In the 1980’s a curse was said to be spreading like wildfire. The legend of the crying boy surviving amongst houses that were a total loss were both perplexing to witnesses and terrifying to homeowners. So vivid were the stories of the crying boy surviving entirely unharmed amongst the charred remains of houses that it gained a reputation as a paranormal object. And now almost 30 years later the legend is being scrutinized by men and women of science.
The test was unconventional, and had an equally unconventional interested party as the experiment was set up by BBC Radio 4’s Punt Pi and its host Steve Punt. But the actual test itself seemed to prove with disturbing accuracy the fireproof qualities of an object that normally would eagerly burst into flames at the introduction of the slightest incindiary incentive. As the flames poured over the front of the painting, however, it did not burn. The test video, which can be found accompanying Punt’s piece show an uncanny and some would say paranormal ability for the painting to avoid burning.
Punt’s explanation centered around the varnish which could have been acting to protect the framed image. And while continual exposure to fire did have a mild charring effect around the edges the center itself clearly did not go up in flames. And Punt may be on to something. Looking into the matter, it seems the painting itself was mass produced in the mid 1950’s. And in 1952 polyisocyanites (polyurethane of which fire retardant varnish is made) became commercially available. By 1960 it would be a commercially available material. There is a bit of a gap here from when the painting first went into production and fire retardant varnish would have been available.
One argument that could be made is that the painting could not possibly naturally be as fireproof as it seems to be as the production of the paintings began in the 1950s by Giovanni Bragolin and would become mass produced to tourists and catalog buyers alike. But then if we analyze the production history, we find that the paintings would be continually created over the course of the next twenty or so years. As such, the crying boy painting could have eventually been given a new varnish and the surviving painting fires would have been remembered long after the burned away copies produced earliest. The Sun reported the story the most in the 1980’s and a mythos soon sprang up around the painting itself.
The subject in the painting, according to the legend, is a boy who was found crying in the streets after his parents had perished in a fire. Shortly after the painting was made by Giovanni Bragolin (also said to be named Bruno Amadio or Franchot Seville) his studio caught fire and he lost everything except the painting itself which soon went into mass production as it was all he had left at the time. The story continued for several years until eventually it put itself out as it stopped receiving attention. But this latest experiment certainly shows there’s something unusual about the painting, even if we are unsure of what.