The "Curse of the Crying Boy" involves any number of kitschy prints of a sad child that are said to bring ruin to any house where it hangs. The legend began with a 1985 article in The Sun titled "Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy." A couple blamed the print for a fire that destroyed their home in South Yorkshire, England. The print was the only item to survive. After the article ran, countless other people allegedly came forward claiming that they had the same print and similar experiences. In Fortean Times, David Clarke investigates the Curse of the Crying Boy, the tabloid tale that seemingly spawned it, and the variations on the theme that continue to this day. From Fortean Times:
Rotherham fire station officer Alan Wilkinson who, it emerged, had personally logged 50 ‘Crying Boy’ fires dating back to 1973, dismissed any connection with the supernatural, having satisfied himself that most of them had been caused by human carelessness. But despite his pragmatism, he could not explain how the prints had survived infernos which generated heat sufficient to strip plaster from walls. His wife had her own theory: “I always say it’s the tears that put the fire out.” The Sun was not interested in finding a rational explanation. It ignored Wilkinson’s comments and claimed “fire chiefs have admitted they have no logical explanation for a number of recent incidents.”Curse of the Crying Boy (Fortean Times)
Soon afterwards, it emerged that the ‘cursed’ prints were not all copies of the same painting, nor were all the prints by the same artist. The picture that survived the fire in Rotherham that initially triggered the scare was signed by the artist G Bragolin. The Sun claimed the original was “by an Italian artist”. In fact, Giovanni Bragolin was a pseudonym adopted by Spanish painter Bruno Amadio, who is also known as ‘Franchot Seville’. Attempts to trace him floundered as art historians said he did not appear to have “a coherent biography”. To make matters more confusing, further ‘Crying Boys’ that had featured in the fires, part of a series of studies called ‘Childhood’, were painted by Scottish artist Anna Zinkeisen, who died in 1976. The only common denominator was that all were examples of cheap, mass-produced prints sold in great numbers by English department stores during the 1960s and 70s.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.
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