Imagine sitting in your living room one night, reading a book. You begin to doze off, the strain of the day slowly fading away as your eyes close.
Suddenly, a harsh knock on the front door springs you to full attention. It’s so late, you think to yourself. Who could it possibly be? You make way to the door and peer out the peephole. There’s a dark silhouette of a small figure in your distorted view. You open the door, assuming this is a child. You are right. But what you notice next makes this anything but a normal encounter with an adolescent.
Staring back at you are two eyes. But they aren’t the average iris, pupil, or sclera you are used to seeing. They are pure black, from lid to lid. Nothing but the moon bounces light off of these deep pools of nothingness. You shudder, trying to take in this unusual sight before you. That’s when you realize, that standing behind this child are two more figures. They slowly move forward, their eyes identical to the leader. They wear simple clothes. Perhaps a solid black hooded sweatshirt. It falls baggy over their unusually pale skin. The leader finally speaks.
“Can we come in?”
You stare at them dumbfounded. Why would you let a child into your home this late at night? Where are their parents? They unintentionally (perhaps) answer your queries with blunt assertion.
“We’re lost. We don’t have anywhere to go. Please let us come in.”
You are sweating. You tremble. Adrenaline courses through your veins as you take stock of the situation. They continue staring at you with their soulless eyes. The debate wages in your head of whether or not to slam the door on them, or let them inside. They’re just kids, you assure yourself. Aren’t they? As the debate wages on, you can feel your heart pounding harder than ever before. Something about this situation is not only unusual. It’s downright terrifying.
“Please. Let us in.”
No matter what you do next, it feels like it is the wrong answer. You are left in your doorway, having just encountered what has been coined as an experience with The Black Eyed Children. This phenomenon spans continents. And with each passing encounter, these strange children seem to become more and more aggressive. But what exactly is it that they want? And what happens if you let them in?
While once thought to stem from online urban legend, the BEK’s (Black Eyed Kids) became a dark and disturbing sensation, stories cropping up all over the world recounting terrifying tales of the children and their devious pleads for car rides or invites into homes. It was now harder than ever to separate fact from fiction, the BEK’s soon falling into the same skeptical box as Slenderman and other legends thought to be created online. And it all seemed to have begun with a singular encounter that sparked a phenomenon.
Encounter at the Movie Theater
Brian Bethel was a journalist out of Abilene, Texas. It was believed that the BEK phenomenon had stemmed from a story Bethel recounted to colleagues in a personal email almost two years after the incident had occurred. It was 1996 when he was on his way to pay an internet bill at a local provider’s offices. He pulled over near a movie theater, using the marquee’s light to write a check. It was in this moment when a knock frightened him, a pair of pale knuckles tapping his driver’s side window. Bethel looked up to see two young boys with hooded sweatshirts covering their faces. An immense rush of fear suddenly rushed over him.
The fear, as Bethel remembered, was incomprehensible at the time. The boy who seemed to be the leader of the two had curly hair and an olive complexion. The other boy stood in the back ground, red hair a freckles. Their appearance, though average at first glance, soon sent even more fear through his bones. The boy’s both had eyes that lacked any substance. They were just large swathes of pitch black. No life to them whatsoever.
Frozen in his car, Bethel listened as the leader asked if they could have a ride to their mother’s house. They wanted to get money to see a movie at the nearby theater. “ It won’t take long,” the boy assured Bethel. “We’re just kids,” the boy would continue. Though these words were perhaps meant to ease Bethel’s obvious terror, it only made him panic even more. He rolled the window up and put the car in reverse, ready to drive off. The boy yelled to him through the window of the car. “We can’t come in unless you tell us it’s okay. Let us in!” He drove away, quickly glancing one more time for the boys. But he saw nothing. Within seconds, they had completely disappeared out of sight.
I caught up with Bethel recently, hoping that he could shed some more light on his terrifying incident that night, and just exactly what he thought of his story sparking countless tales of the black eyed children. My first inquiry was if the incident had instilled any type of paranoia or follow-up events of high strangeness, as had often been reported in other cases of BEKs. He would tell me: “My sleep was greatly disturbed. I didn’t want to sleep at all, actually. I felt unsafe doing so. I kept having this fantasy of them appearing at the foot of my bed, or waiting outside my door for me when I went outside. It was a rough few weeks, I’ll say, and the effects linger to this day.
The use of black eyes to symbolize evil has become a common trope in horror films and other media, and I will tell you that every time I see such an image, especially if I’m not expecting it, I flash back briefly to those terrible, agonizing moments in my car. I legitimately did not know if I was going to die or not. I have never been so terrified.”
So as for Bethel’s leaked email becoming a template for similar stories, both fabricated and real, I wanted to see what his thoughts were on this controversy and just exactly how he felt about possibly creating an accidental urban legend. “It’s easy now to write something quasi-convincing based on the model of kids knocking on a car window, asking to come in, door opener detects something is wrong, terrible revelation, rinse and repeat. I judge each story shared with me on its own merits, but I apply greater skepticism to anything that adheres too slavishly to the basic formula. I look and listen for little variations and details that add more verisimilitude. If it’s just a carbon copy of what I’ve heard or seen, I tend to dismiss it or at least give it less credence. That said, I have heard many, many stories that I’m convinced are true.”
So if true, what exactly are these children? Whether it be aliens disguised as children, hoping to abduct innocent humans, or if they are some sort of soul-sucking demons trying to take over a vulnerable host, the possibilities remain endless. I found Bethel’s answer to this very question most intriguing. “I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that they are predators, and we are the food. I don’t think they eat us in any literal sense, but they do want something from us. Maybe they do just want to kill, but I tend think the design is far more complex than that. Until you’ve been on the receiving end of those terrible, dark eyes, filled with hate and torn from the very depths of night and time, I’m not sure you can understand. The people I’ve spoken with who have truly seen them understand completely.”
In trying to better understand these accounts, assuming there are genuine encounters with these children, my research would soon lead me to perhaps one of the most comprehensive studies on the “BEK” phenomenon to this day. Author, David Weatherly, compiled an extensive list of experiences with these enigmatic youngsters that he aptly titled in a full length book, Black Eyed Children. I spoke to Weatherly about these accounts and his approach to disseminating actual testimony from urban legend. “One of my goals when I wrote the book was to find out if the encounters pre-dated the internet and television,” Weatherly explained. “The trick was, while researching, to eliminate the catch phrases: ‘BEK’ and ‘black eyed children.’ Those terms are very modern. But I was able to find cases that certainly go back through history.”
One of the more stunning accounts Weatherly came across dated all the way back to 1974 in the Picardi region of Aisne, France. According to an early witness report from the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (N.I.C.A.P), two men known only as Alain and Patrick were making a leisurely drive through a small village, enjoying the autumn weather. It was around 3pm when they decided to turn around and take a different route. Upon turning, Patrick noticed something near the last house in the village that made him hit the breaks. There, in the courtyard of the house, were five small figures.
Three of them stood in the background, huddled together. Another was tracing its hands along the home. The last figure stood facing Patrick and Alain. Alain rolled down his passenger side window to get a better look. “He reports that his blood ran cold when faced with the being,” Weatherly would tell me. “The appearance of the five characters was as strange as their behavior. They were all just over four feet tall. They were dressed alike with long garments that almost reached the ground. These garments were decorated with multicolored spots. The beings themselves had earthy yellow skin and long hair that fell down their backs and to their waist. Their noses were compressed inwards, and their eyes were described as enormous, solid black hemispheres, the size of billiard balls.”