Here’s a spooky story for your Halloween: A supposedly cursed series of art prints blamed for fires that destroyed everything except those prints.
The “Crying Boy” paintings attributed to Italian artist Bruno Amadio feature tearful children staring mournfully from the canvas. Copies of the paintings were mass-produced by the thousands. In 1985, after unburned copies of the paintings were found amid the rubble of burned buildings, stories began circulating that the prints were cursed.
The saga of the cursed Crying Boy paintings began with a house fire in which a framed Crying Boy print survived unscathed. But what gave the tale legs was a firefighter’s claim that this was not the first instance in which a Crying Boy print survived an otherwise destructive fire. The story was first published by the U.K. tabloid The Sun, which, of course, is not widely known for its credible journalism. Nevertheless, the story caught the attention of a public fascinated by all things paranormal. On September 5, 1985, The Sun reported that numerous readers claimed that they, too, had fallen victim to the accursed artwork. There were even reports that firefighters refused to hang Crying Boy prints in their own homes and fire stations.
Investigators determined that the fires involving Crying Boy prints resulted from pretty normal causes: carelessly discarded cigarettes, space heaters placed too close to combustible materials, cooking fires, and so on. But the mystery continued to swirl: How did the Crying Boy prints survive the fires when little else did?
Eventually it was determined that the prints were coated with a kind of varnish that was difficult to ignite. Additionally, some of the prints may have fallen from walls during the fires and landed face down, which would protect them from the flames.
There are many online accounts of the Crying Boy Curse; just type that term into Google and see what pops up. For a full and well-researched account of the subject, I recommend a July 2008 article in the U.K. magazine Fortean Times by David Clarke titled “The Curse of the Crying Boy: Could a kitsch print bring fiery disaster to its owners?”