Black-eyed kids, sometimes abbreviated as BEKs, have been a staple of paranormal internet folklore since the late 1990s/early 2000s. The first story depicting the black-eyed children was posted to the ghosts.org Ghost Discuss mailing list and the alt.folklore.ghost-stories USENET group by Brian Bethel between 1996 and 1998. The story describes a pair of boys with unnatural, entirely black eyes who attempt to persuade Bethel into giving them a ride home, using overly sly language atypical of children. When refused a ride, the children become agitated and aggressive, then seem to vanish as Bethel drives away in fear.
The well-written, nonfiction firsthand account very quickly gained popularity and spawned a host of imitators and eventually an entire internet mythology (at first ironic but later serious) centered around the “black-eyed kids.” Most of the early stories followed the same general format as Bethel’s original tale, but later entries show greater variation in the appearance and behavior of the children and contain more speculation about who they might be.
Although Bethel’s story is the genesis of this lore, Bethel himself has been historically ambivalent towards the popularity of his story and the urban legend it inspired. In the early years after his first posting of the story, he somewhat begrudgingly but openly answered questions about the experience. Later, he seemed to tire of the often negative attention the story brought him and stopped addressing queries. However, in recent years Bethel has had a change of heart and has participated in interviews for several podcasts and television shows about the BEK phenomenon.
Following is the original “black-eyed kids” story as published by Brian Bethel in the 1990s. Also included on this page is Brian’s “BEK FAQ” he wrote around the year 2000, as well as a link to the preserved text of an article he wrote about the phenomenon in 2013.
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 1998 19:12:25 -0800 (PST)
From: “Brian Bethel” (email@example.com)
Subject: Those Darned Black-Eyed Kids
Well, believe it or not, the Ram Page follow-up still languishes unfinished on my hard drive. I don’t know when I’ll have it done, and I’ll probably have to break it up into multiple posts to get it in any way manageable. Patience, I pray.
But since a lot of people seem to be requesting this one, here’s some info on those darned black-eyed kids.
I’ve just woken up from a mega nap. It’s 1 a.m. I’ll never get to sleep again. So why not write, eh? I guess I was exhausted from too many forays onto Sixth Street in Austin at my reporting conference.
Enjoy. Or whatever. 🙂
I don’t really know what I’d call this story if I was submitting it for publication in Fate or something of its ilk. “Brian vs. the Evil, Black-eyed, Possibly Vampiric or Demonic But At Least Not Bloody Normal Kids” doesn’t have much of a ring to it. (Shrug.) 🙂
But that’s at least an accurate title.
As so many things do, it all started out innocently.
My Internet Service Provider used to have offices in a shopping center before they moved to their (comparatively) lush accommodations elsewhere. There was a drop box at that original location. The monthly bill was due, and thus, there but for the Grace of the Net I went.
It was about 9:30 p.m. when I left. From my relatively isolated apartments, it’s about 10-15 minutes or so to downtown (Abilene has a population of about 110,000).
Right next to Camalott Communications’ old location is a $1.50 movie theater. At the time, the place was featuring that masterwork of modern film, Mortal Kombat. I drove by the theater on the way into the center proper and pulled into an empty parking space.
Using the glow of the marquee to write out my check, I was startled to hear a knock on the driver’s-side window of my car.
I looked over and saw two children staring at me from street. I need to describe them, with the one feature (you can guess what it was) that I didn’t realize until about half-way through the conversation cleverly omitted.
Both appeared to be in that semi-mystical stage of life children get into where you can’t exactly tell their age. Both were boys, and my initial impression is that they were somewhere between 10-14.
Boy No. 1 was the spokesman. Boy No. 2 didn’t speak during the entire conversation — at least not in words.
Boy No. 1 was slightly taller than his companion, wearing a pull-over, hooded shirt with a sort of gray checked pattern and jeans. I couldn’t see his shoes. His skin was olive-colored and had curly, medium-length brown hair. He exuded an air of quiet confidence.
Boy No. 2 had pale skin with a trace of freckles. His primary characteristic seemed to be looking around nervously. He was dressed in a similar manner to his companion, but his pull-over was a light green color. His hair was a sort of pale orange.
They didn’t appear to be related, at least directly.
“Oh, great,” I thought. “They’re gonna hit me up for money.” And then the air changed.
I’ve explained this before, but for the benefit of any new lurkers out there, right before I experience something strange, there’s a change in perception that comes about which I describe in the above manner. It’s basically enough time to know it’s too late. 😉
So, there I was, filling out a check in my car (which was still running) and in a sudden panic over the appearance of two little boys. I was confused, but an overwhelming sense of fear and unearthliness rushed in nonetheless.
The spokesman smiled, and the sight for some inexplicable reason chilled my blood. I could feel fight-or-flight responses kicking in. Something, I knew instinctually, was not right, but I didn’t know what it could possibly be.
I rolled down the window very, very slightly and asked “Yes?”
The spokesman smiled again, broader this time. His teeth were very, very white.
“Hey, mister, what’s up? We have a problem,” he said. His voice was that of a young man, but his diction, quiet calm and … something I still couldn’t put my finger on … made my desire to flee even greater. “You see, my friend and I want to see the films, but we forgot our money,” he continued. “We need to go to our house to get it. Want to help us out?”
Okay. Journalists are required to talk to lots of people, and that includes children. I’ve seen and spoken to lots of them. Here’s how that usually goes:
“Uh … M … M … Mister? Can I see that camera? I … I won’t break it or anything. I promise. My dad has a camera, and he lets me hold it sometimes, I guess, and I took a picture of my dog — it wasn’s very good, ’cause I got my finger in the way and …”
Add in some feet shuffling and/or body swaying and you’ve got a typical kid talking to a stranger.
In short, they’re usually apologetic. People generally teach children that when they talk to adults, they’re usually bothering them for one reason or another and they should at least be polite.
This kid was in no way fitting the mold. His command of language was incredible and he showed no signs of fear. He spoke as if my help was a foregone conclusion. When he grinned, it was as if he was trying to say, “I know something … and you’re NOT gonna like it. But the only way you’re going to find out what it is will be to do what I say …”
“Uh, well …” was the best reply I could offer.
Now here’s where it starts to get strange.
The quiet companion looked at the spokesman with a mixture of confusion and guilt on his face. He seemed in some ways shocked, not with his friend’s brusque manner but that I didn’t just immediately open the door.
He eyed me nervously.
The spokesman seemed a bit perturbed, too. I still was registering something wrong with both.
“C’mon, mister,” the spokesman said again, smooth as silk. Car salesmen could learn something from this kid. “Now, we just want to go to our house. And we’re just two little boys.”
That really scared me. Something in the tone and diction again sent off alarm bells. My mind was frantically trying to process what it was perceiving about the two figures that was “wrong.”
“Eh. Um ….” was all I could manage. I felt myself digging my fingernails into the steering wheel.
“What movie were you going to see?” I asked finally.
“Mortal Kombat, of course,” the spokesman said. The silent one nodded in affirmation, standing a few paces behind.
“Oh,” I said. I stole a quick glance at the marquee and at the clock in my car. Mortal Kombat had been playing for an hour, the last showing of the evening.
The silent one looked increasingly nervous. I think he saw my glances and suspected that I might be detecting something was not above-board.
“C’mon, mister. Let us in. We can’t get in your car until you do, you know,” the spokesman said soothingly. “Just let us in, and we’ll be gone before you know it. We’ll go to our mother’s house.”
We locked eyes.
To my horror, I realized my hand had strayed toward the door lock (which was engaged) and was in the process of opening it. I pulled it away, probably a bit too violently. But it did force me to look away from the children.
I turned back. “Er … Um …,” I offered weakly and then my mind snapped into sharp focus.
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.
At that point, I know my expression betrayed me. The silent one had a look of horror on his face in a combination that seemed to indicate: A) The impossible had just happened and B) “We’ve been found out!”
The spokesman, on the other hand, wore a mask of anger. His eyes glittered brightly in the half-light.
“Cmon, mister,” he said. “We won’t hurt you. You have to LET US IN. We don’t have a gun …”
That last statement scared the living hell out of me, because at that point by his tone he was plainly saying, “We don’t NEED a gun.”
He noticed my hand shooting down toward the gear shift. The spokesman’s final words contained an anger that was complete and whole, and yet contained in some respects a tone of panic:
“WE CAN’T COME IN UNLESS YOU TELL US IT’S OKAY. LET … US …. IN!”
I ripped the car into reverse (thank goodness no one was coming up behind me) and tore out of the parking lot. I noticed the boys in my peripheral vision, and I stole a quick glance back.
They were gone. The sidewalk by the theater was deserted.
I drove home in a heightened state of panic. Had anyone attempted to stop me, I would have run on through and faced the consequences later.
I bolted into my house, scanning all around — including the sky.
What did I see? Maybe nothing more than some kids looking for a ride.
And some really funky contacts. Yeah, right.
A friend suggested they were vampires, what with the old “let us in” bit and my compelled response to open the door. That and the “we’ll go see our mother” thing.
I’m still not sure what they were, but here’s an epilogue I find chilling:
I talk about Chad a lot. He’s still my best friend, my best ghost-hunting companion and an all-around cool guy. He recently moved to Amarillo, but at the time this happened was still living in San Angelo of Ram Page fame.
I called him and talked to him briefly. He had two female friends with him at the time, both professing some type of psychic ability.
I started telling him the story, leaving out the part about the black eyes for the kicker. One of the women (we were on a speakerphone) stopped me.
“These children had black eyes, right?” she asked. “I mean, all-black eyes?”
“Er … Yes.” I said. I was a bit taken aback.
“Hmmm,” she said. “One night last week, I had a dream about children with black eyes. They were outside my house, wanting to be let in, but there was something wrong with them. It took me a while to realize it was the eyes.”
I hadn’t even gotten as far as them wanting to come in.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“I kept the doors and windows locked,” she said. “I knew if they came in, they would kill me.”
“And they would have killed you, too, if you had let them into your car.”
So, from this extra-long post, we have three unanswered questions:
A) What did I see?
B) What would have happened if I opened my car door?
C) Why does Chad always get the cool psychic chicks? 😉
Well, there you have it. I’ll write some more later. But for now, your comments are welcomed as always.
Black-Eyed Kids FAQ
Brian’s BEK Faq Version 1.0
This document is a preliminary attempt to answer all of the common BEK
questions before they’re asked. I get at least two e-mails a week about
this incident, one of many stories I originally posted to Obiwan’s
Ghost Story of the Day mailing list and alt.folklore.ghost-stories.
1. What’s a BEK?
Black-Eyed Kid. I don’t remember who came up with the acronym exactly,
but it stems from the first paragraph or so of my original story.
2. Isn’t this just some alt.folklore.ghost-stories in joke?
Maybe now, but not in the beginning. A few of the newsgroup denizens
have taken what started as couple of highly personal accounts and run
with them, blaming BEKs for the lack of quality sitcoms on television
and having them spawn in Wal-Mart lobster tanks.
While this is all good-natured fun, and I understand and appreciate
most of the humor, it has tended to obscure the origin of the term, my
original story and how and why it came into wider use.
3. Come on, dude. You aren’t trying to convince me that this stuff is
real, are you?
I’m not trying to convince you of anything. You’re certainly free to
draw your own conclusions about the whole situation, but it is the
purpose of this document to separate the original story from the
newsgroup in-joke it has become.
It does tend to annoy one when something that was very personal, very
frightening and (at least to me) very real is dismissed as a “total
fabrication” conjured up for a few laughs. Hence, this FAQ file.
Yes, I do take some of this personally, but I was there, damn it.
4. Where can I read about these BEKs?
You can find my original accounting in several locations.
[Editor’s note: old inactive URLs removed.]
5. Wow that was scary! But that’s not real is it?
Yes, it is.
6. Oh, come on. Really?
7. Really? It happened just like that?
I’m a newspaper reporter (visit http://www.texnews.com to see some of
my daily work on the web), and I pride myself on accuracy and truth.
When I tell a story about one of my experiences, I try to convey a
sense of what exactly was going on, how I felt and what I saw without
added hyperbole or artistic liberties.
So, in short, yes it happened. Yes, it happened just that way. Nothing
has been added or taken away. And yes, I really was that scared.
8. Creep-o-rama! So, what do you think they were?
I am still not sure. I don’t believe they were vampires, as some have
suggested, but I don’t think they were just a couple of kids with some
freaky contacts, either.
The fear I felt upon seeing both boys was genuine and unexpected. My
brain was desperately trying to fill in some detail that was “wrong”
about them, and it took me casting my gaze away from them before I
finally could look back and realize what was out of place.
I’ve had several theories posited, none of which are totally
satisfying. Do I believe something unnatural was at work? Yes, most
likely. The fear is what keeps haunting me, that unexpected sensation
of being sized up, somehow unconsciously manipulated and in danger of
life and limb.
I’ve encountered enough strangeness in my life to know that there are
some pretty damned weird things out there. (If you have an interest,
Obiwan’s site (http://www.ghosts.org) has most of my stories archived.
Quest around and you’ll find them.)
9. Do you really think there was any danger involved?
Honestly, yes. My intuition rarely fails me, and when I don’t listen to
it, I usually pay the price. Something was telling me I was in danger
that night, and even if they really were just two kids with freaky
contacts, I am very, very glad that I didn’t let them into my car.
10. Do you believe Jon’s story? (See the #ghosts channel link.)
Yes, I do. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jon for some time now, and
I don’t think he’d fib to me. We’re good friends, even though we’ve
never formally met (working on that). I have found him to be honest and
quite trustworthy, so I have no reason to disbelieve him.
11. Have you ever seen those kids again? Have you ever been back to the
Never again. And I don’t particularly want to see ’em again, either.
As an aside, I have been back to that theater several times. I even
went to see “Sixth Sense” there with some friends of mine who know the
story. So if we can tempt fate that much, I think I’m safe. 😉
As an aside, a friend of mine has shared a story of a strange thing
that happened to her in that theater when she was younger, so who knows
what sort of strangeness goes on around there?
12. Can I put the story on my web site?
Sure. Just give me credit for it, and don’t claim you wrote it.
13. Any final thoughts?
Of all the personal accounts I’ve released to the wilds of the
Internet, this particular piece has been the most popular. It seems to
strike a primal chord in some readers that genuinely helps them
understand the fear I experienced. I’ve received several accounts from
others about BEK sightings. Some are obviously fake, while others have
a definite ring of truth about them.
Even after all this time and soul searching, I’m still not 100 percent
certain what happened that night. I do believe that I was in danger,
and I do believe that something out-of-the-ordinary was responsible.
Jon and I have done some research that in the end may or may not shed
some light on what exactly we both experienced, but until I can say
yes or no with relative certainty I’ll keep that under my hat, so to
What I can say is this: The experience was one of the most terrifying
events of my life, and I have no desire to experience anything like it
Thanks for reading,
In 2013, Brian wrote an update of sorts for the Abilene Reporter News. Click here to view an archived copy of the article.