One of my favorite pages on Facebook is a group where people post pictures of their unique and often weird second hand and vintage finds. Scanning through the posts I came across three photos that featured what the original buyer thought was just a frame that she planned on re-using. When she removed the paper covering, she found there was a print hidden underneath. The image was that of a crying little boy, which I came to find out – based on reading the multitudes of comments – is supposedly haunted. Of course this required a deep dive down the rabbit hole as I’d never heard about this particular cursed series of prints.
“The Crying Boy” is one of a the series of paintings from the 1950’s by Italian artist Giovanni Bragolin. All of the paintings in this particular series depicted children with tears streaming down their faces. Why anyone would want this on their wall is beyond me but as we know, art is subjective.
Somehow the prints of these paintings were popular worldwide selling 50,000 copies in the UK alone, which is where this legend began. You see in 1985 UK Tabloid, ‘The Sun’ ran a story that told of a house fire at a home in the Rotherham area. The home was owned by The Hall Family. When the fire broke out, everything was destroyed except a single framed print on the wall. A print of “The Crying Boy.” The Hall’s claimed the print was cursed and the impetus for the destructive blaze. To add fuel to the fire (pun intended) a local firefighter was also quoted in the article saying he had seen at least 15 fires where the only thing that remained amongst the charred rubble, was a print of “The Crying Boy.” This urban legend was perpetuated even further with subsequent articles in The Sun that claimed everything from a home in Surrey burned to the ground 6 months after purchasing a print of the “The Crying Boy” to a pizza shop in Norfolk was destroyed including every painting, except…you guess it “The Crying Boy.”
With all the hullabaloo a woman on the Isle of Wight attempted an experiment, her goal was to kill with fire. The attempt to destroy her painting by burning it in the backyard was unsuccessful. After which time, she reportedly suffered a series of unfortunate events.
It was at this point people all around England were seriously stressed about what to do with their cursed crying boy prints. ‘The Sun’ had a solution! They ran an article detailing a collective burn that was set to take place on Halloween 1985. Attended by the fire brigade, they assured the public this was the safest way to be rid of the bad juju surrounding their sad works of art. The bonfire went off without a hitch and hundreds of copies were burned.
Alas, everyone was safe.
There were many theories about why the images from this series by Giovanni Bragolin are cursed. Everything from a gypsy curse to claims that the boy depicted in the paintings accidentally burnt down the artist’s studio. I’ve not been able to confirm either of these suppositions. Interestingly enough, in 2010 youtuber Steve Punt tried to burn a copy and was unable to do so, If you’d like to watch that video linked here: https://youtu.be/AyRL-yIIVH0
Oh and in case you were wondering, the lady who made that post on the second hand page sharing her find of “The Crying Boy”; She threw out the print, frame and all.
Steve Punt, Solved: Curse of the Crying Boy; Comic’s Obsession with Painting, The Sun, 9 October 2010,
The Sun, multiple articles March 1985-September 1986