Follow TV Tropes


Spooky Painting

Go To
I knew I should have gone with the dogs playing poker. note 

"Painted by the famed "Madman of the Hague," Remco de Groot. De Groot was infamous for supposedly using his own blood, and the blood of others, to construct his modernist masterpieces. This was later proven to be just a wild rumor, however."
— Description of the Ravishing Red Prince, Ghostbusters: The Video Game

Paintings, before the advent of the humble photograph, were the best thing to hang on your wall to provide a little culture, beauty and we swear that one just moved!

This is where a painting isn't normal. Maybe it's trapping something, maybe it's developed a life of its own, maybe it's a gateway to another dimension, maybe it's the source of power for an evil wizard, maybe it's just a cursed heirloom that brings misfortune... Or maybe it's actually the covering for a window with the "eyes" being the guy looking through it.

The Genre Blind, upon hearing of this menace, may try to come up with an excuse that renders it harmless, or otherwise just brush it off.

Sub-Trope to Anomalous Art, Sister Trope to Living Drawing, and Super-Trope to Creepy Changing Painting.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Crisis!, the hero's sister brings back a Lost Precious that's a painting, only for the girls to all get sucked in. Turns out, there's a serial killer wandering around in there... and he may have gotten out when they finally escaped...
  • In episode 28 of Smile Pretty Cure (aka Glitter Force), the main cast goes on a self imposed Kimodameshi around their school. When they go inside the art room and look at the drawings pinned to the wall, they all look relatively normal except for one which eventually catches their eye. This picture has a green hooded figure with its back turned and oddly saying "Chew properly". After a few seconds of staring at it, said figure (Majorina) turns around inside the picture and asks the girls if they'd like a poisoned apple. Unlike most examples of this trope, this is Played for Laughs; only 2 of the main characters are not scared at all: Yayoi (who reacts with a Squee and starry eyes) and Reika (who reacts more with intrigue). In fact, Miyuki and Akane had to push them out the room so that Nao could slam the door shut behind them.
  • Miss Hokusai has a mural of hell that is haunting the owner's wife. Whether or not there are real demons or she's just crazy is up to debate. Either way, it's just that well painted a picture.
  • The characters of Shamanic Princess are vying over a painting which happens to be a powerful magical artifact. It's called the "Throne of Yord" even though it's a landscape painting — of a pond in a forest. It's quite soothing and pleasant, until it starts sucking people up and psychologically tormenting them.
  • In One Piece, during the Thriller Bark arc, the main crew encounters some spooky paintings which turn out to be zombies.
  • In the horror manga Tomie, a painter falls in love with the title character, and through his obsession with capturing her likeness as desired, ultimately produces a grotesque, monstrous image of her which he feels is the masterpiece that best captures her. Considering what Tomie's capable of and how she photographs, he's actually correct.
  • Yami Bakura in Yu-Gi-Oh! has a possessed painting in his Supernatural Deck, along with a Headless Horseman and Dream Stealer Ghost.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 78, the goats make a painting that moves around and has swirling eyes. The painting doesn't scare the goats, but it scares the other characters.

    Comic Books 
  • There was that time the Doom Patrol's foes the Brotherhood of Dada used a magic painting to steal the city of Paris. But then that's the Doom Patrol for you.
  • In Green Lantern, Sinestro Corps member Feena Sik had the flowering reputation of an artist revered across space sectors. Then she became so determined to bring her art to life she completed a ritual involving her husband's blood to do just that. At her next show, the paintings immediately came to life and massacred the audience. All of her previous works have been blacklisted and banned from reprinting out of fear that they'll come alive.
  • A 1940s Justice Society story featured the menace of The Paintings That Walked the Earth.
  • Vampirella: "The Dorian Gray Syndrome", a side story from the Warren age. Setup is the namely: Picture ages instead of the dude. First twist: The heroine finds fresh color on the picture, so the trope is factually subverted. Second twist: The dude is a vampire who did the whole picture againg con because it looked less conspicuous that way. Third twist: When the vampire wants to nibble on our heroine, in a last resort she stabs the picture. The vampire mocks her, there is nothing supernatural in it...and crumbles to dust due to sort of a voodoo connection. Obligatory Pun Bond One-Liner: "You were too good - you put your heart into the picture!"

  • Inversion: There's an Eastern tale about boy who (unknowingly) spends the night in a cursed deserted monastery in which every night a Giant Demon Rat appeared and killed whoever slept inside. Since he loved to paint cats, he had spent all day painting them all over the walls of the monastery before going to sleep, that night, he wakes up hearing terrible screeching noises that are suddenly silenced, the next morning he finds the Giant Demon Rat dead in a pool of blood, the shock of the finding prevents him from realizing right away that the paws of the cats he painted the day before were also stained with blood...
  • Subverted in an urban legend where a woman is alone in a cabin that she thinks has paintings of creepy-looking people and can't sleep. When the sun comes up, she finds out that there were no paintings-- only windows.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The paintings in 1408 are spooky. Enslin finds three framed examples of Generic Hotel Artwork that get more menacing as the movie goes on. Specifically, a painting of "constipated English lords" hunting changes to a scene wherein they are attacked by their hunting dogs, a ship being tossed about in on the high seas suddenly has a full crew fighting in vain against a storm, and a painting of a woman and her child becomes a painting of a woman breastfeeding her dead baby.
  • In Art of the Dead, the 'Animals' series by Mad Artist Dorian Wilde is a set of seven unsettling paintings: each one portraying one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Anyone who spends time in the presence of one of the painting will slowly be corrupted by it. If they spend enough time in its presence, they will be transformed into an embodiment of that sin.
  • Black Swan has Nina's mother painting dozens of them, one of which moves slightly the first time Nina sees them. Later on during Nina's breakdown, they all come alive moaning and shrieking at her.
  • Holden's room in The Cabin in the Woods has a painting that is...grisly and visceral, to put it mildly. Made even more creepy that removing the painting reveals an interrogation mirror/window straight into Dana's room.
  • Candyman: Day of the Dead. The said Candyman's good side is held within a set of paintings, notably his own, and as everybody knows evil can't exist without good, so the girl had to destroy the paintings to kill(?) him.
  • Deathbed The Bed That Eats (1977) features a painting haunted by its artist.
  • Ghostbusters II has the Big Bad using a painting to generate a portal into the real world. After his defeat, it's transformed into a mock Christian painting (with Bill Murray's girlfriend and new baby son as Madonna and Child, and the Ghostbusters as the four Gospel writers).
  • In the Roger Corman film The Haunted Palace, Curwen's portrait is the main way he insinuates his spirit into the consciousness of his unwitting descendant. (In the original story, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the portrait had no supernatural qualities; it served only to show the similarity of appearance between Curwen and Ward.)
  • In the remake of The Haunting (1999), Hugh Crain's ghost manifests through his portrait.
  • In the Mouth of Madness has an hotel with one very interesting painting. Very, very interesting.
  • The portrait of the Master and his dog in Manos: The Hands of Fate. "It's a Frank Frazetta of Frank Zappa!"
  • In The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), the painting reveals the true evil of Dorian's actions as his soul becomes more and more corrupted. For full effect, the movie was shot in black and white, while the shots of the portrait was filmed in color.
  • Played with in Shanghai Knights. Chon thinks that he sees the eyes in a painting move, while Roy, engrossed in a book about the Kama Sutra, dismisses him. It turns out that Chon's sister had been hiding "inside" the painting, and she bursts out of it to save Roy and Chon.
  • In David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Laura Palmer is given an oddly unsettling painting of an open door. Later, she has a nightmare that she is moving through the door, and through a long series of dark rooms.
    • There's another picture in the Palmer house of an angel serving food to three children. Then, suddenly, the angel vanishes (tying into an earlier comment from Laura, that the angels had "all gone away", signaling her feeling that she had been abandoned and was beyond saving). After Laura is murdered, the angel returns to comfort her soul.

  • 1408: The evil room features several framed pieces of drab hotel art (an ocean fishing scene, a fox hunt, a woman and a baby) that suddenly change to become menacing as the hotel room subjects the main character to more and greater horrors.
  • The ghost of the Hanging Judge in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" manifests as a creepy painting, among other things.
  • In All Hallows' Eve by Charles Williams, a young artist paints a picture of a cult leader preaching to his congregation, and is disconcerted to find that it is the best thing he's ever done "and" reveals the spiritual emptiness of the cult leader and his followers. The leader himself is very pleased with it.
  • In Ariel (Block), Ariel finds a painting in her house's attic and moves it into her room. It depicts a woman who may or may not be former resident Grace Molineaux, who may or may not have murdered her children. Whether the portrait is actually haunted or just mundanely spooky is, like all supernatural elements in the novel, left ambiguous.
  • In The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the plot is kicked in by the discovery of the protagonist's ancestor's portrait that's almost identical in appearance to him. It often appears to be watching on young Charles as he works, but although it loses its menace for awhile, it later gets worse, surrounded by a miasma of undefinable dread. As it turns out, the latter is due to the fact that the said ancestor is resurrected, and he kills Charles and stuffs his body behind the painting, presumably after first destroying it with acid, resulting in unpleasant smell that people interpret subconsciously as evil presence.
  • Trumps in The Chronicles of Amber series by Roger Zelazny: You can reach out to the subject of the painting, step through a Trump to join them, wherever they are, or you can draw them to your side through their trump, even stab them through the painted card.
    • From collected information, we know that Trumps work by a combination of being very good artwork (accurate both literally and metaphorically) and being executed by somebody able to inscribe portions of reality's superstructure throughout the design (a careful observer could tell whether the Pattern or Logrus was used). The basic idea is that a Trump combines the mechanisms to obviate distance and dimension, representation of the intended target, and a focused user: under optimal conditions, any painting would qualify for an initiate and if the Trump is good enough regular people have some chance at using them.
  • Leonard of Quirm's painting of the Mona Ogg, hanging in the Royal Art Gallery in Ankh-Morpork, does this to people on the Discworld. People swear the teeth don't just follow you around the room, they stalk you around the rest of the gallery and then down the street outside....
  • Stephen King likes this trope, apparently... Duma Key is all about creepy paintings, the artist who psychically channels them, and the Eldritch Abomination that endows the artist, Edgar Freemantle, with his abilities.
  • Forest Kingdom: The Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 6 (The Bones of Haven) introduces Messerschmann's Portrait, a painting which, if you look at it too long, will trap you in the hellish landscape it depicts.
  • The Fighting Fantasy gamebook House of Hell has three Spooky Paintings you encounter early in the story; each is an optional encounter, and you can only interact with one. The first is a portrait of a man, and all it does is move its eyes. The second is a portrait of a beautiful young woman, who speaks to you in a sad voice, warns you not to drink white wine in the house (very useful advice) and advises you to try to flee (you cannot do that). The third painting is an old woman who encourages you to fight the evil in the house, telling you there is an ally you can find called the Man in Grey. (She's telling the truth, but the Man in Grey is a Red Herring - he can't help you much.) In any case, any of these encounters will cause you to gain a Fear Point.
  • Gravity Falls: Journal 3: Category 4 Ghosts are behind those paintings.
  • Bram Stoker's The Judge's House contains a picture of Hanging Judge Jeffreys.
  • In "Medusa's Coil" by H. P. Lovecraft, an artist ends up painting a picture of a strange woman, and the picture happens to capture such horrors that another character immediately makes it his mission to kill her. It doesn't help that she flees the scene after seeing it herself, and that she attacks him in a rage so he is forced to kill her anyways. In a maddened rant afterwards - and after her severed hair has coiled up and murdered the artist in front of him, her killer tries to explain:
    Denis: 'God, but Frank is an artist! That thing is the greatest piece any living soul has produced since Rembrandt! It's a crime to burn it - but it would be a greater crime to let it exist - just as it would have been an abhorrent sin to let - that she-daemon - exist any longer. (...) She thought we couldn't see through - that the false front would hold till we had bartered away our immortal souls. And she was half right - she'd have got me in the end. She was only - waiting. But Frank - good old Frank - was too much for me. He knew what it all meant, and painted it. I don't wonder she shrieked and ran off when she saw it. It wasn't quite done, but God knows enough was there.
    • When the protagonist ends up seeing the picture himself, after having being told the story behind it, he describes it as a gruesome imagery of witchcraft and decaying nature. He draws his gun and shots it asunder, only to have the man that showed it to him freak out. Apparently the painting had talked to him and forced him to keep it safe. A few minutes later, the house is on fire and an undead witch drags the poor guy to his doom. The protagonist high-tails it out of there.
  • The M. R. James story "The Mezzotint": every time the protagonist looks at the titular engraving it has changed, depicting the progression of something horrible that happened in the past.
    • James' later story "The Haunted Dolls' House" doesn't feature a painting, exactly (as might be inferred from the title), but it again involves a spooky artwork that depicts past events.
  • "Pickman's Model" concerns a meeting with the infamous artist in the title, who creates works such as "Ghoul Feeding" that are so disturbing that he can't even donate them to art museums, and then shows the narrator a private gallery of monstrous portraits that make him scream out loud. The real creepy part comes at the end when the narrator notices a reference photograph stuck next to a work-in-progress - Pickman doesn't have a twisted imagination, he has ghouls come in and sit for him in his basement studio.
  • In "The Picture in the House" by H. P. Lovecraft, the eponymous picture depicts a cannibal banquet. The really creepy bit is the implication that its owner is himself a cannibal.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray where the painting reveals the true evil of Dorian's actions as his soul becomes more and more corrupted.
  • In the Stephen King story "The Road Virus Heads North", found in the collection Everything's Eventual, a writer buys a painting of a car, but the background keeps changing...
  • The room in E. F. Benson's "The Room in the Tower" contains a self-portrait by a woman who committed suicide. Unfortunately for the protagonist, the portrait now houses a vampire.
  • There's the painting in Rose Madder by Stephen King. The content of the picture changing is not its most unusual feature...
  • In That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis, the villains lock Mark in "the Objective Room," containing, among other things, surreal paintings that quietly eat away at his sanity.
  • Everything Laurent does after the murder in Thérèse Raquin. He wasn't much of a talented painter before the murder, but he keeps unconsciously painting his victim's face in variation. Once he realizes that, he gets scared and stops painting.
  • The Skullface painting in Vic and Frank: Necromancers which is based off a video game boss the artist was afraid of as a child. It later inspires Frank to dawn a skull mask as The Necromancer.
  • In Roald Dahl's The Witches, a witch traps a little girl inside a painting. She ages normally, and eventually disappears altogether.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A lighthearted example happened in a Captain Kangaroo skit where the Captain was in a museum and two paintings and a stone bust eat his banana, soda pop, and candy bar when his back is turned.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Fear Her", the girl's drawings both come to life, and draw people into them.
    • In "Flatline", graffiti paintings of people turn out to be two-dimensional beings invading the three-dimensional world.
  • Chiana brings one of these back to Moya in Farscape. It appears to forecast the future, but in reality, it's the Soul Jar of Maldis, one of Zhaan's old enemies- leading to a bizarre sequence in which the crew are killed off one by one and their souls trapped inside the painting.
  • In Friends, Phoebe painted a creepy picture of Gladys, and part of her body was crafted, so it appeared as if she was coming from the picture. When Mike, her boyfriend, was moving in, he insisted she get rid of it. She gave it to Monica who tried to give it to Rachel who made fun of her. They didn't want to hurt Phoebe's feelings, but the painting caused them nightmares, particularly to Joey. Phoebe, thinking they both want it, made another even scarier picture. On seeing the new picture Monica and Rachel immediately switch from trying to push Gladys on each other to arguing over who gets to keep her.
  • Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities: "Pickman's Model" is about a disturbed artist who paints pictures of morbid scenery and demonic creatures. The paintings also drive people to madness, self-mutilation and cannibalism if they look at them too much, which is what happens to the protagonist's wife and son in the story's Downer Ending.
  • The Haunting Hour features an episode called "The Girl in the Painting", in which the girl Becky, played by Bailee Madison, finds a beautiful portrait of a girl in a bedroom and takes it home. She develops an obsession with, especially after noticing the girl changes position and the clock showing different times. she discovers the painting leads to another world, where the girl is forced by her mother to trick people into coming in, thinking it's a paradise, when in fact they are to be eaten by a monster, which Becky learns the hard way.
  • The pilot episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery includes "The Cemetery", a story about a greedy nephew who murders his rich old uncle for the inheritance. Soon afterward, he begins to notice odd changes in a painting of the manor and its adjoining cemetery. One day there's a fresh mound in the cemetery. The next day, the mound's unearthed to reveal a casket. And the next, the casket's open to reveal his uncle's dead body. And then one night the painting shows the corpse walking through the cemetery gates towards the mansion. After the panicked nephew accidentally breaks his neck, the whole thing turns out to have been an elaborate scheme by the family butler using a set of custom paintings he'd been swapping out each day, both to avenge his old master and to claim the estate for himself. But the next night, the butler notices that the painting on the wall's changed, and now it's the nephew's grave that's opening...
  • In The Sarah Jane Adventures two-parter "Mona Lisa's Revenge", the picture comes to life.
  • Supernatural featured at least one of these.
  • One episode of The Twilight Zone (1985) featured a series of people's disappearances in a cave, at the end of the episode a woman is the last person to vanish and the people searching for her enter the cave following her screams, and then they see a crude painting of her on a wall and several moving prehistoric cave paintings stabbing her with spears.

    Music Videos 
  • David Bowie's 1979 video "Look Back in Anger", in an Homage to The Picture of Dorian Gray, has him as an artist who has just completed a painting of an angel — which was clearly modeled on himself. Examining his work and finding something...intriguing about it, he runs his hand over its surface. The face of the portrait doesn't change. The artist's face winds up disfigured.

  • In The Magnus Archives the narrator of one episode finds a strange and valuable-looking book in a charity shop. The book has a number of woodcut illustrations, including a strangely compelling one of a starry, otherwise empty sky. Before he knows it, he's spent nearly an hour just staring at it. It turns out the book is from a particularly nasty Magical Library.

    Tabletop Games 
  • As a playground for classic horror tropes, the Dungeons & Dragons' Ravenloft setting uses this one a lot. The darklord of Ghastria has a lifeforce-sucking portrait, Souragne's darklord has a collection of etchings that imprison the souls of his enemies, there's a spellcasting sentient painting in Castle Ravenloft, et cetera. Even tapestries and stained-glass windows get in on the act.
  • A monster book for Vampire: The Requiem features the idea of "ghoul portraits," paintings created using a vampire's enhanced Vitae that have a measure of sentience and access to vampiric Disciplines.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has one in Fulgrim's painting. Not only is it made from bodily fluids by a mad artist, it contains either a daemon or Fulgrim's soul.

  • In a much more benign example, the ancestor portraits in Me And My Girl step out of their frames to instruct the new Earl of Hereford in Noblesse Oblige.
  • In Ruddigore, the ghosts of the former Bad Baronets emerge from their paintings to torment the current inheritor of the family curse.

    Theme Parks 
  • Alton Towers' ride Duel is set in a haunted mansion featured several paintings that change as you watch past them, most notably on the way out.
  • Used in Disney's Haunted Mansion attractions around the world. Several paintings depict seemingly innocent scenes - a woman reclining on a couch, a ship at sea, a knight on a horse, to name a few - that change to horrific versions when lightning flashes outside nearby windows - the woman becomes a snarling tiger, the ship rides through a storm with tattered sails, and the knight and horse become skeletons. There are also a few that were originally installed at Walt Disney World that had eyes that would follow the riders, but the moving-eye effect (as well as most of the portraits) seems to have been removed during a 2007 overhaul of the ride, leaving the paintings static (although still suitably creepy in their design).

    Video Games 
  • The 7th Guest has several eerie paintings hanging around the Stauf mansion, and some of them get even worse when you examine them more closely.
  • In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you will often run into paintings of the castle's owner throughout your exploration. However, should your sanity start to slip (due to looking at monsters or staying in the dark too long), the face will change into something grotesque. What makes it especially creepy is how nonchalant it can appear as you're exploring, until you realize something's wrong...
  • Anchorhead has a whole gallery of creepy paintings done by one of the delightful members of the Verlac family. They get even creepier if you look at them closely...
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Several of Redd's fake artworks have something creepy about them. For example, some versions of the fake Wistful Painting (based on Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring) will have the girl open and close her eyes, while the fake Ancient Statue (based on the dogu statues from the Jomon period) not only has antennae, but glowing eyes.
  • Bioshock 2 has some in the Persephone penitentiary facility, specifically the Recreational Therapy room set up by Sophia Lamb.
  • Castlevania:
    • The entire plot of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin revolved around the villain's creation of evil pocket dimensions within paintings.
    • The Stage 5 Haunted Ship of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and its remake The Dracula X Chronicles has a painting that, if allowed to come close to Richter, will suck him into the artwork and then split itself apart, killing him instantly.
    • In stage 15 of Vampire Killer, the corridor leading to Death has many full-body portraits of Count Dracula. The Final Boss room is dominated by an enormous painting of a demonic face which turns out to be Dracula's second form.
    • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night also features them. A notable example is found in the Royal Chapel, specifically the room where you fight the Hippogryph, that depicts a group of scythe-wielding winged skeletons massacring crusaders in front of a temple.
  • Clive Barker's Undying has quite a few of these that masquerade as normal paintings, but reveal the true horror when the Scrye spell is used on them.
  • Dark Souls has one in Anor Londo. It sits inside a massive cathedral, where the only thing present are the painting and its guardians. It shows a haunting-looking hillside ruin blanketed in snow. Coming here with the Peculiar Doll found when you return to your jail cell in the Undead Asylum pulls you into the painting, letting you explore the world inside. It's the sole location of one of the game's most disturbing enemies, the Legion. Averted when you find out the thing that it's meant to seal is not evil, and in fact just wants to be left there with her people.
  • Dark Souls II: The second game adds a painting to its arsenal of Everything Trying to Kill You. Specifically, it's a painting of Queen Nashandra. Seems she's so cosmically wrong that even a simple painting of her is dangerous. Eat your hearts out, Weeping Angels...
  • In Dark Tales: The Black Cat, one of the puzzles features a painting of Sarah Davies - the woman whose disappearance you and C. Auguste Dupin are investigating - whose eyes follow your computer cursor around the screen as you search for hidden objects.
    • In the bonus chapter of the collector's edition, it's revealed that a demonic painting is responsible for Sarah's husband going mad and murdering her.
  • Paintings are a running theme in the universe of Dishonored and its sequel and are often played to creepy effect.
    • The paintings of Anton Sokolov the Omnidisciplinary Scientist are minimal and realistic to the point of inducing a slight Uncanny Valley effect. They are often named after mathematical concepts and are clearly the work of someone who has an excellent understanding of how the world functions mechanically but has no emotional attachment to it.
    • Contrasting the works of Sokolov, the paintings drawn by his student, Delilah Copperspoon are garish with chaotic, swirling patterns containing many contrasting colors and very few lines or borders. Perfectly fitting for someone who practices Reality Warper magic and uses her paintings as conduits for her powers.
    • In Dishonored 2, the player can encounter a series of paintings about Karnacan folklore. Many of them contain Humanoid and Eldritch Abominations. No more context or explanation about these paintings are provided. However, given how crapsack the Dishonored universe is, the likelihood of these monsters existing is unsettlingly likely.
  • Earth Bound has the city of Moonside, which featured extremely bizarre enemies, including Abstract Art, which were literal living paintings.
  • The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall has you steal one as part of a quest in the main storyline. Trying to use the painting causes it to change into a scene of a man being murdered during a diplomatic meeting. It's later implied that the painting's depicting the actual death of King Lysandus, who officially was killed by an arrow shot of unknown origin during a battle.
  • Eternal Darkness has a painting that changes from lush fields to a hellscape depending on the character's Sanity Meter. More subtly, close inspection of the Roivas family tree displayed in the manor's library reveals that the artist added a hanged corpse on one branch.
  • Fallout 4 has Pickman's Gallery, the lair of a Mad Artist who doubles as a Serial-Killer Killer. It's not just that his works are disturbing, it's that his paints and pigments are made from his victims. Your companions all have unique comments if you bring them to visit.
    Deacon: Look at the brushwork. And the bold use of color. Oh, and how batshit crazy the painter was, don't forget that.
    Piper: Huh, are these abstract- oh God.
    MacCready: Oh. Great. Thanks for the Nightmare Fuel.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, there are several paintings containing enemies during the Relm sidequest in the World of Ruin. There is also a boss monster in a painting at the end, which is an Esper possessed by evil.
  • In addition to having the painting of Vigo hanging around the firehouse, Ghostbusters: The Video Game has two haunted paintings you can collect in the form of cursed artifacts: The "Ravishing Red Prince" (the description of which provides the page quote) in the Times Square level, and the "Painting of the Trustees" in the game's Menacing Museum. Both look like regular paintings until looked at through the PKE goggles, revealing their true nature.
  • Boo Manor in Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak is a haunted house in both senses of the word: it's really haunted, but the ghosts hope you're having a great time. There's a living painting, but also a portrait which eyes follow you around for no discernible reason.
  • Hitman: Contracts features an asylum with portraits of a toddler wearing a three-piece suit. Note that the suit is identical to Agent 47's, echoing the Evil Plan of the head doctor to breed superhumans.
  • Ib features a whole gallery of paintings made by a Mad Artist. All contribute to an atmosphere of menace and unrest, and once in the Dark World some of them come alive and chase after you. A special case with Mary, a seeming normal girl that joins Ib and Garry to find a way out of the gallery who Garry discovers to be one of the living paintings. All she wants is to escape the gallery and live a normal life in the human world.
  • ...Iru!: There are several in the school. They both look like two purple faces being pulled apart, with a sideways mouth full of sharp teeth between them.
  • Kirby: Canvas Curse has an entire plot based around this. The bosses are pictures of old Kirby villains brought to life, and the villain herself was born from a painting, and wants to turn the whole world into one of paint.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time pulls this twice, all in the same dungeon. The dungeon in question is the Forest Temple, the first dungeon Link explores as an adult located in the depths of the Lost Woods, where monsters that have overrun the Kokiri region have taken up residence after he awakened from his seven-year coma. The first instance involves the first three of the Poe Sisters, Joelle, Beth and Amy, hiding in haunted paintings of themselves, requiring the use of an arrow fired at said paintings to get them out; with the former two, Link needs to fire his arrows while their pictures are shown in three of the frames, and getting too close to the portrait currently visible will cause them to disappear into another picture frame, while the latter has to have her portrait put together in under one minute. The second instance is the first phase of the boss fight with Phantom Ganon, where all of the paintings in his arena depict a spooky road and he leaps into one of them, forcing Link to determine which one he will pop out of so he can strike with his arrow while a fake one will try to distract him long enough for the real one to deliver a devastating electric attack to him.
  • A very creepy example appears prominently in The Lost Crown, both directly and in dream sequences.
  • Luigi's Mansion. Obvious example is the painting of Mario (who's still screaming for help and banging on the front of the painting), but also the portraits of the various ghosts (well, they are the actual ghosts turned to paintings), anything in Vincent Van Gore's art studio (See Art Initiates Life) and various paintings in the mansion itself which can be pulled off the wall to reveal a creepy Big Boo picture (and various smaller ones which can't really be identified).
  • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the apparently haunted Old Chateau has a room with some kind of painting in it. You can't really tell what the painting is of, but there are glowing red eyes on it that disappear when you get too close, then come back when you turn your back.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II there's a cabin located on the swamps of Lemoyne that belongs to the Strange Man, which is full of paintings of animals (eagles and stags if Arthur has high honor, or vultures and wolves with low honor), at the center there's an unfinished painting on a canvas; With each subsequent visit to the cabin the painting's features become more defined until it's revealed to be a portrait of the Strange Man, at which point he will appear behind the player character reflected on the mirror.
  • Rogue Legacy has creepy portraits haunting the Castle and Tower areas. They look like normal paintings at first glance, but twitch when the player gets close. After they take damage, they transform into pitch-black portraits with scary-looking faces and fangs, and will circle around the player and shoot them with energy balls.
  • Scratches has several hanging in the upstairs hallway, including the work featured on this page.
  • Super Mario 64 had Mario jumping through paintings to other worlds, and sometimes not even paintings but portals hidden in walls.
  • Super Mario Sunshine there is a beach painting in the hotel that gives the guest in that room "strange vibes." If Mario sprays it with water, the shape of a boo appears and Mario can jump through the painting.
  • Terranigma has realistically drawn portraits of four people on a wall in Sylvain Castle. Each person is missing one eye, which you have to replace with a gemstone.
  • There's an actual enemy in Wario World that is called the Terrible Portrait. It's literally a living painting that shoots fire, ice and boulders at Wario, and takes the appearance of three photo frames with a face in the middle one.
  • The Witch's House features a Mona Lisa-esque painting that will, at one point, come alive and try to turn you into a painting.
  • Zack & Wiki had a section in a castle with paintings that were out to get you. One you had to blind to get past and another had a fish that would eat you if you got on its nerves.

    Visual Novels 
  • Beatrice's portrait in Umineko: When They Cry. It is the first sight for visitors to the Ushiromiya mansion, and gives Beatrice a dominating presence both in and out universe. Over the course of the stories, many deaths take place in front of it.

    Web Animation 
  • FreedomToons: The family portraits in "Thanksgiving With Ben Shapiro"; the portraits' eyes blink in tandem with the entire Shapiro family.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • According to the Strong Bad Email "bottom 10", Strong Mad keeps in his closet a painting of a creepy goblin with a torch (officially named the Rocoulm, but usually just known as the Horrible Painting) that can apparently move and talk to a degree, which usually does nothing except creep people out (or, in Homestar-ese, give them the "jibblies"). Come on in heeere...
    • In the Halloween cartoon "Jibblies 2", the Horrible Painting escapes from Strong Mad's closet and runs around giving everyone "the jibblies" (except Homsar). Then Homestar decided to accept the goblin's offer to "come on in here" and walked into the painting, where it turned out that the Rocoulm just wanted someone to come in so he could entertain them. For eternity.
  • A series of paintings in one of the halls of the Haunted House in Mystery Skulls Animated are among the things which gain glowing eyes when the interior lights up to greet the guests and when Arthur, Vivi and Mystery make it into their part of the hall they menace the trio before the painting of a duchess tugs on a pull string and sends them tumbling through a Trap Door.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated features an auctioneer trying to sell off what he dubs a "spooooooooky painting". No one seems interested in it but the monster of the week.
  • The Simpsons: In "Treehouse Of Horror IV" Homer is literally creeped out by "Dogs Playing Poker" by Cassius Marsellus Coolidge.

    Real Life 
  • There are some paintings that appear to follow you with their eyes.
    • Specifically, this is an optical illusion created when the subject is looking directly at the camera/painter. Because a painting is two dimensional, no matter what angle you look at the painting, the eyes appear to be directed at the observer.
    • Alternatively, the painting is not two-dimensional. More effective forms of this illusion can be produced by painting the eyes on a second canvas layer recessed behind cut-out eyeholes or impressing concavity into the eye-sockets. (There are even more effective means, but they break the definition proper of "painting".)
  • Even without the obligatory "curse" backstory, "The Hands Resist Him" (above) is pretty damn creepy. note  The inspiration for the painting makes it less creepy. The boy is the artist, and the girl is meant to protect him from the hands outside.
  • For more spooky paintings, see Nightmare Fuel: Art.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Creepy Painting


Smile Pretty Cure (aka Glitter Force)

A rare example that's Played for Laughs.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpookyPainting

Media sources: