If you think “old” means “tame,” read on to be proven wrong.
In the first half of the 1900s, a famous photographer who went by the name “Weegee” became popular for his raw and honest crime scene photos — often taken even before police arrived at the scene. His name was a play on the idea that he was like a Ouija board, always knowing where the next crime was going to take place.
His real name was Arthur Fellig, and, once you get past the shock factor, there’s a real art to the ease with which he captured the horror of human injury. He traversed the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1930s, and his camera caught a lot. Take a look:
10. Standard Practice Dead Guys
As a crime scene photographer, Weegee did exactly what was needed of him: he captured the scenes in every stage of an investigation. Here we see a specialist examining a corpse lying on the sidewalk — just one of the many stages of cleaning up a murder that Weegee was assigned to cover.
9. Standard Practice Dead Gals
Murder isn’t and wasn’t just for the boys. Here we see the photo of a woman’s corpse lying, covered by a sheet, on Park Avenue in 1938. She was killed after jumping out of a moving car, so one can only imagine what it was she needed to get away from.
8. Pretty Gruesome Crime Scenes
The beauty of many of Weegees’ photos is that they leave nothing to the imagination. This crime scene photo of a woman stabbed puts everything on display: the body, the setting, the weapon. For a generation of cops that had to solve crimes pre-CSI, this was very helpful stuff.
7. Throw In The Occasional Car Wreck
You wouldn’t think that cars in the 1940s could do a lot of damage, since they didn’t seem to go that fast. But this photo shows the remains of a collision between a cab and a truck, which made their untimely meetup on 39th street in 1941. It doesn’t look like that went well for the drivers.
6. Lots And Lots Of Mafiosos
Given the time and place of Weegee’s work — that is, New York City in the 30s and 40s — it’s to be expected that many of his subjects were gangsters who had crossed into someone’s bad graces. Dominick Didato, pictured here, met his grisly end on Elizabeth Street in 1936.
5. Car Wreck: Water Edition
This isn’t just a car wreck, though — look closely and you’ll see the body of Morris Linker, who was driving the ambulance in the photo when he went over into the East River in 1945. They say drowning is the worst way to die, so drowning in a car crash can’t have been pleasant, either.
4. This Pair Of Lethal Failures
These two look like something out of a grisly Home Alone scene. Robert Green and Jacob Jagendorf were criminals who attempted a robbery in 1915 and failed, falling tragically to their deaths. From up above, Weegee captured the almost comical look of shock of one of the men’s final moments.
3. This Horrific Flame Scene
All deadly crime scenes are lethal, but there’s something truly over-the-top about a burned body. This delivery driver’s truck went up in flames at some point in the 1940s, and when the inferno went out, his disfigured body was still sitting in the driver’s seat.
2. This Seriously Spooky Lady
Weegee didn’t just photograph murders; he photographed crime scenes. That means the victims weren’t always dead—like the lady pictured here, though based on the blood on her body, it looks like she was well on her way. She reaches out to the camera in perhaps one last attempt to hold onto life.
1. The Bloodiest One of All
If any of these are going to make you squeamish, it’s this one. Carlo Tresca was the victim of a mafia hit in 1943, and judging by the photo, it wasn’t a clean one. Blood pours out of his scull and over the sidewalk onto the street…and, ever composed, Weegee got the shot.
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