When talking to people who don’t believe in the Good People, one argument I hear a lot is “well if they were real, there would be modern stories about them!” On one hand, there are very much modern stories explicitly about the Good People in countries like Ireland. But I personally suspect that a lot of modern American “cryptid” and “alien abduction” legends may actually be stories of Fairy.
Think about it. Human society has changed so much in the last 300 years — it would make sense for the Good People to have changed as well. In medieval stories, They typically have a society and level of technology that is similar to humans. It would make sense, then, that modern stories about the Good People would deal less with knights and ballrooms and more with modern themes.
(If you aren’t familiar with the Good People, and if you’re wondering why I call them that instead of using the f-word, check out my previous posts about basic rules for interacting with them and busting some common misconceptions.)
One of my favorite example of a modern urban legend with strong parallels to classic Fairy stories is the story of the Black-Eyed Children or Black-Eyed Kids. This is a modern American legend about paranormal creatures that look like young children, and it has surprising similarities to classic stories of visits from the Good People.
I first learned about the Black-Eyed Kids (or BEK, as it’s sometimes written online) from the Astonishing Legends podcast, but most of my information about them for this post came from the book The Chilling, True Terror of the Black-Eyed Kids by G. Michael Vasey. (This may not be the best book on the subject, but it’s the one I had access to for free.) In that book, Vasey points out that most BEK stories follow a very similar formula. That formula is:
The “victim” is at home late at night, either alone or with others in the house, when there is a knock at the door. When the victim opens the door, they see two (or sometimes more) children, usually between the ages of 6 and 16. Seeing these children triggers a fear response, and some people report feeling their heart pound and/or wanting to run away. The children quietly but insistently ask to come inside. Their reason for needing to come inside changes, but a one I’ve personally heard several times is that they need to use the phone.
It’s usually at this point in the story that the victim looks at the children’s eyes and sees that they’re solid black, with no whites or irises. This usually makes the victim feel even more freaked out, and they slam the door in the kids’ faces and wait for them to leave.
In some versions of the story, the kids seem to be incorporeal — for example, they don’t leave footprints and don’t seem to feel heat or cold. They sometimes seem to have the ability to control or compel their victims, and people report finding it difficult to look away from them. Sometimes they’re only seen and heard by the person who opens the door to them, even if other people are in the room. Sometimes electricity flickers on and off around them, and electronics might stop working. There are also stories of black-eyed adults who accompany the children or act on their own, but these are less common.
Encounters with the Black-Eyed Kids seem to be mostly a US thing, but there have been a few reported sightings in other places. The first story of the BEK was written by Texas reporter Brian Bethel in 1998. There are stories of black-eyed creatures that are much older, but the modern BEK formula doesn’t appear until Bethel’s story.
I want to compare the BEK formula to a story of the Good People from England. The Green Children of Woolpit were a young boy and girl who appeared in the village of Woolpit in the mid 12th century. Their skin was green, and they spoke a strange language. One of the village families took the children in, but they refused to eat anything except fava beans. They eventually learned to eat other foods and their skin lost its green color. The children were baptized, and the boy became sick and died.
There are some obvious parallels between the Green Children and the Black-Eyed Kids. In both stories, two children appear alone, without an adult. Both sets of children have a physical feature that is an unusual color, marking them as inhuman. Both sets of children speak strangely — the Green Children spoke a strange language, and Black-Eyed Kids are described as speaking in a very monotone voice and using odd words.
There are also obvious differences. The Green Children weren’t malicious, and they wandered into our world accidentally. The Black-Eyed Kids seem to have sinister intentions. There’s no account of the Green Children needing permission to enter a building. And, as far as I’m aware, there are no accounts of Black-Eyed Kids becoming sick or dying (but then again, I don’t think anyone has tried to baptize them).
Keep in mind that the Green Children of Woolpit are only one of many stories of the Good People, and that Fairy is a diverse and complex world filled with many different types of beings. Some of the other details of BEK stories can be explained by looking to other folklore.
First, let’s look at the inherently sinister nature of these beings and the fear they inspire in humans. As I’ve said in previous posts, not all of the Good People are good to humans. There are many, many stories of them preying on us, and some types of Good People seem to be especially anti-human. (Unseelie Court, anyone?) It’s possible that the BEK are a particularly predatory type of Good People.
The need for permission to enter also fits with established folklore. While it’s not universal, there are stories of Good People who needed to be invited in before they could enter. This trope also shows up in stories of other otherwordly creatures, like vampires.
The black eyes also fit the old lore. While green and red are the most common colors to see on the Good People, especially in the British Isles, black is also sometimes associated with them. Black Dogs are a famous example, and the Cat Sidhe are also said to have black fur. In their book Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk, Morgan Daimler says that, “Black is generally speaking an ill-omened color. To see a fairy wearing black was an omen of death, although not necessarily for the person seeing it.”
Although some of the Good People can look fully human, their human forms often have a single weird or disturbing trait that gives them away. Strange eye colors are a common giveaway. Black eyes might imply that these beings are especially dangerous or deadly.
(A lot of folks, including Vasey, theorize that the black eyes mean these beings are demonic in nature. However, Black-Eyed Kid stories are not consistent with demon lore in any religion I’m familiar with. I think this theory probably comes from people with a strict Christian worldview making reaches to fit everything into that worldview.)
The effects the BEK reportedly have on their victims supports the theory that they are an especially dangerous/anti-human type of Good Person. People who see them report feeling drained, as if their energy was stolen. Some people even report dizzy spells and nosebleeds. There are several types of Good People who feed on human life energy. The Scottish Baobhan
Síth consume this energy by drinking blood or eating hearts. Goblins are sometimes described as draining the life of humans, as in Christina Rosetti’s poem “Goblin Market.” The Irish Leannán Sí (literally “Fairy lover”) drain vitality from their human lovers until they die.
The Leannán Sí are especially interesting when compared to the Black-Eyed Kids. They take the form of beautiful women to lure in prey. It would make sense for a similar being to use the form of a child the same way.
Another interesting note is that most BEK stories take place between midnight and sunrise — a time when the Good People are said to be especially active.
Obviously, there’s no way to say if the BEK are real or just an early creepypasta. And even if they are real, there’s no way for us to know who or what they are. But I always think it’s interesting to find the threads of older folklore in modern urban legends.
What do you think? Are the Black-Eyed Kids a modern evolution of the Good People? Are they demons? Aliens? Extra-dimensional beings? Or just a fun, spooky story for the Internet age?
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