Sunday, August 10, 2008

The curse of the crying boy

Ancient curses invoked by tomb-raiders have remained a popular theme in fiction and folklore for centuries. However, belief in cursed objects is not confined to legends surrounding Egyptian relics, or to the stories of MR James. In the modern world, there are many who believe they have personally experienced uncanny phenomena as a result of contact with a cursed artefact. Portraits or human likenesses, whether carved or painted, are frequently the focus of this type of legend. In recent years, stories of bad luck and misfortune have grown up around certain artefacts that are presumed to have had ritual or magical functions, some of which are apparently quite recent in origin. In folk belief, the notion that a picture falling from a wall is an omen of impending death -particularly if it is a portrait -remains one of the most widespread modern superstitions. Similarly, eerie portraits whose eyes 'seem to follow you wherever you go' have become a staple scene-setter in numerous horror flicks. Folklore is not static, but active and dynamic -especially when it invokes latent beliefs rooted in older superstitions. And so we find that fear and anxiety continue to surround an eerie portrait that has, quite literally, blazed a trail across the British Isles and around the world in the space of two decades. The coming of the curse: The 'Curse of the Crying Boy' appeared out of the blue one morning in 1985. The Sun, at that time the most popular tabloid newspaper in the English-speaking world, published on page 13 of its 4 September edition a story headlined: 'Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy'.It told how Ron and May Hall blamed a cheap painting of a toddler with tears rolling down his face for a fire which gutted their terraced council home in Rotherham, a mining town in South Yorkshire. The blaze broke out in a chip-pan in the kitchen of their home of 27 years and spread rapidly. But although the downstairs rooms of the house were badly damaged, the framed print of the Crying Boy escaped unscathed.
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