Fact Check

Is This a Real Pic of Tom Hanks with Gayle King and Oprah as Part of a 'Black Eye Club'?

Conspiracy theorists including QAnon have connected celebrities with black eyes to the Illuminati and sex-trafficking cults.

Published July 17, 2023

 (Screenshot via Instagram/Oprah)
Image Via Screenshot via Instagram/Oprah
A real photograph shows Tom Hanks with a black eye, standing between Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, showing he is part of a "Black Eye Club."

The photograph is authentic and was taken by Oprah Winfrey when she and Gayle King went to see Tom Hanks perform in a play. However, it is not clear that Hanks is sporting a real black eye in the image, and it is not evidence any of them are part of a “Black Eye Club.”

Since at least 2019, a photograph featuring Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, and Gayle King has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories. The photo shows Hanks standing between the two women, holding a sign saying, "I am not allowed to talk!" 

Many conspiracy theorists have claimed that Hanks was sporting what appeared to be a black eye in the photograph, proving that he is part of a so-called "Black Eye Club." 

The "Black Eye Club" is an online conspiracy theory popular on TikTok that claims celebrities and politicians are getting black eyes during strange initiation rituals they must undergo to get into the "Illuminati." Various posts argue that the rituals include humiliation and enduring pain in a quest to become more powerful. Some versions of the theory note that it is the left eye that tends to be bruised, indicating some kind of pattern. 

Some routinely connect QAnon theories to pictures of famous people with black eyes, arguing that these injuries are a result of "adrenochrome injections." QAnon conspiracy theorists have long asserted that child traffickers "harvest" children for their blood, which purportedly contains a life-giving substance called adrenochrome, which is prized by the wealthy and powerful around the world.

However, the above photograph is not an indication that Hanks, Winfrey, and King are part of any kind of "Black Eye Club." 

The photograph is real, however. It was uploaded to Winfrey's official Instagram account in 2013 when she and King went to see Hanks perform in a play. The play was titled "Lucky Guy," and Hanks played tabloid journalist Mike McAlary in his Broadway debut. The caption of the Instagram post read, "Just saw LUCKY GUY . @TomHanks and whole cast Reeaaaaly great!. Wish I was a Tony voter." 

It is not clear if Hanks is actually sporting a black eye in the image. The lighting in the image showed the left side of his face as darker, which is not evidence that he had an injury over his eye. However, during the play, his character is in a car crash, at which point it is possible he wore some eye makeup.

Regardless, footage from other parts of the play shows him performing without any black eye. 

This did not stop a commenter from posting "What happened to Tom's left eye?" under the photo. 

Online commentators attempted to connect the photograph to a range of conspiracy theories, including the "Red Shoe Club," "Pizzagate," and more. 

Since the photograph is real but not an indication of membership in a "Black Eye Club," nor is it certain that Hanks sported a real black eye in it, we rate this photograph as Miscaptioned. 


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Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.