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Black-eyed children (or black-eyed kids) are an American contemporary legend of supposed paranormal creatures that supposedly resemble children between the ages of 6 and 16, with pale skin and black eyes, who are reportedly seen hitchhiking or , or are encountered on doorsteps of residential homes.
While tabloid coverage of these creatures has claimed that tales of black-eyed children have existed since the 1980s, most sources indicate that the legend originated from 1996 postings written by Texas reporter Brian Bethel on a "ghost-related mailing list," relating two alleged encounters with "black-eyed kids." Bethel describes encountering two such children in Abilene, Texas in 1996, and claims that a second person had a similar, unrelated encounter in Portland, Oregon. Bethel's stories have become regarded as classic examples of creepypasta, and gained such popularity that he published a FAQ "just to keep up with demand for more info about the new urban legend." In 2012, Brian Bethel told his story on reality TV series Monsters and Mysteries in America. He wrote a follow-up article for the Abilene Reporter News, describing his experience and maintaining his belief that it was legitimate.
In 2012, the horror film Black Eyed Kids was produced with Kickstarter funding, its director commenting that the creepy children were "an urban legend that's been floating around on the Internet for years now, I always thought it was fascinating." A 2013 episode of MSN's Weekly Strange that featured reports of black eyed children is thought to have helped spread the legend on the internet.
During one week in September 2014, the British tabloid Daily Star ran three sensationalistic front-page stories about alleged sightings of black-eyed children, connected to the sale of a supposedly haunted pub in Staffordshire. The paper claimed a "shock rise in sightings around the world". Alleged sightings are taken seriously by ghost hunters, some of whom believe black eyed children to be extraterrestrials, vampires, or ghosts.
Science writer Sharon A. Hill was unable to find any documentation of black-eyed child encounters, concluding that the tales are passed on as "friend of a friend" ghost stories. Hill considers the legend to resemble "typical spooky folklore stories" such as the phantom black dog, where the subject is not supernatural, and there may never have been an actual original encounter. Snopes lists this phenomenon as being a legend.
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- Romano, Aja. "The definitive guide to creepypasta—the Internet's "scariest" urban legends". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- Hill, Sharon. "Behind black eyes: Reports of spooky black-eyed kids". JREF. randi.org. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
- Clench, Sam (19 November 2013). "Black eyed children: Real, or just a creepy myth?". NewsComAu. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
- Smith, Patrick (2014-10-03). "Everything You Need To Know About Black-Eyed Ghost Children". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
- Bethel, Brian. "Brian Bethel recounts his possible paranormal encounter with 'BEKs'". Abilene Reporter-News. Abilene Reporter News. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
- Vorenberg, Sue. "Legend spurs local director's horror film". The Columbian. Archived from the original on December 17, 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
- "Here's the actual story behind the 'black-eyed ghost children'". Daily Edge. 2 October 2014. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
- Lockley, Mike (Sep 28, 2014). "Black Eyed Child returns to haunt Cannock Chase". Birmingham Mail.