In England, 1985, a series of bizarre fires broke out, destroying many homes and businesses. The link between the fires was a collection of paintings, known as ‘Crying Boys’. Out of the devastation of each fire, only the paintings would survive, and soon, they would be labelled as ‘cursed’.
Bruno Amadio, an academically trained painter, was working as a painting restorer in Venice, when he created his series that became known as 'Crying Boys'. These paintings, of which at least 65 were made, all featured young boys, who stared straight out of the picture, with tears welling in their eyes and rolling down their cheeks.
The pictures were created for tourists visiting post world war two Venice, the significance being that the paintings showed the plight of the children who had been recently orphaned due to the war.
Eventually, some of these paintings were brought to England, mass produced and sold in grocery and department stores at cheap prices. More than 50,000 copies of the paintings made their way into people’s houses all across England.
In September 1985, British newspaper 'The Sun' ran a report on some strange happenings surrounding the Crying Boy paintings. The title of the story read:
"BLAZING CURSE OF THE CRYING BOY!"
The article told the story of Ron and May Hall’s home of 27 years, in Rotherham, which was destroyed by a devastating fire. The fire was started when an unattended frying pan caught a light and the house went with it.
The strange thing was that only one item seemed to have survived the blaze. Found amongst the ashes and ruin was a frame, the painting within was face down on the floor, and only slightly scorched. The Crying Boy had survived the fire somehow!
It gets even stranger...
Ron Hall’s brother was a fire-fighter, and he told how several houses had burned to the ground, and that the sole remaining item was a copy of The Crying Boy, found intact, lying face down on the floor.
He also insinuated that fire-fighters believed the painting to be cursed, and that none would hang the picture in their homes. One fire station officer Alan Wilkinson had logged more than fifty 'Crying Boy' fires.
With The Sun’s large reader base, and the fact that more than 50,000 copies of The Crying Boy were hanging in British homes, a fear in the curse quickly spread.
Many readers told their stories through the paper, and various other papers around the country. The story was always the same, soon after the picture found its way into a home, a fire broke out, destroying everything except the picture itself.
Several readers also wrote in, explaining that after they had read about the curse, they attempted to destroy their copies of the paintings. They attempted to burn them in their garden incinerators, but the painting failed to burn.
Soon after a 'Crying Boy' fire had gutted an Italian Restaurant, The Sun ran a story encouraging readers to send them their copy of the paintings, if they felt fear from the curse. The sun organised mass bonfires for the burning of the paintings, and soon over two thousand had finally gone up in flames. Although they were not easy to burn, they did eventually succumb to the fire and flames.
Soon other methods for lifting the curse of the painting came to light, such as handing the painting to another (thereby giving them the curse), or hanging the picture alongside a painting containing a crying girl.
The stories of the fires began to smoulder, and the series of events relegated to the status of legend. However, the question still is 'If the paintings were indeed somehow causing or enabling fires to take place, what force could be behind it?'
The Story of 'Don Bonillo'
There are several stories behind the legend of the painting itself. One states that the models for the various crying boys were orphans who, soon after the paintings were completed, died in a orphanage fire. Nice and simple.
My preferred version, if not for story alone, reads as follows...
Bruno Amadio, also known as Bragolin, had fled to Spain soon after the end of World War Two. Here Amadio met a young boy named Don Bonillo, a mute orphan who had seen his parents perish in a house fire during the war.
Amadio soon adopted the boy, although he was warned off of doing so by a local priest, the boy being the centre of many mysterious fires that broke out wherever he went. The boy was known locally as the devil child.
Amadio refused to believe such stories, and the new family did well, Amadios paintings were selling well, and the two were living easy.
Unfortunately, one day Amadio found that his house and studio had burned to the ground. Remembering the priest’s warnings, he immediately blamed Don and kicked him out of the family. Don Bonillo was not heard from again until 1976, and surrounding another bizarre event.
Just outside of Barcelona a car smashed into a wall and burst into flames. The driver was killed and was so horrifically burned; he was not able to be identified. However, upon investigation back at the police yard, the glove compartment was pried open. There, among burned items, was an untouched driver’s license. The name on the license was Don Bonillo.
It is said all of Amadio’s paintings of crying boys were cursed by the memory of Don Bonillo.
Unfortunately, all of the facts of this story can not be 100% confirmed. Bruno Amadio, the painter, died in 1981, the truth of this story has also gone with him.
Then of course it could just be coincidence, many houses had 'Crying Boys' adorning their walls, people begin to see the easily recognisable image in the remains and a new urban legend comes to light.