10 Rarest Crime Scene Photos Ever Taken

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Finding “rare” crime scene photos is kind of redundant since most aren’t seen by the public to begin with. To narrow down the search and display some truly rare crime scene photographs, all images on this list have been taken by the photographer Weegee the Famous, who rose to prominence in the 1930s and 40s. While Weegee is well known and has work in places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, most of the pictures here come from a junk store box that wasn’t opened until 2019. None of the photos in this box were ever mass produced or reprinted, making them both rare crime scene photos and rare Weegee images.

Weegee the Famous, real name Arthur Fellig, spent his career focusing on the underside of New York. His portfolio consists mostly of the poor and oppressed as well as crime scene images that made their way to the front pages of tabloid papers. While Weegee is remembered as one of the first sensationalist photographers, some of his work does demonstrate the compassion he had for those outside of the mainstream. Read the list below to discover some of his most horrifying and compelling images from the late 1930s.

  1. Teen Couple Charged in Mother’s Death
  2. Year: 1936
    Crime: Ancient/Blind
    Associated Headline: Girl, 17, Admits to Killing Mother with Hatchet
    Teen Couple Charged in Mother’s Death
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    These photographs were recently uncovered, but quite famous during the time of their release— catapulting Weegee’s career. They appear as benign headshots of Gladys Macknight and Donald Wightman. In actuality, the teenage couple had brutally murdered Gladys’ mother because she disapproved of their relationship hours prior. This case was particularly notable because everyone involved came from upper class families. Gladys’ father was an executive at a cable company and Donald’s ran the local yacht club. Weegee convinced the police captain to bring the pair up from holding so he could take their pictures. Gladys’ photograph was later mentioned during her trial to demonstrate that she lacked remorse for her actions.

    Did you know

    Weegee wasn’t supposed to take these photographs. When he and a journalist friend arrived at the scene, they were shocked that no one else from the media was present. As it turned out, several journalists and photographers had agreed to come in the morning for photos and interviews since the police told them “no more pictures.” Weegee was unaware of this agreement.


  3. Joseph Gedeon
  4. Year: 1937
    Crime: Triple Homicide
    Associated Headline: Beer, Gin, Poker Games, and Nudes: All in the Lifetime for Ronnie Gedeon
    Joseph Gedeon
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    This image shows Joseph Gedeon after he discovered the bodies of his estranged wife and younger daughter, along with that of a boarder, when he decided to visit his family for Easter. Police arrested him as a suspect, but he was soon released. Gedeon’s daughter, Veronica, was a model and images of her “scandalous” work led to public shame and ridicule against the murder victim. However, the actual murderer, Robert Irwin, had no interest in Veronica’s career, but was obsessed with her older sister Ethel. He snapped when Ethel and Veronica’s mother Mary told him to move on from her daughter

    Did you know

    The defense’s use of the insanity defense made New York state rethink how the concept was applied in court. The tactic worked and Irwin escaped capital punishment, dying in an asylum in 1975.


  5. Children Peer at Murder Suspect
  6. Year: 1937
    Crime: First Degree Murder
    Associated Headline: MOTHER INDICTED IN GIRL’S DEATH; Mrs. Tiernan Also Is Charged With Attacking Son, 4, in Long Island Woods
    Children Peer at Murder Suspect
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    This image shows a group of children stealing a glimpse at George Christodulus. His girlfriend, Helen Tiernan, wanted to marry him but he refused because she had children. Tiernan subsequently took her two children into the forest, under the guise of a picnic, and stabbed them. Her daughter succumbed to her wounds, but her son survived. Christodulus was originally implicated in the murders as well, but Tiernan’s testimony exonerated him.

    Did you know

    FBI data shows that 13 percent of murder victims were killed by family members in 2019.


  7. The Release of Father Divine
  8. Year: 1937
    Crime: Second Degree Murder
    Associated Headline: Faithful Angels Chant and Keep Nightlong Vigil as Police Headquarters Becomes Divine Abode
    The Release of Father Divine
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    This image shows the reaction to Father Divine’s release from jail after questioning. A few days prior, a man delivering a summons to Father Divine at one of his congregations was stabbed to death. Father Divine fled to Connecticut but subsequently turned himself in for questioning. Thousands waited and cheered for him upon his release. Father Divine remains a complex figure in American history. He was well known in Depression-era New York where he ran a religious group called The Peace Mission. While some believed this was a cult, others now view it as a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement as it gave African Americans opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had and preached equality. He did, however, claim to be God incarnate.

    Did you know

    Father Divine started the Peace Mission Movement, a political platform that included the end of capital punishment and the repeal of laws based on racial prejudice.


  9. Kids Look at Car Crash
  10. Year: 1937
    Crime: Automobile Collision
    Associated Headline: L Pillar Cracks Fetchit’s Skull
    Kids Look at Car Crash
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    This image shows a group of children in Harlem staring shocked at an off-shot car accident. An older woman looks disapprovingly on. Their over the top reactions and direct looks at the camera suggest that Weegee posed the children for this image. The car accident involved comedian Stepin Fetchit who suffered a skull fracture when his car collided with a pillar. Luckily, he survived. The image resembles a much more famous and less morbid Weegee photograph called “The Critic,” which he also staged.

    Did you know

    Every year, about six million car accidents occur  in the United States  and three million people are injured in car accidents.


  11. Harlem Tenement Fire
  12. Year: 1937
    Crime: Criminal Negligence
    Associated Headline: 3 killed, 20 hurt as 200 residents flee the Old-Law Tenements – criminal negligence was charged
    Harlem Tenement Fire
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    This image shows one of many Weegee took of burning tenement buildings, which historically housed lower class and immigrant families in small spaces. The buildings are located on 137 – 139 Suffolk Street in New York. The fire claimed three lives and hurt 200 people. The poor safety codes and design of the building were probably to blame, with events like this one occurring multiple times over the decades.

    Did you know

    A more well known Weegee photograph from the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows two women crying as their building burns in 1942.


  13. Drag Queen Arrested
  14. Year: Unknow
    Crime: Cross Dressing
    Associated Headline: Unknow
    Drag Queen Arrested
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    Many of Weegee’s works focused on the so-called criminal underbelly of New York City. He appreciated outcasts and treated them with respect. This photo is one example of many Weegee took of drag queens, who were ostracized by the law until the twenty-first century.

    Did you know

    An ordinance made in 1964 that outlawed “crossdressing” in Haddon Township, New Jersey wasn’t overturned until 2014.


  15. Tony Benedetti and Family Deported
  16. Year: 1937
    Crime: Being on Welfare
    Associated Headline: Deported—to Uniontown
    Tony Benedetti and Family Deported
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    Tony Benedetti, a single low income father hurt by the Depression, didn’t actually commit a crime. However, the state forced him and his family to move to Pennsylvania because they were on welfare and New York did not want to pay the $32 to support them. The Benedettis were one of the first families in the country to be deported for this reason. Here, Weegee photographs the family as they board the train in Penn Station.

    Did you know

    The city of Los Angeles, CA started illegally deporting citizens of Mexican descent to Mexico during the 1930s


  17. Drunk Driving Multi-Car Collision
  18. Year: 1937
    Crime: Drunk driving
    Associated Headline: The Grim Reaper Thumbs a Lift When You “Go to Town”
    Drunk Driving Multi-Car Collision
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    This image shows the aftermath of a car accident caused by drunk driving. The collision between two cars and a trolley in Brooklyn, New York killed two people immediately on impact and hospitalized three others with serious injuries. As the above headline proves, the media was not kind to the inebriated driver. Weegee also took efforts to show the reality of the crash, highlighting the multiple liquor bottles amongst the wreckage.

    Did you know

    In 2016, 10,497 people died in drunk driving related incidents, accounting for 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the US.


  19. Long Island Press Strike
  20. Year: 1937
    Crime: Strike and associated violence
    Associated Headline: CLERGYMEN BACK GUILD; Blame for Long Island Press Strike Laid to Management
    Long Island Press Strike
    photo source: Weegee/International Center of Photography

    While the exact origins of this photograph can’t be determined, some sources posit its from a strike on the “Long Daily Island Press.”  This air of mystery gives it the title of rarest crime scene photograph. The New York Newspaper Guild originally called the strike to improve workers’ rights. As the headline suggests, the media sided with the strikers and believed the management ought to make a deal with the guild.

    Did you know

    The “Long Island Daily Press” folded in 1977, after 156 years. It was revived in 2002 under the name, “Long Island Press.”

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