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Photos have a way of conveying intensity, despair, and horror in ways that words often can't. Pictures are one of the most powerful tools criminal investigators have when it comes to solving homicides—and oddly enough, they are one of the most emotionally striking parts of any true crime story as well.
Crime scene photos can be taken before or after a murder has taken place, with the common assumption that they are taken by police. However, there have been cases in which photos of a crime scene (as the crime unfurled) were taken by murderers or nearby people.
Regardless of how they were taken, crime scene pictures tend to give people the creeps. It's evidence of a story that ends in the death of a human being, and one that often will raise more questions than it answers. The same can be said about shots that were taken shortly before a murder was committed.
Just like with any other aspect of true crime, finding the details behind a photo can make it all the more creepier. The following crime scene photos have seriously disturbing backstories, even when the subjects in them are alive.
Harvey Glatman's Glamour Girl Photos
“I would make them kneel down. With every one it was the same. With the gun on them I would tie this 5-foot piece of rope around their ankles. Then I would loop it up it up around their neck. Then I would stand there and keep pulling until they quit struggling." —Harvey Glatman
Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Glatman was known for sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint. However, it seemed like Glatman had learned his lesson after his arrest—and it also looked like he was trying to turn over a new leaf.
Still, it was clear Glatman was a perv. Harvey Glatman was known for being a sleazy photographer with a penchant for photographing models that were tied up in "damsel in distress" poses for his own fetish collection.
Then, the models started disappearing. As it turns out, Glatman was a serial killer and collected photos as trophies of his kill. This means every photo shoot he had with an aspiring model produced crime scene photos of a victim shortly before they were killed. These photos are some of the most famous crime scene photos of all time.
As you can see in the lefthand shot above, many photos show women in clear distress. It was clear that they may have gotten an idea of what was in store for them later on.
The truly chilling part of this story was how Glatman reacted when he confessed to the murders. He claimed that the women wanted to be killed, because they all said they'd rather die than be with him.
Emmett Till's Death Photo
The murder of Emmett Till was one that went down in history as one of the most brutal lynchings in American history. Emmet was a teenager who was accused of whistling at a white woman by the name of Carolyn Bryant. In the South, during the 1950s, this was a pretty dangerous accusation.
Carolyn's husband heard what happened and flew into a rage. He, along with several other men, kidnapped Emmett and beat him beyond recognition. He was shot, had an eye dislodged from its socket, and then was thrown into the river.
His body was found, exhumed, and sent back to the family. What's truly chilling is that the crime scene photos show clear evidence of a homicide. However, the murder trial for all the men involved lasted only 67 minutes and found every person not guilty.
When he was laid to rest, Emmett's mother, Mamie Till, requested an open casket ceremony. Along with being one of the most shocking photos to make news headlines, Emmett's murder was said to be the final spark that began the Civil Rights movement.
The truly disturbing part about this was that Carolyn Bryant made a deathbed confession related to Emmett's murder. As she lay dying, she admitted that she made up the incident that caused Emmett's lynching.
The Jonestown Massacre Aftermath
At first glance, it's hard to tell what's going on in this photo. It almost looks like a garbage dump, doesn't it? But, take a closer look. Those aren't trash bags or empty clothes. Every single one of those things is actually a dead body.
What you're looking at was the largest mass murder of American citizens prior to September 11. This was one of many crime scene photos taken by the United States government upon hearing of the mass suicide ordered by Reverend Jim Jones.
The Jonestown Massacre, as it was called, was one of the grisliest mass murders in history. Parents forcefed their children a mixture of Flavor-Aid laced with cyanide, then took it themselves. Those who resisted the suicide were killed by fellow cult members. Only around 36 people survived the Jonestown Massacre, one of which was the son of Jim Jones himself.
Take a look at all those bodies. Each person there made a willing decision to kill themselves, or was murdered by a close friend or family member. All of this happened because one man told them to die.
The Jodi Arias Murder Photos
Travis Alexander's relationship with Jodi Arias was nothing short of stormy. Arias was extremely territorial, controlling, and regularly sparked vicious fights with her lover. Simply put, it was a textbook case of an abusive relationship.
When Travis decided to break up with her, it was assumed that Jodi would leave him be after throwing a fit. He soon realized that Jodi had other ideas. If she wouldn't have him, no one else could.
Warning signs were there, but no one expected Jodi to go so crazy. A worried Travis told family members that she was stalking him, even going so far as to crawl into his home through the dog door.
She broke into his house, took nude photos of him, stabbed him repeatedly, then shot him and left him for dead. She then took photos of the scene of her crime, proud of her work.
As far as criminal-taken crime scene photos go, these are all pretty disturbing. The post-mortem photos from this case were so graphic, they really can't be shown on this article.
Tina Watson's Last Scuba Diving Photo
At first glance, this photo looks totally wholesome. It's just a scuba diver enjoying a trip, right? Look in the background. That diver isn't swimming anymore.
This photo was taken on David Watson's 2003 honeymoon with his newlywed wife, Tina. This is one of the very few crime scene photos that was taken during the murder.
David claimed that his wife died after being sucked in the current, but a fellow diver denied it. According to the other diver, David "bear hugged" Tina then swam away.
The murder trial was dismissed on a lack of evidence. Though David didn't get officially charged with the murder, it's commonly believed he killed Tina for the life insurance policy that he had on her.
The Beautiful Suicide of Evelyn McHale
Far be it for us to call a suicide "beautiful," but this is one of the very few crime scene photos that would look perfectly at home in a surreal art magazine.
The suicide victim in question was named Evelyn McHale, and showed no signs of suicidal tendencies prior to jumping off the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. She was newly engaged, and felt that she wouldn't be a good wife.
When police took the photo, they noted that her body seemed artfully rested on the car that she landed on. Unsettling as it looks, it actually seems like she looks at peace in death.
In her coat pocket was a suicide note that read:
"I don't want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family, don't have any service for me or remembrance for me.
My fiance asked me to marry him in June. I don't think I would make a good wife for anybody. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother's tendencies."
John Lennon's Autograph Signing
To date, few crime scene photos are as eerie as this one, simply because it shows how far stalkers will go to get close to their targets. This seemingly innocent photo shows Beatles rockstar John Lennon signing an autograph for Mark David Chapman.
Noticing that Lennon lived in the Dakota Apartments, Chapman made a point of coming back later that night. He then shot John Lennon as he was exiting from a limousine with his wife Yoko Ono.
Jackie O's Scrambling For Her Husband's Scrambled Brains
This was one of the few crime scene photos to be taken seconds after the crime happened by police officers and/or media crews. The reason the crime was captured so quickly is because it happened in broad daylight, during President JFK's motorcade through Dallas.
This is one of the first shots taken of John F. Kennedy's assassination, and it was an assassination that shocked the world. This particular shot shows a very disturbing element of the assassination that few people really take note of.
The woman in the pink suit is Jackie O. Kennedy, his wife, and when her husband was killed in front of her, her mind broke. In her dissociated mind, she started to collect the splatters of her husband's brains hoping that it would somehow be able to help him survive.
Jackie Kennedy then refused to take off her pink Chanel suit, despite it being covered in her husband's blood. At Lyndon Johnson's inauguration, she told Ladybird, "I want them to see what they have done to Jack."
Karla Homolka's Domestic Violence Photo
No, the woman in this photo is not dead. This is one of the few crime scene photos on this list to show a woman who was a victim of domestic violence—but it's not just any woman.
The lady who was given two black eyes here is Karla Homolka, wife of Paul Bernardo. The two were Canada's most notorious serial killers, and together, they raped and killed at least three underage women. One of the victims was Karla's sister.
When investigators caught Karla and Paul, they initially wanted to give both killers a life sentence. This was the photo that changed the minds of the investigators and the courts that tried her.
Karla's life sentence was reduced to 12 years in prison after investigators found serious evidence of domestic abuse and believed that she may have been coerced into acting as an accomplice.
The Rescue Photo of Blanche Monnier
This is one of the only crime scene photos to be taken at the turn of the century, and it remains one of the most disturbing ones in history. Though the victim survived, what happened to her was so horrible, even modern shock stories pale in comparison.
The skeletal figure in the photo was the once-beautiful French socialite Blanche Monnier, who went missing for a total of 25 years. Her disappearance started after her mother disapproved of the man she wanted to marry.
Her mother ordered Blanche to refuse his proposal. She ignored her mother's request. So, she decided to imprison Blanche in the family basement, leaving her with only lice, rats, and bugs as her companions. Even after her fiance died, they kept her locked there.
The housekeepers knew she was there. So did her brothers. After 25 years, a new housekeeper told her boyfriend what was going on in the Monnier house, and he immediately went to the attorney general.
When word got out, an angry mob formed at the Monnier house. Madame Monnier had a heart attack and died two weeks after her daughter's liberation. The Monnier name was ruined in high society—as it should be.
Blanche herself was no longer capable of living normally in society after the imprisonment, and spent the last 12 years of her life in a French psychiatric facility.