Some of these paintings are said to have spooky effects or to be disturbing to people even when viewed online. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
Haunted house stories abound, but tales of haunted paintings are far less common. It seems most ghosts prefer spacious mansions and sprawling cemeteries to the limited space found in a framed portrait or painting. However, not all ghosts limit themselves to traditional haunting grounds.
Can paintings have other influences over us and our world as well? Are there times when, rather than channeling the artist, they are channeling powers beyond our understanding? Are they sometimes more than mere paintings, saturated with the unknown rather than just paint?
|The Crying Boy|
This is not just one painting, but a whole series of paintings collectively known as The Crying Boy. In the 1950s, Italian artist Bruno Amadio, also known as Giovanni Bragolin, painted over 65 portraits of Italian orphans crying, which he sold as souvenirs to tourists in the wake of the Second World War. During the 50s, the paintings went on to become one of the most popular mass produced series of prints in England, but it was not until the 1980s that any particular strangeness was associated with them. Starting from 1985, it was claimed that firefighters were finding completely undamaged copies of The Crying Boy among the ashes and rubble of burned down houses, always lying face down on the floor. In over 50 house fires The Crying Boy paintings were claimed to have inexplicably avoided fiery destruction and to have ended up in the same face down position. It was also reported that homes which had copies of the paintings were prone to a higher rate of house fires than usual.
Numerous psychics would go on to make claims that the portraits were haunted by the ghosts of the many orphans who had died during World War II, and the whole story almost took on the air of an urban legend. It must be noted that the original story appeared in the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, so it should be probably taken with a grain of salt, yet many have insisted that the prints are actually capable of repelling flames. The Sun actually organized mass bonfires for owners of the paintings to come out and burn them, with many participants saying that indeed they seemed to burn remarkably slowly. There is even one BBC video of a guy who I presume thought to himself “only one way to find out,” and can be seen trying to burn a copy of The Crying Boy, which it is claimed seems to be more resistant to the torching than a normal painting would be. Not sure what to make of this one, but for what it’s worth there have been those who blame preservative varnish on the paintings for causing them to be more resistant to flames.
|Bernardo de Galvez|
At the end of a downstairs hallway at The Hotel Galvez in Galveston, TX, there hangs a portrait of Bernardo de Galvez, who was a Spanish military leader who aided American forces during the Revolutionary War, and for whom the town of Galveston is named. Although Galvez died in 1786, it has long been claimed that this particular portrait of him harbors the man’s ghost. There are various strange phenomena associated with the painting. Numerous guests and hotel employees alike have claimed that the painting’s eyes very unmistakably follow them up and down the hallway, and cold spots or a sudden sense of unease felt near the painting are not uncommon. One of the weirder aspects of the painting is that it apparently does not like to have its photo taken without permission. People claim that any photo of the painting will turn out blurry, or show inexplicable orbs, fogs, streaks, or even be marred by frightening ghostly skeletal images, unless explicit and verbal permission is asked of the painting to take its picture, after which photos turn out perfectly fine. This strange claim was actually tested out by the paranormal investigation team Strange Town, who were quite chilled to find that in fact their photos of the painting really did turn out blurry unless it was asked for permission.
|The Dead Mother|
The Dead Mother by Edvard Munch, the artist most famous for his painting The Scream, and an overall fairly dark individual. Munch had been driven nearly insane by his upbringing in the house of an abusive, religious fanatic of a father after the tragic death of his mother and sister by tuberculosis when he was only 5 years old. The Dead Mother seems to reflect some of that angst, despair, and insanity, with these elements congealing to form what can only be described as a truly disturbing painting to look at. It depicts a young girl with her back turned to a bed on which her dead mother lies as she holds her hands to her ears and displays a wide-eyed expression of disbelief. Munch himself said of his work in his typically dour way, “Sickness, madness and death were the black angels who watched over his cradle.” Already creepy enough then, but it gets even creepier. People who have owned the painting claimed that the girl’s eyes incessantly followed them, that the sheets on mother’s bed in the painting would rustle or move, or even that the girl’s apparition would occasionally leave the painting altogether.
The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, already has a reputation as being heavily haunted, and it seems even its paintings are as well. At least one of them is. One painting exhibited there is called Love Letters, which is a replica of yet another painting depicting a little girl. It is said that although the girl in the picture is a different person, she resembles very much another girl named Samantha Houston, the four year old daughter of a U.S. Senator who died while staying at the hotel when she fell to her death down a flight of stairs while chasing after a dropped ball. Guests and employees have reported that the girl in the painting will sometimes change her expression or slightly shift positions. There are also numerous reports of the painting making anyone who looks at it feel ill, dizzy, or nauseous, or creating the rather unsettling sensation of being lifted into the air when standing in front of it. Even though it is not a portrait of her, it is thought that the ghost of the dead senator’s daughter has taken a liking to it and chosen to take up residence within the painting.
|The Hands Resist Him|
Bill Stoneham’s “The Hands Resist Him,” a.k.a. the “eBay Haunted Painting” is one of the world’s most haunted works of art.
“The Hands Resist Him” features a boy and creepy doll standing in front of a glass paneled door. Stoneham created the painting in 1972, and The Godfather actor John Marley purchased it a few years later. A couple in California eventually acquired the painting and put on eBay in February 2000. Though the painting is creepy, the story behind it is even more so.
According to the couple, the figures in the painting moved around at night and even left the canvas altogether. However, the boy and doll didn’t simply disappear from view. They entered the room in which the painting was displayed. It seems the artwork’s curse didn’t just affect the owners. People who viewed the painting online reported feeling sick and faint. Some people claimed their children ran away screaming after seeing “The Hands Resist Him,” while others claimed to be gripped by an unseen entity. One person tried to print a downloaded image of the painting, but their brand new printer refused to cooperate.
An art gallery in Grand Rapids, MI purchased the painting for just over $1,000 and eventually tracked down Bill Stoneham. The artist was surprised by the haunting stories, but did note that the gallery owner who displayed the “The Hands Resist Him,” and the art critic who reviewed it, both died within a year of viewing the painting. Stoneham has since painted two sequel works, “Resistance at the Threshold” and “Threshold of Revolution.”
|The Anguished Man|
The undeniably creepy and somewhat terrifying painting was allegedly kept for 25 years in the attic of the grandmother of a man named Sean Robinson. The grandmother had always made odd claims about the painting, such as that the painter had mixed his own blood into the paint when creating the work and that he had committed suicide right after completing it. The grandmother had also claimed that voices could be heard screaming or crying when the blood infused painting was viewed, and that a somewhat threatening shadowy, spectral shape could also be seen in its vicinity, which convinced her that it was haunted by the artist and was the main reason it had been tucked away into her attic for all of those years.
In 2010, Robinson inherited the painting from his grandmother upon her death and allegedly almost immediately his family was beset by weird happenings, seemingly harassed by a strange force pervading their house. Robinson claimed that upon acquiring The Anguished Man, his son had been pushed down the stairs by unseen hands, that his wife often felt something stroking her hair, and that there were numerous instances of poltergeist activity around their house. The whole family also heard the screaming and crying that Robinson’s grandmother had described, and spotted the mysterious shadowy figure lurking near the painting on many occasions as well. The Anguished Man gained the most notoriety when Robinson decided to set up a camera near the painting to record the paranormal phenomena and uploaded them onto YouTube. The videos show various instances of alleged ghostly activity such as the painting falling to the floor, doors slamming shut, and even smoke rising up from the painting. Spooky stuff, but many viewers have claimed that it is nothing but a hoax. Whether The Anguished Man is really haunted or not, it is hard to argue against the fact that it is indeed extremely unsettling to look at. Robinson has reportedly locked the cursed painting in his basement and refuses to sell it. Incidentally, The Anguished Man is another painting which some say instills feelings of panic, dizziness, or unease even when viewed online. Take a look at it and decide for yourself. What do you think?
|The Headless Man|
Our next haunted painting is actually a painting of a photograph. In the mid-1990s, an artist known only as Laura P. was making a living off of creating paintings based on photographs, and her attention was caught by an odd photo taken by commercial photographer James Kidd. The photograph in question shows an old fashioned stagecoach in the foreground along with a rusty wagon. The strange thing is that looming off to the side there is a wispy figure that appears to be headless and which Kidd insisted had not been there when the photo was taken, instead appearing upon development. Although Laura was not sure what exactly drew her to the picture, she became overcome with an irresistible urge to paint it, and went about creating a 16 x 20-inch oil painting based on it.
The artist reported that almost immediately upon starting the painting she was overcome with a palpable sense of dread, fear, and unease, to the point that she was hesitant to even finish it, yet something compelled her to keep on painting through this overwhelming sense of doom that was hanging over her. When the ordeal was over, the finished painting, titled Painting of a Headless Man, was hung up at a local office where it proceeded to promptly creep everyone right out. Workers at the office claimed that as soon as the painting arrived, papers started going missing, objects would be moved to different locations when no one was looking, and that even the painting itself would move on its own, always crooked even when it was constantly being straightened. After a mere 3 days of freaking everyone out, the office asked Laura to take the painting back. When she moved with her husband to a new home, the painting went with them, and so did whatever mysterious force it was imbued with.
At the new home, the couple repeatedly heard various anomalous sounds such as knocks, bangs, footsteps, and other less definable noises, which always seemed to happen in the general vicinity of the painting. Additionally, other weird occurrences started happening with increasing frequency, such as objects moving on their own, spilt salt next to an upright salt shaker, doors opening by themselves, roof leaks that even professionals called in to investigate could not explain, the dogs suddenly growling or being spooked for no discernible reason, and other similarly minor but generally unsettling phenomena. One alleged incident seemed to be more sinister, when a glass Laura was drinking from suddenly broke in her hand and a large piece of the jagged shattered glass vanished without a trace.
Laura told a friend about these strange events befalling her house, but the friend was highly skeptical and even reportedly laughed out loud when she saw the painting itself. According to Laura, when the friend returned to her home that night, a large clock that had been hanging on the wall for nearly 40 years suddenly fell and was smashed to pieces. Coincidence, or did the painting perhaps not like being laughed at? Another friend of the woman came to photograph the painting, and when he was laying the photos out at his home, he claimed to have seen a spectral, headless figure looming in the shadows from the corner of his eye, prompting him to immediately dispose of the pictures he had taken. The artist of the painting has apparently lamented the fact that she ever painted Painting of a Headless Man in the first place and has expressed a desire to have it destroyed. What is going on with this painting? Why does it attract so much weirdness to it when the photo it is actually based on seemingly does not? It is an odd case to be sure.
|Man Proposes, God Disposes|
Not even establishments of higher learning and rationality are free from the scourge of cursed paintings. In the picture gallery of the Royal Holloway College at the University of London there hangs a painting called Man Proposes, God Disposes by Sir Edwin Landseer. The painting shows the crew of the doomed Arctic expedition led by Sir John Franklin being devoured by ferocious polar bears, so it is rather chilling in its own right. The odd thing about this particular painting, other than being exceptionally spooky, is that it is thought to drive students mad or to make them fail their exams, a bit problematic considering the picture gallery is often used for taking exams. So persistent is the rumor that it is customary for the college to cover the painting with a Union Jack flag in the days leading up to, as well as during, an exam. One famous story at the College is that one student became so utterly and hopelessly upset by the painting that she was driven stark raving insane and allegedly killed herself right there at her desk in front of everyone. I would say that would be good enough reason to get rid of the accursed thing, but apparently it still hangs there, freaking people out as it always has. It’s hard to say if this denotes a haunting or something else, but it certainly is a fairly creepy story nevertheless.
Are any of these works of art truly haunted or possessed of some sinister force? Or are they just merely constructs of canvas, wood, and paint? There can be no doubt that paintings can have the power to have a profound emotional and mental effect on the people who view them and stir up a wide range of feelings including elation, sadness, disgust, the whole range of human feelings, so does this perhaps have something to do with these phenomena? After all, these are windows into the mind and soul of the artist, in a way giving us a glimpse into a world outside of our own mind and range of sensory experience, perhaps even influencing ours. However, in the case of these haunted or cursed paintings perhaps they are windows into something else as well. Just maybe they are portals into the unknown, from which forces or entities beyond our understanding reach out to us through them. Either way, it is clear that paintings are, in more cases than not, much more than simply the sum of their parts.