9 Allegedly Haunted Paintings — And The Disturbing True Stories Behind Them

Published October 23, 2023
Updated October 25, 2023

From the chilling "Anguished Man" to the work of John Wayne Gacy, these supposedly haunted paintings and the circumstances surrounding their creation are enough to send shivers down your spine.

Art is a reflection of the soul, but could an artist put too much of their self into a piece? Or worse yet, could something else attach itself to a work of art? Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there are certain pieces of art that simply evoke an eerie, dreadful feeling. Perhaps, some might say, these paintings are truly haunted.

From the mysterious painting The Anguished Man to the works of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the stories behind these allegedly cursed paintings are excellent fodder for a dark and stormy night — and the pieces themselves are quite creepy, too.

Read on to learn all about these reportedly haunted paintings and the stories behind them.

Just don’t stare for too long.

The Hands Resist Him: The Haunted Painting That Moves When You Look Away

Haunted Painting

Bill StonehamThe figures depicted in The Hands Resist Him allegedly move and even leave the painting at night.

From first glance, it’s clear there is something deeply disturbing about William Stoneham’s 1972 work, The Hands Resist Him. The painting depicts a young boy stood next to an eerily lifelike doll with a downturned mouth. Behind him, in the darkness beyond the glass door, the hands of children reach for him.

The art is terrifying enough on its own, but the alleged hauntings that plagued its owners make the eerie painting even creepier.

According to The Lineup, several prominent figures in the art world who came into contact with the painting died shortly after it was sold, including the art critic Henry Seldis and actor John Marley, who purchased the painting. Marley died in 1984, and the painting seemingly disappeared for nearly two decades.

But in 2000, it resurfaced on eBay, of all places. The new owners were looking to sell the painting as soon as possible because, they claimed, it was haunted.

Allegedly, in the middle of the night, the boy and the doll in the painting would fight, terrifying the couple’s four-year-old daughter. The sellers also claimed that they captured footage on motion-sensing cameras of the boy in the painting physically leaving the frame and stepping into the room, running away in fear.

The owners warned that those who were “faint of heart” should not bid on the painting. More than 300,000 people viewed the listing, and many reported that simply looking at the painting made them feel ill or upset.

Stoneham eventually came forward to speak about his inspiration for the painting, revealing that the boy in it was himself, that the hands in the background represented other lives, and that the doll represented his guide between two worlds. Stoneham was adopted, and the painting is meant to serve as a representation of his adoption.

He even created a sequel painting, The Hands Invent Him, which depicts the scene on the other side of the door.

author
Austin Harvey
author
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
editor
Jaclyn Anglis
editor
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.