The Crying Boy Painting Cursed: Fact Check

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The Crying Boy Painting Cursed


The Crying Boy Painting Cursed…

The painting of the crying boy was found uncharred and undamaged in the remains of several homes gutted by fire.

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The Curse of the Crying Boy.

Fact Check:

The bizarre but popular story refers to various paintings of Crying Boys in United Kingdom that were supposedly Cursed to cause house fires in the 1980s. It is said that in many such fire accidents, the paintings of the crying boy escaped unscathed. However, as detailed below, the curse attributed to the crying boy painting(s) are not facts.

How the Curse Story of Crying Boy Painting Became Popular

It is a widespread superstition that a picture/portrait falling from a wall is a sign of impending death. On 4 September 1985, popular British tabloid newspaper The Sun published the story of ‘The Curse of the Crying Boy’ on page 13, with a headline – ‘Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy.’ It mentioned a couple from Rotherham, Ron and May Hall blaming a cheap painting of a child with big tears on his cheek for a fire which gutted their terraced council home.

Notably, the blaze broke out in a chip-pan in the kitchen and spread rapidly. But although the downstairs rooms of their house were badly damaged in the fire, the framed print of the crying boy continued to hang there, undamaged, surrounded by a scene of devastation. To add to their claims, Ron Hall’s brother Peter, a fire fighter based in Rotherham supposedly mentioned his colleague Peter saying he knew of many such cases of fire accidents, where the prints of the ‘crying boy’ had turned up undamaged.

Follow Up Reports

In their follow up on 5 September 1985, The Sun reported many scores of horrified readers claiming to be victims of the “Curse of the Crying Boy”. A secretary of the Folklore Society, Roy Vickery was quoted saying the original artist of the painting might have mistreated the child model in some way, adding all those fires could be the child’s curse – his way of getting revenge. All this caused widespread anxiety, and fearful people who claimed to have witnessed such fire accidents mentioned it was a ‘curse’ or ‘jinx’. Soon, after many inquiry calls from ‘victims’, The Sun team announced to the people that if they are worried about a crying boy picture hanging in their home, they can send it to them immediately and that they will destroy the painting for people’s sake.

Later, thousands of those paintings of crying boys were destroyed publicly in Halloween burning; widely believed to have exorcised the ‘curse of the crying boy’. The curse stories of crying boy paintings began to fade. However, they surfaced again in later years in some books and news outlets too; that the curse had returned.

Investigations into the ‘Cursed Paintings’

After The Sun publications created widespread fear about the cursed paintings of crying boys, fire service investigations were conducted. They concluded most cases of fire accidents had straightforward explanations of overheated chip-pans, faulty electric heaters and carelessly discarded cigarettes. Notably, the initial newspaper report on The Sun used the word ‘cursed’. But the concerned firemen at the time did not mention the word. Note, during 1960s and 1970s, prints of crying kids were sold in tens of thousands of copies in branches of British department stores.

Chief Divisional Officer of the South Yorkshire Fire Service, Mick Riley attempted to debunk the connection between the fires and the prints. He revealed the picture of crying boy was printed on high density hardboard, which is very difficult to ignite. Furthermore, British writer and comedian Steve Punt investigated the story in a BBC radio Four production called Punt PI. After testing at the Building Research Establishment, he revealed the prints were treated with some varnish containing fire repellent. He also explained the string holding the painting to the wall would be the first to perish. It caused the painting land face down on the floor, which is how it is protected from being damaged in fire.

So, considering all the aforementioned facts and the investigative results, it is clear there are logical explanations (given above) to the fire accidents where the paintings of the crying boys had remained unscathed – the claims of curse are hoaxes. Nonetheless, the story transformed itself into a modern urban legend on the internet. A somewhat related and popular story of oil painting called “The Anguished Man” is said to cause paranormal activity in home of its owner.

Hoax or Fact:



Curse That Painting!
The Crying Boy

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Prashanth Damarla