Haunted Paintings You Probably Shouldn’t Look At

haunted paintings

Since the beginning of time, people have expressed emotions through art – telling stories and capturing moments in time. But what happens when the stories told by a canvas stretch beyond mere pigment and brushwork, crossing into the realm of the supernatural? Haunted paintings, canvases rumored to carry curses, eerie phenomena, or spectral residents, offer a tantalizing intersection of artistry and the unknown. In this article, we’ll delve deep into the chilling tales of some of the world’s most haunted masterpieces, where every brushstroke might just hold a secret waiting to be revealed.

Portrait of Bernardo de Gálvez, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Depicted in this artwork is the celebrated Spanish general and New Spain’s viceroy, Bernardo de Gálvez (1746-1786), recognized for his valor during the American Revolution. Legend whispers of the painting’s mystical power to affect photos captured of it. It’s said that the flash of a camera reveals the image of a skull within the painting. Local tales suggest that one should courteously request the spirit’s consent before snapping a photo, as failing to do so might result in a distorted image upon its revelation.

Portrait of Henrietta Nelson

William Johnson, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

This painting, crafted by William Johnson around 1780, captures the likeness of Henrietta Nelson (1734-1816). Her life tragically ended when she met with an unfortunate fall down the stairs of Yaxley Hall in England. According to folklore, Nelson’s spirit has never left, continuously wandering the estate in an attempt to find solace in her preferred final abode. Rumor has it that Johnson’s portrayal of Nelson is more than just oil on canvas—it is believed her essence lingers there, manifesting as an altering visage in the painting, and a ghostly apparition donning similar attire has been spotted meandering the property.

Man Proposes, God Disposes

Edwin Landseer, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Crafted in 1864 by Edwin Landseer, this artwork chillingly showcases two polar bears feasting upon the remnants of Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic journey. The piece is shrouded in eerie tales and is considered to bear a dark curse. A macabre urban legend tells of a Royal Holloway college scholar who, in the midst of examinations, took their own life by thrusting a pencil into their eye. The haunting message left behind read: “The polar bears made me do it.” Another pervasive tale warns students of a curse: those who dare to sit before the painting during an assessment are doomed to fail. Out of precaution and perhaps a touch of superstition, educators drape the artwork with a Union Jack during examination times.

Mi Novia

Juan Luna, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

A classic painting also known as “Portrait of a Lady” is believed to be the handiwork of Juan Luna. Many speculate that the lady captured on canvas is none other than his spouse, Paz Pardo de Tavera, whose life was tragically snuffed out by Luna himself. Hushed tales weave a narrative that the portrait may be harboring Paz’s unsettled spirit, bringing sorrow and calamity to its beholders. Owners of yesteryears allegedly met with dire misfortunes, encompassing deadly vehicular mishaps, daunting monetary setbacks and the agonizing loss of unborn children. Amplifying its enigmatic essence, during its 1987 presentation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the spotlight trained on it met an inexplicable end, shattering suddenly.

Death and the Child

Edvard Munch, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Edvard Munch’s 1899 artwork hauntingly depicts a woman, presumably on the brink of death or already departed, lying on a bed while a child stands adjacent with his back turned to those observing. The child’s posture suggests either obliviousness or refusal to accept the woman’s dire state. Murmurs of a curse envelop this piece, with tales connecting it to numerous harrowing events. Legend has it that a specific 1899 rendition of this painting carries a malevolent aura, plunging those who gaze upon it into a vortex of night terrors, unsettling visions, or in the grimmest of tales, the icy grip of death itself.

The paintings of Arshile Gorky

The Artist and His Mother. Arshile Gorky, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Arshile Gorky was an Armenian-American painter whose paintings are often abstract and biomorphic, reflecting his traumatic past as a genocide survivor and his nostalgic memories of his homeland. Some of his paintings are said to have a dark and haunting quality that can affect the viewers’ emotions and perceptions. Some people claim that his paintings can induce feelings of sadness, anxiety, or dread, or even cause physical illness or harm.

The Crying Boy

Crafted by the Italian painter Giovanni Bragolin, also known under the pseudonym Bruno Amadio, this widely distributed print captures the desolate gaze of a weeping young boy. Various renditions exist, each spotlighting somber-faced children shedding tears. A shroud of dark legend surrounds this artwork, as whispers of its cursed nature circulate. Numerous tales recount of homes where this print graced the walls being consumed by flames, yet eerily, the print itself would emerge unscathed from the smoldering ruins. In a dramatic turn in 1985, spurred by fear and speculation, The Sun newspaper orchestrated mass incinerations of these prints, submitted by apprehensive readers convinced of their malevolent influence.

The Hands Resist Him

Bill Stoneham’s 1972 creation paints a mysterious tableau of a young boy and an eerie female doll, both positioned before a door paneled in glass, where countless hands reach out pressed against it. Drawing from his personal past, Stoneham reveals that the boy echoes a snapshot of himself at five. The door symbolizes the threshold between reality and a realm filled with dreams and impossibilities, and the doll stands as the sentinel guiding the boy’s journey. The myriad hands? They hint at potential paths or alternate destinies. The intrigue of this painting deepened in 2000 when it morphed into both a viral internet sensation and a subject of urban legends after its eBay listing suggested a haunted aura. The seller spun tales of the depicted characters shifting positions by night, even daring to step out into physical space on occasion. Disturbingly, some individuals have professed feelings of unease, even sickness, simply from glimpsing at its photographic representation.

Pogo the Clown

This is a series of paintings by American serial killer John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994), who was also known as Pogo the Clown. Gacy would dress up as a clown and perform at children’s parties and charitable events. He also used his clown persona to lure his victims, mostly young boys and men, whom he would rape, torture, and murder, burying 26 of his victims in the crawl space of his house. Gacy painted several portraits of himself as Pogo the Clown while he was on death row, and the paintings are said to be haunted by the spirits of his victims or by Gacy himself. Some people claim the paintings have a sinister aura, that they can hear screams or laughter coming from them, or that they can see blood dripping from them.

The Anguished Man

This haunting artwork bearing the tormented visage of a man was crafted by an artist whose identity remains shrouded in mystery. The painting, characterized by its chilling display of agony and terror, found its way into Sean Robinson’s possession, a legacy from his grandmother. Robinson recollects tales from his grandmother, hinting at the macabre method the artist employed: mingling his own lifeblood with oil paints. Tragically, the artist is said to have taken his own life soon after the piece’s completion. The painting, according to Robinson, seems to be imbued with the restless spirit of its creator, resulting in eerie occurrences within his abode — unexplained sounds, unsettling cold drafts, and fleeting shadows. Keen on sharing these chilling experiences, Robinson has chronicled several of these paranormal instances on his YouTube channel.

Written by Editorial Team

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