Creepy Things That Seem Real But Aren’t is a series that explores modern urban legends, bringing you a new tale each week.
On January 16, 1998, a journalist named Brian Bethel posted a message to a ghost-hunting newsgroup prefaced with the following text:
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.”
Whatever the Ram Page follow-up was has been lost to history; but the important part is that second paragraph. This, you see, was the beginning of the legend known as THE BLACK-EYED CHILDREN.
What happened is this:
Bethel’s Internet bill was due. This was back in 1998, remember, so the comparative ease of bill-paying these days hadn’t quite made its way into the world yet. Once upon a time, Bethel’s service provider had a location at a shopping center, and at that location was a drop box. At roughly 9:30pm, Bethel grabbed his checkbook and made the 15-minute drive from his apartment to downtown Abilene, Texas. Next to the drop box location was a $.150 movie theater; at the time, Bethel remembers, it had been playing Mortal Kombat. He pulled into an empty parking space in front of the theater and began writing out his check under the glowing marquee.
It was then that he heard a knock on the driver’s side window of his car. When he looked up, he saw two children standing in front of the window.
The children, Bethel wrote in his newsgroup post, were both boys; he estimated their ages as being between 10 and 14 years, though he couldn’t be sure if that was accurate. They were, he said, “in that semi-mystical stage of life children get into where you can’t exactly tell their age.” It’s notable that only of the boys spoke during the ensuing exchange. The other remained silent.
The first boy—the one who did the speaking—was the taller of the two, and he wore a hooded, grey-checked shirt and jeans. He had an olive-colored complexion and curly, longish brown hair. He had, Bethel noted, “an air of quiet confidence.” The second, silent boy had pale, freckled skin and strawberry blond hair, and he wore a hooded shirt similar to his companion’s, though it was green instead of grey. In contrast to the taller boy’s calm demeanor, this boy was shifty and fidgety; he kept glancing around nervously. Bethel didn’t think they were brothers.
At first, Bethel thought they were going to ask him for money. But then something strange happened: “The air changed.” And that was when he know that there was something stranger than usual going on. And yet still, Bethel rolled down his window. “Yes?” he asked.
The taller boy smiled. “Hey, mister, what’s up?” he said. “We have a problem. You see, my friend and I want to see the films, but we forgot our money. We need to go to our house to get it. Want to help us out?”
The boy’s bearing disturbed Bethel. As a journalist, he noted, he spends a lot of his time talking to people, and that includes children. According to Bethel’s experience, children are usually hesitant when talking to strangers. They may stutter and stammer, they shuffle their feet; “in short,” Bethel wrote, “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.”
Not so for this boy. He was totally in control, fearless. He spoke in such a way as to communicate, “I already know you’re going to help me.”
Bethel hesitated. “Uh, well…” he began.
The boys were none too pleased with his hesitation. The silent one looked shocked that the grown-up in the car hadn’t immediately opened his doors. The talkative one tried again. “C’mon, mister. Now, we just want to go to our house. And we’re just two little boys.”
Something, Bethel sensed, was very, very wrong here. He stalled for time; eventually, he asked the boys what movie they were going to see. “Mortal Kombat, of course,” the taller boy replied. Bethel glanced at the marquee and saw that the last showing of the evening had already begun an hour earlier. “C’mon, mister. Let us in. We can’t get in your car until you do, you know,” the boy continued. “Just let us in, and we’ll be gone before you know it. We’ll go to our mother’s house.”
Against his better judgment, Bethel’s hand started making its way to the locking mechanism on the car’s door. But then, for the first time, Bethel noticed the two boys’ eyes.