In recent years, a strange phenomenon has swept across the web and become an internet sensation. Stories of creepy children with deep black eyes who attempt to trick adults into permitting them to enter their home have spread from site to site and now the legend of the black-eyed children has gained significant media coverage. But what are the origins of this sinister legend?

The earliest report of an experience with the Black-Eyed Children appears to be an account by Brian Bethel, posted online in 1998. Bethel describes an encounter with two boys between the ages of ten and fourteen who knocked on the window of his car as he was parked outside a movie theater.

According to Bethel, the two children wanted a ride to their mothers house because they’d forgotten their money and they needed it to get into the movie theater. Bethel describes a strong, inexplicable fear that washes over him upon seeing the children, a sense that something was wrong—and it wasn’t until half way through his conversation with them that he realized what it was.

“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.”

Shortly after this realization, Bethel’s fear got the best of him and he sped off in his car, glancing back at the children only to find that they were already gone. He then recalls relaying this story to a group of friends, one of which immediately recognizes the situation, having experienced the same thing in a dream.

The next account of a physical encounter comes ten months later, courtesy of John Northwood, a friend of Bethel’s, who relayed his own encounter via and online chat:

I was in downtown Portland (Oregon) after a seminar series on software development. I'd grabbed a bite of dinner about 10pm, and when I left it was about 11(ish). I'd gotten in my car, locked and belted up and just started the engine when someone tapped on my window. I was in an above-ground garage on the third floor, so I wasn't too freaked (good lighting, still some people around). It was one of the guys from the conference, so I rolled down my window and asked him what was up. He wanted a ride around the block a few times, as he was freaked about who was standing outside his car. I figured (so sue me) that it was some of Portland's homeless, or some punker kids. So, being a good Samaritan, I let him in and we took off.

We drove by his car, and there were three kids around it, two boys and a girl. The girl was... weird. Just freaky. Y'know, clothes and hair and makeup—Goth-O-Matic. The two kids were... I dunno... just scary as shit. She was probably fourteen or fifteen, the oldest boy was probably fourteen(ish) and the youngest between ten and twelve.

She looked bored and was smoking a cigarette, the two boys were just leaning against the car. They looked way too intense for kids. Anyway, I started itching behind my eyes, like I needed to really look at them, so, like an ass, I slowed down. BIG mistake. The two boys sauntered over and the girl stayed against the car. The eldest was on Doug's side (the guy from the seminar) and the youngest was on mine. I made sure the doors were locked (I love electronic locks) and asked why they were standing around his car.

The young one said "It's scary out there all alone, and we just wanted a ride home." The eldest one said "You promised you'd help us out" and Doug said "I don't even know you." By this time, I was really on edge—I felt caught between throwing up and jazzing—adrenaline does that to me. All of a sudden Doug said he was getting out of the car, and I told him not to. As soon as he reached for the handle, the two kids... I don't know how to say this right... they looked a lot older. Their faces were somewhat drawn, and their eyes were solid black. Edge to edge—no pupil, no iris—nothing. Just a liquid black pool.

I just about wet myself, slapped the car into reverse and burned rubber backing about sixty feet away. They started running after the car, so I spun around one of the support struts and we took off. I kid you not—I was convinced that if they got ahold of the car, I was going to die— and not in anything approaching a pleasant fashion.

After spreading around the internet for fifteen years, the legend of the Black-Eyed Children became the subject of a feature film spin-off of the popular webseries The Haunting of Sunshine Girl in 2012, a kickstarter-funded project. Shortly after this in February 2013, a video focused on the legend was uploaded to the MSN Entertainment website. This new coverage gave the legend a new boost and created a significant amount of new interest in the Black-Eyed Children.

The peak of public interested in the legend came, however, in October 2014, when The Daily Star ran a series of three front-page articles dedicated to the Black-Eyed Children.

It began with a small article on the Birmingham Mail website which told the story of a woman from Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, who encountered one of these mysterious creatures. Alerted by the screams of a child, the woman rushed to find the source of the noise, but was unable to locate it. As she paused to catch her breath, she turned and found a small girl standing behind her, with her hands over her eyes.

“It was as if she was waiting for a birthday cake. I asked if she was okay and if she had been the one screaming. She put her arms down by her side and opened her eyes. That’s when I saw that they were completely black, no iris, no white, nothing."

This encounter caught the attention of Lee Brickley, a local paranormal investigator and author of the book UFOs, Werewolves and the Pig Man. Brickley was particulary interested in this story due to its similarity to an incident his own aunt had experienced more than thirty years earlier:

In the summer of 1982, my aunt was 18 years old and she and her friends would often meet on Cannock Chase in the evening time, probably much in the same way many teenagers still do today.

One evening, just before dark, she heard a little girl frantically shouting for help. Rushing to locate the sound, she stumbled upon a dirt track and caught sight of the girl, about six years old, running in the opposite direction.

When my aunt caught up, the girl turned around and looked her in the eyes, and then ran off into the dark woodland. Her eyes had been completely black with no trace of white.

It was then that the story caught the attention of the Daily Star, who put the article on their front page, followed the very next day by another front-page story, this time about The Four Crosses Inn, a pub in Cannock Chase that is struggling to attract a buyer due to rumors that the building is haunted.

Among various stories of spooky activity, such as disembodied screaming and a piano playing by itself, several locals are said to have laid eyes on the spectral black-eyed child in the downstairs bar.

A series of sensationalist articles from the Daily Star followed, with the paper reportedly receiving a number of calls from people all over the country who have previously caught a glimpse of the mysterious black-eyed children. Sightings were reported in varied places including London, Liverpool and Scotland.

The Daily Star then took their coverage a step further with a trip to Cannock Chase in which they were acompanied by a photographer, who claimed to have snapped a photograph of the ghost, and a psychic who claimed to have figured out the ghost’s identity.

Ian lawman claimed to have psychically sensed the name “Christine,” which the paper links to seven-year-old Christine Darby, whose body was found in Cannock Chase in 1967. Her body had been disposed of by killer Raymond Leslie Morris.

Raymond Leslie Morris killed three schoolgirls in Cannock Chase between 1965 and 1967 and died in 2014 at the age of 84, having spent the final 45 years of his life in prison.

Could it be the the black-eyed children of Cannock Chase are the spirits of Morris’s victims? Or is this loose link a vague angle being grapsed at by the Daily Star in an attempt to continue the narrative of their lucrative sensationalism?

Common sense, of course, suggests that the legend of the black-eyed children is just that—a legend. After all, there is no factual evidence to back up these claims, and there seems to be no example of the story that predates the original posting by Brian Bethel.

Perhaps one day further evidence of the black-eyed children will come to light, but for the time being, it would seem that they are nothing more than a story shared on the internet in 1998 that took on a life of its own and spread like wildfire. That is, after all, what creepypasta does best.