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Curse of the Crying Boy Picture - Mystery Files

Updated on March 26, 2012
Cursed Picture? "The Crying Boy"
Cursed Picture? "The Crying Boy"

Curses and Jinxes

Images in the form of paintings or photographs hold a special place in the folklore of strange phenomena. From creepy tales such as "The Picture of Dorian Grey" to the surprisingly popular belief that a portrait that falls from a wall foretells a death, it seems that we believe that the artistic capturing of an image captures more than just the image of the sitter - a bit of their soul perhaps?

But of course the notion of "curses", attached to pictures or anything else is a mind-set from a bygone age... Isn't it? Surely no one these days (outside the bounds of religious nuttery) could believe in such a thing as a modern cursed picture... Could they?

The Curse is Born.

The year is 1985. the place is the Mining town of Rotherham in the UK. Ron and May Hall had been the victims of a devastating house fire, the result of an unattended chip-pan, which reduced the lower story of their terraced house to ashes.

Although the ground floor was ravaged and reduced to little more than charcoal and cinders, there in the middle of all the devastation remained one solitary item, completely untouched by the inferno that had raged about it - A cheap framed print of a crying child.

Ron Hall's brother was a Rotherham-based firefighter. and he told Ron that his station manager had told him that he knew of a number of other incidents where the same print - The Crying Boy" had remained unscathed after infernos had reduced the rest of the building to ashes.

The story was picked up on the 4th of September by "The Sun", a UK Newspaper which at the time, was the most-read tabloid newspaper in the English-speaking world. The headline screamed "Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy". It also suggested (using some creative journalism), that firemen had said that the picture was cursed The Sun also informed it's readers that some fifty-thousand prints of "The Crying Boy" by G.Bragdolin had been sold to the British Public by department stores throughout the country.

The Sun Headline
The Sun Headline

The Curse Grips the Nation

Within a matter of days, the "Curse of the Crying Boy" had become accepted as a virtual fact amongst a large proportion of the British public.

The switchboard of The Sun was innundated with readers phoning in to say that they too had been victims of the curse. Dora Mann from Mitcham in Surrey told readers that just six months after she had purchased a copy of "The Crying Boy", her house had been gutted by a horrendous fire. She said "All my paintings were destroyed – except the one of the Crying Boy" adding that her sister-in-law, and a friend had both been the victims of devastating fires after they had purchased copies of the cursed picture.

Another reader, Brian Parkes explained how he had been left homeless after a terrible blaze at his home. He, his wife and three children were treated for smoke inhalation, and on his return from hospital, he was horrified to find his print of "The Crying Boy" still hanging amidst the ruins - completely undamaged.

One reader wrote to The Sun to tell them that after reading about the curse, she had been so frightened that she had tried to destroy her copy of the print in a garden bonfire, but was horrified to discover that it would not burn!

A Security Guard by the name of Paul Collier, who was the owner of two "Crying Boy" prints, read the story and tried burning one of his in a bonfire. He reported that although the print had been in the fire for a whole hour, it was not so much as scorched! He told The Sun that he now believed that the pictures were indeed jinxed. He said that he was determined to get rid of them, because he felt that owning two copies put him doubly at risk.

What Could Have Caused the Curse?

Although Rotherham Fire Station Manager Alan Wilkinson had personally recorded fifty such "Crying Boy" fires, he nevertheless rejected the suggestion that they were in any way the result of a curse. They were, he said, the simple result of human carelessness. However when asked to explain how the prints could consistently survive fires which reduced everything around them to ashes, he conceded that he could offer no rational explanation.

The Newspaper interviewed Mr.Roy Vicary, Secretary of the British Folklore Society to hear his opinion on what might be behind the curse. He suggested that perhaps the Artist had in some way mistreated the child model, and that the fires were due to the child's curse - his way of seeking revenge

Placing The Curse to Rest?

As the hysteria surrounding the cursed picture was approaching it's peak, The Sun suggested that if any of it's readers were worried about any copies of the picture that they might own, they could send them in to the newspapers offices, where they would be officially disposed of.

Within days, The Newspapers offices were completely swamped, with copies of the cursed picture stacked twelve feet high, leaving very little office space to work in.

The Sun publicly burned, on Halloween, in a specially constructed pyre, two van-loads of the cursed picture. The event was covered by reporter Paul Hooper, and it was hoped that the mass burning would lay the curse to rest.

But did "The Sun" boss, Kelvin MacKenzie actually believe in the curse or was it just a convenient device to sell more newspapers? - There is a story that suggests that he might have done.

The story goes that the assistant editor at The Sun removed a picture of Winston Churchill from the wall of the newsroom and replaced it with a copy of "The Crying Boy". It is said that when MacKenzie saw it, he visibly paled, and curtly ordered that it be taken down immediately saying "I don't like it - It's unlucky"


Submit a Comment
  • Millionaire Tips profile image

    Shasta Matova 

    7 years ago from USA

    I hadn't heard of this story until today. It amazes me that so many people would want a picture of a crying boy - I try to decorate my house with more cheery or peaceful prints!

  • Zakmoonbeam profile image

    Michael Murchie 

    7 years ago from Parts Unknown

    There were some highly publicised TV attempts to explain this phenomena, and they came to the conclusion that it was indeed a flame retardant lacquer added to the fact that the strings invariably burned through first, ensuring that the picture fell forwards onto its face so to speak, which offered the image further protection.

    I grew up loving this brilliant example of English Forteana but as someone who has experienced many things, even I have to admit this one is just too simply explained by science! Its amazing how the power of fear can grip a nation and turn logical reasoning on its head.

    By the way, love your Mystery Files Hubs, I am a big fan!

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    Thanks jennzie - Spooky indeed, although I suspect that the newspapers involved were only too happy to "fan the flames" so to speak :)

  • jennzie profile image


    7 years ago from Pennsylvania

    Spooky story! Voted up and more.

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ salerno - Good theory, I wonder why just this one picture though.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Fire Proof Varnish. Companies do not want to be sued for varnishing prints with a normal varnish which is highly flammable. So, fire resistant varnishes are used.

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @nemanjaboskov - It is an interesting tale, although I suspect the newspaper did everything it could to sensationalise the story :)

  • nemanjaboskov profile image

    Nemanja Boškov 

    8 years ago from Serbia

    A fascinating story :)

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @jaqui2011 - Yes millions of them were sold - I'm guessing that not everyone's house burnt down though ;)

  • jacqui2011 profile image


    8 years ago from Norfolk, UK

    Another interesting and well written hub. I remember my Gran having one of these pictures in her dining room. She emmigrated to Canada in 1987, and because she could not take everything with her, she sold her furniture along with various pictures including this one. It made me wonder who bought it and if they are ok. Voted up and interesting.

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ bethperry - Thanks for that. An interesting postscript there.

  • bethperry profile image

    Beth Perry 

    8 years ago from Tennesee

    I read an article mentioning further speculation on this. The urchin boy portrayed in one of these (Don Bonillo) allegedly had some mystery surrounding himself as well; that unexplained fires followed him wherever he went and that the artist even blamed him for his ruined career. The boy was alleged to have died in a car accident when he was only 19, burned beyond recognition. The source also says that no real traces of the boy's existence have ever been proved. Still, it is one fascinating tale, though my sympathy goes out to G. Bragolin. Hoax or real curse, he suffered for it.

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ RNMSN - I think my Mother had a copy of "The Crying Boy" at one time - Her house remained intact though.

  • RNMSN profile image

    Barbara Bethard 

    8 years ago from Tucson, Az

    strange and spooky

    cool article!

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ Phil... Just Phil - I gather that they did - which rather puts the mockers on the "They don't burn" legend. ;)

  • Phil---Just Phil profile image

    Phil---Just Phil 

    8 years ago from San Diego, CA

    It doesn't say whether the Sun-burned prints(pun intended) actually burned.

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ A.A.Zavala - Very bizzare. There may be a rational explanation, but apart from theorys, no one knows for sure.

  • A.A. Zavala profile image

    Augustine A Zavala 

    8 years ago from Texas

    This bizarre and erie!

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ Amanda Severn - Fair point Lol.

  • Amanda Severn profile image

    Amanda Severn 

    8 years ago from UK

    I remember that picture well. It never appealed to me particularly, but loads of people seemed to have a copy. I think the Sun was doing a public service by removing so many from circulation!

  • Gaizy profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ leola francis - How much of the story was newspaper hype, I don't know. I'm going with the theory that the print was laminated onto high-density fibreboard, which apparently, doesn't burn very well at all.

  • leola francis profile image

    leola francis 

    8 years ago

    i found this story very interesting,who knows God might have had a special reason for the print not burning only He knows



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