Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Found Photos of the Unexplained: Odd Vintage Pics That Demand a Backstory

Share this:

vintage youth playing chess

MYSTERY: Really?  A room full of spectators for a chess game?  I know our attention spans have gotten worse through the decades, but I don’t ever remember a day when chess could transfix a crowd of teenagers.

THEORY: They were all smoking pot a few moments ago.  Mom knocks on the door, and the kids spring into action: out comes the air freshener and the chessboard.

It’s a fun game to theorize the backstory behind found photos. There’s a story in each one – but they’ve been lost to time.  It’s our job to piece together clues and hazard a guess. So, let’s have a look at a few B&W photographs from Flashbak’s mystery stack.

vintage party

It appears this poor man is a captive to a pack of sadistic women.  He’s clearly desperately trying to get away; perhaps hoping to use that lamp as a weapon to fend off the horde of sex-hungry women.  Is this what goes on behind the scenes at sororities?

found vintage photo

What the – ?  A semi-nude woman and a chimp-in-a-toilet.  I’m not even going to throw out a hypothesis.  There appears to be a legit photo-shoot going on, so it’s likely not an amateur photograph… but what the hell?

found photograph

I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know it would get your fired from your job today.  Whether he is the school bus driver or a parent, this is wildly inappropriate.  But credit where it’s due: This gent turned a run-of-the-mill group photo shot into an opportunity to splay across the laps of four young ladies.  Well done, sir.

vintage wedding grocery store

It’s not exactly customary to go shopping for canned goods and shredded wheat after you get married – but the 1970s were a strange time.  Can we presume they work at the store?  Any other explanation eludes me.

scary cabaret

What the what?  Clearly there’s a performance going on – but of what kind?  It’s kind of creepy – and I’m completely flummoxed by the cleavage flags. Maybe this is The Joker: The Early Years. Before turning to a life a crime, he did scary cabaret.  Perhaps it was years of receiving poor reviews which made him the supervillain we’ve come to know and love.

vintage classroom

Is this teacher hypnotizing them with the Star of David?  I’m as fond of the symbol as the next guy, but I can’t quite fathom why it would be the source of such awe from the student body… a strange game of show-and-tell indeed.

vintage found photo

If you’re having trouble coming up with something fun to do this weekend – why not put gloves on grandpa?  Yes, that’s right.  Just place of big stack of gloves in your driveway, and you and the whole extended family can have a blast putting them on grandpa.  Don’t knock it until you try it!

1978 found photo dance

No points for guess who’s the belle of this ball. This is appears to be a press photo of some kind, and it’s labeled “1978”.  But we don’t need any description of events – we know exactly what’s going on here.  That poor schlep on the left thought he had a good thing going, until he was promptly upstaged by three cock-blocking douchebags in white.

vintage found photo

Words fail me.

vintage found photo

This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t look as though it was taking place in some darkened basement.  Please tell me this isn’t from a serial killer’s scrapbook.

This is giving me the heebie jeebies – let’s move on, shall we?

vintage found photo

What could be behind this ruckus? And why is there a grown man squealing like a schoolgirl?  So many questions, so few answers.

  • BOB

    Awesome stuff.

    • Drehcir

      Very awesome.

    • Yeoman Lowbrow

      Thanks. Much more to come!

  • timdub70

    I wonder if that couple got married in the grocery store?

  • Fred Johansen

    Notice the lone person in the dark in the background of the second to bottom photo.

    • Yeoman Lowbrow

      I reeeeally wish you hadn’t pointed that out, Fred. (shudder)

  • busidisqus

    The elder man with the four women on the bench… The elder man looks very much like my grandfather at around the same time period (there is nothing about him that I can point to that would cause me to doubt that it is him… though, that isn’t a guarantee that it is him). Same smile, same style, same frame and build. What I can say about my grandfather (other than him having been a war hero, as well as having created something that most people here have surely enjoyed at some point in their life), is that he was a very well liked person. Everyone I know who had the opportunity to meet him have been awed by him, and I still, occasionally, hear stories from people who thought he was amazing and looked up to him, some even idolized him. He was profoundly kind, humble, humorous, friendly to friend or stranger (he had the ability to make someone feel like close family despite having just met him), and extremely intelligent (he was a legit genius, as is his wife). Not sure if the man in the photo is the same person, but if he is, no matter who you are, you would have liked him.

  • Freakanatcha

    There is a certain quality that runs through nearly all high school yearbook photography. Much like NASCAR, we watch it for the wrecks.

  • Col Bond

    Hmm… some of us find it unsettling to hear something from the seventies described as ‘vintage’. I was expecting the twenties at least. Our consolation is having actually lived through Ziggy Stardust, moon landings and punk. It was a blast.

    How d’ya think photos of today’s hipsters (which Shortlist writers try so hard to be) will be seen in forty years time? Ugh! Beardy tattooed poseurs.