Back to Africa Check

Creepy X-ray of cockroach in Zimbabwean patient’s chest? No, original X-ray was of Marilyn Monroe’s chest

“A patient in Zimbabwe had an X-ray taken on his chest. Doctors noted a live cockroach and recommended him to India for surgery. He sold everything and went to India, where another X-ray was taken. It showed he was fine. The cockroach was in the X-ray machine used in Zimbabwe.”

The image has been widely shared on Facebook. This version makes a snide joke of both people in Zimbabwe – “he sold everything” – and the country’s health system: the cockroach was in the X-ray machine, and the doctor had no clue.

In January 2019 Zimbabwean doctors ended a near six-week strike for better working conditions.

The cockroach is unnaturally large and inexpertly photoshopped onto the X-ray. Snopes checked a slightly different version of the claim and confirmed the image and caption are fake, and have been circulating online since at least 2012.

But Snopes’s fact-check reveals another unfortunate side of the story.

The original X-ray is of the chest of Marilyn Monroe. Monroe was an American “sex symbol” of the 1950s, an actor once married to playwright Arthur Miller. She died of suspected suicide in 1962, at the age of 36.

The chest X-ray was taken in 1954, when Monroe was 28 and admitted to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for surgery. The X-ray doesn’t only show her ribs and spine: it also shows the outline of her breasts. Snopes reports: “A set of three X-ray images from this hospital visit were sold at auction in 2010.” The price was US$45,000 – about R600,000.

A reverse image search confirms the origin of the X-ray, showing that the undoctored version was first posted on the internet in 2010. 


Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.