Who are these terrifying black-eyed ghost children, and why are they on the newspaper front pages all of a sudden?
It started on Sunday when the Birmingham Mail reported on "paranormal investigator" Lee Brickley's attempts to investigate sightings of black-eyed children at a beauty spot in Cannock, Staffordshire.
The Birmingham Mail then went one step further and joined Brickley on his "nightly vigil" to catch a "glimpse of the unkempt anaemic infant" on Cannock Chase.
The report said says that there have been sightings of Slender Man – a bogeyman invented by people on online forums – as well as a creature Brickley refers to as The Pig Man.
Then the Daily Star covered the chilling tale on Tuesday with a front-page story based on Brickley's testimony.
The paper followed up on Wednesday with this front page about a pub in Cannock that's haunted by various scary ghosts including a black-eyed child apparition.
And today the trilogy of bonkers Star front pages is complete, with a tale of how sightings are increasing around the world.
Other papers and broadcast stations covered the story this week. But where does this story actually come from? Brickley wrote a blog post last year about his auntie's sighting, which was then included in this book.
At the time, no one really had any reason to believe anything paranormal was going on, the girl certainly appeared to be of flesh and blood. It was only later, when discussing the incident with a neighbour, that my auntie was made aware of Raymond Morris's 1960s child killings in the area. Sufficed to say, this revelation really spooked her. Although there have been many other sightings of this nature in the area, and I certainly don't completely rule out the theory that they are indeed the 'ghosts' of children murdered by Morris, to me it seems that, as these children often appear to be completely solid and never really show any unusual qualities, their origin could lay squarely in the realms of the occult.
Brickley contacted us to say that – despite the Birmingham Mail's story – the chemical leak angle was entirely invented by the press and wasn't a theory that came from him.
Can I just make a point of saying that I've not sold the story to any newspapers, and they have been using me to make money all week. All I did was publish a report from a family member on my blog over a year ago, and the press have taken it upon themselves to lift the story and put me all over their front pages. As a result of that, I have been contacted by hundreds of reporters and radio shows, and up until yesterday I was doing my best to help them out with interviews, quotes, and a couple of new sighting reports that have come in.They have not been reporting on the story accurately, and they keep placing my name next to their own theories about the origin of these sightings. I have never once said they have anything to do with the child murders on Cannock Chase, and yet they keep running this line.
I too am very sceptical, and as I said in a video interview for the Birmingham Mail, my personal opinion is that people are hallucinating. I draw that conclusion because the people I have interviewed seem very genuine.They appear to 'think' they are telling the truth. To be honest, I'm getting a little sick of the attention, and so I've already decided to stop talking to the press about the subject. It's not like I stand to benefit financially from the story, and I've hardly slept this week trying to keep everyone happy.It's just turned into a bit of a frenzy, and everyone seems to be making money off my investigations. Everyone except me, that is. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to get money from the press. All I ever set out to do was publish some interesting cases that have not be discussed before. I have no desire whatsoever to become a 'celebrity paranormal researcher' and have only ever wished for people to know my name for being a writer and author.
However, the genesis of the black-eyed child myth appears to predate Brickley's blog post and book and to have originally emerged in a story posted by Brian Bethel, from Abeline, Texas, on a ghost-related online mailing list in 1998.
There is an entry on "black-eyed people" on the Creepypasta wiki, a directory of scary stories that originate online.
Getting images of the ghost kids is difficult – mainly because they are entirely fictional – so newspapers have made do with images like the one on the left, which is a crudely edited version of a creative commons image.
Either that or people take stills from the 2013 film Sunshine Girl and the Hunt for Black Eyed Kids, which was funded with a $9,500 Kickstarter campaign.
So, urban myth? Mass hallucination? Ancient bloodthirsty ritual? Or just a bunch of stuff that people have made up on the internet?
Or how about a fun spooky ghost story in the run-up to Halloween that gets readers excited and freaked out in equal measure? In any case, it seems the black-eyed children myth is one borne of internet culture rather than ancient folklore.
And it's all too easy to be misquoted when you write a book about supernatural events.