Black-Eyed Children

A more contemporary story than many I have written about, reports of what appear to be children with distinct, jet-black eyes seem to have originated in the mid-1990s and claimed encounters with these strange and frightening beings have been reported ever since, particularly in the United States. Most frequently, the children are encountered attempting to hitch hike, or alternatively knocking on a door late at night, attempting to talk the owner into either letting them in or accompanying them away into the night.

Usually appearing as otherwise ordinary children, generally estimated to be between the ages of around eight and sixteen, these beings are set apart by their completely black eyes; the pupil, iris and sclera all appear to be solid black, with no distinction between them. They are sometimes described as wearing anachronistic, old-fashioned clothing, but have other times been reported wearing contemporary outfits, with little to set them apart from an ordinary child other than their eponymous eyes. For those witnesses that have heard them speak, they often describe their tone, phrasing and choice of words to be of those of someone much older than their appearance would suggest. They are said to induce a feeling of dread in adults that encounter them, even before noticing their eyes, while some stories suggest that they possess some degree of hypnotic ability, compelling potential victims to follow them or unlock doors to allow them access.

While some accounts claim that stories of black-eyed children date back to the mid 1980s, the earliest verifiable article on them is generally considered to have been written by journalist Brian Bethel for the Reporter News, a newspaper covering West Central Texas, in 1996. In the piece, Bethel recounted parking one night off North 1st Street, a busy thoroughfare in the suburbs of Abilene, Texas. While attempting to write a cheque by the light of a nearby street lamp, Bethel heard a knock at the window, and saw two young boys stood by his car, hoods pulled over their faces. He described one as having olive skin and dark hair, the other pale and freckled with ginger hair. The first boy explained that they wanted to see the film Mortal Kombat at the nearby cinema, but had forgotten their money at his mother’s house and they required a lift to go retrieve it.

The cinema, now closed, outside which Brian Bethel reported encountering two black-eyed children in 1996. Image: Google

While they gave no indication of any ill intentions, Bethel described being gripped by a mounting sense of dread, and was nonplussed when he realised that the final showing of the film for the evening had already started, meaning the two boys would have missed the bulk of it by the time they managed to return with the money. The talkative one’s assurances only added to his fears, particularly after the child stressed ‘we don’t have a gun or nothing’. Truly frightened now, Bethel moved to lock his car door, glancing down at the mechanism as he did.

On returning his gaze to the boys, both now had ‘coal-black’ eyes, staring at him intently. Their demeanor had also markedly changed and they angrily demanded for him to let them in. As he quickly put the car into reverse and began to back out, the spokesman banged on the window, demanding ‘let us in! We can’t come in unless you say it’s OK!’ Quickly leaving the parking lot, Bethel glanced in his rear view mirror to see that both boys had vanished, despite their being no obvious hiding places they could have reached in the few seconds that had passed.

Concrete reports of further encounters are relatively few and far between, and most tales appear to be passed on horror stories that circulate the internet as one of the most popular examples of creepypasta. One of the most commonly circulated versions of the story is for one, or sometimes a pair, to knock on the door of a home late at night, asking to be let in to use the telephone, the bathroom, or because of some threat that is pursuing them. As with Bethel’s encounter, they become angry and insistent upon their black eyes being noticed, and similarly often appear to require permission to be able to enter a home or vehicle (a trait they have in common with many descriptions of vampires).

As far as I could find none of the stories actually deal with what happens if the children do successfully gain access to a home or vehicle, perhaps suggesting that those encounters ended with the deaths of the victims but far more likely a result of the stories being more effective as viral horror when specifics regarding their intentions are omitted. Though they share some traits with vampires and other researchers have suggested that they are ghosts, demons or aliens, the reality is that they are almost certainly little more than an effective viral story.

Front pages of UK tabloid the Daily Star Image: Reach

The UK tabloid The Daily Star carried sensationalised headlines about back-eyed children three times over the period of a week during October 2014, claiming that multiple sightings of beings resembling black-eyed children had been made around Cannock Chase, an area of protected countryside close to Birmingham in the West Midlands.

One woman described her encounter to a local paranormal investigator, telling how her and her daughter had heard a child crying during a woodland walk. After initially finding nothing, she turned around to find a young girl, who she estimated to be around 10 years old, stood close to her, hands covering her eyes. After being asked if she was the one who was screaming, the girl revealed solid black eyes, before vanishing when the woman took her eyes off her for a second to pick up her daughter.

Other than an unsubstantiated claim by the same researcher that several other sightings had taken place and resembled other accounts from around 20 years previously, suggesting the children had returned to the area after a period of absence, little else is to be found on the supposed presence of the black-eyed children in Cannock Chase. 

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