At first glance, they look like perfectly ordinary first-graders scribbling feverishly on the blackboard, but there is something striking about the boy's deep blue eyes that suggests a maturity well beyond his years. Jake's in advanced classes and already reading at a third-grade level. Jan is the quiet one, but has a presence that immediately draws attention. Her predilection is toward art, though at the moment she is choosing to write math equations on the board, erasing them as soon as she's completed each of her computations.
Jake's mother is a teacher at this Baytown-area school, and worries that he may be ostracized by his peers if word ever gets out about his special gifts. "He questions everything because he wants to know," she says as her son draws a picture of a lollipop tree. "The questions he asks are not even age-appropriate."
These children tend to know things without ever being taught or told. Jake's companion Jan "can use a compound bow very well," says the girl's grandmother, Jill Spence. "She can shoot a BB gun; she goes fishing." It just came naturally to her, Spence says. She can't explain it.
They go by many names, such as Star Kids, Indigos or Crystalline Children. Whatever they're called, believers say this group of prodigies started appearing about 30 years ago and may now make up as much as 90 percent of the population under ten. They also exhibit strange side effects, like a higher resistance to pollutants but an increased sensitivity to sugar and food additives. These are babies born with an inherent knowledge of art, language and spirituality, possessing an impressive wealth of wisdom. Some will even go so far as to say these kids are not only prime candidates for the gifted and talented program, but the next step in human evolution.
Parents and those who study these children have been asking themselves why here? Why now? Theories about their origins range from spirits entering from other planes and dimensions to chosen ones delivered from heaven. Some even suggest aliens have been abducting and manipulating the DNA of these children and their parents to prepare us for when they make their presence known. The one thing all these groups do agree on is that the kids are out there, and they're coming to teach us a lesson.
The term Indigo Child was coined 17 years ago by Nancy Ann Tappe, a parapsychologist who developed a system for classifying people's personalities according to the hue of their auras, described in her 1982 book, Understanding Your Life Through Colors. According to her, auras have been entering and exiting Earth throughout history. For example, aura colors such as fuchsia and magenta disappeared from the gene pool 100 years ago (though she was recently shocked to find a fuchsia living in Palm Springs). It stood to reason that a new life color was about to make an appearance.
Tappe was unable to find the new color scheme until a baby was born with a heart murmur at a children's hospital in San Diego whom she recognized as being dark blue. The child died six weeks later, but more and more indigo-colored personalities began to appear in the '80s, and their numbers were clearly rising.
But it was the 1999 book The Indigo Children, by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober, that popularized the idea of the next generation. Carroll was an economics major who ran a technical audio business for 30 years until a visit to a psychic prompted a New Age midlife crisis. He found religion and started traveling around the world giving "self-help" seminars. Accompanying him was Tober, a practitioner of metaphysics and hands-on healing as well as a jazz singer who had toured with Benny Goodman and Fred Astaire. The genesis of the book came when they began noticing similar accounts of strange behavior in children from teachers, counselors and psychologists who attended their seminars. As they began to look into these occurrences, they found kids were indeed being born with an "unusual set of psychological attributes" and displaying "a pattern of behavior generally undocumented before." Using a collection of essays and interviews from experts in the field -- mostly counselors working in such New Age areas as Angel Therapy and alternative medicines -- the book focuses on raising an Indigo Child. Some of the main attributes they describe are a sense of "deserving to be here" and "knowing who they are," difficulty with authority, a dislike of activities that don't require creative thought and a feeling of royalty (and acting like it).
The peculiarities of Jake and Jan (their families asked that their real names not be used) were apparent from an early age. As a toddler, Jan sometimes spoke using her own language. Instead of "cookie," she would say "cookah" and refused to call a sandwich anything but a "phonic." Odder still, she didn't begin speaking until she was three years old. For Jake's part, he had trouble grasping the concept that he was not in charge. "He has to be told," Jake's mother says. "He doesn't think he needs permission." Spence noticed a similar idiosyncrasy in her granddaughter. "You have to coax her to do her homework," she says.
As proof of Jan's exceptional talent, her grandmother pulls out an example of her artwork, a crayon drawing of a rainbow, stick family and M-shaped birds flying in the sky. "Most all of her pictures are rainbows," Spence says, noticing a theme running throughout her work. She feels that must have something to do with Jan's ability to see auras. She also points out the plant Jan drew with watermelons, pears and other fruit growing on it. "God told her that was how plants were going to grow."
Jan doesn't quite agree. "I just made it up," she says. Like many Indigos, she's very shy about discussing her abilities. Once she has drawn for a few minutes, Jan feels comfortable enough to talk. She admits she feels she's different "when Satan tries to come in my head." Most of the time, she says, Satan tries to come in at night. (Indigos often receive their visions through dreams.) Jan shrugs when asked what sorts of information she receives, and continues to draw. She says she knows she's an Indigo because "my mother told me."
Jake found out he was an Indigo when his mother read a book on the subject. His mother's psychic recently told him he might even be higher than that, something called a Crystalline Child. "I think she was telling me so I could understand him better," she says. What he needs to do in this world, she says, is to learn to be human. "Once he can conquer that, then he can teach and he can heal, and that's the struggle." The hardest part about raising an Indigo, she says, is not getting the chance to be parents. She starts to recount one epiphany she had when her son realized some insects he caught had a mother and father.
"You said that," Jake objects. "You're the one who said it had a mother and father."
"I wasn't in your classroom," his mother says.
"You told me."
"He's always talking about God," Jake's mother continues. "But it's not questioning -- he knows." Yet she had never taken him to church. What's more, he remembers his past lives. "He's always talking about his other mother, his other fathers and siblings, and he'll tell you how they died," Jake's mother says. Just the other day, Jake said he didn't want to hurt her feelings, but that his other mother was prettier.
Jake runs into the school bathroom, slams and locks the door. "I'm not making fun of you," his mother calls after him. If she doesn't talk about him, she explains through the door using her most soothing voice, "there won't be other people who understand who you are, and who Jan is, and what it's like to try and help." After a few moments, she says that Jake probably feels she's betrayed his trust, since he doesn't want other people knowing about his gifts. "His teacher can't teach him. His speech teacher can't teach him. His occupational therapist can't teach him."
Jackie Brahm, a local "medical intuitive" who counsels Indigos, says it's not uncommon for their parents to have no control over them. Because they're so advanced, the kids don't feel like they have to obey. According to Brahm, this is why many Indigos get misdiagnosed as having ADD or ADHD. "They don't know how to process all the energy that's coming through, so they overload and react fairly badly to it."
Through her practice, Brahm has been able to hone her abilities for spotting these special children, and says she's been seeing an increasing number of them in public places. She found one three-year-old Indigo recently at a museum, critiquing one of the paintings on the wall. When the mother asked her how she could know, the girl explained that she used to be a "master." But when the mother asked if she would like to take up painting and demonstrate some of the abilities she learned in a past life, the girl thrust her hands on her hips, and said, "I told you, I was a master, I don't need to do it again."
"They do not agree with the way society runs things," Brahm explains. "They think we're kind of stupid, that we've screwed things up." Brahm says that behavioral problems usually lie with the parents. To help, Brahm suggests including the children in the decision-making process, even allowing them to determine the punishments they should receive for infractions.
Kevin Krull, an adjunct assistant professor who runs clinical research on cognitive deficits at Texas Children's Hospital, sees a potential danger in misdiagnosing kids as Indigo. Youngsters with ADD who are not treated, he says, can experience declines in IQ and academic performance, and they have an increased rate of drug use.
Though Krull admits there has been a recent increase in children's IQ scores, there are a number of explanations, such as greater access to computers, the way tests are administered, and better nutrition and education. In general, he hasn't noticed any peculiar trends among children other than a slight curvature in their spines due to the increased use of backpacks.
Krull agrees that teaching kids they are capable and special can be positive, as long as they are not taught they're better than anybody else. Giving a child too much leeway or too little guidance can cause problems because the last thing to develop in the brain is the ability for abstract reasoning and planning, he explains. Some people don't fully develop that until the age of 30, he says. "Children don't have the ability to take all of the knowledge of life into account." For that, they need parents to guide them.
Behavioral problems sometimes develop in children as a result of the unrealistic expectations of their parents. Krull has seen many parents complain that their kids aren't reaching their full potential because they're bored in school. But he says this is often because children might decide that not doing homework is better than doing their best and getting only average grades. They often become underachievers, rebel or internalize their frustrations until they become depressed. "Everybody's child is gifted according to every parent," Krull says. "But most are normal, unfortunately."
Back at the Baytown school, Jake finally wanders out of the bathroom and walks straight over to the chalkboard. "I'm just not going to talk to anyone anymore," he says. "My mom is lying." The reason he's upset, he says, is his mother broke her promise not to tell people his secrets. "Remember I told you I had a girlfriend?" he says. She told his best friend, after promising not to.
"As a parent, he's my biggest teacher," Jake's mother says. "We're not raising him. He's raising us."
If the older Indigos are any indication, the future of these children is very much in doubt. Spence's daughter, who was an Indigo, had Jan at the age of 15. Because of her daughter's problems with drugs and alcohol, Spence took over rearing Jan when she was only six weeks old. Brahm's son, who is one of the first Indigos, was at the head of his class until the ninth grade, when he began to feel like he couldn't continue functioning in normal society. He stopped participating in school and started to fail his classes, eventually turning to drugs and alcohol.
"He took 100 hits of acid and opened up the whole universe," Brahm explains. Now he's an auto mechanic with a wife and two Indigo kids. Though working on cars doesn't appear to be the career that will bring the human race to the next state of consciousness, Brahm now believes her son's main purpose was simply to bring her grandchildren, who are the real teachers. She admits that her son and daughter-in-law, a fundamentalist Christian, don't agree that he's an Indigo.
Jay Batten is the mother of a 19-year-old restaurant manager who also will not admit being an Indigo. "He's a football player," she says, suggesting he might fear it's too sissy to admit his true nature. Indigos are also highly susceptible to peer pressure. "Mostly he just thinks I'm strange," she says. She believes her 12-year-old daughter will be the real teacher.
Brahm says that when Indigos become teenagers, they often lose many of their abilities as they attempt to conform. Unless they're raised correctly, a lot of their spiritual knowledge is lost.
The main sanctuary for Indigos and their families is an eclectic store in Galveston called Janet's Planet, which sells everything from books and furniture to cats and crystals. Batten works in the store, and she and Brahm offer New Age classes there. Owner Janet Dee has been known to have a soft spot for homeless kids, whom she often lets hang out in the store. Almost all of them, she says, are Indigos. One homeless Indigo youth, William Wolf, has a lot of "bad energy," Dee says, and sometimes he has to be asked to leave the Planet. (She confirms she's referring to the store.) Wolf once told Dee that all "cats and Jews" should die. "I own cats, and my good friend is Jewish," Dee says. She has been doing her best to show Wolf a "more joyous path."
"One fucking negative thing appears in the Houston Press, and I will personally track you down and beat the living shit out of you," Wolf says before wandering off toward the back of the store.
"William's a little intense," says Justin English, a 19-year-old who frequents the shop.
"Justin's one of our Indigos," Dee explains.
"What's an Indigo?" English asks, though he seems to like the idea.
Many homeless Indigos do drugs and steal, Dee explains, because they just don't know how to adapt to society's strange, alien ways. Brahm recounts the time she counseled a little Indigo boy who wanted to shoot people because he didn't think anyone could stop him. Brahm explained to him that yes, he could shoot people, but he'd be put in jail. "They don't put little kids in jail," the boy said, but Brahm told him that oh, yes, they do. As long as they understand there's a consequence for everything they do, Brahm explains, they behave. Just be careful to phrase it as an explanation, not an order.
Not all Indigos have such a rough time. Rachel Stegall is 26 years old with a bachelor's degree in marine biology and works in a lab at University of Texas Medical Branch. With Brahm's help, she discovered that she was one of the early Indigos. "I always felt I was different," she says. "I always felt more comfortable in nature than with people." She always had a fascination with things from the past, particularly medieval weapons, and yearned to return to the Middle Ages because she wanted to "remember someplace that was happy." She also loved to collect crystals, stones and fossils, and without anyone having to tell her, she instinctually knew that if she put the stones on her cat while it was purring, the vibrations would heal bones. "I always knew I had knowledge I didn't have," she says. "I'm starting to let it fill in."
Discovering she was an Indigo made everything seem to fall into place. "It makes me believe in myself more," she says. Last summer during a boat trip to the Amazon, she decided her purpose was to teach people about protecting whales and the tropical rain forest.
If there's a message she could pass on to other Indigos, it would be that it's "okay to be who you are and to do what you are here to do. That you have a purpose."
As to whether an alien intelligence is behind these unusual children, everyone involved is much more coy. "Nobody really knows," Batten says. "This is a really interesting question."
"I'm guessing maybe alien," Jake's mother says. Brahm might have mentioned something about her son coming from the planet Pleiades. "I don't know. I don't understand all of that."
"I don't know where souls come from. I don't remember," Brahm says, but she will say there are "six places on my genes that are not technically human." Any chance of getting a look at some of that blood work? "I'm not letting them take blood again. I will not become the object of investigation. I worked at a hospital. I know what they do."
The introduction to Carroll and Tober's book An Indigo Celebration, published last year, proclaims somewhat incredulously that readers of their first book "actually concluded that we were promoting the fact that these new children on Earth were space aliens!" A brief browse through their Indigo Children Web site certainly shows how people might have come to that conclusion.
There's a link to the sister site www.kryon.com that gives a better idea of the kind of self-help seminars Tober and Carroll are conducting. The site contains transcripts of messages channeled through Carroll from a higher being named Kryon. Carroll is credited as one of only nine channels in the world working "in the service of Kryon." Each channeling begins with the greeting "This is Kryon of Magnetic Service," directed to his followers, whom he refers to as Lightworkers. The messages contain instructions for communicating with spirit, healing and reaching the next "level." Carroll is also the author of several Kryon books, including Don't Think Like a Human.
A competing but similar proponent of the idea of highly evolved children is Richard Boylan, a retired social worker and hypnotherapist who works with what he calls Star Kids. He thinks the proponents of Indigos are noticing the same phenomenon but have taken it a bit too far with the New Age stuff. Boylan instead believes parents are being abducted by aliens and having their DNA manipulated to create enhanced offspring capable of telekinesis and ESP. He's seen absolute proof, but as so often happens in these cases, it's been locked away in some secret government lab. He doesn't suggest doing DNA tests on any Star Kids because any irregularities are so subtle that they can be recognized only by an expert. And as so often happens in these cases, the expert is dead of cancer. (Or was that really the cause of death?)
Some believers have integrated the competing theories by claiming Crystallines, Indigos and Star Kids are all different stages of evolution.
Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic magazine and author of Why People Believe Weird Things, says that aliens have become the newest popular religion, fulfilling many of the same needs. People turn to weird ideas, he says, because they want to believe in something that transcends the ordinary, gives certainty in an uncertain world, or helps them deal with their own mortality. "It comes with having a big cortex," Shermer says. Our brains are designed to find patterns, and sometimes we just connect dots that aren't there.
Comfort may be one of the things Spence has gotten from her belief in Indigos. Though she always believed in some form of metaphysics, what prompted her to seek out Brahm for a psychic reading was her brother's suicide. Brahm gave her some relief, doing a "clearing" of the house so that her brother's spirit would know it was okay to pass on. During their first meeting, Brahm informed Spence that her brother was probably an Indigo, which was why he had such problems dealing with our world. After hearing more about Spence's difficult daughter, Brahm determined that both Spence and Jan were probably Indigos as well. Brahm told Spence that her granddaughter had wanted to be raised by her all along, but had to "go through Mommy" because Spence couldn't have children anymore.
Shermer says psychics and healers can feed the human desire to reconcile with a loved one who has passed on, or can comfort someone by telling her that her raising her granddaughter was "meant to be." In the same way, parents believing that their child is an Indigo might fulfill their wish to have special, gifted kids. These groups tend to be intentionally vague about the specifics so that potential converts can find whatever might fill an emotional void in their lives. Although these ideas may provide peace of mind, Shermer doesn't buy the argument that they aren't harmful. "What's the harm in doing drugs to avoid reality?" he asks. In the end, it's always better to believe harsh truths rather than comfortable lies.
So if these kids don't necessarily do better in school, don't necessarily perform any better at work or live any happier lives, what is it about them that makes them "advanced"? What's the difference between an Indigo and some kid who just doesn't like to do homework or follow directions?
"If they seem to have a light in their eyes," Dee says.
"You just know," Spence says.
"I see how the kids turn around and either do what they're told or accept the punishment," Jake's mother says. "I'm around other kids all day long. They're so normal. They follow directions, they will conform, they will do what society expects them to -- they are kids. They do and talk and play. They don't question everything, they don't research everything." She doesn't know how to put it into words, she says, but it's really easy once you know how to recognize it. "You would have to live it to truly understand it."
Jan is still drawing trees and suns on the chalkboard, and erasing them as soon as they're finished. She is asked what she likes to do most in school. "To play," Jan answers.
"Tell them what you said you missed about kindergarten," Jake's mother says, wanting to demonstrate her child's remarkable gifts one last time.
Jake doesn't like first grade, he says, as he plays with a plastic dinosaur. What doesn't he like about it? "Um, um, um," he stutters. "Homework."
"What is it you liked about kindergarten?" his mother asks again.
"I was just a little kid, Mom," he snaps.
He liked all the playtime, she says, because it was unstructured and gave him the ability to learn at his advanced pace. During playtime, she says, he could study the things he wanted to, without being confined to the same rote assignments as the other children. It bores him, she explains, because he's so far beyond that.
"I didn't realize that first grade was going to be like this," Jake says, as he stares remorsefully down at his Tyrannosaurus. "I didn't know nobody gets to be kids."
Ah, the wisdom of children. Adults can always learn something from them. All they have to do is listen.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.
- Texas Threatens To Sue Resettlement Groups For Helping Syrian Refugees
- Rice Owls Win the Finale and Defeat Cynicism
- Ted Cruz and the Radical Anti-Abortion Movement