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A viral photo authentically shows 18-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger posing with a classmate who is also 18.
An image allegedly showing Arnold Schwarzenegger and a male classmate, both 18 years old, has circulated online for years. The most frequently shared version of the in-question image consists of a cropped photo and a caption reading, "Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Classmate, both 18 years old."
"I refuse to believe that child is 18," one Reddit user captioned the viral picture in 2022, referring to Schwarzenegger and his physicality.
Social media captions for the photo varied, specifically with how they described the person next to Schwarzenegger. "Arnold Schwarzenegger with his roommate both were at 18 yrs old," a Facebook post read, as opposed to other captions that called the person his "classmate." On the other hand, one caption read, "Arnold Schwarzenegger with fan in locker room."
The circumstances of the image were unknown. Based on our research, which included comparing the viral image to authentic photos of Schwarzenegger at age 18, he appeared much older in the in-question photo. Additionally, the identity of the person standing next to him was unknown; there's no evidence to prove he was 18, contrary to social media captions. For those reasons, we rated this claim, "Unfounded."
Not only was Schwarzenegger's age in the photo in question but also the authenticity of the image itself. We sought to determine whether it was the product of digital editing or documented an authentic moment during Schwarzenegger's life — regardless of his age, or that of the person supposedly with him.
Some social media users seemed to believe the image was digitally manipulated. "There is something very unwholesome about this photo but I can’t figure it out," one Reddit user wrote, and another responded, "The Photoshopped in towel."
(X user @MonopolyPhonic)
We used reverse image search engines like TinEye to investigate the origin of the picture. TinEye's results showed the photo has been circulating online since 2014, though, using Wayback Machine, an internet archive, we found evidence of its existence earlier, in April 2013, on www.schwarzenegger.com (that website, as of October 2023, was no longer available).
If the claim were true, hypothetically speaking, the image would have been taken in 1965 and existed in print form for decades before being uploaded to the web. We didn't find any evidence of that possible physical copy.
Despite careful research, we were unable to determine whether digital editing tools helped create the image, or whether any purported inconsistencies (like the towel example) were due to the picture's low quality, the fact that it was allegedly captured a few decades ago, or just a matter of perspective.
(www.schwarzenegger.com via Wayback Machine)
We also used Yandex, a Russian search engine, to look for the source of the photo. We found the image was shared with the same caption claiming it showed Schwarzenegger with an 18-year-old classmate, though translated into other languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. One Russian forum, for instance, claimed the photo was captured in Austria — Schwarzenegger's home country before he moved to the U.S. at age 21 — however, it did not provide verified evidence to substantiate that claim. Meanwhile, some social media users pointed to the exit sign visible in the background of the photo, which they claimed could not be found in Austria, and, therefore, would indicate that it was captured when Schwarzenegger moved to the U.S (and was over 21 years old).
Finally, we compared the viral picture with authentic photos of Schwarzenegger at age 18. He appeared to be much older in the viral image. For reference, here's what Schwarzenegger actually looked like at age 18, thanks to a 1965 photo by Getty Images:
By comparing images of Schwarzenegger over time, we determined the in-question photo likely showed him over the age of 20, possibly in the 1970s. The below-displayed photo was taken in 1976, when he was 30 years old:
For perspective, here's a collection of Schwarzenegger's photographs from 1976, when he was 30 years old:
All in all, there were many unknowns about the picture — including if it was real. If it authentically showed a moment in Schwarzenegger's life, he was seemingly older than 18, contrary to what many captions claimed. Additionally, we have not found any proof to confirm the other person was a peer of the same age. We will update this post when, or if, more information comes to light about the photo.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Biografie | Arnold Schwarzenegger Museum. https://arnieslife.com/biografie-schwarzenegger/?lang=en. Accessed 23 Oct. 2023.
Evon, Dan. “MISCAPTIONED: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s First Day in NYC.” Snopes, 20 Jan. 2016, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/arnold-schwarzeneggers-nyc-photo/.
Schwarzenegger Forum | Arnold ’The King’ Schwarzenegger.... 9 July 2015, http://web.archive.org/web/20150709070634/https://www.schwarzenegger.com/index.php/forums/viewthread/35/P675.