In 1972, Bill Stoneham was under contract with a local gallery to produce two paintings per month. Nearing one of his monthly deadlines, he latched onto a poem his wife had written about his own experiences as a child. With the title of the poem and a picture of his younger self with a neighborhood girl, he produced a painting called “The Hands Resist Him” that has been haunting those who come in contact with it for decades.
But is the painting really haunted? Let’s go back to the beginning.
When Stoneham was a boy, his father traveled a great deal for his work. He and his mother stayed with his grandmother in the woman’s tiny Chicago apartment. There was no room for Stoneham to have his own bed, so he slept on a mat in a closet beneath the dresses and shoes stored there.
Whenever he could, Stoneham would play outside with a local girl from the neighborhood. On one of those occasions, his parents asked him to pose for a picture with the girl in front of a glass door. Years later, when Stoneham was adapting the picture to a painting, he replaced his childhood playmate with a porcelain doll with empty eyes and down-turned mouth. Behind them, the painter added hands reaching toward the boy and girl from the darkness.
Stoneham would later explain that the hands represented possibilities reaching toward a young boy whose life was not ideal.
The painting hung in the gallery for a time and was then purchased by the actor John Marley. You might remember Marley in his most iconic role in The Godfather waking up next to the head of a dead horse. Interestingly, three men associated closely with the painting died between 1978 and 1984: Marley, Charles Feingarten who owned the gallery where the painting was displayed and Henry Seldis, an art critic for the L.A. Times who was the first to review the painting.
Some time after Marley’s death, the painting was discovered by a couple from California behind an old brewery turned art gallery. Thinking how lucky they were to stumble upon such an interesting piece of art, they naturally took it home with them.
That’s where things begin to get weird…
It was around the year 2000 when a listing for the painting went up on eBay. The listing, which read like a pulp horror story, insisted that the painting was haunted. Supposedly, the painting was hung in their children’s room but their two daughters began to complain that the little boy and girl in the painting argued and fought at night with one child even claiming that the boy would escape the painting into their room.
The father, in an attempt to assuage his children’s fears, set up a motion activated camera to prove to them that it was only their imagination. He received the shock of his life the next morning when the photos taken overnight appeared to show the boy crawling out of the painting.
Naturally, bidders on eBay were intrigued, and some began to claim that even reading the listing had caused strange events in their own homes that ranged from blackout spells to disembodied voices to feeling ill after having looked at the painting.
As the bidding neared its end, the family updated the posting, asking how best to cleanse their home after the painting was finally removed. By the closing of the auction, it’s estimated that nearly 13,000 people viewed the listing and many of them reported strange phenomena while considering their bids.
Ultimately, the painting sold to a gallery owner by the name of Kim Smith for $1025.
Since its purchase, Smith has mostly kept the painting in storage, only bringing it out for a handful of viewings. In that time there have been rumblings of a feature film telling the painting’s story and also a rumored documentary.
So, what is it about this painting? Did Stoneham unconsciously create a paranormal masterpiece as he toiled over a painting filled with memories and emotions of a sad and disjointed childhood? Is it simply the colors, tone, and texture of that painting that causes the viewer to imagine they are seeing what is not there? Or, perhaps the creepiest thought of all, did something attach itself to the painting as it sat abandoned behind the art house all those years ago?
I’ll let you decide. Take a look at the painting below! You can also purchase a print of the painting for your home from FineArtAmerica.com. Then again, some people have reported experiences simply by having a print of the now famous painting. But that’s a story for another day.