Reddit | BAC51

13+ Viral Pics We Thought Were Real But Were Actually Total Fakes

In 2020, we have access to nearly unlimited media on the internet, and CGI/Photoshop technology makes it possible to fake things. These two factors combine to create a world where it can be hard to know what's real and what's fake. We can't explain every pic you may find online — but at least we can explain these ones.

Pilot selfie.

Imgur | TrollGod14337

What looks like the most amazing selfie of all time would result in cabin decompression and altitude sickness in real life. Unsurprisingly, this pic just Photoshops clouds into the background rather than the runway.

Giants exist?

Silk Road Forums

Lots of cultures have folklore about giant creatures. While this looks like the excavation of a legit giant, it's clearly a more routine archaeological dig that's been tweaked a bit.

Dabbing, WWII style.

Reddit | PapaNickelz

If you thought dabbing was a 21st century phenomenon...well, you'd be totally right, despite this pic. This is just a shot of actors on the set for Dunkirk (2017), given an old-timey black and white treatment.

Angry cat is angry.

Reddit | spanky8520

This cat's fur pattern creates a perfect mustache and angry eyebrows, right? The actual photo has the mustache, but no eyebrows. Cats are beautiful enough by default! We don't need to Photoshop them.


Adonis Arias

What looks like every Canadian's worst nightmare is really just an image of a bear running down a highway with a cyclist edited in. Besides, no cyclist is going to be dressed like that in mid-winter.

Venice in winter.


People who've been to these famous canals must be confused by this icy pic, considering it rarely gets below freezing in Venice. This image combines buildings in Venice with ice from Lake Baikal in Russia.

A mountain of clouds.

The pic on the left has simply added a bunch of lenticular clouds over the actual cloud that formed over the mountain. For my money, the original pic on the right is stunning enough by itself.

Festival of lights.


Things get pretty colorful in India during Diwali, but not this colorful. The touched-up image on the left just took the original satellite image and added a bunch of colorful, unrealistic lights.


Saafi News

This pic purportedly shows you what you don't see during MGM's famous lion roar intro. The real pic, seen on the right, shows that this is an unconscious lion being loaded into a diagnostic machine.

Moon, perched.

500px | Mo Aoun & Twitter

Seeing the moon appear to sit on the surface of this building is a satisfying illusion. But the real picture shows that someone's just taken the moon and shuffled its position slightly.

Unlucky tourist.


This pic, appearing to show a tourist on the World Trade Center's observation deck just before a plane crashed into the building, has been online for years. It was debunked as a composite years ago, but still fools some people.

Moon melons.

The Museum of Hoaxes

This "Japanese Moon Melon" was being shared non-stop under the guise of the scientific name asidus, a fruit native to some areas of Japan. It also claimed to alter your tastedbuds after consumption — turning sweet things sour, and salty things bitter.

It turned out to just be a digitally manipulated image of a regular old watermelon.

Spaced out.

Snopes - Twitter | @chrishadfield

People were shocked to learn that astronaut Chris Hadfield was apparently testing the affects of marijuana in space. However, the real image was shared to his Twitter account, and captioned, "Don't tell my crew, but I brought them Easter Eggs :)."

Significantly more pure of heart.

Syrian boy between his parent's graves.

Instagram | @abdulaziz_099

The photo on the left was shared and elicited thousands of heartbroken responses. While the sentiment is valid, the actual photo is the result of a photo shoot and the child acted as a model.

College of no planning.

Uber Humor

As delightful as it would be to actually see this poorly-thought-out sign in real life, you'll find that the actual building — seen below — correctly planned out its sign from the start.

Fried rice wave.

Reddit | GeneReddit123

Honestly, it's probably possible to do this in real life if you can snap the pic at the perfect moment. In this case, this is a pic of a sculpture.

Paris Hilton against the poors.


The "it" girl of, like, 2002, Paris Hilton, always seemed to be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. In this case, she wasn't actually wearing a shirt with the provocative message seen at left.

Einstein and the a-bomb.


Albert Einstein was known as a fun-loving genius, so this pic of him cavorting on a bike with a mushroom cloud in the background wouldn't be out of character. In actuality, Einstein was dead long before this test took place.

Island castle.


If it looks too beautiful to be real, that's because it is (also: how do you get up there?). In this case, someone's just 'shopped a pic of a German castle onto this admittedly impressive rock.

Shark threat.


This photo was circulating the internet claiming to be the result of a collapsed shark tank at The Scientific Center in Kuwait.

Obviously, the sharks were photoshopped into the image, and the original wet basement was from Toronto's Royal Bank Plaza after a flooding incident.

MLK flipping the bird.


The image on the left was shared widely, showing Martin Luther King Jr. flipping the middle finger to a photographer. He was actually just throwing up a peace sign.

Frog girl.

Reddit | BAC51

The pic on the left is probably possible to pull off for a flexible person. But it's clearly a fake — someone took the original and just doubled up this woman's bent right leg.

Hurricane Sandy.


This image spread across Facebook like wildfire, claiming to be a still from footage of the disastrous Hurricane Sandy. While it's very ominous and illustrative of the destruction a hurricane can bring, it's also fake.

This is a still from the film The Day After Tomorrow.

Dumping and dodging.

Twitter | @alejandronario

This spread across social media under a caption that claimed this cruise ship was dropping human waste and pollution into the ocean.

While the image is real, the caption was not. This cruise ship was starting its engines before dropping anchor. The brown spots are the result of the sand and mud being disturbed.

Melanistic lion.

DeviantArt | pavoldvorsky

While melanistic lions are definitely a possibility in nature, this one isn't. This photo originally featured a regular lion, but was edited to have black fur. The user who edited it never tried to pass it off as real. Instead, it got out of their hands and spread across the web.

Double Decker Bus Race.

Twitter | @HistoryInPics

This one is maybe a little obvious - and I say "maybe" as a courtesy - but it still racked up quite a number of likes on Twitter. It is definitely airbrushed and Photoshopped to hell and back. This never happened.

Cow on a car.

The Museum of Hoaxes

I remember seeing this one too actually. It's likely been repurposed a lot seeing as it's pretty funny even after knowing it's fake. This cow is absolutely not on this car, especially given that the car would at least dip under the weight of a cow on the hood. It's unknown who made the image, but it's another one to be filed away as a hoax.

Long exposure lightning strike.

The Museum of Hoaxes

What was claimed to be a "long exposure shot of a tree being struck by lightning" is about half fake. It isn't a tree being struck by lightning, but it is a long exposure shot. It was created by artist Darren Pearson, who does "light painting." The lightning strike was doctored in, but the lights and colors were a result of a type of photographic art!

Megalodon next to a German U-Boat.

Twitter | @terrifyingposts

While cool, this one was actually made as part of a TV promotion for a Discovery Channel trailer about the Megalodon. I suppose the U-Boat photo is probably real, but there was no giant shark in sight that day.

Emu teeth.

The Museum of Hoaxes

And now for one we can all be happy isn't real, this photo that went around showing the inside of an emu's mouth sporting an impressive set of sharp teeth. Emus don't really have teeth, so there's no need to fear unless you were already scared of them before.

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye.

Escape Normal

I remember seeing this picture on Pinterest ages ago, which is where it really took off. Though beautiful, it is fake, extremely edited to look far more fantastical than it is. The Isle of Sky is still stunning, though, even without the purple.

Camera crew being chased by a bear.

Imgur | SudhirKr

Another one I have vivid memories of: Turns out these guys weren't actually being chased by a bear. It was edited into a silly behind-the-scenes shot from a National Geographic photoshoot.

Giant Santa Monica squid.

The Museum of Hoaxes

The original "story" backing this picture was that this squid grew to this size due to Fukashima radiation, but none of it is true. This squid was a giant squid that washed up in Spain, but it absolutely was not this big. It was then pasted over top a picture of a beached whale in Chile, but they decided to make this new story set in Santa Monica, thus completing their fun little narrative.

No cheerleading accident here.


I feel sorry for this girl, I really do. This is the original image, while the fake one that circulated showing her pooping on her teammates. It was never real, though. Instead, the teammates' reactions are likely due to a misstep and a knowledge that she'll fall. It originated on Reddit, on the PhotoshopBattles subreddit, but someone decided to spread it as real and destroy this girl's reputation along with it.

Great white shark jumping out of the water.

Twitter | @Nature_Is_Lit

This is actually a 3D rendering of, well, a great white shark jumping out of the water. While incredibly realistic, it is fake, but this wasn't discovered until after it was spread all around Reddit and Twitter.

Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

Imgur | SudhirKr

As cool as this photo is, it's actually a composite of two separate photos as seen above. I will say it's a rather well-done edit, so I could see why people would be fooled, and they're both still gorgeous photos on their own.

Waterfall Castle, The Enchanted Wood.

Twitter | @ThatsEarth

Like the shark, this is a piece of hyper-realistic digital artwork. It's titled "Hidden Temple" by Ruben Darío Karamañites Arango. What's hilarious to me is the Twitter account that posted this called it "Waterfall Castle, The Enchanted Wood," but didn't list an actual real place or location. No wonder people found this one out.

Modern-Day Diplocaulus

The Museum of Hoaxes

This photo was claimed to be a Diplocaulus discovered in 2004, even though the Diplocaulus had been extinct for over 270 million years. While this is a photo of a Diplocaulus, it's not a real one, it's a sculpture made by a Japanese model-maker back in 1992.

First photo of a cat.

Twitter | @history2cool

The account that posted this claimed this picture was taken in 1880, and was the first-ever picture of a cat. It's not true at all. There are lots of photos of cats predating 1880, and photos of cats that were taken around 1880 looked nothing like this.