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The Curse of the Crying Boy in British Folklore



Urban legends british folklore

The Curse of the Crying Boy in British Folklore

In the annals of British folklore, few tales have captivated the public imagination as enduringly as the “Curse of the Crying Boy.” This urban legend, a blend of the supernatural and the unexplainable, has its roots in the 1950s but gained significant traction in the 1980s. It revolves around a series of paintings, most notably by the Italian artist Giovanni Bragolin, depicting forlorn, tearful children. The most infamous among these is the portrait of a young boy, tears streaming down his cheeks, staring hauntingly out of the canvas.

Crying Boy Curse Painting

The origin of the curse is shrouded in mystery. According to legend, these paintings were thought to bring bad luck, particularly house fires, to their owners. Stories circulated of numerous homes gutted by fire, yet the paintings of the crying boy remained unscathed, often found amidst the ashes in pristine condition. This eerie occurrence gave rise to a sense of dread and superstition, with the paintings quickly becoming objects of fear.

Crying curse painting painter


The phenomenon reached its zenith in the 1980s when The Sun, a British tabloid, published an article linking these paintings to a series of house fires. The story captured the nation’s attention, and soon, the alleged curse was a topic of discussion in households across the UK. People who owned these prints began to associate any misfortune they encountered with the cursed image of the crying boy. 

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Urban legends british folklore

What followed was a mixture of fear and fascination. Some owners discarded the paintings, while others sought them out, intrigued by the mystique that now surrounded them. The fire brigade even reported instances of these paintings being found intact in burnt houses, which only fuelled the legend further. 


However, as with many urban legends, rational explanations have been proposed. Art experts suggested that the prints, mass-produced on fire-resistant material, were less likely to be consumed by flames. Additionally, the placement of these paintings – often on damp walls or away from sources of fire – could have contributed to their survival.

Crying Boy Curse PaintingDespite these plausible explanations, the allure of the “Curse of the Crying Boy” endures. It taps into a deep-seated human fascination with the occult and the unexplained. The story transcends the simple narrative of a cursed painting; it embodies our inherent need to find meaning and patterns in random events, particularly those tinged with tragedy. 


Beyond the supernatural elements, the story of the crying boy paintings also offers a glimpse into the cultural psyche of post-war Britain. The forlorn image of the child resonated with a society emerging from the shadows of war, embodying a sense of loss and vulnerability. It’s plausible that the legend of the curse was, in part, a manifestation of the collective anxieties of the time.

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Crying Boy Curse

In contemporary times, the legend of the “Curse of the Crying Boy” lives on in the digital realm. Online forums and social media platforms are replete with accounts of the curse, each iteration adding to the mythos. The story has evolved, with new elements and supposed eyewitness accounts continually shaping its narrative.


The legend also holds a mirror to the phenomenon of moral panics and how they are propagated in society. The story of the cursed paintings spread like wildfire, fuelled by sensationalist media and word of mouth. It’s a testament to the power of folklore and its ability to tap into our deepest fears and fascinations.

Crying curse painting painter

In conclusion, the “Curse of the Crying Boy” is more than just an urban legend; it is a cultural artefact, a reflection of societal fears, and a case study in the power of storytelling. It straddles the line between reality and the supernatural, inviting us to question the nature of belief and the mysteries that lie just beyond the realm of understanding. Whether a product of mere coincidence or something truly inexplicable, the curse continues to be a fascinating footnote in British folklore, a story that refuses to be extinguished, much like the paintings at the heart of its narrative.

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