I was asked to tell “English ghost stories” for a Japanese TV programme aimed at 8-12 year olds.
The location was Kontiki studios in Dalston which is absolutely beautiful!
I had suggested some of my favourite short but terrifying Londony tales, however the one that the producers were most keen to hear was an urban legend that I had never even heard of. It is apparently very popular in Japan!
When I arrived all prepped up, the producer was very upset. It turns out that the week’s rushes shooting in and around London has been accidentally thrown away with the remains of last nights takeaway so he spent most of the time on the phone trying to recover them…
The filming took around an hour and I recorded three stories but I already guessed they would only use the Crying Boy.
Once I had researched it, I fell in love with it too. Obviously I take no responsibility for the truth of what you are about to read.
However it is entirely true.
When I watched the film (below) I was a bit disappointed as it has been obviously edited for a non-English audience and so the main point of the story has been kind of lost imo!
Whatever… here’s the story.
In Rotherham in the 1980s, there was a house fire. The house was burned to ash, luckily no one was hurt. However the fire brigade were baffled to discover that only one thing from the house had survived… a painting of a crying boy.
The rumour started to circulate that the painting was in some way cursed and had caused the fire. This story reached The Sun newspaper who love a bit of weirdness for their headlines and they screamed that there was “a supernatural cursed painting” which could cause spontaneous fires. Ghost-hunters across Europe became interested in this story and tracked the artist down. Turns out the portrait had been painted in a studio in Madrid in the mid 1960s. Apparently the artist hadn’t been successful up to this point. Then one day he’d been wandering the streets and had come across a little blonde street urchin crying. He spoke to the boy and discovered he was an orphan. It was at this point that a priest who ran the local orphanage warned the artist away saying the boy was possessed, yes he was an orphan but had deliberately murdered his parents. “Stay away from him,” the priest warned. They call him “El Diablo and with reason.” The artist was not religious and invited the homeless boy to pose in his studio, paid him well and fed him. The finished painting, although kitschy was hugely popular and was bought and prints were made and sold across Europe. For the first time, the artist was making money and was in demand. He used his newfound wealth to buy a sports car. A few years later he was in a mountainside crash, the car caught fire and he was burned to death. As for the priest and the boy himself, no one ever found either of them.
The story caught the interest of the British public who began to contact the Sun with stories about their own paintings of blonde angelic looking children. There was another fire. Members of the public were scared (there was a lot of talk about black magic and satanism at the time) and the Sun became worried that they had started something which was going to spiral out of control and someone might get hurt. They issued a notice that if you had a painting that you believed was cursed, you could send it into their HQ in Wapping.
They expected a few people to send them paintings but they were wrong. They were absolutely swamped with kischy paintings of crying boys, crying girls and even crying dogs. Paintings in the corridors, on filing cabinets, in the toilets, covering every wall. You could hardly move for crying boys. The journalists announced they would have a vast cathartic fire on the roof of their Wapping HQ, blessed by a priest and burn all the paintings, ridding the UK of this terrible curse. Unfortunately the local Fire Brigade decided that this plan might be dangerous and forbade it. Eventually the Journalists took the paintings in an articulated lorry to a chalk pit outside Reading (a previous movie location for BBC series Dr Who) and burned them all there.
And thus the curse of the crying boy was lifted forever.
PS: My researchers tell me that the Crying Boy painting also has links withe the K-pop band BTS which probably explains why the Japanese TV show were so keen to have me tell it!
And here is the video: