The Black Eyed Kids
An urban legend says that children with completely black eyes go around trying to be allowed inside.
by Brian Dunning
April 15, 2014
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Also available in Italian
They might knock on your door on a late, quiet night that you're home; or if you're out, they might approach your car while you're stopped. They might seem to be in need of your help, or they might just want to come in for no clear reason. They won't look threatening; mere children, in fact. But they do want to come in. They may give you this excuse or that one, but no matter what you say, they will persist. They must get in. And you will say no. You will say no because they are not quite right: their eyes are black. Pure black. From lid to lid, dead black orbs devoid of sclera or iris will send a chill up your spine. They are the black eyed kids.
Stories about these creepy looking children have been multiplying in recent years. Virtually all of them are copy-and-pasted from one web page to another, or appear in self-published, print-on-demand books that are little more than copied Internet content. Thus it's pretty hard to attribute very many of the stories to credible witnesses. Nobody has ever taken a reliable photograph of a black eyed kid; none have ever been stopped by authorities on the lookout for runaways. Real or not, the black eyed kids are known really only from the many oft-repeated accounts of dubious origin:
I was sitting on the couch watching a movie, when suddenly I heard someone hardly beating the door. I got up went to the closest next to the front door and pulled out a cricket bat. I opened the door and I saw three kids standing there... One of them told me that they were lost and needed to call there mum. They asked to come in, that was the biggest mistake of my life when I said okay... I went into the living room and what I saw amazed me little. All three of them were sitting quietly, faced down. At the same time all three of them looked at me. Those were seriously the most scariest eyes I had ever seen. But staring at them for 10 seconds more and I was screaming like a girl. I ran towards the garage door, I felt all three of them running after me because I could hear their feet thumping the wooden floors. I ran into the garage and locked the door.
• • • • •
I looked through the peephole... Outside were two kids... Had it not been for the feeling of overwhelming dread and fear, I probably would have asked these children in and given them some tea or hot chocolate to get them out of the bitter cold. Something about them seemed off... The older one spoke. She had a voice that was mature, confidant, strong, and accentless. She held her head tilted downward, and I couldn't see her eyes. She said "We have to use your phone." I stood frozen in fear. How did she know I was there? She raised her head to face me directly, and that was when I saw her eyes. There was a reason I couldn't see them through her bangs before- they were black, or midnight blue, or a dark, dark purple- they were otherworldly. She said "Our mother is worried."
• • • • •
I saw some kid walking back and forth along the sidewalk in front of my parked car... The boy walked over to the side of my car and just stares, I think to let me get a good look at his eyes. To freak me out. Let me tell you.. If you have never seen a black eyed kid.. you have no idea what to imagine. Pupils black as the night sky. The boy whispers "You must let me in" and then i locked the car doors and ducked down into the space below the seats. Five minutes later he was gone. When my mother got into the car she told me a boy with black eyes had came into the hairdressers had insisted for my mother to give him the keys to the car.
Stories told by anonymous posters identified only by their Internet handle. Overall, the body of evidence is not a compelling one. A number of eyewitnesses claim to have called the police and had them show up, but the literature is notably devoid of the police reports that would have resulted.
Many amateur researchers have tried to suggest real-world explanations for the black eyed kids. Full-sclera contact lenses are widely available for costumes that can make your entire eye look black, and it's been suggested that perhaps some kids out looking to scare people might have gotten some and gone around knocking on people's doors. Although this is perfectly plausible (and in fact I've no doubt that someone at some time has tried this), it's not a very good explanation for the phenomenon as a whole. First, the suggestion that a sufficient number of hoaxers has done this to account for the urban legend means that someone would have eventually been captured on home security video, and that does not seem to have happened. Second, it's not a very good plan. What would the contact-lens wearing kids do when someone did let them in? Wave their arms and shout "Boo"?
Other natural explanations have included the condition mydriasis, dilation of the pupils, which can be caused by various drugs or trauma or other things. A few authors have proposed that the strange, almost mechanical behavior of the kids might be consistent with having taken drugs that may produce mydriasis. I found this to be an even worse explanation than the contact lens hoax. First it's purely hypothetical. I couldn't find any example of drugs that produce both mydriasis and mechanical behavior of wanting to be given admittance to a house or car. Second, eyes with dilated pupils don't look anything like eyes with an entirely black sclera.
But let us return to one of our most important skeptical mantras: before trying to explain a strange event, first make sure that the strange event ever actually happened. With the literature devoid of any testable, non-anecdotal evidence that black eyed kids actually exist, we must consider the possibility that its origin is folklore. This can be pretty hard to establish, since finding an early folkloric account doesn't necessarily prove that something wasn't also happening in the real world somewhere.
Researchers have looked into this, and have not come up empty handed. Tales of black eyed kids are found widespread on the Internet and in paranormal books, but only from about 1998 and forward. The earliest published account that anyone's been able to find was posted to the Usenet newsgroup alt.magick on July 30, 1997, by Brian Bethel, a newspaper spirituality columnist in Abilene, Texas. He also posted the same story a month later in alt.folklore.ghost-stories, with an additional epilogue about how he spoke to some friends afterward who reported a similar experience. Bethel's original account was lengthy, but here's a heavily edited overview:
I drove by the theater on the way into the center proper and pulled into an empty parking space. Using the glow of the marquee to write out my check, I was startled to hear a knock on the driver's-side window of my car. I looked over and saw two children staring at me from [the] street... Both were boys, and my initial impression was that they were somewhere between 10-14... I rolled down the window very, very slightly and asked "Yes?" The spokesman smiled again, broader this time. His teeth were very, very white. "Hey, mister, what's up? We have a problem," he said... His command of language was incredible and he showed no signs of fear. He spoke as if my help was a foregone conclusion... "C'mon, mister," the spokesman said again, smooth as silk... "Now, we just want to go to our house. And we're just two little boys." That really scared me. Something in the tone and diction again sent off alarm bells... "C'mon, mister. Let us in. We can't get in your car until you do, you know," the spokesman said soothingly... For the first time, I noticed their eyes. They were coal black. No pupil. No iris. Just two staring orbs reflecting the red and white light of the marquee. At that point, I know my expression betrayed me... "WE CAN'T COME IN UNLESS YOU TELL US IT'S OKAY. LET ... US .... IN!"... I ripped the car into reverse (thank goodness no one was coming up behind me) and tore out of the parking lot. I noticed the boys in my peripheral vision, and I stole a quick glance back. They were gone.
Bethel has maintained his story, giving every indication that it was a factual account. But he also gave us an interesting insight into the reason he may have posted it. On the very same day, he made another lengthy post to alt.magick in which he discussed the childhood belief in the Bloody Mary game: if you go up to a mirror just at midnight, in the dark, and say the name "Bloody Mary" three times, she will appear to you in the mirror. Bethel posed the question of whether such an imagined entity might actually become real, driven by the belief of enough people.
Then I thought to myself: What a situation ripe for a spontaneous expression of magick. The will, in this case, is the belief, especially among those who were brave/foolish enough to try the ritual itself. The method by which the necessary reality shift would be accomplished is the fear the story and the (imagined?) entity produced... So, can we create something like Mary just by collective force of will? If not just childhood legends why not gods and goddesses as well? Are they all just expressions of enough collective reality shifts? Or can they somehow exist on their own?
And then, that same evening, Bethel posted his black eyed kids account. Put the two ideas together, the proposal of creating a new urban legend with a tale of mysterious black eyed children, and we have a perfectly plausible explanation for the phenomenon besides it actually being a real thing. Of course we can't presume to know what was in Bethel's head; but we can make a reasonable guess.
So until someone dive-tackles a black eyed kid and calls the police, or lets one into his home and gives him a good video interview, I'm going to hold off buying into this particular urban legend. And to the originator of this tale, whosoever he might be, I say: Well crafted, sir, well crafted.
By Brian Dunning
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Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "The Black Eyed Kids." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media,
15 Apr 2014. Web.
27 Sep 2016. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4410>
References & Further Reading
Bethel, B. "Black-eyed children." alt.folklore.ghost-stories. Usenet, 28 Aug. 1997. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.folklore.ghost-stories/HFXkIXeq9ec>
Editors. "What are the children with the black eyes?" r/Paranormal. Reddit, 23 Aug. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://www.reddit.com/r/Paranormal/comments/1ky169/what_are_the_children_with_the_black_eyes/>
Flora. "Black Eyed Kids (BEK)." Museum of Hoaxes. Museum of Hoaxes, 6 Aug. 2006. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/weblog/comments/black_eyed_kids/P60>
Mikkelson, B. "Black-Eyed Children." Urban Legends References Pages. Snopes.com, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://www.snopes.com/horrors/ghosts/blackeyed.asp>
Monster Talk. "Black Eyed Kids." Monster Talk. Facebook, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <https://www.facebook.com/groups/monstertalkgroupmail/permalink/600143483337810/>
Stockton, C. "16 Terrifying Encounters With The Black Eyed Kids." Thought Catalog. Chris Lavergne, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://thoughtcatalog.com/christine-stockton/2013/11/16-peoples-terrifying-encounters-with-the-black-eyed-kids/>
Weaver, M. "The Black Eyed Children." Skeptoid Blog. Skeptoid Media, 15 Jan. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/01/15/the-black-eyed-children/>
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