By day the forest of Cannock Chase is a place for families to explore the wilderness. Featuring biking and hiking trails throughout the thick woodlands, a lake, and host to special family-friendly events year-round, it is without a doubt one of the most spectacular natural marvels within the UK.
In spite of the generally serene atmosphere, the area has been marred by tragedy throughout history. It is because of these tragedies that some say that once the sun goes down, the Cannock Chase forest becomes home to more than just adventure-seeking families.
The original story of the black-eyed kids, written by Brian Bethel, is perhaps one of the very first instances of an urban legend being created on the internet. Though Bethel may have been the first to report on the mysterious phenomena, to his surprise, shortly after he published the story dozens of people wrote to him to tell him that they had similar experiences with these particularly creepy children.
Are they the ghosts of children who have passed or are they demons taking on a child-like image? For those who believe in such things, no one is really certain. What is known is that sightings of the black-eyed kids have been reported all over the world, including within Cannock Chase, where a number of particularly heinous murders had taken place during the 1960s.
Margaret Reynolds was only 6-years-old when she turned up missing in September of 1965. She was last seen walking to school in the Birmingham suburb of Aston. When she never returned home that night her family feared the worst.
Three months had passed and still there was no trace of the little Reynolds girl when a second girl, Diane Tift, had also seemed to vanish into thin air. Diane had been walking back to her house from her grandmother’s home in Bromwich. She was only 5-years-old at the time of her abduction.
It would be nearly another month before either families would get the news they had been simultaneously dreading and hoping for. Within the underbrush of the Cannock Chase forest a worker in the area had spotted a tiny body. The girl had been stripped nude and pressed into the earth. Underneath her, a second corpse was uncovered. They were identified as Diane Tift and Margaret Reynolds.
In August of 1966 a third girl would turn up missing. 10-year-old Jane Taylor was out enjoying a bike ride near Cannock Chase. She was never seen again.
Around this same time two girls claimed that a man named Raymond Leslie Morris had led them to an apartment in Walsall. The girls alleged that they were taken into different rooms and Morris had both the girls undress. Due to discrepancies between both of the girls’ story, the case was dropped and Morris was allowed back on the streets.
For a while things calmed down within the area. It wouldn’t be until a year later that 7-year-old Christine Darby turned up missing, but unlike the other girls, the abductor got sloppy and there were plenty of witnesses around at the time.
On the day of Christine’s disappearance she had been playing with a group of friends in Walsall when a strange man pulled up along the curb and asked her for directions for Caldmore Green. Her playmates watched as Christine climbed into the car and the driver sped off. Her body was recovered five days later. The cause of death was ruled as suffocation.
A number of suspects were questioned in the case. Morris was of particular interest due to the allegations made against him the year prior. His wife insisted that he escorted her on a shopping trip the day Christine went missing and the case was dropped.
Several months later someone made an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap a fifth girl. A neighbor was able to see the vehicle and jot down the license plate after they witnessed a man try to take 10-year-old Margaret Aulton in Walsall. This information led investigators back to Raymond Leslie Morris.
Morris’ wife later redacted the story about Morris escorting her on a shopping trip on the day of Christine Darby’s disappearance. She admitted that she made up the story because she was afraid of him. With Morris’ only alibi set to testify against him his fate was sealed.
Morris was found guilty of the abduction and murder of Christine Darby in 1969. There was not enough evidence to convict Morris of the other murders in Cannock Chase, though investigators are fairly certain that Morris had committed those as well.
Many have claimed that since the murders people have spotted the spirits of young girls roaming through the forests of Cannock Chase. Later, those who have seen them claimed the girls had black eyes, like in the black-eyed kids legend that has since been a viral favorite.
With local legends of monsters and werewolves surrounding the grounds of Cannock Chase for years prior to the murders, is it possible one of these monsters had caught up with the three young girls? Or, more likely, maybe Raymond Leslie Morris was the only monster inhabiting Cannock Chase those 50 years ago.