The famous crying boys paintings

30th April 2017. Reading Time: 5 minutes Famous Paranormal Cases. 5693 page views. 2 comments.

The crying boy is a worldwide urban legend. It is the painting that is rumoured to be haunted or cursed. Anyone that hangs one in their house is under threat of a fire at the hands of the cursed painting. Is there truth to this story or is it all a myth?

Anyone with an interest in the paranormal has probably in some way heard of the crying boys paintings. Like the stories behind many ‘haunted objects’ these series of paintings were rumoured to be cursed. So how did this start and is there an explanation to it all?

The story begins in 1985 ...

In 1985 a hysteria started to roll through London. Strange fires would burn down houses and when fire fighters got to the scene to put the fires out, all remains were a smouldering mess. The houses however all had one thing in common. Within this smouldering mess, one item seemed to remain intact. A painting of a crying boy. Where did these paintings comes from? Were they causing the fires? Why did they survive?

Image Source:

What are the crying boy paintings?

The ‘Crying Boys’ is a series of paintings that were created by painter Bruno Amadio. The paintings were made for tourists in Venice and represented all of the children that were orphaned during World War 2. There were rumoured to be around 65 different versions of the crying boy painting (including a crying girl). A few of these prints were picked up by London for mass production and around 50,000 copies were sold at a cheap price at local supermarkets and department stores.

Bruno Amadio painting The Crying Boy Image Source: Atlasobscura

On September 4th 1985, The Star newspaper in the UK ran a story on a series of fires that had destroyed homes and the only thing that remained was a copy of this painting. Fireman Peter Hall who was related to one of the victims claimed that he had seen at least 50 copies survive in various fires he attended and he was too scared to put a copy of the picture in his home. An urban legend was born….. It seemed that you didn’t need the original painting to be cursed. Any old copy of the painting was cursed.

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As people began to read the article and listen to the many stories of people losing everything in a fire (except a crying boy painting), people began to panic. They tried burning their very own painting. The only problem was, it did not ignite. The paintings were made of a special compressed board which basically made it hard to burn. The fact that the paintings couldn't burn fed this legend. The paintings were believed by many to be cursed and some unknown force meant the painting could not be destroyed, so people began giving them away or selling them in garage sales. It was thought by giving it away you have rid yourself of the curse. Another popular method was to hang a picture of a crying girl next to the boy. This seemed to work as well. As the media coverage continued, more people came forward with their stories and more tales were added to the myth. The Star newspaper continued to reported on incidents related to the fire.

What was the myth behind the paintings?

The stories people were telling were that the painter Franchot Seville (which is a known pseudonym of artist Bruno Amadio), painted a picture of a boy he found wandering around. Some stories say he even adopted this boy who was a mute orphan. He was orphaned as he watched his parents die in a house fire. A priest identified this boy as Don Bonillo. Wherever this boy went, there was trouble and more suspiciously fire. He was nicknamed ‘Diablo’. Seville returned one day to find his studio had burned to the ground. He was financially ruined and he accused the boy of setting the fire and he ran away supposedly innocent and very upset. He wasn’t heard from again until 1976 where there was a car accident outside of Barcelona. A car exploded in flames and the only thing that survived was a driver’s license with the name of Don Bonillo. The paintings became forever cursed. No source I have found in researching this story has been able to prove the existence of Don Bonillo. Even the original researcher who claimed to have stumbled onto this story, also seems to be untraceable.

This is the painting called 'Toby' one of the most famous examples of the crying boy paintings Image

Is this spirit of Don Bonillo haunting all copies of this painting?

There was only one solution to end the curse. It was the ‘The Star’ newspaper to the rescue. The very newspaper responsible for creating this hysteria and who also uncovered and reported the myth. Send them your ‘cursed’ painting and they will complete a mass burn forever ridding the world of this curse. So people did. They did a mass burn (which apparently took a really long time because remember the paintings don’t burn easy) and the world could sleep again at night. Or could they?

A lot of people around the world still believe strongly in this curse. You only have to search online and you can find pages and forums dedicated to the crying boy paintings. Some people claim the room it has been hung in has caught fire or others just reporting they get a bad feeling or don't like the feel of the painting. For others, it has become as a collectors item. There are some people who even modify the paintings. A couple of examples are replacing the eyes of the paintings for LED lights with my favourite being the person that made his picture cry ‘real tears’.

So what do you think? Do you think the crying boy paintings are really cursed? Or is it a publicity stunt by a newspaper? I myself have had one of these paintings for many years and so far no fires. I think you guys know where I stand on this one, but I am interested to hear from you!

Do you have one of these paintings?

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  • FAZEL 1 year ago


  • Allan McCarville 7 years ago

    I found this story interesting as my aunt and uncle had one of these paintings hanging in their home for years. The expression of sadness and longing reflected in the face of the young boy is definitely "haunting", but certainly not sinister. The house is over a hundred years old, is still lived in, and my Aunt will be 96 on her next birthday. Sadly my uncle passed away several years ago - natural causes.
    No, the painting is not cursed, at least not the one hanging in the main hall of my aunt's home.