The Folklore of Haunted Art

The saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is one that we have heard said in regards to famous photographs.  Whether they are sad, depressing, joyous, shocking, the more you stare, the more you come to your own conclusions.  But what if you were wrong?  What if you saw a painting and thought it was just an expression of a tortured artist only to find out that the painting has killed?  Could that even be possible?  Join us as we take a look at two of the most notorious paintings known for the chaos they sow.

painting 2The first painting we are looking at today is known as the Anguished Man.  The most disturbing thing about this painting isn’t the image itself — though the image is quite unsettling.  In fact, it was discovered that the artist had mixed his own blood into the paint as he had worked, committing suicide shortly after.  Ever since, every owner of this painting has complained of shadow figures, pets becoming distressed at unseen things and even at the painting itself, and even sounds of crying that, after being investigated, have no source.  Current owner Sean Robinson keeps it safely locked away, though you can find his YouTube channel in which he has posted videos of the creepy occurrences happening within his home.

The second painting is a bit more well known.  Titled, The Hands Resist Him by Bill painting 1Stoneham, the painting depicts a young boy standing in front of a window, a doll in the shape of a young girl beside him, with what appears to be clawing hands pawing at the glass of the window trying to get to the boy.  Originally painted as a way for the artist to deal with his adoption, the painting hung in an art gallery until it was sold in 1974.  However, ten years after this purchase, the buyer, the owner of the gallery, and an art critic who had written an article about the painting, all died.  That is not the end of the story, however.  Eventually, the painting resurfaced.  On eBay.  The terrified seller claims that the figures in the art come to life at night, while some people who view it claim to have physical illnesses or even blackouts.  Though there is no need to fear, for the painting was eventually bought by another art gallery where they keep it locked away.

These two paintings are just examples of countless of other haunted paintings that are scattered around the world.  And while the artist of the Anguished Man remains a mystery, we can at least hear what Bill Stoneham says about his own haunted painting, which makes his a bit unique.  According to Stoneham,

“When I painted the Hands Resist Him in 1972, I used an old photo of myself at age five in a Chicago apartment. The hands are the ‘other lives.’ The glass door, that thin veil between waking and dreaming. The girl/doll is the imagined companion, or guide through this realm. Both the owner of the Gallery where ‘Hands’ was displayed and the Los Angeles Times art critic who reviewed my show were dead within a year of the show.  I’m sure it was coincidence, but some of what I paint resonates in other people, opening the inner door. Or basement.”

So the question is, what do you believe?  Can an ordinary painting become haunted because of memories and feelings and emotions?  Or are we left to view only paintings such as Anguished Man as an exception due to its dark history?  Is there such a thing as a cursed piece of art?  Or is it all mere coincidence?


For more reading on these and other haunted paintings (sources):

The Folklore of Oshiroi Baba

OSHIROI BABAThere are Winter Witches and Snow Queens that litter folklore and mythology — from giant ogresses to hags who eat children.  The more you look through them, the more you notice a pattern of death and cannibalism.  However, there is one wintry figure who is neither, who brings sake to weary and cold travelers.  Her name is Oshiroi Baba.

Oshiroi Baba, or the Face Powder Hag, is considered a servant to the Goddess of Cosmetics and appears as an ancient looking woman, her back bent with age, leaning on a bamboo cane.  She is clothed in kimono rags, with a straw hat broken and heavy with snow.  In her other hand, she holds a bottle of sake.  But it’s her face that gives her her name: her wrinkled and lined face is covered in oshiroi — white powder just like what the geisha’s wore.  The last bit of her appearance goes to her mirror, and the reason why I leave this for last is because it is usually not seen.  However, the sound of a clanging mirror being dragged behind her is always heard, alerting you of her presence.

The most commonly told stories of Oshiroi Baba are by travelers who find themselves lost and cold, wandering in snow storms.  She brings her sake and offers travelers a chance to warm up before they continue on their way.  The most famous story about her is very different and comes from the Hasedera Temple.  According to the story, the monks were starving after their food was confiscated by the army, and they prayed, pleading that they may finish their work.  The next day, they spotted a woman washing rice at the well, and as they watched, they noticed she would empty the bucket of all but a single grain, and when she would, the bucket would magically refill.  She repeated this until there was enough food to feed all of the monks.

There is not much lore in regards to the Oshiroi Baba.  Some believe her to be a variation of the Yuki Onna, traveling down the mountain to demand makeup or sake from travelers, others believe her to be a blessing.  However, the belief that there is a winter hag who brings sake to those who are cold is a much more warming thought.  So if you ever find yourself lost in the snow, keep an ear out for the sounds of a clanking mirror as it might be Oshiroi Baba bringing you warm sake to give you strength.


For more reading on Oshiroi Baba (sources):
Oshiroi Baba – The Face Powder Hag