The Men In Black is now a motion picture experience, but eyewitness accounts of these shadowy figures have been documented for 50 years, and they have become as integral to UFO lore as the Philadelphia Experiment, Roswell, Area 51 and crop circles. Aptly described as "sartorial agents of silence", they are believed to move in groups of two or three. They wear black suits and ties, travel in similarly coloured Cadillac's and turn up at the houses of those who claim to have seen UFOs. They will warn these witnesses not to pursue their. investigations.
They may confiscate any "evidence" that the "contacted might have collected. They seem to have telepathic powers, they are uncannily well informed, and give the impression that they work for the government - although US intelligence agencies have denied all knowledge of them. They are born of the same kind of paranoia that underpins sightings of flying saucers and claims of extraterrestrial abduction. The most common post Roswell stories are victims losing several hours of their lives, oftcll after witnessing a blinding light, and for years afterwards suffering recurring nightmares about being experimented on by aliens.
Just as the stories of abductions and close encounters are remarkably alike, so the stories arriving from different corners of the world about The Men In Black are uniform in content. And they go back almost as far as the first recorded UFO sighting, in 1947, when a pilot named Kenneth Arnold spotted a group of shimmering discs hovering over Mount Rainier in Washington. Almost immediately afterwards came the "Maury Island Incident" in which a man named Harold Dahl claimed he had seen some flying doughnut-shaped objects, one of which had dropped a lump of metal on his dog's head. Dahl said he had then had breakfast with a stranger wearing a black suit who drove a 1947 Buick Sedan and warned him to keep silent. The Maury Island Incident was later reported to be a hoax. Genuine or otherwise, this didn't deter The Men In Black, who pursued a tight schedule for the next 50 years. Albert K Bender, for instance, director of a research group entitled the International Flying Saucer Bureau, abruptly announced his retirement following a visit by three men with eyes that shone like flashbulbs. "If we hear another word from your of fine, you're in trouble," they warned him. Several years later, in 1968, Bender published a book in which he explained The Men In Black in more detail: they were, he claimed, from somewhere called Kazik; he had visited their spaceship in Antarctica; they had told him that their agents had infiltrated the Pentagon.
In 1971, UFO author Timothy Green Beckley published a pamphlet entitled MIB - Aliens Among us, in which he revealed a US Air Force memorandum apparently written by one Lt Gen Wheless. It warned military personnel to be on the alert for people impersonating air force of fixers, describing a person in a USAF uniform who "approached local police and other citizens who had sighted a UFO". Apparently, this shadowy figure assembled them and told them that they had not seen what they thought they had seen. Nor should they talk to anyone about their imagined sighting. As would be expected, sightings of The Men In Black were documented throughout the Sixties and Seventies when the fashionable nihilism spawned by the Vietnam war, nuclear threat and the arms race gradually mutated into academic orthodoxy. In an atmosphere dominated by Cold War paranoia, assassinations and Watergate, every conspiracy theory gained validity. One of the most interesting and most detailed descriptions of a Man In Black was given in 1976. Dr Herbert Hopkins, a psychiatrist based in Maine, had no previous link with this field, except that he had been treating a youth who claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Here is an abbreviated account of the whole episode, as Hopkins told it to UFO Review:
"I was alone in the
house. The telephone rang and the voice on the other end identified itself
as a member of a New Jersey UFO research organization. I agreed that he
could talk with me about the abduction case. He said that he would be
right over. I walked from the telephone in the hallway to turn on a light
and the man was already coming up the stairs. If he was as close as across
the street, or even next door, he couldn't have possibly gotten here so
soon. "His attire struck me as a little odd. He wore a neatly
tailored black suit, black shoes, black socks, and a black tie. He also
wore a black Derby. I thought, 'God, this man looks like an undertaker.'
"We sat down and I said to myself, 'This character is as bald as an
egg.' He didn't have any eyebrows or eyelashes and his skin was a dead
white colour. His nose was very small and it came down to just above the
upper lip. His lips were ruby red. "He had the appearance of a
clothing store dummy. His sump looked as if it had never been worn before.
He spoke flawlessly English with no accent, completely neuter, like you
would get from a machine that could talk."He was wearing gloves. They
looked like grey suede. He 5 brushed his lips with the glove, and when he
put his hand downy the back of his glove was bright red. I said to myself;
'This guy is wearing lipstick.' Then I could see that his mouth was
perfectly straight. He did not have what we call lips, so the lipstick was
there as some sort of decoy. "He could apparently read my mind. He
told me I had two coins in my left pocket, which I happened to know for a
fact. "He asked me to hold a bright new copper penny up in my
fingers, and he made it disappear in a bright blue light. I didn't smell
or feel anything. I was just fascinated at that point. "I got a
little uneasy when he ordered me to destroy the tapes and any other
correspondence and anything to do with UFOs. He said that if I didn't do
so I would suffer the same fate as Barney Hill" [a renowned
'contactee who had died under mysterious circumstances]. "I truly
believe that this individual was from another planet. He is not an
invader. I don't think so anyway. But I do feel he, and others like him,
are around, nosing about..."
The nature of these visitations has changed little in the past ten years, and stories still abound about peculiar interrogations conducted by men who, rather scarily, look like Bryan Ferry. In 1985, a report emerged from Venezuela in which two doctors claimed that they had seen two men wearing black suits and shades emerge from a magenta Ford Mustang and then climb up a ladder into a UFO. Nine years later, Mike Lonzo, a researcher n Pennsylvania, visited an old woman who told him that she had been approached by two individuals wearing black dinner jackets. They demanded she give them a black stone that was in her back Fyard because it had the power to destroy the world. She complied. Then they asked her out to dinner in a restaurant in Pittsburgh. Testis urzu, testis rullis. Everyone from Hawking to Asimov has had their say. We have been offered humanoids and reptoids, angel hair and hoaxes, interdimensional gateways and autopsies. The result is a virtual truth, so out there no one knows what is real. Eyewitness accounts of abductions and interplanetary travel have been indistinguishable from the parallel universe presented by screen writers from The Day The Earth Stood Still in 1950. In 2001A Spare Odyssey, an astronaut is transformed into a hybrid that is half man, half alien - a fantastic idea you may think, and one that could only exist in science fiction. But in America, Jenny Randles has published Star Children - "the stories of people who believe they are the offspring of aliens and humans". The Men in Black, chic and scary, are still an unexplained phenomenon. Psychiatrists may throw out phrases such as "fantasy prone personalities", "disassociative states", and "constructive perception"; debunkers will do their work and describe rational causes; but no one has pinned down The Men In Black and, consequently, disparate suppositions have been spawned in this arena of strange perceptions.
Theorists who affiliate UFOs not so much with outer space as with the paranormal suggest that The MIB are a form of demonic psychic energy similar to the poltergeist. Some have said that The Men in Black were linked to a branch of the US Air Force Special Activities Centre known as the 1127th Field Activities Group, which was said to comprise a group of underworld figures who were specialists in lock-picking and intimidation. Others argue that The Men in Black were Tibetan monks who followed the Dalai Lama and the Khamba riders into exile, and placed their yogic powers at the service of the CIA. This could help to explain why many reports of MIB describe their features as Asian. John Keel, a leading UFO investigator, has pointed out that, "a large proportion of the available UFO literature is based on hearsay and speculation. Many of the real and important problems have been suppressed at the source by the witnesses themselves or have been ignored by superficial investigations which concentrate on obtaining descriptions of the objects rather than studying all the events and factors surrounding the sightings.
"Many of the aspects which have preoccupied UFOlogists for years have proved to be misleading or have failed to contribute to a better understanding of the whole. The UFOs represent only a small part of a much larger phenomenon which is now occurring on a worldwide scale. By being more thorough and objective in our investigations we can - and will - learn more about the main phenomenon itself." But objectivity holds little sway in a land where meta-logic makes faith and pseudo-science gives rise to all manner of extraterrestrial hypotheses. You could put it all down to protean psychoid phenomena. Or you could simply agree that everyone loves a good story.