For our first episode, the subject is that of Black Eyed Kids. BEKs terrify experiencers with their solid black eyeballs and odd behavior. It is a fitting start to our journey into the unknown.
Cassandra Harold is your host.
EM Hilker is our principal writer and researcher with additional writing by Cassandra Harold. Jim Harold is our Executive Producer.
Unpleasant Dreams is a production of Jim Harold Media.
Sources and further reading:
Dying for more stories of alleged BEK encounters? Please see the following articles:
16 Terrifying Encounters with ‘the Black Eyed Kids’ compiled by Chrissie Stockton
10 Terrifying Stories About the Black-eyed Children compiled by Lyra Radford
Dying for more analysis of the phenomenon? We recommend these books as an excellent starting place:
The Black Eyed Children, 2nd ed. By David Weatherly
And, of course, the following article by the excellent Ryan Sprague:
Can we Come In? The Lore of the Black Eyed Children by Ryan Sprague
You can find EM Hilker’s full article that this podcast was based upon HERE and a transcript of the podcast version below:
Whether it’s throughout the internet or around campfires, whispered furtively from friend to friend behind pints of ale in the darkened corners of a pub, or scribbled into journals late at night, incidents of encounters with Black Eyed Kids (BEKs for short) appear to be increasing in frequency. “Black Eyed Children” were virtually unheard of until the late 1990s, but stories of encounters with these creatures are becoming more and more common as time wears on. In addition to allegedly true accounts submitted to websites and in chat rooms across the internet, Black Eyed Kids and the lore surrounding them have inspired a short, a full-length movie, dozens of books, both fact and fiction, and yes… even a tote bag. But what are these mysterious children, and where did they come from? Are they just tall tales to be told around the campfire, or something far more sinister?
There is no consensus on what a Black Eyed Kid actually is. Experiences with these entities run from encounters on roadsides to forests to fields to the very front door of the experiencer. Regardless, there’s always a feeling of strangeness and terror in the air. The black eyed child or children always ask to be let in. And always, the experiencer finds themself gazing into a disquieting pair of preternaturally, entirely black eyes.
The first written modern account of the Black Eyed Kids was penned in 1998 by Texan journalist Brian Bethel. But Bethel wasn’t just the individual who coined the term “black eyed kids.” Two years prior to his publication, Bethel found himself approached by two boys, roughly between the ages of 10 and 14, as he sat in his car and filled out a check for a nearby drop box.
Mr. Bethel’s account tells of a sudden and unexplained overwhelming sensation of illness and unease that heralded the arrival of the boys. The lead boy’s increasing urgency to gain permission to enter his car was unsettling, nearly as much as his own horror at realizing that both boys had pure black eyes — not merely very dark human eyes but eyes lacking sclera, iris, and pupil. Their disappearance haunted him as he (wisely, it would seem) sped away into the night, shaking and deeply afraid.
Author and researcher David Weatherly sought to find earlier cases of encounters with Black Eyed Kids, pre-dating both Bethel’s account and the advent of the internet in general. The earliest written first person account he uncovered of a Black Eyed Child was the experience of a teenaged boy named Harold in the 1950s, no relation to Jim, I assure you.
Harold was out for a walk by himself one day when he encountered a peculiar child on the side of a country road. The child seemed strange and distant, and insisted that Harold take him home with him. As in the experience with Bethel, Harold found himself more and more afraid as the boy became more and more insistent, until ultimately he fled on foot.
There are some subtle differences here between the modern accounts and this early one: Harold lacked the immediate feelings of unease and illness, as Harold he stood and spoke to the boy for some time before the sense of danger kicked in. Additionally, Harold’s incident occurred in full daylight. However, the most defining features of the case are certainly consistent with Black Eyed Kid encounters: the orbs of the boy’s eyes were entirely black, he demanded an invitation to Harold’s home but appeared powerless to follow him without it, and the child disappeared immediately after the encounter. Upon hearing of his son’s frightening experience, Harold’s father had immediately left the house with the intention of hunting down the devil, as his father supposed he must have been, who had alarmed his son. He found no trace of the creature, who hardly could have made it very far on foot in so short of time. It had simply vanished.
Weatherly further traces accounts all throughout history. A group of five strange figures very similar to modern reports of Black Eyed Kids in France in the 1970s, to a black eyed woman remembered from the experiencer’s childhood in Chile in the mid-1950s, all the way back to what Weatherly suspects may be the earliest representation of a black-eyed creature in Gobekli Tepe (Go-beck-i-lee tep-ay) more than 10,000 years ago. Author G. Michael Vasey cites another encounter in the 1970s at a gas station, several from the 1980s, and a few from the same era as Brian Bethel’s account, though it’s unclear if those were reported at the time of the encounter as well as being submitted to his website in recent years.
Vasey has searched throughout mythology to find potential precedents for the Black Eyed Kids of the modern day. He cites both the legends of the Otkon of the Iroquois and the Indian Acheri (Ache-er-ee) as clear antecedents to our modern Black Eyed Child. He has also dug up an account purportedly written by a Black Eyed Child itself, claiming descendancy from Lilith with a Vampire the Masquerade-like coevolution with humans; as Vasey himself notes, of course, there’s not a great deal of reason to believe that the account is genuine.
A very different tradition of Black Eyed Children seems to have sprung up entirely independently in the modern-day United Kingdom. These accounts feature an entirely different sort of black eyed child. In the seemingly bedeviled area of Cannock Chase Forest in England. Over the years, there have been multiple sightings of a child, with pure black eyes (as in the US sightings) who has been traced back to the ghost of one of the three children murdered in the mid-1960s in the area. These poor black-eyed spirits don’t seem to threaten or harass. They don’t even venture to ask to come in. They simply ask for the help that was denied them in life.
Much work has been done on these particular black eyed children by researcher and author Lee Brickley, whose blog Paranormal Cannock covers the children, as well as extraterrestrials, government experiments, and other weirdness experienced in the area. Unusually for ghosts in general, he notes that the Black Eyed Kids of Cannock Chase appear regularly in daylight, and that reports on these children continue to this day.
In the North American tradition of Black Eyed Kids, Weatherly lists both a set of primary attributes to the appearance and manner of the children, including solid black eyes, extremely pale skin, and monotone voice with unusual use of language. They are often clothed in drab-coloured outfits said to fit poorly or look homemade. There are also secondary characteristics, such as attempted mind control, strange noises, foul odours, and electronic interference, that speak very much to a common source of the reported North American experiences: a complete separation from the British tradition of Black Eyed Children. Weatherly also notes trauma-like after effects of these North American experiences, including a strong feeling of paranoia, dreams and nightmares featuring Black Eyed Kids, and disrupted sleep or insomnia.
There are a large number of skeptics of this phenomenon, but only a limited number of proposed explanations. Rational explanations include the use of sclera contact lenses as part of a prank, drugs, or a blown pupil medical condition (which would give the impression of extremely dark eyes, if not completely black ones). Others simply claim that the experiencers are mistaken or lying. Believers, of course, find none of these explanations fully satisfactory.
There are a number of theories on what BEKs actually are. Some cite the prevalence of the creatures at night, the odd odours that accompany them, and their constant pleas to be let in as proof of vampiric origins. Meanwhile others note that their black eyes and the apparent hunger in their desperation for something undefined. Still, others offer the electrical disturbances as evidence that they’re either extraterrestrials or hybrids, as Weatherly suggests. Perhaps they’re something else entirely. What can be agreed upon is that terrible, terrible things come of letting them in.
Reports of cases wherein the experiencer has let the creatures in are few and far between, which suggests a bad end to those who do allow them inside; reports can be found, however. In one well-known case, a kindly couple takes in two black eyed children and suffers a frightening evening, and deteriorating health thereafter. Another report of an encounter with these beings ends with a healthy young man dead within the year.
To return to the most important questions regarding Black Eyed Kids: where do they come from? What are they? Are they real, and do they need to be feared? No one knows. Clearly, people believe it, and clearly, they’re afraid. Perhaps Black Eyed Kids are not extraterrestrials or demons or vampires at all; perhaps they’re something so new, so different, that we can’t conceive of what their true nature might be. Or maybe they’re kids playing pranks, or kids on drugs, or simply an internet legend that has come to life metaphorically, and perhaps literally as well. It’s impossible to say for certain.
One thing is certain, however; if they come knocking at my door, I’m turning up the music, turning on all the lights, and I am definitely not letting them in.