A look at the mysterious government agents said to intimidate those who witness flying saucers.
They inspired a Hollywood blockbuster starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. They inspired recurring characters on The X-Files. They inspired a comic book series. They fly in black helicopters and patrol in unmarked black sedans. They’re said to have harassed and threatened innocent citizens since the 1950s, and some believe they’re driving around your neighborhood right now. If you speak out about a UFO experience, some say you can expect a terrifying visit from these strange, black-clad men who may or may not work for the government. They are the Men in Black.
Strange visits from government agents have long been a part of UFO folklore; many stories feature alleged military men poking around the locale where a UFO was spotted, or even cautioning witnesses to remain quiet. But that’s only half of the Men in Black story. Those who appear at the front door of UFO witnesses late at night, and who intimidate, interrogate, and threaten them, are often described as having characteristics just a little bit outside the range of norm. Sometimes their skin is dark, sometimes unnaturally pale; sometimes their eyes are improbably colored, or their bodies devoid of hair; often their clothes and vehicles are reported as brand new and unused. Paranormal writer Robert Goerman has collected a number of such stories in his article Menace in Black:
Shearer managed a closer look at the face. There was no eyebrows or eyelashes, no signs of stubble. The caller acknowledged Shearer by name, and specified that they wanted to discuss his UFO sighting, giving exact date and time. Shearer was perplexed as to how they had gotten this information, but refused to let him in. Shearer asked to see some identification, but the visitor ignored him and repeatedly asked to come in. It was almost as if this character could only utter a limited selection of set phrases.
Two men in their twenties visited Richardson and questioned him briefly. They never identified themselves, and Richardson, to his own subsequent surprise, did not ask who they were. He noted that they left in a black 1953 Cadillac. The license number, when checked, had not yet been issued.
At 5:30 PM, there was a knock at the door. A representative of the “Missing Heirs Bureau” said that he was looking for an Edward Christiansen who had inherited a great deal of money. This investigator dressed in black and stood at least six-foot-six with an enormous frame, with thyroid eyes, dead white skin, and pipe-stem limbs. His shoes featured unusually thick rubber soles. Despite his size, the visitor spoke in a high “tinny” voice that issued in an emotionless monotone, in clipped phrases, “like a computer.”
The inquisitor’s too-short trousers had ridden up his skinny leg and… a thick green wire… came out of his sock and disappeared under his pants. The wire seemed to be indented into his leg at one point and was covered by a large brown spot… When the visitor left the house and reached the road, he gave a hand signal and a 1963 black Cadillac pulled alongside with its headlights out. The stranger climbed into the car and it drove off, its headlights still off.
Men in Black stories, though often told and retold, appear only as stories. Although many of the witnesses seem sincere enough, no Men in Black have ever been photographed, not even by remote security cameras, and none of the mysterious license plate numbers has ever been recorded. Of course, if they are as omniscient as the reports indicate, such beings would likely have the foreknowledge to avoid having their presence be documented. This makes the Men in Black phenomenon interesting, but it also puts the whole subject into the category of special pleading: By its very nature, no evidence can exist to support it. This leaves a skeptical investigation little to go on if we want to establish its validity.
But here at Skeptoid, we are not entirely without resources. By studying the secondary literature — basically, books that cite original accounts — we find that the first time the phrase “Men in Black” was used was in a 1956 nonfiction book called They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers, by UFO writer Gray Barker (1925-1984). The book purports to tell the true, dramatic story of a UFOlogist who had been threatened by government agents telling him to stop researching and writing about UFOs. It’s a startling book, and tells quite a gripping tale. Barker’s book became the seminal source for the Men in Black corner of UFO mythology. Since its publication, it’s been referenced by virtually every UFO author since who has discussed the subject. Moreover, to give a sense of Gray Barker’s influence among UFOlogists, he’s cited more than a dozen times in the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research‘s 1969 publication, UFOs and Related Subjects: An Annotated Bibliography.
Unfortunately, Barker was — if not an outright con artist — a wholesale fabricator.
- Skeptoid #351: Men in Black (skeptoid.com)
- $100,000 Reward for Proof of a UFO (EXCLUSIVE) (illuminutti.com)
- Maybes in Black: The Influence of “MIB Culture” (mysteriousuniverse.org)
- You’ve Been Saucer-Spied! (mysteriousuniverse.org)
- Spiritualism, UFOs & Men in Black ~ C2C (ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com)
- MEN IN BLACK ~ Documentary Film, Full Version (ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com)