Submitted by Linda Murphy
"MONSTERS: Giants and Little Men From Mars"
DELL Publications (paperback) (C) 1975
Written by: Daniel Cohen
Chapter 10 "The Men in Black and Other Terrors"
When the Condon Committee was sampling public attitudes toward UFOs they gave
this statement to a cross section of the American Public: A government agency
maintains a Top Secret file of UFO reports that are deliberately withheld from
The respondents were supposed to answer TRUE or FALSE. A
substantial majority, sixty-one percent, thought that the statement was true
while only thirty-one percent said it was false. Among teenagers, the
credibility gap was even wider -- 73 percent believed the statement to be
General opinion studies conducted by the Condon Committee, and other surveys
about UFO's came up with the rather paradoxal fact that there were more people
who believed in a conspiracy of silence about UFOs than believed in UFOs in the
It has often been said that we Americans today are a bit paranoid; that we
always tend to believe that something is out to get us, or something is being
kept from us. It certainly seems that we were a bit paranoid about UFOs.
Most people thought vaguely in terms of an Air Force conspiracy or a CIA
conspiracy or even of a world-wide scientific conspiracy. It was generally
acknowledged that the reason behind such a conspiracy was a desire on the part
of those in power to hide the "truth" fro the public because people would panic
if they knew that we really were being visit by superior creatures from another
Conspiracy theorists constantly harkened back to the old "War of the
Worlds" broadcast, and the panic it started.
Such a belief, however, is rather too simple for the true connoisseur of
conspiracies. He has long ago rejected the simple, straightforward Air Force -
CIA - science establishment - cover-up as too obvious, and really rather
The conspiracy connoisseur pointed out quite correctly that no
government or group, no matter how powerful, could possibly suppress so much
sensational information for so long -- no earthly group that is.
If the extraterrestrials WANTED to make themselves known then they would land
in a central place, and all the feeble earthly cover-up would simply be blown
It is out of this sort of background that the legend of the Men in Black
arose. It concerns strange little men in dark suits who drive around in big
shiny cars and harass people who claimed to have seen a UFO.
The origin of the Men in Black legend can be pin-pointed fairly exactly. Back
in 1953 a man by the name of Albert K. Bender was running an organization
called the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB) and editing a little
publication called "Space Review" that was dedicated to news of flying
The IFSB had a small membership despite its rather grandiose title, and "Space
Review" reached at best, no more than a few hundred readers. But they were all
deeply devoted to the idea that flying saucers were craft from outer space.
common with other true believers, these saucer buffs were convinced that they
were in possession of a great truth, while most of the rest of the world
remained in darkness and ignorance.
They felt very important , and thus it was
with a sense of surprise, even shock, that they opened up the October 1953
issue of "Space Review" and found two unexpected announcements:
"LATE BULLETIN. A source which the IFSB considers very reliable has informed
us that the investigation of the flying saucer mystery and the solution is
approaching its final stages."
"This same source to whom we had referred data, which had come into our
possession, suggested that it was not the proper method and time to publish the
data in 'Space Review'."
The second and more shocking item read:
"STATEMENT OF IMPORTANCE: The mystery of the flying saucers is no longer a
mystery. The source is already known, but any information about this is being
withheld by order from a higher source. We would like to print the full story
in "Space Review", but because of the nature of the information we are very
sorry that we have been advised in the negative."
The statement ended with the ominous sentence, "We advice those engaged in
saucer work to please be very cautious." Bender then suspended the publication
of "Space Review", and dissolved the IFSB.
The tone of the announcements would have been familiar to anyone who had much
experience with occult organizations. Occultists often claim they are in the
possession of some great secret which, for equally secret reasons, they cannot
Even the appeal, "please be very cautious" was not unique. It made
those engaged in "saucer work" feel more important . After all, who is going to
bother to persecute you if you are just wasting your time?
Shortly after Bender closed down his magazine and organization he gave an
interview to a local paper which he asserted the he had been visited by "three
men wearing dark suits" who had order him "emphatically" to stop publishing
material about flying saucers.
Bender said that he had been "scared to death"
and that he "actually couldn't eat for a couple of days." Some of Bender's
former associates tried to press for a more satisfactory explanation, but to
all questions he replied either cryptically or not at all.
This state of affairs created considerable confusions among the flying saucer
buffs. What were they to think about such a strange story> Some were openly
skeptical of Bender's tale.
They said that his publication and organization
were losing money and the tale of the three visitors who "ordered" him to stop
publishing was just a face-saving gesture. Yet, as the years went by the "three
Men in Black" began to sound more respectable and they took on a life of their
Some were Bender's friends first thought that the Men in Black were from
Air Force or the CIA, and indeed Bender's original statements do seem to sound
like government agents. But after a while the Men in Black begun to assume a
more extraterrestrial, even supernatural air.
Finally in 1963, a full decade after he first told of his mysterious visitors,
Alber Bender elaborated further in a book called "Flying Saucers and the Three
Men in Black." It was a strange, confused and virtually unreadable book that
revealed very little in the way of hard facts, but did significantly enhance
the reputation of the Men in Black as extraterrestrials.
The book also
introduced into the lore "three beautiful women, dressed in tight white
uniforms." Like their male counterparts in black, the women in white had
But even before the publication of Bender's book in 1963, the Men in Black (or
MIBSs as they are know to insiders) had already been reported to be vising
others besides Albert Bender.
By now they have been reported so often that they
have become an established part of the UFO history. The Men in Black, naturally
enough, wear black suits. They also usually wear sunglasses, presumably to
disguise their "glowing eyes". Most of them are reported to be short and
delicately built with olive complexions and dark, straight hair.
They are often
described as "Gypsies" or "Orientals". Most MIBS are reported to travel in
groups of three and usually ride around in shiny new black cars -- often
Cadillacs. These cars are even supposed to "smell new." Sometimes the MIBs pose
as investigators from the CIA or some other government agency.
They may flash
official-looking credentials, but these can never be checked out. Occasionally
the MIBs display badges with strange emblems on them, or have unrecognizable
symbols painted on their cars. The purpose of the visits seems to be to get
people who have seen UFOs to stop talking about them, or somehow to confuse and
frighten the witnesses.
People who worry about MIBs tend to lump all sorts of mysterious visitors into
the category, even if they don't wear black, have glowing eyes or show any of
the familiar MIB characteristics.
The primary qualification for the Men in
Black is that they be of unknown origin, and that they appear to act oddly and
Some of those who write about UFO's and other strange phenomena rather casually
mention "countless" cases where people have been visited by Men in Black. In
reality these "countless" cases are difficult to pin down.
In fact, there
really seems to be a rather small number of MIB cases where there are any
details available at all.
The impression given by the writers is that the publicized cases represent only
"the tip of the iceberg." Beyond these, say the writers, are many "more
sensational" cases, the details of which cannot be revealed for a variety of
In any event solid evidence for a vast number of MIB cases is lacking.
But we are, after all, dealing with beliefs as much as with reality, and
impression is an important one.
Often the MIB cases that we know of are not quite as sensational as Albert
Bender's three visitors, but they are unsettling nevertheless. Take the case of
California highway inspector Rex Heflin.
On August 3, 1965, Heflin claimed to
have taken a series of Polaroid photos of a UFO from his car while parked near
the Santa Ana Freeway.
The pictures were quite clear and they showed an object
shaped rather like a straw hat apparently floating above the ground. These
pictures got a great deal of publicity, and are still among the most recently
reprinted UFO photos.
Heflin's story was investigated by the Air Force shortly
after it became known. It was also looked into by investigators for the Condon
Committee during their inquiry.
(The committee investigator produced a pretty
fair imitation of the photos by suspending the lens cap of his camera in front
of his car with a thread and photograph it through the car window). In
addition, a host of unofficial UFO groups tackled the case in their own way.
There was considerable suspicion on the part of official investigators that the
photos had been faked, but this was difficult to prove or disprove without the
original prints. Being Polaroid photos there were no negative.
Heflin said that he had turned over three of the four originals to a man (or
two men, the stories differ) who claimed that he represented the North American
Air Defense Command (NORAD).
NORAD denied that they had ever sent out an
investigator or indeed that they had the slightest interest in the photos. The
mysterious person who is alleged to have taken the photos has never been
On October 11, 1967, over two years after Heflin's original sighting, but while
the Condon investigation was going on, Heflin reported another encounter with
mysterious visitors. A man who said that he was Captain C. H. Edmonds of the
Space Systems Division, Systems Command, a unit of the Air Force that had been
involved in the first investigation of his UFO photos, came to his home.
the interview the man who called himself Captain Edmonds asked Heflin if he
wanted his original photos back. When Heflin said no, the man was "visibly
relieved." Inexplicably, the man then began discussing the Bermuda Triangle.
This is an area near the island of Bermuda where a number of mysterious
disappearances of airplanes and shops have been reported. These disappearances
have been linked by some to UFOs, though the connection does not seem very
While this strange interview was going on Heflin said that he saw a car parked
in the street. It had some sort of lettering on the front door but he could not
make it out. To quote the Condon Report description of the incident, "In the
back seat could be seen a figure and a violet (not blue) glow, which the
witness attributed to instrument dials.
He believed he was being photographed
or recorded. In the meantime his FM multiplex radio was playing in the living
room and during the questioning it made several loud audible pops." All
attempts by the Air Force, various civilian researchers and the Condon
Committee itself to find "Captain C. H. Edmonds" failed. As far as can be
determined, no such person has ever existed.
A much more bizarre story was supposedly told by an unnamed family who had
sighted a UFO. Sometime after the sighting they said that they were visited by
a very strange individual. Ivan Sanderson, who reported the incident in his
book "Uninvited Visitors", described the individual thus:
"... almost seven feet tall, with a small head, dead white skin, enormous frame,
but pipe stem limbs." This oddity said he was an insurance investigator and
that he was looking for someone who had the same name as the husband of this
He indicated that the man he was looking for had inherited a great deal
of money. Continued Sanderson, "This weird individual just appeared out of the
night wearing a strange fur hat with a vizor and only a light jacket.
flashed an official-looking card on entry but put it away immediately. Late on
when he removed his jacket he disclosed an official looking gold shield on his
shirt which he instantly covered with his hand and removed."
The strange visitor asked some personal questions about the family, but nothing
at all about the UFOs. The creepiest part of the whole affair came when the
eldest daughter of the family notices that the "investigator's" tight pants had
ridden up his skinny leg, and she saw a green wire running out of his sock, up
his leg and into his flesh at two points.
After the interview the
"investigator" got into a large black car which contained at least two other
persons, and seemed to appear on an old dirt road that led from the woods. The
car drove off into the night with its headlights off.
In addition to scaring and intimidating people, visits of MIBs are also
supposed to produce a variety of unpleasant physical symptoms. Bender said he
suffered from headaches, lapses of memory and was plagued by strange odors
following the first visit of the Men in Black.
Others who say they have had
similar visitations have made similar complaints.
Another eerie thing attributed to MIB types, it the ability to look like anyone
they want to. Some UFO researchers claim that MIBs have bee posing as THEM in
order to silence potential witnesses. John Keel, who has written a number of
UFO books, said that he had encountered people who refused to believe that he
was who he said he was.
"Later contactees (those who say the are somehow or
another in contact with the space people) began to whisper to local UFO
investigators that the real John Keel had been kidnaped by a flying saucer and
that a cunning android who looked just like me had been substituted in my
place. Incredible though it may sound, this was taken very seriously, and later
even some of my more rational correspondents admitted that they carefully
compared the signatures on my current letters with pre-rumor letters they had
As we said earlier, each era tries to explain strange encounters in terms of
its own system of beliefs. I have been struck by the similarity of some of
these MIB cases with medieval tales of encounters with the devil or some of his
The devil, for example, was very often described as a man dressed in
black. The ability to change shape and appear in any form was commonly
attributed to demons, who were able to take the shape of a victim's friends and
neighbors and even assume the likeness of angels and saints.
Many of those who
said that they had met the devil complained of the same range of physical
symptoms reported by those who encountered the MIBs.
The shiny new cars associated with MIBs is reminiscent of the Haitian belief in
an evil society of sorcerers called "zobops." Haitians say that if you see a
big new car going along the road without a driver is under control of the
"zobops", and you had better not try to interfere with it.
Now, I am not trying to imply that the MIBS are agents of the devil, or vice
versa, anymore then I would try to say that the little green men from Mars were
really the fairy folk of past generations.
It is just that our visions and
fears often remain the same over the ages, and only our explanations for them
Of course, encounters with the devil during the Middle Ages were generally more
frightening and overpowering experiences than current experiences with MIBs.
Everybody believed in the devil, while today everybody does not believe in the
creatures from outer space.
Medieval society took devil stories in dead
earnest, and anyone who made such a report might find himself facing a painful
death at the stake. The worst one can expect from reporting an MIB encounter is
a certain amount of disbelief and ridicule. In general, MIB tales are
considered too bizarre even to be reported in local newspapers.
published only in magazines and books put out for and by UFO enthusiasts.
Usually such publications are privately printed and are read by only a few
hundred. A few book, however, have been issued by major publishers and have
reached a far wider audience.
These cases are also occasionally discussed on
radio and TV talk shows, so the information gets around more widely than one
might think. A lot of people of heard of "something" about MIBS without really
knowing any of the details.
There is one incident which bared certain similarities to the traditional MIB
case that did receive very wide publicity. This is the story of the "kidnaping"
of Betty and Barney Hill. While most of the MIB cases do not appear directly to
involve a UFO, this one does.
The couple was driving to their home in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from Canada on the night of September 19, 1961. They
were on an isolated stretch of road when they spotted what they thought was a
flying saucer above them.
The followed two completely blank hours in their
lives. They could remember nothing from the time they saw the UFO until a time
two hours later when they found themselves in their car several miles down the
road from where they had seen the UFO.
For months after this experience both of
the Hills suffered from severe psychological distress. Finally they consulted a
psychiatrist, who hypnotized them, and under hypnosis the Hills revealed a
strange story of being kidnaped and taken aboard a flying saucer.
The Hills didn't rush out and try to get publicity about their experience or
write a book about it. In fact, they were remarkably quiet. But the incident
did ultimately come to the attention of author John Fuller, who had already
written an extremely popular UFO book.
With the co-operation of the Hills and
of their psychiatrist, Fuller produced another best seller, "The Interrupted
Journey", which was first serialized in the now defunct Look magazine.
Though the book is carefully hedged with qualifications that the experience
described might be a hallucination or a dream rather than a "totally real and
true experience," the distinct impression left by "The Interrupted Journey" on
thousands of readers was that the experience was a "totally real and true" one.
The people or entities that were supposed to be controlling the spaceship that
kidnaped the Hills can be squeezed into the Men in Black lore. Barney Hill
described on of his captors as looking like "a red-headed Irishman," hardly an
MIB type. But another wore "a shiny black coat," with a black scarf thrown
about his neck.
Under hypnosis Hill drew a picture of "the leader" of his abductors. It is a
strange insect-like face with a wide, thin mouth and huge slanting eyes that
seem to go halfway around the creature's head. The eyes were the most
frightening part of the saucer inhabitant's strange physiognomy.
Once during a
hypnotic session with the psychiatrist Barney Hill cried out in terror, "Oh,
those eyes! They're in my brain!" Glowing eyes, you will recall, are considered
one of the key characteristics of the typical Man in Black.
Unlike many of the books written by or about people who say that they had
encountered the inhabitants of UFOs, "The Interrupted Journey" carries real
conviction. One gets the feeling that the Hills and Fuller are intelligent,
sincere and sane people who really believe that what they described is what
actually did happen.
So this idea was planted in the minds of thousands of readers of "the
Interrupted Journey": UFO's can land, the extraterrestrials can kidnap ordinary
people, subject them to a degrading and almost brutal examination and then wipe
all memory of the incident from their minds, leaving behind only an unexplained
sense of anxiety bordering on panic.
Well, what does all of this mean? Are we being invaded by some weird bunch of
extraterrestrials who have, in the words of the old "Shadow" radio show, "the
power to cloud men's minds"? Frankly the evidence does not support such an
Are all the stories hoaxes and hallucinations? Psychiatrists could certainly
have a field day with many of these accounts. Symptoms such as loss of memory,
severe anxiety and other unpleasant reactions strongly suggest that many of
those who report such experiences are in a disturbed psychological state,
though they would claim the disturbance was caused by the encounter with the
In any event they do not make the most reliable of witnesses.
Some of the other stories are almost certainly sheer fiction, made up either by
some practical joker or by a writer of sensational books.
Whether all the stories are real or unreal is not a question that we can answer
conclusively here. The point is that we Americans are building a mythology for
ourselves, just as the Europeans did with their tales of dragons, ogres and
elves, and just as all people have done in all parts of the world in all ages.
We have often prided ourselves on being a practical hardheaded, no-nonsense
sort of people who were immune to the irrational fears an superstitious notions
of less clear-sighted and realistic folk.
This proposition is demonstrably
untrue. And perhaps we are better off for it. Our monsters, our space people,
even if they don't exist, if indeed they are rather silly, also make life more
interesting and exciting.
written by Linda Murphy