Friday, August 5, 2011



The Curse of 'The Crying Boy' was born in September, 1985, by infamous UK tabloid The Sun. In the article, "Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy," the author claimed that Ron and May Hall's home in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had suffered severe fire damage, and the only object on the otherwise-decimated first floor that remained untouched by the flames was their framed painting of a young boy with tears streaming down his face - entitled The Crying Boy.
Things got weirder when Peter Hall, Ron's brother, and also a member of the Rotherham fire brigade, was informed by his station officer, Alan Wilkinson, that the Hall fire was not the first occurrence of a home burning down under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind an unharmed print of The Crying Boy. In fact, there had been "numerous" instances of the same set of circumstances. Wilkinson had allegedly and personally claimed to have filed fifty or so reports of home-destroying fires - some explained, some not - all of which had a print of The Crying Boy hanging somewhere in the structure. Panic ensued when the article's author provided one bit more of information: The Crying Boy was attributed to Spanish painter G. Bragolin (real name: Bruno Amadio; other aliases: Franchot Seville, Angelo (Giovanni) Bragolin, and J. Bragolin), and his painting had apparently been a popular piece at that time, selling 50,000 prints to families living in Northern England. 

Needless to say, The Sun was inundated by "scores of horrified readers" claiming that they presently had a print of The Crying Boy hanging in their home: 
Typical of these additional stories was [one] told by Dora Mann, from Mitcham, Surrey, who claimed her house was gutted just six months after she bought a print of the painting. “All my paintings were destroyed – except the one of the Crying Boy,” she claimed.
Sandra Kaske, of Kilburn, North Yorkshire, said that she, her sister-in-law, and a friend had all suffered disastrous fires since they acquired copies.
Another family, from Nottingham, blamed the print for a blaze which had left them homeless.
Brian Parks, whose wife and three children needed treatment for smoke inhalation, said he had destroyed his copy after returning from hospital to find it hanging – undamaged, of course – on the blackened wall of his living room.

As the stories accumulated, new details emerged that encouraged the idea that possession of a print put owners at risk of fire or serious injury. One woman from London claimed she had seen her print “swing from side to side” on the wall, while another from Paignton said her 11-year-old son had “caught his private parts on a hook” after she bought the pict­ure. Mrs Rose Farrington of Preston, in a letter published by The Sun, wrote: “Since I bought it in 1959, my three sons and my husband have all died. I’ve often wondered if it had a curse.”
Another reader reported an attempt to destroy two of the prints by fire – only to find, to her horror, that they would not burn. Her claim was tested by security guard Paul Collier, who tossed one of his two prints onto a bonfire. Despite being left in the flames for an hour, it was not even scorched. “It was frightening – the fire wouldn’t even touch it,” he told The Sun. “I really believe it is jinxed. We feel doubly at risk with two of these in the house [and] we are determined to get rid of them.”
By this time, several different variations of The Crying Boy - all painted by different artists, and featuring different children, both boys and girls - began to share the burden of the so-called curse. Stories of The Crying Boy were continually published by not only The Sun, but other publications as well:

The Sun, 9th Sept 1985: Both The Sun and The Daily Star reported that Grace Murray (Oxford) ended up in Stoke Mandeville hospital with severe burns after a house fire, but her print of The Crying Boy was almost undamaged.

The Sun, 21st Oct 1985: The Parillo Pizza Palace (Great Yarmouth) was destroyed by fire, but the print of The Crying Boy was undamaged. The newspaper invited readers to send in their ‘cursed’ paintings for destruction. By now, this story had been picked up by local papers and by individuals keen to get their 5 minutes of fame.

Daily Mail, 24th Oct 1985: Kevin Godber's family (Herringthorpe, South Yorks) was made homeless by a fire; the print of The Crying Boy remained unscathed, but pictures on either side of it were destroyed.

The Sun, 12th November 1985: Malcolm Vaughn (Churchdown, Gloucestershire) destroyed a neighbor's print of The Crying Boy. Later, his living-room caught fire.

The Sun, 24th February 1986:
61-year-old William Armitage (Weston-super-Mare, Avon) died in a house fire. The room was gutted, but an unscathed The Crying Boy was found on the floor near the pensioner’s body. Fireman quoted as saying it was "odd."

The Sun, 25th Oct 1985: An explosion destroys the Amos' home (Heswall, Merseyside). Two prints of The Crying Boy (living-room and dining room) were retrieved unharmed. Mr. Amos destroys the jinxed paintings.

Shropshire Star, 26th October 1985: House in Telford is damaged by fire. The householder is Fred Trower, an ex-fireman, who refuses to believe the curse and said his print of The Crying Boy in the hallway would remain where it was unless there was a second fire.

Western Morning News, 26th October 1985: Six months after restaurant owner George Beer (Holsworthy) installed two prints of The Crying Boy, his business was severely damaged by separate fires 12 months apart. On both occasions, the prints were not even singed. Mr. Beer did not believe in the jinx and kept the paintings.

The Sun, 31st October 1985: Sandra Jane Moore's home had been flooded after she'd drawn punk hair on her friend’s The Crying Boy. Mrs. Woodward (Forest Hill) blamed The Crying Boy for death of her son, daughter, husband, and mother.

Investigators requested the aid of "witches" and other occult students, seeking their explanation on how or why the curse came to be. The suggested explanation was that the child model featured in the print may have been abused or mistreated by the painter in some way - or perhaps had succumbed to death by fire shortly after being painted - and hence the curse.

The Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, who had happily kept the story alive in the tabloid, invoked his readers: "If you are worried about a Crying Boy picture hanging in YOUR home, send it to us immediately. We will destroy it for you – and that should see the back of any curse." MacKenzie got his wish, and had soon amassed 2,500 copies of The Crying Boy - all ordered destroyed by their senders.

On Halloween of 1985, The Sun organized a massive burning of the paintings. Though several local fire brigades were encouraged to attend, they declined.

It was during this time that other staff at The Sun had begun to wonder just how much credence MacKenzie attached to this story. One of these staff members took a print of The Crying Boy and hung it on the office wall. MacKenzie ordered it taken down, citing the print was "bad luck."

Station office Alan Wilkinson, upon his retirement, received a print as a joke. He smiled blithely and declined to accept. 

Chief Officer Mick Riley, who had previously issued a statement explaining that The Crying Boy paintings were printed on very durable hardboard and made them very difficult to burn, also declined one as a gift, citing his wife would not approve of its presence in their home.

The story of The Crying Boy would soon spread to the Internet and achieve official urban legend status - and with it came new myths. If you treated The Crying Boy nicely and with respect, or if you owned both The Crying Boy and The Crying Girl and hung them together, you would be freed from the curse, and even granted good luck. But with these new myths also came the need for the origin of the curse.

Some such theories:
  • The soul of the child model had been trapped in the painting, and the only way to free themselves is to burn the house down and hopefully destroy the painting which binds them.
  • The painting itself is a beacon for spiritual activity, and instead of being haunted by the model featured, instead attracts whatever demonic spirits or poltergeist activity happens to be within close proximity. 
  • Previous misfortunes, either by the artist or the child model, had formed into negative energy and attached itself to the paintings.

In 2000, the "official" origin of the painting was finally revealed by George Mallory,  “a well respected researcher into occult matters, a retired schoolmaster."

Mallory traced the artist who had painted the original, “an old Spanish portrait artist named Franchot Seville, who lives in Madrid." Seville...was one of the pseudonyms used by Bruno Amadio, otherwise known as ‘G Bragolin’ whose signature appeared on some of the prints. 

Seville/Amadio/Bragolin told Mallory the subject of the paintings was a little street urchin he had found wandering around Madrid in 1969. He never spoke, and had a very sorrowful look in his eyes. Seville painted the boy, and a Catholic priest identified him as Don Bonillo, a child who had run away after seeing his parents die in a blaze.
“The priest told the artist to have nothing to do with the runaway, because wherever he settled, fires of unknown origin would mysteriously break out; the villagers called him ‘Diablo’ because of this.”
Nevertheless, the painter ignored the priest’s advice and adopted the boy. His portraits sold well but one day his studio was destroyed by fire and the artist was ruined. He accused the little boy of arson and Bonillo ran off – naturally in tears – and was never seen again.
The story continued:
“From all over Europe came the reports of the unlucky Crying Boy paintings causing blazes. Seville was also regarded as a jinx, and no one commissioned him to paint, or would even look at his paintings. In 1976, a car exploded into a fireball on the outskirts of Barcelona after crashing into a wall. The victim was charred beyond recog­nition, but part of the victim’s driving license in the glove compartment was only partly burned. The name on the license was one 19-year-old Don Bonillo.”
One thing has never been completely satisfied about The Crying Boy legend. Regardless of who the child featured in the painting was, what became of him, or what awful thing could have birthed the so-called curse, one question always remained: why, in the midst of horrendous infernos, were the paintings never destroyed?

As previously stated by Rotherham Fire Brigade Chief Officer Mick Riley, his official explanation for The Crying Boy's inability to burn was due to the hardboard material on which it was printed.

The wife of Rotherham Fire Brigade Station Officer Alan Wilkinson had her own theory:

“I always say it’s the tears that put the fire out.”


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