Children are the purest form of human life. Adults respond instinctually to the emotions of children. Happy children set us at ease, children in distress can be quite disturbing. Most adults choose to avoid children altogether, and can even become upset by the outbursts of human young.
There are so many myths and legends centered around children. Somehow, the larval stage of human development attracts the paranormal like a lightning rod. That's exactly what several people discovered when they bought a print of The Crying Boy painting. Soon enough, the painting had built up a reputation for being cursed.
Mass-Produced Art - Nothing More Mundane
Art, at its core, is about making money. Every household should have the same art, because how else would we know that it was good? These are impressions that you would have if you were incredibly cynical.
The masses clamor for their socially approved good-taste trophies. Be they small porcelain statues, wood carvings of eagles, or those little wooden planks emblazoned with 'Live, Laugh, Love', they can be found in homes throughout the English-speaking world.
That's exactly what happened in the 50s. Italian painter, Giovanni Bragolin, started mass-producing paintings showing a small boy crying. The paintings cause instant emotion in the viewer.
Bragolin painted around 65 such paintings, and sold over 50,000 prints in the UK alone. That's pretty impressive, even though he often received no royalties for the continued sales.
Cursed - Because of Course They Are
The legend of the cursed paintings comes from an article published in 1985 in The Sun. Now, The Sun is what we in the business like to call a Tabloid. These are magazines that publish articles that are sometimes entirely made up.
When The Sun published "Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy", they had no idea that they would cause a panic. I'm certain that they hoped to cause a stir, but it's tough to know how far a spark will travel.
The original article tells the story of a couple from Rotherham, England. After leaving a pan on the stove, a fire erupted in their home. Everything on the first floor of their home was reduced to ash, except a cheap copy of The Crying Boy.
Naturally, the couple blamed the painting for the blaze. There's no way it was caused by their own negligence. Don't be absurd.
Sprinkling a dash of hysteria on the public, The Sun article featured corroboration from a firefighter. He claimed to have attended 15 similar conflagrations where the only thing left undamaged was a print of The Crying Boy.
People were spooked. Everyone and their grandma had a copy of that morose lad hanging in their house. The story quickly spread through the country, like a, uh, wildfire.
One woman, from the Isle of Wight, tried to burn her print. She was stricken with bad luck for the attempt. Another woman in Surrey lost her house in a fire six months after buying the painting. If you'll excuse the pun, a pair of sisters in Kilburn both bought the painting, and both had fires erupt in their homes. One even swore that she saw it move on its own.
When a Norfolk pizzeria burned down, everything inside was destroyed. Several paintings went up in smoke for daring to be hung so close to The Crying Boy.
Hysteria gripped the fearful minds of the public. Sales of The Sun had never been better. They made further claims about the malign power of The Crying Boy.
Some say it cannot be burned at all. Others say that if you try to get rid of it, you'll be stricken with bad luck.
Something had to be done. The Sun arranged for hundreds of copies of The Crying Boy to be burned in a great bonfire on Halloween night, 1985.
The urban myth of the curse goes like this. One day a small toddler, who may or may not have been of the Romani people, was having his portrait done. He either set fire to the artist's studio, or his parents didn't appreciate the painting. The parents cursed the artist, or they died in the studio fire. Once again, it could be either, or both.
The now orphaned, and presumably still crying, boy went out into the world. Wherever he lay his sad little head, a mysterious fire would soon start. The boy would survive every blaze until one day when he was a young adult.
Whatever demon of fire chasing the boy caught up to him in the form of a car crash and subsequent fire. His spirit remains trapped and on fire within the painting to this day.