There’s no doubt that the natural world is full of breathtaking beauty and wonder. At the same time, Mother Nature nature has a scary side! As much as planet earth can make us gasp in awe, she can also make us shriek in fear. From organic optical illusions to freaky natural phenomena, these photos capture environmental encounters that were less like a nature documentary and more like a horror film.
An abandoned eagle’s nest was found full of skeletons
Researchers at the Harpy Eagle Conservation Program received quite the shock when they discovered an abandoned harpy eagle’s nest filled to the brim with bones, many of which looked eerily human. Apparently, these South American raptors hunt several species of primates that live in their habitat, but thus far they haven’t been known to hunt humans.
An upside down Great White shark looks like a horrifying face
If the fact that they can smell a drop of blood in the water from 5k away, that they can swim over 50mph, or that they have over 300 saw-like teeth wasn’t enough to stay out of the ocean, this is what a Great White looks like from below. We can’t tell which of the sharks two faces would be scarier to see swimming toward you.
A bird built her nest in the remains of this creature’s skeleton
If you think your house is haunted, imagine living inside of a skeleton. This freaky creature is a northern pike, a carnivorous fish that likely met his end while jumping to catch his prey. Instead, he got stuck in the branches, and resourceful mama bird found his remains and jumped at the real estate opportunity.
Lake Michigan froze over and then shattered
A few times each century, the Great Lakes region can get so cold that the surface of Lake Michigan freezes solid. Eventually, the crashing waves and water moving underneath shatter the ice shelves and break the frozen surface into giant, jagged shards of ice.
The power of a hurricane split this tree trunk with a wooden post
The winds of a hurricane can spin as fast as 200mph, which means that some hurricanes move faster than a bullet. The residents of the island St. Croix saw this firsthand when a piece of wood pierced a tree right through the middle of its trunk. The post went completely through the tree but it didn’t break, and it remained standing after the storm.
This plant didn’t need the help of pesticides
Wasps may think they’re the queen bees of the garden but this vining plant begs to differ. When the springs of the vine’s coils sprung their way around this unfortunate wasp’s neck, there was no way he could buzz his way out of this one.
An unfortunate fox was frozen underneath the ice
No, this isn’t the dog’s reflection in the ice. Rather, this poor fox must have fallen into the icy waters and got stuck inside. When the lake finally froze over enough for people to walk on it, this traveler received a spook when he saw what was lurking just below the surface.
Organic, biodegradable, zero-waste Halloween decorations
Although this isn’t actually a zombie hand reaching up from beneath the dirt, like many fungi, this mushroom does feed on dead or decaying organisms. Xylaria polymorpha, commonly known as “dead man’s fingers,” grows in forests and woodlands (and luckily not too many graveyards).
This gardener pulled up a racoon skeleton while weeding
It’s not uncommon to encounter creepy crawlies when gardening. However, there’s a big difference between finding a worm or a lizard and digging up a whole racoon skull. Weeding is already the least fun part of keeping a garden. If we unearthed this skeleton, we’d probably be looking for a different hobby.
Excuse me! Occupied!
After a major flood sent an Australian ecosystem for a spin, many critters had to look for a new habitat. These frogs’ house hunting journey seemingly took them through a neighborhood’s sewage system and up through this woman’s plumbing. She returned home after evacuating from the flood to find her toilet had been transformed into an aquarium.
All the cars in the parking garage were squished when the building collapsed
The 1994 Northridge earthquake was one of the largest natural disasters that happened in Los Angeles in over a century. Buildings, bridges, and highways collapsed causing countless damage. Here, the entire building dropped down one floor, eliminating the parking garage and causing a huge dilemma between rental insurance and auto insurance companies.
An earthquake split the highway right down the middle of the two lanes
No one was driving on this highway for a long while after an earthquake in Japan split open the earth. But if they had to, at least the crack divided the road perfectly between the two directions of traffic. Mother nature may be a powerful force but at least she respects the rules of the road.
What the hail?!
A Texas driver undeniably lost this snowball fight with Mother Earth. During a powerful storm, the hail was almost as large as a baseball and fell so fast that it went through the moonroof. Luckily, the plastic safety coating kept this disaster from becoming a wet mess, but it still snowed shards of glass from inside the car.
Is it worth finding out if this is a shark or a dolphin?
Pictures like this just give us another reason to surf the web instead of surfing waves. We’re sure that for the people who enjoy surfing, the potential to interact with mysterious sea creatures is totally worth the risk. For us, on the other hand, we’re happy to stay splashing in the shallow end.
A tree struck by lightning looks like spooky spaghetti
Just like humans, trees have vascular systems that supply oxygen and nutrients from their roots to their branches. This tree got hit by a lightning bolt, exposing its web of veins, and making us crave Italian food for dinner.
A tornado dropped the school bus on top of the classroom
Not only do tornadoes have extreme winds that fling objects at high speeds, but their spirals also have unimaginable lifting power. This school was the unfortunate victim of such a phenomenon, but we’ve all learned something about the true strength of mother nature.
A certain fungus can turn insects into zombies
When the parasitic cordyceps fungus penetrates the exoskeleton of unsuspecting insects, it basically turns them into zombies. As the mushroom takes over, the insects feel an abnormal need to search for a humid, fungi-favorable microclimate. The fungus can then grow large enough to burst through its victim and release its spores.
Alligators go “dormant” for months during the winter
While it looks like this alligator met an icy end, he’s actually just chilling…literally. During the winter months, alligators enter a state of “brumation,” which is very similar to hibernation. They move very little, meaning they can survive several years without eating, and they are even able to regulate their own oxygen supply.
Waterspouts can make it rain schools of fish
A tornado that forms over a body of water creates a natural phenomenon known as a waterspout. Just like any other tornado, these vortexes have high-speed winds and a powerful upward pull. Unfortunately, for the unsuspecting sea creatures, this means they have the potential to get airborne.
The worm made the early bird decide to skip breakfast
Australia is known for its less-than-docile wildlife, but who knew even the earthworms were monstrous? This homeowner was incredibly brave to pick up the worm for a photo. We would have been inching away.
“I guess it’s time to get an electric car”
As if we needed one more reason to stop filling up at the gas station, this customer reached for the pump and found much more than they could handle. Seeing something like this would definitely fuel our decision to trade a gas-guzzler for an electric vehicle.
Termites can build mounds meters high that are stronger than cement
Compared to their size, termites build the tallest structures out of any animal on the planet. The conical structures can reach up to 9 meters high with a base of nearly 5 meters in diameter. In comparison, humans would need to construct something over 6 miles high to be able to compete with termites.
“I was afraid of the giant snake until I saw what it was eating”
We’re all familiar with how pythons and anacondas can grow to monstrous proportions, but certain species of bats are also bone-chillingly large. This snake happened to catch a particularly massive Malaysian flying fox. Despite the beastly megabat’s scientific name, Pteropus vampyrus, its diet consists exclusively of fruits, nectar, and flowers.
A massive earthquake caused the Leaning Tower of Taiwan
When a shallow, 6.4-magnitude quake hit the east coast of Taiwan, ruptured foundations caused some building to tip but not topple. Presumably, there were more survivors of the disaster than there would have been if the building had collapsed entirely, but the situation made the search and rescue mission infinitely more precarious.
“Hornets decorated my house for Halloween by building their nest over the floodlight”
We didn’t think that a hornets nest could get much scarier, but glowing lights that make it look like a demonic monster’s head really kick things up a notch. There is no way we would waste any time before calling an exterminator. So, if this wasn’t built on October 31st, that’s quite unfortunate.
An extreme storm gave this wind turbine the blues
When a tornado blew through Texas, the intense storm caused a fire to break out on the blades of this wind turbine. The disaster caused it’s appendages to bend, melt, and ultimately droop, causing the wind turbine to look like it was (understandably) having a really rotten day.
“I looked into the puddle and the puddle looked back”
No, you don’t need to take a trip to the optometrist. This half-frozen jug of water really looks like an eyeball. This person found their pot filled with water, freezing from the outside-in. The striations and deep darkness of the water really make it look like a black pupil and bright blue iris.
An earthquake caused a major splash on this building’s rooftop pool
The Philippines were rocked by an intense earthquake that undeniably made waves. The shock was so great that all of the water was tossed from the pool of a building’s rooftop pool and dumped onto the people and buildings below.
For this car, the fallen tree turned into a catapult
We don’t often think about what’s growing beneath the soil, but tree root systems can be both deep and wide. More mature trees can also grow roots that are incredibly thick in strong, and this car found out the hard way. When a strong storm toppled the tree, the girthy roots were unearthed, sending the car into the air.
Cabbage patches look like a field of alien eggs
When the outer layer of a cabbage plant dries up, the result looks like something from out of this world. The green, luscious foliage turns brown, making the leafy green veggies seem more like alien eggs. While these cabbages look like they’re headed for outer space rather than the farmers market, we bet they’d taste just the same.
Does “an eye for an eye” apply in the animal kingdom?
This lion got the nickname “Scarface” after surviving an encounter with a Maasai warrior defending his herd of cattle. A wound like this might be fatal under regular circumstances, but conservancy vets nursed him back to health and sent him back to the wild. He might have lost his eye, but hopefully this lion didn’t lose his pride.
This snake was picked clean by vultures
Seeing something like this would be such an emotional roller coaster. After the initial relief of realizing there wasn’t a spikey alien on the asphalt, we’d re-enter a state of panic upon the conclusion that it was a snake skeleton that had been gnawed down to the bone by predators.
A “firenado” wrapped a fence around this tree
The extreme temperatures and high-speed winds of the phenomenon known as a firenado cause unrivaled damage to both natural and urban environments. After the Carr fire that caused a firenado, people inspecting the damage found that the flames and 100mph winds wrapped this fence around a surviving tree.
Swallowed whole, this eel burst out of a heron’s stomach mid-flight
Let this be a lesson to make sure you chew your food. This poor bird learned the hard way when his lunch made an unexpected break for it. The eel was able to dig a hole in the heron’s abdomen and break out while the two were still soaring through the air.
A tree struck by lightning burned from the inside out
In nature, if things “get lit” it’s not such a good thing. Still, it’s pretty interesting to see how the trunk of a tree can smolder from the inside out if it gets struck by lightning. Luckily, someone snapped this picture. We’re pretty sure lightning isn’t going to strike this tree twice.
An elk caught in an avalanche was pinned to a tree
When this elk saw its reflection in the snow-covered hills, it was unfortunately the last thing it saw. Avalanches can reach speeds up to 200 miles per hour. Even the fastest elks can only run about 40 miles per hour, so this dear deer didn’t stand a chance.
Moose shed their veins in their antlers and then eat it
Antlers may look as lifeless as nails or hair, but they have deep vascular systems that carry blood and oxygen through the appendages. Each year, moose shed this veiny coating called a “velvet” and eat the skin and cartilage.
Chimpanzees can go bald
Just like humans, chimpanzees can suffer from alopecia, a skin condition that causes temporary or permanent hair loss. As if it wasn’t freaky enough how much these primates seem like humans, seeing them without their coat of fur is a strong reminder of how not-so-distantly we’re related.
An opossum can make any house a home
Now, we’d never judge anyone’s living conditions, but we’re quite surprised that this opossum would choose a deer carcass to make its home. Maybe woodland property values are skyrocketing, just like the rest of the country, but at least he looks…cozy?
It’s no wonder how the bloodwood tree got its name
Native to South Africa, the Pterocarpus Angolensis is a tree with spectacularly spooky sap. When the tree is chopped down or the bark is damaged, the wood begins to seep a sticky liquid from the wound. Just like blood, the sap coagulates to seal the injury from infection and tries to heal the wounded area of the tree.
This natural phenomena looks like a mass alien abduction or the end of days
Although it looks like people could begin levitating up the beams of light at any second, this actually is a completely normal occurrence in places like Karasjok, Norway. Very specific weather conditions cause ice crystals that form at low altitudes and reflect the light on the earth’s surface. These colorful beams of light are known as ice pillars, and they’re a beautiful collaboration between humanity and nature once you realize it’s not something dangerous.
There’s something fishy about the way these creatures raise their kids
You know the classic joke of putting an orange peel over your teeth and smiling at someone? This is exactly like that…except if instead of an orange peel it was hundreds of tiny embryos and instead of a joke it was horrifying. After mating, the female Harlequin Jawfish deposits the eggs into the mouth of her male mate who keeps them safe until they hatch. As shocking as this is, at least you can’t accuse him of being an absent father.
These moths build themselves little log cabins
If we found these out in nature, there’s no doubt that we’d think they belonged to a freaky fairy. However, these are actually the work of the Bagworm moth. As caterpillars, this species of moths saw pieces of twigs and construct cabin-like pyramid structures for themselves to live in.
Pelicans cool themselves down by pushing their spines out through their mouths
For some evolutionary reason, pelicans are able to cool themselves down by essentially flipping themselves inside out. They push their spines out through their mouths and let the breeze cool them off. While this is such an interesting technique, from our understanding, pelicans live near the ocean. Wouldn’t it be easier to cool off by taking a quick jump in the water?
A stroke left this cat without any eyes
Yes, of course, there is beauty in all of Mother Nature’s creations…but it’s okay to admit that this is one frightening feline. Unfortunately, this hairless sphynx suffered a stroke that took away his eyes. We have no doubt that he’s the sweetest, most loving pet. However, if you saw him walking toward you down an alley, wouldn’t you also start running?
Who was going to tell us that ducks have claws?!?
We know what you’re thinking…no ducking way. That was exactly our reaction when we learned that ducks have claws that stick out from their wings. As the only surviving descendants of dinosaurs, many beards have clubs, spurs, spikes, and claws, but some are much more pronounced than others.
See you later, alligators
If you’re enjoying the sunset, chilling on a Florida riverbank, and suddenly you see a scene that looks something like this…it’s time to get back to the car. All of these orange dots are the eyes of wild alligators on the hunt for their next meal, and if you stick around it might be you.
We’ve heard of a burning bush but never a flaming waterfall
In Western New York, the Eternal Flame Falls are a spectacle, especially if you find them unexpectedly. A grotto beneath the waterfall contains a natural gas vent that can be lit to provide an “eternal” flame. Occasionally, splashes from the falls extinguish the fire, but it is often relit by passing hikers.
Climbing for honey in public parks is risky business
It’s unclear how and why this brown bear got himself up into that tree, but we have photo evidence of exactly how he got down. Seeing a bear in a tree in your neighborhood must be absolutely frightening, so we can understand why the authorities had to get him out of there. We just hope he had a soft landing.
Antarctica is cold but the “Blood Falls” are positively spine-chilling
Deep under the ice in a particular region of Antarctica are pockets of saltwater that are rich in iron. When fissures in the ice cascade send the water to the surface, the water oxidizes like rust and turns into what looks like a waterfall of bright red blood. There are many reasons why Antarctica isn’t a popular vacation destination, but the squeamish, especially, should cross it off their list.
A opossum in the office was just checking to see if those reports were ready
No place is less natural than an office building, but mother nature finds a way. This curious opossum needed to know what was happening in one woman’s lab in Australia, and found their way in through the ceiling tiles. If we were that scientist, the next product we’d be working on would be a opossum repellent.
Raising this many kids is quite a Kermit-ment
One of the most unusual reproductive methods on planet Earth belongs to the Surinam toad. The female pushes its eggs through a membrane and holds them in pockets on her back as they develop into tadpoles and until they become fully-formed toadlets.
When the killer whale turns out to be a silly dolphin
Known as the “false killer whale,” this creature is actually a species of dolphin. True, it appears to look just like Shamu’s cousin from the outside but the real reason scientists gave it this name because of its skull shape. Even though it seems like an orca, this marine mammal is all dolphin, and behaves like one too.
“Snow donuts” form when Mother Nature wants a snowball fight
While they look more tasty than terrifying, imagine this icy ring rolling down a mountain toward you at top speed. These snow formations occur when cold winds pick up snow, gathering them into hollow cylinders that collect more snow as they travel. They’ve been described as the cold weather version of a tumbleweed. America may run on Dunkin, but we’re running FROM snow donuts.
“I needed to read the meter but I think I’ll move to another country instead”
When we’re kids, it’s perfectly acceptable to call your parents to take care of a spider for you, but at some point you have to grow up and do it for yourself. Still, does that apply if there’s a spider this large living on your electric meter? Forget calling our parents, we’d probably call the National Guard.
A volcanic eruption caused a 30-foot fountain of lava
The photo of this bright orange dome was captured in 1969 when Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted. Instead of one big burst, this eruption caused a continuous flow which spouted from the earth like a fountain. Although eruptions like this aren’t unusual, they’re rarely caught on camera.
Once a mystery, scientists discovered the fish responsible for these “underwater crop circles”
First spotted in 1995 off the coast of Japan, divers weren’t sure what caused these symmetrical, circular patterns to appear in the sand on the ocean floor. A decade and a half later, they were able to officially rule out aliens as the creators of these marine crop circles. Apparently, the small Japanese puffer fish are the romantic type. Males spend over a hundred hours creating these designs to impress a mate. If the female is satisfied, she’ll allow the male to fertilize her eggs and lay them in the middle of the circle.
The poor koala couldn’t bear the heat
Crikey! There’s no shortage of frightening sights in the Australian wilderness, but this explorer certainly wasn’t prepared to see this when they went for a bushwalk in the forest.
This caterpillar is just as venomous as it sounds
Right on the edge of cute and terrifying, the saddleback caterpillar is definitely not a bug that you’d like to find crawling about. Being pricked by their spines can cause a list of ailments from headaches to difficulty breathing to anaphylactic shock.
Pinch me, I must be dreaming
Though the coconut crab isn’t known for hunting humans, if it did we’d have a shell of a problem. These hermit crabs are the largest land-dwelling invertebrates on the planet, and they got their name because they can crack open a coconut with their claws.
Some Great Whites bite off more than they can chew
These creatures of the deep blue sea may be known for their powerful jaws, but even a deadly and dangerous Great White shark can have eyes that are bigger than their stomach. Despite their rows of razer-sharp teeth, Great Whites have been found choking on large animals, including sea turtles. On some occasions, they even go after prickly and poisonous animals like pufferfish or lionfish.