Mystery and intrigue are integral parts of human life. They take many forms, including paranormal, supernatural, extra-terrestrial, and simple legends passed down through the generations.
While there have been many unexplained mysteries throughout the centuries, modern technology has been critical to help explain some of these phenomena. Photography plays an essential role in the discovery of the unknown, but sometimes, it creates more mystery than it solves.
Film (and of course more recently, digital technology) has not always provided clear answers and an understanding of what we see. In some cases, the images on film are by themselves difficult to explain.
With the advent of high-quality cameras on cellular phones, almost no daily event escapes capture, and the number of baffling images is proliferating. Additionally, new technology allows the modification of digital images, blurring the distinction between reality and hoax.
Here are twenty-five unexplained mysteries that were captured in photos.
25 Giant Stone Spheres in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, mysterious stone spheres are found in the Pre-Colombian Chiefdom Settlements of the Chibchan people who once inhabited the area. Known locally as Las Bolas ("The Balls"), these monuments were made from gabbro, a rock that forms from molten magma.
According to John W. Hoopes, an anthropologist at the University of Kansas, when the native population vanished as a result of the Spanish conquest, the purpose of the spheres disappeared with them.
24 Antikythera Mechanism Found in Greek Cargo Ship
The Antikythera mechanism is the most sophisticated ancient device in existence. Discovered in the sunken wreckage of a Greek cargo ship estimated to be over 2,000 years old, the circular bronze artifact is composed of sophisticated interlocking gears and displays mysterious characters etched on its exposed faces.
Its purpose is still uncertain. Originally archaeologists thought it was a navigational astrolabe, but they now believe it was, among other things, a highly intricate astronomical calendar.
23 Qin Shi Huang's Tomb
In 1974, in China's Shaanxi province, farmers discovered the life-size terracotta army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 B.C. – 210 B.C.).
While historians know that the army made of clay figures was created to protect China's first emperor in the afterlife, they are uncertain where the emperor is buried. His final resting place is most likely the pyramid-shaped mausoleum located a short distance from the terracotta army.
Stonehenge has long been shrouded in mystery. While it is known that the ring of megalithic stones was built approximately 4,000 years ago, it is unclear what was its original purpose. Theories abound from an astronomical observatory to a religious temple of healing.
However, archeologists now believe they have found the source of the stones: a quarry some 150 miles away. If true, one wonders how the stones got to their current location.
21 Giant Clay Face in Canada
The Badlands Guardian is a geomorphological feature resembling a huge “Indian Head” located near Medicine Hat Alberta, Canada.
The human head wearing a full Indigenous type of headdress faces directly westward and looks as though it was carved in the clay terrain by human hands. However, the formation is the work of Mother Nature.
20 Structures in China's Gobi Desert
Images from Google Maps have exposed an array of enigmatic patterns and structures etched into the surface of China's Gobi Desert. Wild speculations as to their source have been the result, from Alien messages to Chinese weapons-testing sites.
The most probable explanation is a series of structures used by the Chinese to calibrate spy satellites.
19 Top Secret Area 6, Nevada
Perhaps more infamous than “Area 51,” a top-secret Nevada facility referred to as “Area 6,” was once used for underground nuclear testing. Part of the Nevada National Security Site, more than 1,000 nuclear tests were conducted there between 1945 and 1992.
In 2005 a runway was added along with several new buildings and a large hangar. Rumor has it that the Pentagon tests high-tech unmanned drones designed to detect dirty bombs.
18 Giant Crop Circle Barbury Castle, UK
The giant crop circle located near Barbury Castle in the UK may have mathematical origins. According to astrophysicist, Michael Reed, the circular creation is a representation of pi to the 10th significant number (many more than the average math student memorizes!).
The Telegraph has designated it as one of the “most complex crop circles ever discovered in British fields.”
17 Giant Pentacle in Kazakhstan Asia
Another discovery in Google Maps, an enormous pentagram lies in an isolated part of Kazakhstan. With a circle circumference of over 1000 feet wide, the pentagram is precisely defined: a mathematically correct geometric figure.
The pentagram inside a circle is also called a pentacle and is often used in ritualistic magic while an inverted pentagram is typical of black magic.
16 Red Lake in Iraq
Since it was first observed in 2007, this blood-red lake outside Sadr City in Iraq has generated a plethora of theories as to the color source.
One expert claims the watercolor results from slaughterhouses in Iraq that sometimes dump blood into canals. Researchers reject the idea, pointing out that the reservoir is immense, and a huge amount of blood would be required to taint it red. More likely sewage, pollution, or a water-treatment affect the color.
15 Traveling Through Time Requires Sunglasses
Time travel is a fascinating concept for almost everyone, and many stories and historical legends promote the feasibility of the occurrence. This image from 1941 taken at the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge, British Columbia is one of them.
The photo shows a man wearing sunglasses and dressed in modern clothing in an era when most people were sporting suits.
14 Flying Saucer Over Los Angeles?
In the early hours of the morning 25 February 1942, just a short time after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a UFO was sighted in the skies over Los Angeles.
Caught in the military searchlights, this photo appears to show a flying saucer-like object hovering in the sky. The Government disavowed the sighting, of course, and attributed it to weather balloons.
13 The Great Pyramids
Although much has been discovered about the history of the Great Pyramids of Egypt, many more discoveries remain, and the mysteries are endless.
Built almost 5,000 years ago in Giza, the three-pyramid complex is a testament to the ancient Egyptians' admiration and respect for their Pharaohs and the details of their belief in the afterlife.
12 F/A-18 Super Hornet UFO Encounter
This video recorded by pilots flying an F/A-18 Super Hornet shows an encounter with an unidentified flying object along the East Coast of the U.S.
A Raytheon Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) Pod revealed a craft similar to one sighted off San Diego in 2004. The fast-moving white oval was estimated at about 45 feet in length, lacked wings, and produced no exhaust plume.
11 Unexplained Object on Mars
Do Martians really exist?
One hundred years ago, it common for people to believe that intelligent Martians occupied the Red Planet. Today, rovers that roam the surface have effectively eliminated the theories.
However, in 2017, the Mars Curiosity Rover shot this photo of an unidentified object on the surface of Mars. Conspiracy theorists contend the image is proof of the existence of extra-terrestrial life, but cynics have suggested it's nothing more than debris from the Mars Rover itself.
10 The Baltic Sea Formation: Star Wars Millennium Falcon?
In 2011, a Swedish diving squad uncovered an enigmatic formation on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The odd disc-like object measures 60 meters in diameter and includes numerous unique characteristics like a long runway, a side stairway, and a light soot covering.
Estimated at nearly 140,000 years of age, theorist claim the object to be everything from a naturally occurring geological formation to a crashed UFO. The Star Wars Millennium Falcon has also been suggested.
9 The Demise of King Tut
Since British Egyptologist Howard Carter unearthed King Tut’s tomb in 1922, tales of a "pharaoh's curse" seem never-ending. Few archaeological mysteries generate as much enthusiasm as this find: the mysterious mummy of the Egyptian boy pharaoh Tutankhamun.
The cause of his demise is still unknown, but Archaeologists believe it was the result of unexpected infection or from injuries sustained in a chariot accident.
8 Voynich Renaissance Manuscript
Perhaps the most mysterious book of the 20th century is an ancient text written in a language that no one understands. In 1912 an antique bookseller discovered the Voynich manuscript, 250-page book with an unknown alphabet and numerous illustrations from drawings of females to medicinal herbs and Zodiac signs.
While some experts claim the book is simply a Renaissance-era hoax filled with nonsense words, others believe the book's text is written in some kind of code that has yet to be deciphered.
7 Roswell Alien Autopsy Footage
The famous Roswell Autopsy Footage showing an alien from the 1947 Roswell UFO crash made the headlines everywhere when it was released in 1995. The 17-minute clip allegedly came from a retired military cameraman.
However, decades later, Filmmaker Spyros Melaris claimed he created the faked autopsy in his girlfriend's house in Camden, north London, using a foam alien sculpture.
What do you believe?
6 Saddle Ridge Hoard Mystery
The largest discovery of lost treasure in U.S. history left no indication of its source.
A California couple uncovered the “Saddle Ridge Hoard” treasure consisting of 1,411 old gold coins while walking their dog in 2013. Half-buried in a tin can on the side of a path, the coins were in pristine condition, and most likely never in circulation. The find is valued at more than 10 million dollars.
5 The 80-Million Tree-Flattening Event
In 1908, an explosion from an unknown source 1,000 times more potent than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, erupted in the Siberian backwoods, flattening 80 million trees in the process.
Theories for its cause include a natural gas explosion from the Earth’s crust, a small comet, and a meteor (although there was no crater at the epicenter of the blast).
4 Hook Island Sea Monster
Everyone has heard of the Loch Ness Monster or Nessie. According to Scottish folklore, it is a creature that inhabits Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands and has eluded capture for years.
In 1964, French photographer Robert Serrec spotted a similar-looking creature. He took a picture of the giant serpent-like creature lying on the seafloor off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
3 The Ghost on the Tulip Staircase
In 1966, Rev. Ralph Hardy snapped this famous photo of the graceful Tulip Staircase in the Queen’s House section of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.
When the film was developed, the photo revealed a ghostly figure climbing the stairs. Experts who inspected the original negative determined that it had not been modified. Some claim the staircase is haunted and the unexplained sound of footsteps has often been heard there.
2 Black Knight Satellite Mystery
Humans have had the technology to launch a human-made object into space for just over 60 years, so what is the logical explanation of the “Black Knight” satellite that orbits the Earth?
According to the legend, it has been beaming signals towards the Earth for 13, 000 years. Some think it is a thermal blanket, but the most logical explanation is space debris.
1 Solway Firth Astronaut
In 1964 fireman, photographer, and local historian Jim Templeton took photos of his young daughter in a marsh near Burgh by Sands, Cumbria, England.
When the photos came back from the film developer, this one showed what appeared to be a Spaceman in full astronaut gear standing behind the girl. Templeton says there was no one there when he took the photo and Kodak verified that it had not been altered.
Sources: content.time, BBC News, simplycapacity.com, National Geographic, history.com