Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Spielberg's Black Eyed Child

When I was doing research for my book, The Black Eyed Children, I made a point of seeking out cases that predated modern accounts.   Brian Bethel's encounter certainly set a precedent and from it came the current terms we now use for these entities.  Accounts prior to the early 90s don't use the term "BEK" or black eyed kids/children. 

Naturally, I considered the modern media influence on the appearance of the BEKs.  By the early 2000s, the effect had been used in film and television.  Most notable to those with an interest in the paranormal was the effect’s use in the X-Files.  A ‘black oily alien substance’ was seen invading human bodies and taking them over.  As part of the process, the victim’s eyes would turn solid black. 
Bear in mind, this effect was not in common use at the time.  Since then, it’s seen constantly in movies and television to represent aliens, demons, vampires and a host of other supernatural beings.  I find it interesting that solid black eyes are used to such extent in portraying a range of strange beings but it automatically communicates an evil or negative presence so filmmakers make full use of it.
Still, people with sharp eyes often send me images that I was unaware of that relate to the BEKs.  Recently, I received one that I found particularly fascinating.  It came from Jason Scott who emailed me with a question;

“Were you aware that there is a picture reference of the Black Eyed Children in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind’?”
My first thought was, no way.  Like many people with an interest in UFOs, I had watched Spielberg’s classic film countless times.  Who could forget Richard Dreyfuss building a mash potato version of Devil’s Tower or the classic theme music?  I knew the story inside and out and there certainly wasn’t a black eyed kid to be found in the film…was there? 

Turned out there was.  Jason sent a screen shot of the relevant scene.  Admittedly, I still wasn’t sure so I got the film out and went to the scene myself; I had to see it in the actual movie.  I could hardly believe it but, sure enough, there it was.  The image is a painting hanging on the wall in Roy’s (Richard Dreyfuss) home.  Oddly, the image is at an angle and the BEK in the painting appears to be leaning into the scene.  As you can see from the photo and the enlargement, the painting is clearly a child with oversized black eyes. 

Close Encounters came out in 1977.  BEKs were hardly a topic on anyone’s mind at that point so what exactly is the point of this picture?  Was there a popular mass produced painting during the time that depicted such a child?  If so, I have yet to locate it.  Perhaps Spielberg put it there as a subtle connection to the grays that would appear by the end of the film but, if so, even that is a weird coincidence when we consider the popular alien hybrid theory connected to the children.  Watching the scene, I also find it odd that one of the boys stands behind Roy and leans sideways like a mirror image of the child in the painting. 
Is this all a strange synchronicity or was Spielberg aware of something in 1977 that only came to light years later.  Even if there is a ‘normal’ explanation, it’s another fascinating connection to the mystery of the black eyed children.

If you'd like to see the relevant section yourself, the scene begins just after the first half hour or so of the movie (depending on the cut you have). 


  1. That's a different kind of BEK - The typical Big-eyed kid. These paintings of sad, big-eyed waifs were very common in the 60s. This one looks like the work of Margaret Keane. Google image search her name along with big eyed kid, and you will see many similar to this.

  2. Why the white snout? Are we sure it's not some kind of clown painting?

  3. The painting may be this one, or a variation on this: http://img0.etsystatic.com/009/0/5469183/il_570xN.447807936_4a38.jpg

  4. Somewhat reminiscent of Walter Keane's big-eyed art from 30 years ago... Creepy.
    Amused at how young Teri Garr was then but weren't we all?

  5. Michael, see today's post, Walter Keane's work was actually done by his wife Margaret.

  6. Thanks for all the comments, the Keane connection has been explored in today's post.

  7. The painting is titled, "The Lookout".

  8. It is definately the one lisa-d posted above. It just looks like they cropped off some of it. Who is the artist of it?