The Black Eyed Kids
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:
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:
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.
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.
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