On September 4, 1985, the British newspaper The Sun published an article "Blazing Curse of the Crying Boy". In the article, Ron and May Hall, a couple from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, argued that after a fire burned their home, a cheap reproduction of a painting of a crying boy remained intact amid the destruction on the wall.
The article was accompanied by a photograph of the reproduction with the caption “Tears for fears… the portrait that firemen claim is cursed”. And to thicken the colors, it was indicated that the firefighters themselves consider the painting cursed, since very often they found an intact reproduction of the "Crying Boy" in the fires. Also attached to the article was a brief statement stating that more than 50, 000 reproductions of the painting were sold in stores in the UK, which were sold mainly in the working areas of Northern England.
In the mid-1980s, The Sun was actively fighting for readers. Calvin McKenzie, editor of the newspaper, saw the article as a sensation he needed to attract the public. He told his employees that this story with great potential and will last for a long time, the main thing is to keep readers interested in it. Soon, new articles on this topic appeared in the newspaper, with reports that after the last message about the portrait, the editorial office received a lot of information from readers about similar circumstances. Such words as "curse", "bringing misfortune", "fear", "horror" were actively used. The article also cited messages of this type: "In the fire, all my paintings were destroyed, with the exception of the Crying Boy" and "Those of my relatives and friends who acquired a reproduction of the painting suffered from the fires."
Journalists, referring to experts in the occult, expressed the opinion that the author of the original portrait may have cruelly treated the child-model, and the fires may possibly be the result of the curse of the child, his revenge.
Interestingly, the paintings that took part in different incidents are not copies of the same painting. Some of the paintings were attributed to the Spaniard Giovanni Bragolin, some to the Scottish artist Anna Zinkeisen. In total, there were about 5 different versions of the picture, which had only two things in common: they depicted children and they were massively sold in English department stores in the 1960s and 1970s. However, the newspapermen did not spread about this, escalating the situation.
Rumors and speculation prompted the South Yorkshire Fire Department to issue a statement. In it, all cases of fire were explained by a violation of fire safety rules, and the fact that reproductions are not damaged by the fact that they are printed on very thick paper, which is very difficult to set on fire.
However, this statement could not have a big impact on public opinion, fueled by the editors of The Sun. After another fire in which an Italian restaurant was damaged, the newspaper issued a statement: “That's enough. If you are worried that the Crying Boy painting is in your home, send it to us immediately. We will destroy it and deliver you from the curse. "
Soon an entire room was filled up with reproductions in the local editorial office. It was soon discovered that the editor, Calvin Mackenzie, was also prone to superstition. When one of the editorial staff hung the reproduction on the wall, Mackenzie, seeing this, stopped and turned pale, and then ordered to remove the picture and put it away: "This is not good." The firefighters behaved in a similar way, none of the interviewed wanted to take the reproduction as a gift.
The Sun decided to arrange the promised destruction of the reproductions by arranging a massive burning of them. The original plan was to set up a bonfire on the roof of the newspaper's office building, but firefighters banned such action, refusing to collaborate on a cheap show for the public. As a result, the reproductions were taken out of the city and burned there, and a corresponding article about this appeared in the newspaper.