This article was originally published on VisualChase
Every good picture should have a clear focal point. But every good viral photo should, apparently, have a bizarre and head-scratching element that makes you amused, curious, afraid to learn more, or a little of all three. Check out these truly perplexing shots that will leave you wondering just what set of circumstances could possibly have led to their creation.
Really, They’re Not Going to Kill You
One woman’s fluttery, brightly colored beauties can be another woman’s flying nightmare, and a paralyzing fear of butterflies—or lepidopterophobia—is actually a thing, as this photo indisputably proves. If you suffer from this rare phobia, you may want to avoid parks, gardens, open fields, or meadows, where the winged monsters are most likely to lurk. Or you can go the extra cautious route and stay indoors completely from April to September or so.
Remember, everyone has a quirk or two. But before you take a friend for a walk, be sure to ask her if she has any debilitating fears which may put a damper on the mood.
While cultural norms vary globally, public displays of nudity are generally frowned upon, particularly atop a motorized bike. That said, the sun appears to be shining quite brightly in this photo, so perhaps this nude motorcyclist was simply fed up with sweating and suffering in a hot climate, all in the name of social acceptability. Though it may well be thought of as indecent exposure, it’s hard not to respect someone so comfortable putting themselves quite literally out there.
On second thought, perhaps Freedom Rider here is merely shirtless, while his companion is wearing short shorts behind him. That would both explain the optical illusion at play and would generally be considered more acceptable.
Who Needs Keys?
Everyone has those absent-minded mornings when their bodies are in one place and their thoughts in another. But it seems like this woman is in particularly desperate need of a lesson in mindfulness and learning to think in the present. She was so singularly focused on beating the traffic and getting to her critical morning meeting that she inexplicably managed to leave her keys in the car door. Now that’s next-level distracted!
Given that she clearly forgot her car keys in the car door, how on earth did she then manage to successfully start the car? Did she hot-wire her own ride? Impressive!
This Is Why Mats Were Invented
Grass may look nice and cushiony after you’ve had a few drinks, but read any Cirque Du Soleil contract and you’ll learn quite quickly that it’s best to practice those acrobatic stunts in a nice padded training hall, rather than the backyard of a day-kegger. And how can these three girls casually pose in the foreground after they abandoned their friend in a complex pyramid? It looks so painful!
Pro tip: If you can’t safely roll out of a fall, soften its impact with your arms rather than your nose. Facial reconstruction is far more expensive and time-consuming than mending a busted elbow.
Elmo Is Mad Jealous
Ask any celebrity and they’ll tell you that one frustrating aspect of fame is when you’re just trying to live your day-to-day life and fans constantly interrupt, demanding photos and autographs. But an even more bitter reality of fame is that it eventually ends, and you’re left staring at the younger, newer luminaries, wondering why people suddenly care about a talentless hack like Woody and not a bonafide star like Elmo.
What will the Muppets do now that showbiz work has dried up? Statler and Waldorf have a clear future as pundits and the Swedish Chef has obvious culinary skills, but Elmo’s employment prospects may be scant.
Let’s assume this is a screenshot from a PSA about the dangers of taking Halloween candy from strangers. Be warned that ingesting sour gummy worms will not only erode your tooth enamel, shoot up your blood pressure, and increase your risk of developing diabetes; it might also, as this photo unequivocally proves, transform the bottom half of your body into that of an emaciated hobgoblin with a penchant for bold pedicures.
That said, give credit where credit is due: Fuchsia nails pair well with the green and orange candy stripes. Add French tips and a toe ring and this mysterious creature is set for the post-Halloween party!
Blessed With Three Legs
Mad respect to this man for living a full, uninhibited life, even though he was apparently born with three legs and one arm. What many may perceive as an inherent anatomical disadvantage hasn’t interfered with his joie de vivre one bit. And anyway, his right arm is still strong enough to swing his beloved over his shoulder and blissfully run off with her into the ocean. Go get ‘em pal!
If given a choice, would you elect to keep the standard two arms, two legs setup, or might having three legs be advantageous? Lifting a fork with a foot seems challenging; but maybe, like anything else, it just takes practice?
You’re a Naked Man, Charlie Brown
The wrong set of well-intended hands can turn what should be a charmingly wrapped gift into a mess of clumsy folds and careless cuts. It takes talent and dexterity to do the job in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but it takes a special degree of foresight and creativity to form an entirely new image out of the wrapping paper’s original print. Half Charlie Brown, half Snoopy; half impressive; half uncomfortable.
It’s hard to read Charlie Brown’s expression here, but it seems like he might be a trifle embarrassed to be suddenly undressed and sporting a tail, no less. It happens to the best of us!
Does This Angle Make Her Nose Look Wide?
The only sin more destructive than vanity is the sin of carelessly posting a selfie without reviewing the contents of your frame beforehand. But though this may seem like a ruined shot on first glance, not all is lost. If she ever opts to take a photography class she could feasibly submit this to her instructor as some kind of intentional, tongue-in-cheek self-portrait. That kind of self-deprecating humor would get at least a passing grade in most art schools!
Furthermore, if you have a nearly full-length and relatively clean bathroom mirror, is it really necessary to throw in another small, dirty mirror right in front of it?
He's So Not Ready for This!
A good reaction shot is fun, but a three-in-one, multilayered reaction shot is a riot. The wedding attendant in the foreground clearly seems quite ecstatic to have caught the bouquet, her boyfriend to her right appears absolutely terrified by the prospect of tying the knot next, and her father’s reaction is ambiguous. Is he thinking, ‘Hahaha, I remember this moment well!’ or ‘My daughter’s a catch! What’s with the apprehension?!’
Shame we can’t fully see the expression of the woman on the far left (Mom?). Maybe she’s wondering if the bouquet is appropriately sized for the occasion.
Watch Your Step
From this overhead angle that looks remarkably like a banana peel on the ground, right? But it’s actually just a well-placed painting of a banana peel. It’s not the first time merchants have embedded a highly clever image into a store’s flooring. There are other reports of peppering the ground with fake quarters or even five-dollar bills—reportedly a great way to get customers to stop in certain strategic parts of the store that they might otherwise walk right by.
This trick is also a good-natured test of ethics, eh? Those who reach down to pick up the peel both benefit from a good laugh and feel reassured that they care about their fellow man’s safety.
Not Just Any Ol’ Photobomb
Jury’s out as to whether or not this family was aware they were dining next to Canada’s most prominent citizen. Did the two in the center deliberately create a gap to catch their distinguished co-diner in the background? Nah, it’s more fun to think that they were innocently unaware, difficult as that may be to believe. It’s not every day that you’re photobombed by such a beloved Degrassi cast member. Oh, and he makes music too.
Whether this was a sly paparazzi-style maneuver or simply a happy accident, may Drake’s charmingly exuberant response be a lesson to anyone else who is constantly pestered for photos.
Partners Are Overrated
Society really does place too high a premium on finding ‘the one’, be it for life or merely a high school dance. Congrats to this guy for bucking the trend entirely, and proudly declaring that he needs no one else’s arms but his own to boogie down. And though he may have been flying solo here, this brave act surely had classmates lining up at his locker the following week.
Now, what song do you suppose he was groovin' to? Could it have been "Greatest Love of All"? "Dancing with Myself"? Or perhaps "Dancing on My Own"?
Professional Pony Time
Keeping it real, these men in uniform seem a little clueless when it comes to posing for their yearly parade photo. What’s with the totally off-kilter eyeline and the noncommittal, unimpressed stares? Amateur hour! The four-legged model, on the other hand, knows just how to stretch out that gorgeous neck, stare straight toward the lens, and show off what appears to be a very comprehensive dental insurance package for this police precinct.
Here’s a thought: Find 11 more horse models, pose them in seasonal settings, and you've got a profitable calendar that can bring in guaranteed revenue for these men in blue!
Three’s a Crowd
This time the panicked reaction to the surprise guest seems entirely justifiable. Or is it? As the screaming girl’s placid, arachnophilic friend surely told her, spiders love a good photo op as much as the next bug, and most are quite harmless. So why not let them have their fun? Just brush your hair thoroughly in the event that any of spidey’s friends or family accidentally wandered into those locks.
Kudos to whoever of these girls opted for white sheets. Darker bedding would have made it virtually impossible to spot the adorable eight-legged photobomber.
Gee, Why Won’t It Work?
Wondering why this eraser keeps leaving unsightly black smears rather than, well, erasing? It might be because it's so old. This rubber implement may have seen better, more productive days, given that West and East Germany were reunited into one country in 1990. We're not exactly sure what the average shelf life is for vulcanized rubber, but if it’s old enough to fondly remember David Hasselhoff’s performance at the Berlin Wall, it may be time to head to the stationery shop for a replacement.
Let’s look on the bright side: Better to be stuck with a rubber eraser made before the Wall came down than, say, a rubber condom made before the Wall came down.
Wait, Celebrate Whose History?!
There’s no need to question the profound influence that Black artists have had on American music; they’ve shaped the sounds of myriad key genres, ranging from jazz to rock to classical music. Given the thousands of spectacular Black music icons to choose from, it’s inconceivable that whoever selected the featured artists in this ad somehow ran out of options. And yet, Slim Shady makes an appearance in the first row. That’s an unforgivable gaffe.
Any volunteers to sit down with the people responsible for this debacle and give them a brief music history lesson? They desperately need to get acquainted with Aretha, Otis, and Dizzy, among many others.
Stevie Might Be Overpaid
Mr. Ballmer reportedly graduated (note the correct usage there, Steve) magna cum laude from Harvard University with a B.A. in mathematics and economics. But either his Ivy League coursework negligently ignored the fundamentals of English spelling, grammar, and parts of speech, or he should have diverted part of his CEO salary to simply pay a proofreader for his slideshows. Surely he could find a helping hand in exchange for Microsoft shares.
In all fairness, writing graduated instead of graduates is easily understandable, given that the errant letter is located right next to the intended letter on the keyboard. What's much more outrageous is that they brought a Mac to a Microsoft event!
Poor Fish’s Feline Fears
Remember, a good shot is as much about what’s left out of the frame as what’s kept in. Give away too much and the mystery might be spoiled. Notice that the photographer framed this as a closeup. If they’d elected to zoom out a little, you’d assumedly see the cat holding a frying pan, bread crumbs, and a dry white wine that pairs perfectly with fish. Where’s the suspense in that?
“Hi Checkers, how’s it going? Nice weather we’re having, right? Did I mention how much I love what you did with those whiskers? Hmm, where did all the other fish go? I swear I had more friends yesterday!”
She Needed a Steadying Hand
One can never be careful enough when mixing booze and staircases, and this stumbling sorority girl is caught in the midst of learning that lesson the hard way. The telltale sign here is the ubiquitous red solo cup. The poor thing's fellow revelers lacked the foresight to know that a wall and a handrail may not be enough to stabilize a tipsy pledge as she navigates the perilous path from the upstairs rec room to the ground floor.
Side note: Is this a half-hearted costume party or what? Shouldn’t an Aladdin outfit involve a tad more effort than simply throwing on an open purple vest and calling it a day?
When Everyone Has the Exact Same Idea
How can you tell if the location you’ve chosen to declare your love is truly inspired, unforgettable, and original? Well, a good starting point for your research is to scout out the spot in advance of when you plan to pop the question, and thoroughly scan the area. Is there another guy getting down on one knee and opening a velour box within a twenty-foot radius? If so, it’s probably time to revert to plan B.
Is she adjusting her glasses to better assess the rock? Or is she hanging her head in her hands, wondering why she got involved with someone who would propose to her at a theme park?
Watch Out for That Flying Boulder
This brings new meaning to the term ‘flying debris.’ Particularly powerful cyclones and tornados can reach frightening wind speeds of over 300 miles per hour, which is capable of toppling over people; uprooting trees; and blowing railroad cars off their tracks. But all of the above seems downright pleasant compared to the prospect of a giant rock flying through the sky. Boarding up your windows with plywood won’t do much good against that sucker.
On second glance, what may initially appear to be a horrific insurance claim waiting to happen is just a relatively small rock sitting in a pool of hazy water. Phew!
Not Open for Interpretation
Like clouds or Rorschach tests, different people might see different images when they look at a spotted animal’s coat. Unless, of course, said spots miraculously create a prominent and overtly clear shape of that very animal. That’s a far less subjective matter. It couldn’t be more black and white, so to speak. And really, what are the statistical chances of this happening? Hopefully this cutie knows it’s a one-in-a-billion rabbit.
Speaking of statistic improbabilities, the only thing missing from this charming Christmas scene is a menagerie of other spotted animals that also sport their exact likenesses amidst their spots, e.g., a deer with a deer on its nose, a turtle with a turtle on its back, etc.
She’s Got a Secret Smile
Pajamas shmajamas. Even a simple trip to the corner store can be an opportunity to dress to the nines, a mindset clearly embraced by this yellow-clad shopper. And what’s the point of donning a well-coordinated, bright maxi dress, waist-cinching belt, and heels if what you’ve got on underneath isn’t equally, err, cheerful? Beauty and style are two things we all possess, inside as well as out, so why not show them, like this woman did with her cheery smiley panties, showing right through her dress?
Word to the wise: Light fabrics can be a lifesaver in hot climates. But step under some strong fluorescents and you might end up revealing a bit more than you intended.
No One Rides for Free
Fashionistas' verdicts have historically been split regarding the use of horizontal stripes. Are they flattering and slimming, or unflattering and widening? Now the detractors have another sound argument against wearing prints with thick horizontal bands: They can apparently create some very awkward illusions, particularly if the stripes are inauspiciously colored. This poor woman had no idea she was being straddled by an uninvited passenger, at least in the eyes of anyone who sees this photo.
Another remarkably odd coincidence here is the merging of the wood-paneled bench back and the black shirt stripe, forming what almost looks like an elegant leather shoe for this chap’s black slacks.
More Than a Mural
Now which came first, the idea for the mural or the need to hide the security camera? Either way, props to this super clever artist for effortlessly combining design, function, and security. The choice of the sea turtle is particularly clutch; not all animals have bulging eyes of such prominence. Similar murals have been attempted in which security cameras were placed as human eyes, and the results were quite unsettling, and not in a positive way.
Originality is fleeting; don’t be surprised if pretty soon you find this same tactic embraced in parking lots worldwide, and there’s a giant sea turtle mural on every block.
It’s Impolite to Bite
Their expressions come across as blissfully ignorant, but with a shirt this bold, chances seem slim that these ladies were unaware of the oww-inducing image they were creating here. And who exactly is the biting woman? From this angle it looks like it could be classic screen actress Bette Davis. She was known for playing unsympathetic characters, but chomping on another woman’s mammary seems an uncouth move even for her.
If this was a planned photo op, well done. If it was an unintended act of simulated cannibalism, may it be a lesson in thoroughly reviewing a frame before you snap a picture.
Leave Kitty Alone!
Someone ought to inform this mysterious person in the striped sleeves that casually impaling a defenseless feline is ethically unacceptable, and what’s more, likely illegal wherever they may reside. And then to shamelessly photograph it and share it on social media…oh the unmitigated gall! Anyone who engages in this kind of depraved behavior for a pastime is in dire need of a more constructive, non-violent hobby, like quilting or calligraphy.
Hopefully this cat just has an exceptionally fluffy tail; so fluffy that it can wrap around the stripe-sleeved arm, thus creating this alarming illusion. Otherwise, all hope in humanity is lost.
Cars Can Apparently Levitate
For all its impressive features—e.g., ejection seats, tear gas dispensers, and a missile rack—the batmobile is still one notch down from this futuristic set of wheels, which seems capable of levitating or flying. This feat could certainly come in handy in a variety of circumstances, for instance, avoiding intense traffic jams on your way to the office, or simply impressing a first date. Take note Batman; you’ve officially been outmaneuvered.
While levitation has been developed for transit vehicles to some degree (for instance, maglev trains), as it turns out that’s not what’s at work here. The shadow next to this vehicle is just playing tricks on your eyes in a major way.
You Might Want to Get That Looked At
There are a few possibilities here, none of them particularly pleasant. 1. The subject is in the midst of transforming into some kind of extrahuman, like a zombie or gatekeeper to the underworld. 2. The subject has contracted the rare, flesh-eating disease called necrotizing fasciitis (that’s an actual thing), so they may have to lose this digit in the near future and will never be able to flip the bird again…
…3. Don’t amputate that finger just yet doc! Turns out this unlucky writer had a relatively common mishap with a pen that resulted in a highly uncommon, spooky image for the ages.
So many questions. Where’s the rest of this poor chow’s body? Why does he look faintly afraid, like he’s stuck between two dimensions? Apparently what appears to be a white wall on the right is actually a door, and the rest of the dog’s body is hidden behind it. This is just further ammunition against the common design practice of painting doors the exact same color as their adjacent walls.
Whether this image is real or doctored, the end result is disconcerting. But at least it makes you want to run and check on the welfare of your own dogs, which is never a bad idea.
Skip the Caesar; Reach for the Rolls
Judging by her expression, you might mistakenly think that this Girl in a Pearl Necklace is angry-eating at a wedding she’d rather have skipped. But in her defense, it’s really difficult to eat salad gracefully. So if you haven’t perfected the art of elegantly gobbling down these leafy victuals, and you find yourself at a wedding or any event where you’re likely to be photographed, it’s best to just reach for alternative grub.
This is just one more exhibit in a pile of evidence that indicates you should never go to a wedding on an empty stomach. No amount of free salad is worth a bride’s angry glare as she discards an unusable wedding shot.
What Do You Have Against Trees?
Either this photo was taken amidst some kind of strange Hans Christian Andersen-esque fever dream, in which the tree was once, in a past life, a homeless cat who now haunts anyone who tries to cut it down for Christmas; or this is an actual bonafide cat staring through a house window, with a gaze so frightening it could make even a fir tree pack its bags and run away.
Housecats are a divisive species, and it’s easy to see why given this deathglare. The tree does seem pretty frightened. Just saying.
When Did This Pet Become a Wookiee?
This adorable ball of brown fuzz could be one of three things: 1. The discarded mask used by the actor who played Harrison Ford’s Star Wars buddy, Chewbacca (probably worth a pretty penny on eBay); 2. Grandma’s rumpled fur stole to be donated to Goodwill (worth far less); 3. A spectacularly fluffy brown cat with a gift for creating unexpected optical illusions every time it curls up for some sleep (totally priceless).
It’s most likely option three, but if that’s the case this cat is in for a rude awakening when some excitable Star Wars fan reaches out to grab what they thought was a potential Halloween costume.
Just Itching to Ruin Her Shot
The 80s movie hair whip in the foreground contrasts so perfectly here with the ruinous public scratching in the background. On another note, when both you and a friend are simultaneously sensing something down there is itchily amiss, it might be time to, as a group: A. Reassess your bathroom hygiene. B. Go on a joint shopping trip for underwear made from natural fabrics. C. Thoroughly survey your lawn chairs for insects.
Lesson learned: If you’re lucky enough to have both pool access and the locks for this shot, by all means, try it out. But politely ask the unintended extras behind you to vacate first.
When In Doubt, Just Take Two Shots
Can you count the number of people that appear in this photo? The background group is so distant it’s difficult to tell what might be furniture and what might be a human head. It may have seemed like a good idea to try to cram 15–20 people into the same shot, but in hindsight it may have been wiser just to capitulate, take an extra thirty seconds, and shoot two separate images.
Then again, maybe these are two unrelated parties entirely, and the family in the background managed to coordinate a spur-of-the-moment, well-timed, huge group photobomb, to which only sincere admiration should be offered.
Whale Breach, Take 5!
Notice that the cetacean is perfectly framed per the classic Rule of Thirds? Well, it may look easy, but these seemingly nice Alaskan tourists allegedly made the whale perform this stunt again and again until they snapped the ideal composition. Fortunately, a concerned passerby intervened after the mother-daughter pair asked the poor humpback to breach one more time just so they could get better eyelight for the woman on the right. The nerve!
Hopefully this stunning sea mammal benefited from such a tiring day at the office. Available data indicates that every time a whale breaches its Instagram followers increase by approximately 23%.
Some knitters have a serious obsession with their yarn, but you might be taking the hobby a bit too far if you’ve decided to build a tiny accompanying house simply to hold your massive collection of spools. And it goes without saying that it’s best not to leave those spools on the floor unattended, where passersby can easily slip and trip on the strings. That’s a recipe for an injury waiting to happen.
The perspective of the photographer combines perfectly here with the wooden surface to create the illusion that the yarn spools have been carelessly left on the ground, but they’re actually safely atop a table.
Attempted Aquarium Abduction
This image walks the line between being sweet and being disconcerting. But if your reaction veers toward the latter, there’s no need to call zoo security just yet. The aquarium’s swimming sea mammals are of course safely separated from human onlookers (or, in this case, away-lookers) by a sturdy barrier. And a Beluga’s preferred lunch consists of an ample helping of cod, halibut, or shrimp, rather than preschoolers. Maybe Beluga just needed a friend?
You might wonder if this Beluga beauty was drawn to the little girl because of her bright pink coat, but most whales actually have rather limited color perception relative to, say, land mammals.
Quite the Toothy Grin
Canine lovers really shouldn’t react with surprise when they find out that not everyone is keen to reach out to puppies and affectionately pet them. I mean, check out this set of choppers. Buddy may have a sweet face, but his top row of teeth seems like something straight out of Stephen King’s Cujo. They may come in handy when trying to gnaw down a tough bone, but his social life might improve with a nice set of falsies.
Ohhhhhh, the fence. Quite an odd coincidence that the lattice fence structure on the left of the frame is a different color and geometric shape than on the right, which only reinforces the illusion.