The Haunting History Of The British Forest Cannock Chase

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For those up to date with their creepypastas, stories of "black-eyed children" will sound all-too-familiar, right up there with testimonials such as that found on Times Online about shadow men (shadowy humanoid figures of absolute malevolence) and hat men (similar to shadow men, but with FBI-like trench coats and fedoras). Tales of black-eyed children take elements of vampire lore — particularly needing to be invited in the house — and add to it some Dickensian orphan pity. As The Business Standard recounts, these pale, old-fashioned dressed apparitions knock on the door, often in pairs, a boy and a girl, and ask to come inside while staring up with empty, void-black eyes. Suffice it to say, blurting "sorry, I'm not home!" while slamming the door shut is probably your best reply.

Tales of horrific child ghosts, possessed children, and possessed children's toys, like that messed-up Annabelle doll from The Conjuring movies, are a well-known staple of pop culture and our modern consciousness. Are people just afraid of doing a poor parenting job? Afraid of being outmoded by the youth and their jive talk and their Zunes? 

One such terrifying tale from across the pond centers on not the home invasion motif, but the found footage lost-in-the-forest-can't-see-too-dark motif. It's got all the right elements: soulless children of the damned, terrorized hikers, evil giggling, vanishing apparitions, and lots of visually unclear photographic evidence such as that on Express and Star. After all, even unholy offspring need to come out and play, right? Welcome to Cannock Chase, England.

The Midland's premiere go-to site for forested demon children

Cannock Chase: not a game where you hunt Canadians across provincial tundra (that's Canuck Chase). No, Cannock Chase Forest, a 45-minute drive north of Birmingham, England, is "one of the best value day's out that the Midlands has to offer," as the grammatically challenged explanation on Forestry England states. The site describes the park's amenities and features, such as bike trails and camping areas, stating, "Come rain or shine, you will all go home having had a fantastic forest adventure." One thing it doesn't mention, though, is the forest's demon child of mischief and nightmares with "coal-black pits for eyes" that lures people to "potentially dangerous situations," as HuffPost says.

One dog-walking couple in 2014 stated coming across a giggling girl, "no taller than one meter in height [who] appeared as if out of nowhere further up the path in front of us. We stopped dead in our tracks after noticing her eyes had no color. Her head was tilted to the side in much the same way it would appear if she had been hung." Another report in an area known for sightings, Birches Valley, describes a mother and daughter chasing after the sounds of a screaming girl. They came across a girl "no more than 10 years old, with her hands over her eyes, like she was waiting for a birthday cake" who lowered her hands to reveal "eyes completely black, no iris, no white, nothing," and vanished.

Decades of paranormal encounters and an actual child murderer

"Paranormal investigator" and author of 2013's UFOs Werewolves & The Pig-Man: Exposing England's Strangest Location – Cannock Chase Lee Brickley describes the black-eyed girl sightings as "standard spectral encounter[s]" of "some kind of demon." As of 2014, he'd followed up on nine claims of black-eyed child encounters over the course of the preceding two years. His own aunt, in fact, in 1982 was among an earlier generation of those who claimed similar encounters, before a 30-or-so year hiatus in sightings. On one hand, the girl has been described as wearing "Victorian" clothing, and on the other hand the stories are said to have been inspired by the Raymond Morris child killings in the 1960s, explained by the BBC, which happened in the Cannock Chase area.

In fact, Cannock Chase is well-known for being saturated with ghostly goings-on, as the map of paranormal paraphernalia on the Shropshire Star depicts. We've got werewolves, UFOs, a "pig man" in the 1940s, an alien pushing a car up a hill in 1960, the specter of the "First Marquis of Anglesey," an old-man-with-a-cane-and-wide-brimmed-hat ghost, a "bedraggled woman" ghost, a ghostly parachutist, a phantom cyclist, a young monk ghost, a "tall cowled figure" near a cemetery, a witch's coven back in 1936, "ancient earthwork haunted by a demon or evil spirit" at Shugborough, and a black panther (not the regal, vibranium-wearing kind). All in all, to be prepared, you'd better head to Cannock Chase toting your ghost-hunting gear