Creaky mansions and foggy cemeteries are where you expect to find ghosts, but it is believed that spirits can inhabit or be trapped inside of everyday objects as well. Paintings, objects that artists invest their emotions and energies into, are hot spots for ghost activity; whether that of the subject, the painter, or someone else entirely.
Unlike the fictional cursed painting of Dorian Gray, the painting whose subject grows older in appearance as the real man remains young in life, these paintings are haunted by someone or something. These spooks do not play nice with others; in every case the spirits that possess these paintings are malevolent and sinister, seeking to spread fear or cause bodily harm to those curious enough to get close.
While there are skeptics and investigators who have tried to debunk these ghost stories, there are those with evidence and thousands, if not millions, of people who believe in them.
8 The Anguished Man by Unknown
Sean Robinson inherited The Anguished Man from his grandmother, who had feared the painting and kept it hidden in her basement. She chose to bequeath this frightening possession to her grandson because he’d been curious about it since he was a boy, digging through the piles of curtains that she used to cover it. Sean’s grandmother claimed that she didn’t know the painter, but that the artist mixed their blood with the paint just before committing suicide.
When Sean hung it on the wall of his family home, strange events started to occur within the house. There were strange noises and fogs, doors opened in the night, unknown voices screamed, and the entire family was haunted by nightmares. After many arguments and sleepless nights, The Anguished Man is now hidden in Sean’s basement.
7 The Crying Boy by Giovanni Bragolin
Originally painted as souvenirs for tourists after the Second Wold Ward, Giovanni Bragolin created over 65 different portraits of Italian orphans crying. Within decades, The Crying Boy portraits were one of the most popular and mass produced print series in England.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that people noticed that a curse followed the orphans’ portraits. Somehow, in over 50 recorded house fires, a crying boy print was the only item to survive the annihilating fire. Firefighters report finding the print, still in its frame, face down on the floor untouched in the burnt wreckage of numerous homes. Psychics claim that the prints are haunted by the orphans who died in Italy’s desperate post-WWII conditions; but another theory is that the pictures are haunted by the Bragolin’s adopted “devil child” son.
6 The Hands Resist Him by Bill Stoneham
Inspired by his wife’s poetry and a childhood photograph of himself, Bill Stoneham painted The Hands Resist Him in 1972 for a local art gallery. During the following decade, three people closely connected to Stoneham’s painting would pass away, but it was not until the painting was auctioned on eBay in 2000 that its haunted nature was revealed.
A family placed the painting on eBay claiming that it was haunting their daughter. The young girl would be awoken in the middle of the night by the boy and the doll in the painting coming to life and fighting. The boy would then crawl out of the painting into the little girl’s room to escape the doll, who was now holding a gun.
5 Man Proposes, God Disposes by Sir Edwin Landseer
Man Proposes, God Disposes is certainly an unsettling painting, but its subject matter seems far from haunting. The painting commemorates the lost voyage of Sir John Franklin to chart a passage through the Arctic waters north of Canada, with the polar bears assumedly feasting on his crew. Recent findings show that not everyone perished with the ship, however, and that some crew members were cannibalised.
The painting hangs in the picture gallery of Royal Holloway College at the University of London, a room frequently used for exams. Whenever an exam is held, the painting is covered by a Union Jack flag because the students fear that the painting with drive them mad and cause them to fail their exam. Rumour has it, that when the College first opened as a female institution, a student taking an exam was so distressed by the painting that she killed herself while still sitting at her desk.
4 The Dead Mother by Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch, most famous for his painting The Scream, once wrote that “Sickness, madness and death were the black angels who watched over [his] cradle.” When he was a child his mother and sister passed away from tuberculosis and his father became a religious fanatic, forcing the young Munch to the brink of insanity.
The Dead Mother could be a picture of his lost family or a vision from his dark soul. People who have owned the painting find it unsettling, saying the wide eyes of the young girl followed them incessantly. Others have heard the bed sheets of the deceased woman rustle.
3 Love Letters Replica by Richard King
The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas has several ghosts stories attached to it, from suicidal brides to the original owner Colonel Jesse Driskell haunting guests. One of the more well-known stories is of Samantha Houston, the four year old daughter of a U.S. Senator. During her stay at the hotel, Samantha was playing and dropped her ball down the grand staircase of the hotel. Running down the stairs to catch it, Samantha tripped and fell to her death.
The painting Love Letters is not a painting of Samantha Houston, but a replica of a painting depicting a different little girl. However, it is believed that Samantha has attached herself to the painting because of the odd occurrences that happen around it. Hotel staff and guests report that the painting has made them feel dizzy and nauseous, while others have experienced a sensation like being lifted into the air while standing in front of it. Yet other visitors believe that the painted girl is trying to communicate with them because her expression changes if you stand with her long enough.
2 Portrait of Bernardo de Galvez by Unknown
Another haunted painting in a haunted hotel, the Portrait of Bernardo de Galvez has a history of frightening employees and guests alike. The Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas draws ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts from around the country, although it is not as menacing as other paintings on this list.
The eyes of Bernardo de Galvez’s portrait follow visitors as they walk down the hall and many have felt a chill or unsettled feeling come over them as they hurried to their destination. This portrait’s claim to fame though is that it greatly dislikes having its picture taken. Individuals have discovered that taking a photo of the painting without it or Galvez’s consent will yield spooky results. Strange blurs, fogs, and even ghostly skeletons have appeared in these unapproved of shots. However, once permission for a photograph is requested, clear images, devoid of anything paranormal, are able to be taken.
1 Painting of the Headless Man by Laura P.
Laura paints her artworks based on photographs and she was drawn to one in particular by James Kidd in the mid-1990s. The photo was a double exposure of an old-fashioned stagecoach with a rusted wagon in the foreground – and a headless figure off to one side. Laura doesn’t know what drew her to the photo, she didn’t believe in ghosts, but half-way through painting the piece she began to feel uneasy and almost didn’t complete it.
Once finished, Painting of a Headless Man was sent with several other artworks to decorate an office. Within three days the office called and requested that Laura take back the painting as workers were actively afraid of it. They reported that every morning the painting was hanging crooked despite being straightened the day before and that papers were suddenly disappearing.
But the hauntings don’t end at the office. The painting was then moved to Laura’s own home, where even stranger and more dangerous events took place. Knocks and noises that their dogs could not hear, spilt salt next to an upright salt shaker, moving objects, leaks that roofers couldn’t explain, and a possible attempt on Laura’s life has a glass she is drinking from suddenly chips and the large piece of broken glass goes missing. If she were to go back in time, she never would have painted Painting of the Headless Man.