Children of the Damned (Perceptual Warfare 16)


An even closer match to the autism phenomenon than Autons & Body Snatchers would be English writer John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos, released the same year as Invasion of the Body Snatchers,  1957, and made into a (British) film, The Village of the Damned, in 1960. (I also saw the film as a child.) Both the book and the film tell the story of a small town in which all the women (including menopausal) mysteriously become pregnant. Nine months later they give birth to blue-eyed, shiny-skinned, blonde-haired children (in an apparent nod to the Hitler Youth and the Aryan übermensch). The children, who are found to be genetically different to their parents, are highly intelligent, meticulous, and cool and distant towards the residents of the village. They also have telepathic abilities with which they can control humans, and they bond together into a kind of group mind (one for the males and another for the females). It’s unclear in the film if the children are actively hostile towards humans or if they only wish to protect themselves. According to Wikipedia: “The Children want to migrate to a secure location, where they can live unharmed.” Instead, they are destroyed with a bomb in the film’s climax. The bomb is detonated by one of their teachers, in a class setting. In other words, a school massacre.[1]

A sequel, Children of the Damned, was released in 1963 that presented the children in a very different light to the first film. They are seen to be not alien, as first assumed, but humans evolutionarily advanced by a million years. In the film, the children decide that their presence on the planet is incompatible with humans, and sacrifice themselves.

“This story takes an opposite primary thematic direction from the original Village of the Damned [in which] almost all the children are portrayed as irredeemably ruthless non-human aliens who must be defeated. In Children of the Damned, the children are clearly implied instead to be Christ-like advanced humans, complete with ‘virgin births’ and the raising of the dead, and they are destroyed as a result of the average adults’ inability to rise above their backward paranoia. In the other stories, the alien children are ‘damned,’ i.e. ‘cursed beings,’ while in this version, it is the human race that is metaphorically ‘damned’ due to its inability to embrace its own (future) children. In addition, the children in other versions all result from an evident alien intervention upon a single village, while in this version they are drawn from natural events in diverse regions and races, thereby epitomizing all the children of the human race.” 

The second film was not based on any source material, and it seems in retrospect almost to have been meant as a corrective to the paranoia of the first film. (If so, it was ineffective; the film’s preview trailer presents the children as monstrously evil.) In passing, this was the time that autism —which was still medically diagnosed as “child schizophrenia” — was first coming into collective awareness in fictional forms: Philip K. Dick wrote Minority  Report, with its autistic “precogs, ” in 1956, and Martian Time-Slip, probably the first depiction of autism as extra-consensual perception in a science-fiction work, was published in 1964.[2] 1963 was also the year that the first X-Men comic was released. Written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby, The X-Men is about a group of “mutant” teenagers with “special abilities” due to their genetic differences to humans; because of “anti-mutant sentiment,” the group’s leader and telepath, Professor Xavier, creates a secret school to train the young mutants to use their powers for the benefit of humanity, hoping thereby to assuage those feelings. He is only partially successful, however, and a later storyline (begun in 1965) entails a political drive to eradicate mutants using mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels.

(cont’ tomorrow)

[1] The first ever school mass killing in the US, in 1927, was a bombing at Bath Township, Michigan, killing 38 elementary school children and six adults, and injuring at least 58 other people. In what would become a common feature of these incidents, the alleged perpetrator, school treasurer Andrew Kehoe, first killed his wife and committed suicide after bombing the school (using a final bomb on himself). According to Wikipedia, “It is the deadliest mass murder in a school in United States history. . . . The next four deadliest acts of mass murder in any type of school setting in the United States are the Virginia Tech massacre, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, University of Texas at Austin Bell Tower shooting, and Columbine High School massacre.”

[2] These years were also crucial in the development of computers and computer-linking networks, the early, early days of the Internet.


One thought on “Children of the Damned (Perceptual Warfare 16)

  1. Keyhoe … keyhole Imagine his sir name repeated and repeated. The register at school every morning when the mind and body is nervous and un awakened.



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