 1960. We don’t have any evidence that this machine was used in an office, no matter how badly we want to believe that’s the case.

Thanks to shows like Mad Men, people here in the 21st century have a tendency to think that everybody in the offices of the 1960s were constantly hammered. And while drinking on the job was more socially acceptable than it is today (at least for white collar workers at the highest ranks of companies), the people of the 1960s weren’t constantly drinking.

Inaccurate description via Imgur

28) Is this a creepy passageway in an abandoned church?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Nope. As one Reddit user explains, the image actually comes from a house called the Black Moon Manor in Indiana. The Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures “investigated” the house back in 2011. The image above only gets a passing glance on screen, probably because if you think too hard about how over the top the image is, you’ll conclude it’s all bullshit. (Which it is.)

The funny part? Even within the paranormal investigation community, Black Moon Manor was known to be a fraud. The man in the episode who claims to be the owner of the house was actually just leasing it to run a haunted house. The backstory they tell in the show (of a shady doctor from the early 20th century who conducted experiments on measles patients) is total bullshit.

The writing on the wall around the hole was clearly done by regular old contemporary humans looking to get a rise out of people. The Black Moon Manor house was destroyed in 2012, the year after the episode aired.

On an unrelated (but hilarious) note, my favourite thing about the episode is when the host of the show steps into a local library and says, “I really don’t think I’ve been in a library since grade school.”

Fake image via NotExplained

29) Is this a rare colour photo of the attack on Pearl Harbour?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

PicPedant sets the record straight, explaining that the photo actually comes from a publicity still from the 2001 movie Pearl Harbour. That’s right. The one with Ben Affleck.

Fake photo via KnowFactsDaily

30) Is this an Alaskan Tree Frog?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As Hoax of Fame points out, there’s actually no such thing as an Alaskan Tree Frog. The image is quite clearly a cartoonish frog on top of what I’m guessing is a stone heart. Frustratingly, I can’t seem to find an example online. But I’m almost certain I’ve seen this one (in its non-frozen form) before. If you know where this frog comes from please let us know in the comments.

Fake photo via FascinatingPics

31) Is this the full moon as seen from Australia?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Australia is a gorgeous country, filled with cute animals, gorgeous sunsets, and stunning night skies. But this photo purporting to be a full moon in Australia is a bunch of hooey. (Please excuse my strong language.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Who in their right mind would believe this was real? The answer? The over 1000 people who retweeted the image. And plenty more, as it has made its way through Pinterest and Facebook.

Fake image via SpacePornx

32) Are these Ewoks in owl form?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

These “owls” might be cute, but they’re not real. They’re adorable toys, made by Russian artist Marina Yamkovskaia. And for what it’s worth, they definitely look more Labyrinth to me than Star Wars.

Fake image via Imgur

33) Is this Time magazine’s definition of a perfect body in 1955?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, the photos above aren’t from 1955. And they weren’t Time magazine’s definition of a “perfect body.” As Snopes points out, the photo actually shows adult film star Aria Giovanni in a photo taken in 2004. The photo is currently going viral in its black and white form, perhaps to make it seem more vintage.

The “perfect body of X year” has actually turned into quite the meme. It’s usually meant to be empowering for women and a reminder that the cliched aspiration to achieve the body type of rail-thin models isn’t the norm — or at least hasn’t been through most of history.

But in this case it’s hard to see this as necessarily empowering for women in any real capacity. It’s quite literally a porn star, and this particular version of the meme was almost certainly started by trolls.

Fake photo via History_Pics

34) Is this a tree growing through an abandoned piano?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, a tree didn’t grow its way through an abandoned piano. This photo was taken by a Flickr user back in 2010, and as Twitter user Janne Ahlberg points out, the piano was placed there by an artist named Jeff.

Jeff, for what it’s worth, sounds a bit unstable. He explains in a video about how he got the free piano and then started “talking” to the trees for permission to place the piano in the woods:

I was gonna do different stuff with the piano. And then I was going around and I started talking to some trees, and basically found that one tree that would fit perfectly — that wanted the piano. So as soon as that tree kinda gave me permission to do that I kinda went ahead and did it.

Um, sure Jeff.

Fake photo via Abandoned Pics

35) Is this Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson posing together as the Joker?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Well, no, that’s not Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson. They’re action figures. Really well done action figures, I’ll grant you. But action figures nonetheless.

Fake image via Imgur

36) Is this Martin Luther King Jr. flipping the bird?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No matter how many times this photo of Martin Luther King Jr. is debunked, it always seems to pop up again and again on sites like Imgur, Reddit, and Pinterest. It’s a photoshop job.

The real photo (on the right) actually shows King reacting in St. Augustine, Florida, after learning that the Senate had passed the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. He’s holding up two fingers, not one.

Fake photo via Pinterest; Imgur

37) Is this Shanghai in 1987 and 2015, after “26 years”?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Yes, that top photo does show Shanghai in 1987. But the bottom photo is from 2013, not 2015. It’s a relatively minor factual error, but it reveals the sloppiness of these “historical pics” accounts. The vast majority just scrape photos from Reddit and Imgur. And in this case they were savvy enough to know that the current year would garner more shares. But not savvy enough to know that they’d have to change the maths to alter it from 26 years to 28 years.

Inaccurate description via HistoricalPics

38) Is this Paris Hilton wearing a shirt that says “Stop Being Poor”?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Recently an Imgur set of wealthy famous people saying terrible things made the front page. The top image shows Paris Hilton (remember her?) wearing a shirt that says “Stop Being Poor.” As easy as it might be to believe, it’s actually a photoshop job.

The photo was taken in 2005 and her shirt actually says “Stop Being Desperate.” Hilton may have spent her entire career trying to instigate a class war, but she didn’t do it by wearing a shirt imploring people not to be poor.

Fake photo via Imgur

39) Is this a supermoon in Dubai?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Close, but the photo on the left is actually photoshopped. As PicPedant points out, the original photo was taken by Mo Aoun and shows the moon off to the side. The moon in the altered photo is also larger than the original. This seems to be a case of people taking something beautiful and making it literally unbelievable.

Fake photo via AstronomyHD

40) Is this a megalodon shark next to a German U-Boat in the 1940s?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Back in 2014, a dumb megalodon documentary was released by the Discovery Channel for Shark Week in the US. It was completely fake. But something tells me that we’ll be living with the fake facts peddled by that show for many years to come. If you’ve seen the image above, don’t believe it. The photo is totally fake.

Fake image via ScaryPIct

41) Is this a real cloud that looks like a dragon?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

This “cloud dragon” is kinda cool, but don’t go thanking Mother Nature. Thank the Photoshop gods. It was created by Deviant Art user StrixCZ.

Fake image via Internet Palace

42) Are these early suffragettes in 1921 eating pizza in large groups to annoy men?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As Tumblr user IronGall explains, there are so many things wrong with the caption to this photo. Like almost everything about it, aside from the year.

First off, these weren’t “early suffragettes” in 1921. The Nineteenth Amendment, which gave American women the franchise, was ratified in 1920. Secondly, these women aren’t eating pizza. They’re eating pie, as you can see from a closer crop of the photo below. In fact, they’re having a pie eating contest, according to Shorpy. Sure, they’re relatively flat pies. But they’re still pies. Pizza didn’t become popular in the United States until after the second World War.

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Thirdly, it’s unclear why women eating pizza in a large group would “annoy men”. Whatever the origin of this caption, it probably went through a lot of changes in retelling before it arrived at Twitter’s doorstep.

Inaccurate description via Historyepics

43) Is this a quote from Charles Darwin about strength, intelligence, and survival?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, Charles Darwin never said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

The quote actually comes from a business professor who was writing in 1963 and trying to paraphrase what he interpreted as Darwin’s ideas. Not only that, but the date on the image makes it look like it was something Darwin said in 1809. That was the year that Darwin was born. Bright baby, that Darwin.

And what about that photo of Darwin? Well, it’s based on a real photo. But that hand isn’t Darwin’s. Oh, and the photo has been flipped horizontally. The real photo is on the left. Basically everything about this image is garbage.

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Fake image via History_Pics

44) Is this a newspaper from Lincoln’s assassination?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Last week newspapers around the world acknowledged the anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. And to illustrate the story, some news outlets used the cover of a newspaper above. The only problem? It doesn’t date to 1865. As Erin McCann discovered, the image actually comes from a 2008 children’s book, reprinted in 2011. Yikes.

Fake image via Boston Globe

45) Is this Albert Einstein in a “vintage” Mentos ad?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Amazingly, this Albert Einstein ad for Mentos is real. But it’s not so “vintage,” as many accounts on Twitter would have you believe. It was created in 2004 by ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai in India. It’s unclear whether the ad ever made it past the pitch stage. The “vintage” claim wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t imply that it was done in Einstein’s lifetime and with his approval.

As a bonus, check out this fake “vintage” Skype ad on the right, from the same Twitter account. Everything about that “vintage” ad is truly fake in every sense of the world. But maybe it didn’t have to be.

Fake image via This Is Stunning

46) Is this a photo of empty store shelves in Venezuela?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

This photo went viral last week when some people claimed that those empty shelves were a product of Venezuela’s socialist policies. The embarrassing part? It’s not a photo from Venezuela. It’s from Texas.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin recently wrote an article criticising US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and his quest for what she characterised as Venezuelan-style socialism. When The National Review originally posted the story, it included the image above — a dirtied up version of the original photo, which you can see below. But as the blog Little Green Footballs points out, the pic actually comes from a Walmart in Austin, Texas.

Apparently the photo was taken in the lead up to Hurricane Rita in 2005, as anxious shoppers stripped the shelves of nearly everything. So it’s an understatement to say that The National Review‘s original caption for the photo, “Venezuela’s vibrant economy”, was more than a little misleading.

As Malkin points out on Twitter, she didn’t choose the photo, The National Review did. Her column is syndicated by a number of different news outlets and each chooses their own art to accompany any given post. Now the question is, where did The National Review pull the image from?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Image via National Review

47) Is this a Six Flags amusement park in Texas underwater?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

The recent flooding in Texas has been devastating to local communities. We’ve seen some chilling photos come out of the Lone Star state. But the photo above isn’t one of them. The image actually shows an Atlanta theme park that was flooded back in 2009.

Yes, the photo is real. But like so many images that we see floating around social media after natural disasters, this one doesn’t show the thing it purports to show.

Fake image via McCartyConnor

48) Is this Ted Cruz trying to find a clitoris?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

We’re just 525 days from the 2016 US presidential election, so you know what that means… BRING ON THE POLITICAL FAKES!

The latest in political fakery? In the photo above, Ted Cruz supposedly points at an illustration of a vagina, unable to identify the clitoris. If such an image sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. This fake was make by a chucklegoof site known as 41cm City.

Other gems from this Chicago-based knock off of The Onion include, “Rahm Emmanuel vows to destroy Jesus” and “BREAKING: Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to be re-named ‘Ugly Person Express’”. Classy stuff, 41cm City.

Fake image via @ChiefElk by 16inchcity

49) Is this Jimi Hendrix playing an accordion?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

I guess 2015 will be known as the year that OldPicsArchive overtook HistoryInPics as the Worst Twitter Account Ever™. At least when HistoryInPics gets called out for posting garbage, it only rarely posts that image again. OldPicsArchive doesn’t seem to care. Take, for example, this old fake that keeps popping up.

No, that’s not really Jimi Hendrix playing an accordion in his boxer shorts. It’s a crudely done photoshop job. The original photo is on the right. For whatever reason, people love to photoshop accordions into Hendrix’s hands. Just take a look at this one from a website called Worth 1000.

Fake image via OldPicsArchive

50) Is this a photo from the Texas floods?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Hold on to yer butts — we have another fake photo from Texas. When a news station in Houston asked viewers for photos from the flooding, they received a number of breathtaking shots. But one image that they wound up publishing looked a little out of place.

Is the photo above from the flooding in Texas and Oklahoma that has claimed the lives of 28 people? Nope. It’s a screenshot from the original Jurassic Park movie.

Fake image via Reddit and KHOU

51) Is this Hillary Clinton posing for a photo in front of the Confederate flag?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Nope. It’s a fake. Well, at least the flag part is. The original photo comes from her time at Wellesley College and doesn’t have the flag.

Noted conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza tweeted the fake photo earlier today, which helped it go viral in some circles. D’Souza has acknowledged it’s a fake by tweeting, “CORRECTION: Disregard the photoshopped Confederate flag in the background of the Hillary photo and simply focus on those glasses and hairdo”.

Are there other photos of Hillary Clinton with a Confederate flag? Possibly. But don’t get fooled by this one.

And as for all those campaign buttons of the Clintons featuring the Confederate flag? Some scepticism is probably needed there, too. Historically, many campaign buttons are unofficially produced by supporters and not endorsed by the campaign in question.

52) Is this an eclipse from 10,668m?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

This photo, purporting to show an eclipse from the perspective of 10,668m in the air, is actually 100 per cent fake. As Twitter sleuth Fake Astropix points out, it’s a computer generated image created by Deviant Art user Nethskie in 2010.

Definitely a cool wallpaper for your computer, but not exactly what so many of these OMGSpace Twitter accounts would have you believe it is.

Fake image via SpacePicsHQ

53) Is this John Lennon skateboarding?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

There are actually some wonderful historical photos of movie stars and musicians on skateboards — including Katharine Hepburn and Jodie Foster. But don’t be fooled by the image above. It’s completely fake.

As journalist Scott Jenkins points out, the photo doesn’t show John Lennon skateboarding. It actually comes from the set of the Beatles’ 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night, and was photoshopped to include a skateboard.

Fake photo via History_Pics

54) Is this proof that Sandra Bland was dead before her mugshot was taken?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Sandra Bland was arrested in Texas after failing to use her turn signal and later committed suicide in jail. People took to social media to talk about the injustice, but some people took things to a strange (and poorly photoshopped) level of conspiracy theory, filled with half-truths and lies.

Some on Facebook and Twitter, while trying to promote the narrative that Bland was actually murdered in prison, think that her mugshot shows her lying on the ground. People have even circulated the badly photoshopped image above, claiming it’s the “real” mugshot. In fact, the image on the left is obviously the fake one.

The authorities in Waller County, Texas have released the footage of her being booked, as well as her mugshot being taken. She was clearly alive at that point. Which doesn’t mean that her arrest and subsequent suicide weren’t a gross miscarriage of justice. But when it comes to questions surrounding her being dead at the time her mugshot was taken, this one is settled.

It’s unclear who first made the photoshopped image on the left, but whoever it is, they’re not helping bring Bland justice.

Fake image via FINEWINE

55) Is this a dog that saved the life of an abandoned newborn?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As Snopes explains, this photo doesn’t depict the story that’s often attached to it. The image went viral after being posted on the Facebook page of a radio station in Albuquerque back in March of 2014. And it seems to flare up again every few months.

According to the viral image:

A newborn baby abandoned in a forest was saved by a stray dog who carried her across a busy road and through a barbed wire fence to a shed where the infant was discovered nestled with her litter of puppies. Covered by CNN and CBS. Definitely a mans best friend.

Yeah, that never happened. There have been stories of dogs saving babies in many capacities. But the story attached to this stock photo isn’t true.

Fake image via 93.3 KOB-FM

56) Is this Hillary Clinton getting pranked at a campaign event?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

The political fakes are coming fast and furious, despite the fact that we’re still over a year away from the 2016 US Presidential election! And presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (sorry, but it’s not too early to say that, given the amount of money she’s raised) is a popular target.

A Facebook group called Nation in Distress posted the image above, which supposedly shows Hillary Clinton oblivious to the fact that she’s being pranked. The only problem? It’s a fake. And a bad one at that.

The real photo below:

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Fake image via Nation in Distress

57) Is this Elvis cutting Johnny Cash’s hair?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Yes, that really is Elvis Presley. But no, he’s not cutting Johnny Cash’s hair. That’s Elvis’s cousin Gene Smith. For comparison’s sake, you only need to look at the real Johnny Cash on the right. Not even close, right?

Inaccurate photo description via HistoryInPix

58) Is this the world’s happiest elephant?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, that’s not the world’s happiest elephant. It’s actually a robot featured at the Disneyland attraction Jungle Cruise. It sure looks happy, but that’s because Disney made it that way. We’ll see how happy it looks when the robot uprising starts and Disney’s robo-elephants enslave humanity.

Inaccurate photo description via AnimaIPic

59) Is this a Haitian woman defending her son?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, this isn’t a Haitian woman defending her son. It’s actually a film still from the 2013 movie Cristo Rey. The image first went viral in May of 2014 and has been doing the rounds again in the past few months.

Haitians living in the Dominican Republic are under tremendous stress this summer as strict immigration and residency laws go into effect, creating a refugee crisis. But this photo has nothing to do with the real situation on the ground there.

Fake image via Devilligan

60) Is this Subway selling pea-filled guacamole?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

It will be known to our descendants as the summer of peas. What started as a controversial New York Times food article about adding peas to your guacamole turned into the hottest and dumbest social media debate of the summer. And, of course, it inspired plenty of fakes.

But despite what you might have seen online, Subway isn’t adding peas to its guacamole. It was just a photoshopped joke. This pea-soaked cocktail, on the other hand, is all too real.

Fake image via Cabel

61) Is this the pope pulling a tablecloth trick?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for the fantastic feats of Chill Pope! Today, he’s showing off a classic: The old ‘yank a tablecloth, leaving everything else on the table undisturbed‘ trick. It’s a miracle! Except that it’s totally fake.

The video showing Pope Francis doing the second coolest thing you can ever do (the coolest is to remove your glasses to reveal that you weren’t just a nerd, but actually a really hot person all along) has been heavily edited by the team over at The Ellen Degeneres Show. You can see Ellen setting up the joke in the clip below:

Someone has even put together a side-by-side video of the original video with Ellen’s fake (and impressive!) CGI’d Pope shenanigans. Sadly, Chill Pope just sets down some flowers and leaves.

Could the Pope actually pull that trick off without the use of special effects? Probably. Will he? Only a Doubting Thomas would demand to see it. You’re not a Doubting Thomas, are you?

h/t Laughing Squid; Gif by Andrew Liszewski

62) Is this real lightning flashing over a volcanic eruption?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

The BBC is one of the most trusted news sources in the world. But its reputation took a major hit this week after it was revealed that it faked footage of lightning in a volcano for a TV special called Patagonia: Earth’s Secret Paradise.

The producers of the BBC show superimposed lightning that was filmed in 2011 over a volcanic eruption from 2015. As Casey Chan said when the video was doing the rounds, “it almost looks like a painting that’s been animated. The burst of bolts almost looks fake.”

It did look fake! Because it was! Sometimes nature’s magic tricks look too good to be true. And sometimes that’s because they are indeed way too good to be true.

Fake image via BBC; Gifs crafted by Andrew Liszewski

63) Is this the author of That’s So Raven, Edgar Allan Poe?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

There’s a Twitter account called AhistoricalPics that uses ridiculous photos and captions to mock those history-in-pictures accounts we all know and love. These supposedly factual Twitter accounts often just steal tweets from each other, creating Twitter’s version of an ouroboros — or, perhaps more accurately, a human centipede.

So it’s not surprising, (yet still hilarious), that History_Pics, an account with nearly 1.7 million followers, stole a tweet from AhistoricalPics — the parody account. Needless to say, Edgar Allan Poe didn’t pen the hit TV series That’s So Raven. Though admittedly, I would have loved to see that show adapt Poe’s short story The Cask of Amontillado. That’s so Mason.

Fake image via History_Pics and parody account @AHistoricalPics

64) Is this a real Coca-Cola ad?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, that isn’t a real Coke ad showing how the men of history brutally conquered the world. Oddly enough, it’s an ad for advertising itself and wasn’t sanctioned by the Coca-Cola company.

“How did Coke succeed where history’s most ambitious leaders failed?” the ad reads. “By choosing the right weapon. Advertising.”

As the advertising blogger Copyranter points out, this ad probably comes from a 1980s advertising trade journal (based on the font), and was produced by a Texas-based agency called The Richards Group. Is the ad insensitive? Sure. Was it made by Coke or any of its rivals? No.

Fake ad via Brilliant Ads on Twitter

65) Is this Obama on the phone?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, that’s not Obama talking on a phone upside down. It’s a photoshop-job that first circulated in both conservative political circles and pro-Hillary Clinton forums in 2008. You might notice that the photoshopped image includes a clock showing that it’s 3:00. That was in reference to Hillary Clinton’s infamous anti-Obama attack ad.

It’s 3AM and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders; knows the military; someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world, it’s 3AM and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?

Clinton’s ad ran during the Democratic primary season and was supposed to stir fear that Obama didn’t have enough experience in foreign policy and shouldn’t be trusted. And we all know how the rest of that primary season panned out.

Fake image via Twitter

66) Is this an opium party in 1920?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As Twitter debunker HoaxEye points out, the photo above doesn’t show a real-life opium party. It actually comes from a silent French movie circa 1920. The film, Dandy-Pacha, was directed by Georges Rémond, and while it looks like a mighty fun time, it’s not a candid photograph of people chasing the dragon.

Fake image via SadHappyAmazing on Twitter

67) Is this a Florida couple who were arrested for selling tickets to heaven?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, these people weren’t arrested for selling tickets to heaven. As Snopes points out, it’s a total and complete lie, fabricated by the fake news site Stuppid. Anyone passing around this story as true probably should have seen the name of the news site as their first clue that this one is a hoax. The people featured in the photo had nothing to do with Stuppid’s idiotic fake story.

Fake via Unessentialist on Twitter

68) Is this a raccoon helping his kitten friend?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Could it be? Is this raccoon helping his little kitten buddy by kindly bringing him to some friendly humans? Does this photo restore your faith in humanity, or raccoonanity or whatever? Well, prepare to be disappointed. It’s a fake, as you can see by the original photo on the right.

And as the legendary Twitter debunker PicPedant points out, it’s an old fake, dating back to at least 2010. But that hasn’t stopped it from being spread far and wide. Raccoons are actually quite vicious. If you ever see a raccoon gently bringing you a living cat, be prepared to step outside and see The Rapture or something.

Fake image via MeetAnimals and Reddit

69) Is this a real sign in Michigan calling for the death of America?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

These days it’s easy to make fake signs on the internet. Like, really easy. And the sign above it just one example of the thousands you’ll find online.

How easy? Well, here’s a sign I made using one of those church sign makers. And I assure you it’s 100 per cent true.

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Image via Twitter/Facebook

70) Did the BBC really caption this “posh booing“?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

This screenshot of the BBC’s caption with “posh booing noises in background” has gone viral on both Facebook and Twitter. But it’s a total fake.

The fakery was created by Twitter user TechnicallyRon. And despite the fact that major news outlets have re-published this screenshot of Jeremy Corbyn, it’s a complete photoshop fabrication.

But I have to admit, as an American, anything in a British accent sounds pretty posh to me.

Fake photo via Twitter

71) Is this a real ad for potato sauce?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As James Lileks at the Minneapolis Star Tribune points out, the “vintage ad” on the left for something called potato sauce definitely looks real. But it’s a fake. It’s unclear who created it, but the ad always pops up on those “weird/gross food history” sites. A real ad for Nalley’s is on the right.

Nalley is a food company, founded in 1918, that has produced all kinds of snacks and dips in its century-long history. But this ad for “potato sauce” was concocted in Photoshop. One big tip off? The font used on the bottle for “Norgold Russet” is called Life Savers, which didn’t exist at midcentury.

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Another clue that this one is a fake? Nalley’s tagline reads: Nalley’s is adequate! A ringing endorsement, indeed!

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Fake photo via Pinterest

72) Is this the new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a baby?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Canada just elected a new lefty Prime Minister after a decade of conservative government. And while there are plenty of embarrassing photos and video of Justin Trudeau, the pic above isn’t one of them. No, that’s not Fidel Castro holding Trudeau as a baby. It is, however, Justin’s late brother Michel.

For those who don’t follow Canadian politics (I’m going to guess this means every American) Justin Trudeau is the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who served in that position from 1968 until 1984. The family was taking an official diplomatic trip to Cuba in 1976, where baby Michel Trudeau is seen in the arms of Castro.

The photo is real. It’s just not Justin.

Inaccurate description via HistoryInPics

73) Did Donald Trump really say in 1998 that Republicans were dumb?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

There’s no evidence that Trump ever said this, in People magazine (where it’s most often credited) or anywhere else. In fact, in 1999 Trump said he was a registered Republican. So you can tell your uncle who keeps posting this on Facebook to settle down. Trump’s Republican bona fides may still be in question, but this quote is a complete fake.

Fake quote via Twitter

74) Is this Abraham Lincoln posing with Edgar Allan Poe?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

No, that isn’t Abe Lincoln posing for a photo with Edgar Allan Poe. As Yoni Appelbaum at the Atlantic points out, it’s from the book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The photo on the right, however, I can assure you is totally real.

Fake via HistoryInPix and Imgur

75) Is this Lucille Ball on her wedding night in 1940?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

The photo above on the left is being passed around the internet as Lucille Ball on her wedding night in 1940. But it’s a publicity shot from her 1942 movie, The Big Street with co-star Henry Fonda, as you can see from the dress she’s wearing on the right. Ball wore wedding dresses on a number of occasions while acting, including the 1953 film The Long, Long Trailer.

Imgur, you got some ‘splainin to do!

Inaccurate description via Imgur

76) Is this Michele Bachmann saying something stupid about “illegal Mexicans in China”?

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

As the political fact-checking website Politifact points out, this is totally fake.

Michele Bachman never said, “There are those who say a border wall won’t work. They just don’t have the vision Donald Trump does. The Chinese built a Great Wall 5,000 years ago. You don’t see any illegal Mexicans in China.”

It’d be hilarious if she had said it. But much like the Trump quote above, she didn’t. Thanks to the internet, you can make anyone look like they have said just about anything. What a time to be alive.

76 Viral Images From 2015 That Were Totally Fake

Fake via Facebook

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