The 1980s Curse of the Crying Boy Painting
The Crying Boy Painting refers to a mass-produced replica of a painting from Spanish artist Bruno Amadio. I remember vividly reading about this as child in The Sun newspaper back in the mid '80s.
A fireman was reported to have removed an undamaged painting from the burnt-out wreck of a house in Yorkshire. He was quoted as saying that no firefighter he knew would allow a copy of the painting in their house.
Over the coming months, more and more stories were published under similar circumstances, and The Sun even organized a mass bonfire for people who wanted to dispose of the picture. To lift the curse, it was said that one would have to reunite the crying boy and the crying girl. But what was the curse, if any, of the Crying Boy painting? Was it a haunted or possessed painting, mass hysteria, or just a joke gone too far?
- Genesis of the Legend
- People's Own Stories
- The Plot Thickens
- Can the Painting Be Destroyed?
- The Mystery Solved
Genesis of the Legend
Soon reports were coming in from all over Britain. They all had the same circumstances. A house fire, and inexplicably an unburnt picture of a crying boy found in the wreckage. Trouble was, a lot of them were different pictures, so how did this all link together? Let's go back to the beginning.
A house fire in 1985—it started with a chip pan setting alight. It is true that the picture was unscathed by the fire, and it is also true that a fireman lent credibility to this by saying that other pictures of the boy were found unscathed in other house fires. If it weren't for this added credibility, then I doubt anything more than a small section in the local paper would have been merited, but this went national very quickly.
Stories From the People
The story was a guaranteed seller of newspapers, especially as they said that as many as 50,000 of these pictures might be hanging in Britain's working class homes. I would not go as far as to say it was bedlam, but lets just say that there were a lot of very nervous people who suddenly wanted rid of the things.
More and more people were coming forward with their own stories to tell, and the newspaper was flooded with calls. It seemed that everyone knew someone affected by the "Curse." One woman from London claimed to have seen the picture swinging from side to side, as if haunted, whilst Mrs Rose Farrington of Preston wrote in a letter published by The Sun: "Since I bought it in 1959, my three sons and my husband have all died. I've often wondered if it had a curse."
This all fueled the fire (pardon the pun) and gave the story, to use an English press term, "legs." People began to try to dispose of the paintings themselves by setting them alight, only to find that even when deliberately set on fire, there were unharmed.
The Plot Thickens
Of course the real mystery was not in the fires themselves, all of which were easily explained as chip pan fires, discarded cigarettes and electrical faults. No, the mystery was how were these paintings surviving at all when all else was so badly damaged?
Rotherham fire station officer Alan Wilkinson who had personally logged 50 'Crying Boy' fires dating back to 1973 was satisfied that of all the fires he attended, it was usually human ignorance or carelessness. He had no explanation for the survival of the pictures, however, and it was this of course that the press continued to jump on.
It soon emerged that many of the fires actually had different pictures of crying boys from different artists.
The Sun Claims to Lift the Curse
The Sun was left with a dilemma of its own: what to do with 2500 copies of various paintings of crying boys that had been sent in to them for disposal. Turning it once again to the newspaper's advantage, they managed to burn the lot in a massive funeral pyre on no other day than Halloween. They found that with sufficient persuasion, they could indeed be destroyed, and The Sun declared that it had alone "lifted the curse of the crying boy." What a headline it made!
The Mystery Solved?
So, why did the pictures survive the fires after all this?
As is so often the case, the reality is not so exciting. It turns out that the pictures had a slightly fire resistant lacquer on them. Also, in the case of a fire, generally speaking the string burnt through that held the painting up, the result was that the frame fell to the ground, and the picture face down, thus nicely protected from the heat around it.
As many of you know, I have had experiences, and I have my beliefs, but this one is just plain busted in my opinion. At the time, though, it was indeed one hell of a story, and it genuinely caused widespread fear. The story keeps popping up—as with so many urban legends, this one has continued to grow on the Internet, and the backstory of who the boy might have been has been added into the mix, along with mistreatment by the painter and so on.
For me, this is a great story, but nothing more. I do sincerely hope however that you enjoyed reading about this quite British mystery.
Incidentally, one of the firemen involved did actually refuse a framed copy of the picture as a retirement present, despite trying to remain the voice of reason during the case.
Sources for This Article
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.