Last year was a big one for fakes. And if the first couple weeks of 2015 are any indication, we'll have plenty of fake images, silly hoaxes, and outright lies this year as well. Below we've debunked a few photos that you may have seen floating around social media recently. None are quite what they claim to be.
1) Is this Charles Manson as a baby?
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.
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.
2) Is this a behind the scenes photo from National Geographic?
It's an amusing photo. But that image of National Geographic photographers running from a bear has definitely been photoshopped.
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.
Update: 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.
Fake image via HistoricalPics
3) Is this an old magic trick gone wrong?
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 ax 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 ax, 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 400 gallons 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?
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?
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 colors. The different colors 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?
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?
The photo above does come from a car show that took place at a Thrifty Drug store parking lot in Los Angeles on May 15, 1954. But it's not exactly as it would've 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. Colorized photos aren't necessarily "fake." But as I've said before, we have to ask ourselves what happens to history when a colorized photo supplants the original in web searches.
HistoryInPics often tweets colorized 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 colorizers 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 colorized, 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?
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?
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.
10) Is this an "incredibly rare" black lion?
Fake image via TheMindBlowing
11) Is this an 1880s female street gang from London called the Clockwork Oranges?
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."
12) Is this really Einstein riding a bicycle near a nuclear test?
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