When you think of children, what comes to mind?
Playgrounds? Schools? Birthday parties with hats and candles waiting to be blown out? Whatever you’re thinking, it probably isn’t small demons with entirely black eyes standing on your porch in the middle of the night, asking to be let in.
These are the black-eyed kids: an urban legend in which children – or, more appropriately, things that look like children – appear to adults asking for favors, usually ones that would require you to allow them into your home or car.
It’s uncertain what exactly they want, other than entry to your space, but one thing is certain – it can’t be good.
Despite the legend’s huge amount of traction on the Internet, there is very little concrete evidence of their existence, and most write them off as a brilliantly executed urban legend.
In the most general terms, black-eyed children are some form of paranormal beings that take the form of a child between the ages of 6 and 16. They are typically ashen and dressed strangely – inappropriately for either the weather or the time period in which they appear.
Their voices are sometimes reported to be breathless or monotone in nature. And of course, their eyes, which are normal until the viewer inspects them, upon which they will prove to be entirely black.
These children tend to approach adults, either while they are sitting in their cars or at home. Most sightings occur in the evening or late at night.
They typically appear in pairs or small groups, and they ask for rides, if the adult is in their car, or to use the washroom or phone, if they’re on the doorstep of a house.
It should be noted that these requests are occasionally odd, as though the child has come from another time. There are several reports that the kids have asked to use technologies that no longer exist, such as telegraphs.
If the viewer refuses – and many stories include this because the children are accompanied by a terrible feeling of dread – the kids will become increasingly insistent, even to the point of pounding on the door and yelling for long periods of time. It’s uncertain what would happen if they were admitted to the house, though there are several theories.
Some believe that these children are vampires that require permission to enter the premises, and if they are granted entry, they will kill and feed on the person inside the house or car. Others believe that they are demons or omens, and that letting them into the house will result in a terrible run of awful coincidences and bad luck.
In any case, everyone who claims to be an expert on these entities stresses that you should not, under any circumstances, let them in.
Origins of the Urban Legend
Most tabloids cite the beginnings of black-eyed kid sightings to be in the early 1980s, but the earliest documented evidence doesn’t appear until 1996, when Texas reporter Brian Bethel began to post stories on a “ghost-related mailing list” about an encounter he alleges happened to him personally in Abilene, Texas that year.
He also describes a similar, but entirely unrelated, encounter that occurred for another individual in Portland, Oregon. According to Bethel’s account, a pair of children approached him while he was in his car at a movie theatre. They asked for a ride, and were apparently very insistent.
When he looked up, he said that their eyes were entirely black. After the initial postings about his encounter, Bethel says that the demand for new information became so high that he had to publish a Frequently Asked Questions bulletin.
Bethel’s accounts really became a phenomenon when he told his story on the TV series Monsters and Mysteries in America in 2012. At around the same time, a horror movie called Black-Eyed Kids was produced after being funded on Kickstarter – this film is a spinoff of the popular YouTube series, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.
In the film, the characters from the series encounter a Black-Eyed Kid while searching for a friend that disappeared and end up facing off against an unfathomable evil. Between this and the episode of MSN’s Weekly Strange featuring the phenomenon that aired in 2013, the legend was bound to become an Internet phenomenon.
In September 2014, the British tabloid newspaper Daily Star ran three sensational front-page stories that alleged that sightings of black-eyed children had spiked around a reportedly haunted pub in Staffordshire after its sale. However, these sightings were largely unsubstantiated.
Though Brian Bethel has given multiple interviews with several sources, and all have included his belief that this encounter was entirely legitimate, there is huge skepticism about this urban legend and its origins.
Science writer Sharon A. Hill says that she couldn’t find any concrete documentation of encounters with black-eyed children before Bethel began spreading his story, and concludes that the legend is an example of the Internet phenomenon now referred to as “creepypasta”. She also says that the legend resembles other “typical spooky folklore stories” such as phantom black dogs, in which the subject is not supernatural.
It should be noted that legends of black-eyed children do echo other legends, such as changeling lore or the Scandinavian myling stories. However, there are no solid cultural ties that can be drawn between these legends, and its origins still appear to lie with Brian Bethel in 1996.
Nonetheless, you should be careful who you let into your house. You never know what’s out there.