AboutGray Barker (May 2nd 1925 - December 6th 1984) was an American writer best known for his books about UFOs and other paranormal phenomena. His 1956 book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers introduced the general notion of the Men In Black to UFO folklore. The term was later popularized by John Keel along with the shorthand "MIB".
Recent evidence indicates that Gray Barker was skeptical of UFO claims, and mainly wrote about the paranormal for financial gain. He launched and participated in hoaxes to deceive the more serious UFO investigators. Controversial as he may be, he is an undeniable part of UFO history and lore.
A native of Riffle, Braxton County, West Virginia, Barker graduated from Glenville State College in 1947. In 1952, he was working as a theater booker in Clarksburg, West Virginia when he began collecting stories about the Flatwoods Monster, reported by residents of nearby Braxton County. Barker submitted an article about the creature to FATE Magazine, and shortly afterwards began writing regular pieces about UFOs for Space Review, a magazine published by Albert K. Bender's International Flying Saucer Bureau.
In 1953, Albert K. Bender abruptly dissolved his organization, claiming that he could not continue writing about UFOs because of "orders from a higher source". After pressing Bender for more details, Barker wrote his first book, They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, which was published by University Books in 1956. The book was the first to describe the Men in Black, a group of mysterious figures who intimidate individuals into keeping silent about UFOs.
Barker recounted Bender's own alleged encounters with the Men in Black, who were said to travel in groups of three, wear black suits, and drive large black automobiles. In 1962, Barker and Bender collaborated on a second book on the topic, called Flying Saucers and the Three Men. Published under Barker's own imprint, Saucerian Books, this book proposed that the Men in Black were, themselves, extraterrestrials.
Over the next two decades, Barker continued writing books about UFOs and other paranormal phenomena. In 1970 he published a book loosely based on the Mothman case which he entitled The Silver Bridge. He then released a final book in 1982 about the Men In Black, called MIB: The Secret Terror Among Us. He passed away in 1984.
Opinions on the paranormal
Though his books advocated the existence of UFOs and extraterrestrials, Barker was privately skeptical of the paranormal. His sister Blanch explained that Barker only wrote the books for the money, and his friend James W. Moseley said Barker "pretty much took all of UFOlogy as a joke". In a letter to John C. Sherwood, who had submitted materials to Saucerian Books as a teenager, Barker referred to his paranormal writings as his "kookie books". Barker occasionally engaged in deliberate hoaxes to deceive UFO enthusiasts.
According to Sherwood's Skeptical Inquirer article "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker", there may have been "a grain of truth" to Barker's writings on the Men in Black, in that the United States Air Force and other government agencies did attempt to discourage public interest in UFOs during the 1950s. However, Barker is thought to have greatly embellished the facts of the situation. In the same Skeptical Inquirer article, Sherwood revealed that, in the late 1960s, he and Barker collaborated on a brief fictional notice alluding to the Men in Black, which was published as fact first in Raymond A. Palmer's Flying Saucers magazine and some of Barker's own publications. In the story, Sherwood (writing as "Dr. Richard H. Pratt") claimed he was ordered into silence after learning that UFOs were time-travelling vehicles. Barker later wrote to Sherwood, "Evidently the fans swallowed this one with a gulp."
In 1957, Gray Barker and James Moseley wrote a fake letter (signed "R.E. Straith") to self-claimed "contactee" George Adamski, telling Adamski that the United States Department of State was pleased with Adamski's research into UFOs. The letter was written on State Department stationery, and Barker himself described it as "one of the great unsolved mysteries of the UFO field" in his 1967 Book of Adamski.
Fake UFO Film:
In 1966, Barker helped Moseley create the “Lost Creek, West Virginia, UFO film" using a hamburger-sized ceramic chunk resembling flying saucers that Adamski claimed he'd ridden in. The fake saucer was dangled from a pole and filmed against the sky.
During college lectures, Moseley presented the film as authentic. A display case in the Gray Barker Collection exhibits the ceramic UFO model used in the film as well as copies of Barker’s magazine, "The Saucerian" and the plastic ship model used to recreate the film in Ralph Coon’s documentary Whispers from Space.
Prank Phone Calls To UFOlogists:
John Keel, the main Investigator of the Mothman, fell victim to a series of strange phones some of which were most likely done by Gray Barker or his associates. He received call on June 11th 1967 and aired the recorded tape later on WBAB radio. Keel wrote that the call was “from a middle-aged woman who said she was 'Princess Moon Owl'. ... [who] sounded like a man faking an ... accent. ... The most suspicious things of all were her transparent references to a major UFO convention scheduled to be held that June 24 in New York’s Hotel Commodore. ... Princess Moon Owl seemed to fit too neatly into the publicity campaign."
John then met Gray Barker at the event called The Congress of Scientific UFOlogists in June 1967. Moseley had organized the New York event, including Barker among UFO celebrities he'd booked. Keel was to be honored as UFOlogist of the year.
At 1AM on the morning of Friday, July 14th 1967, John Keel received a call from a man who identified himself as Gray Barker from West Virginia. The voice sounded exactly like Gray’s but he seemed as if he was under duress and addressed Keel as if he were a total stranger; carefully calling him “Mr. Keel".
John had received a number of reports from people in the New York area who had been receiving nuisance calls from a woman who identified herself as “Mrs. Gray Barker". Gray was not married but when Keel mentioned these calls to the "Gray" on the phone he paused for a moment and then said, “No, Mrs. Barker hasn't been calling anybody up there.” The next day John called him long distance and Gray denied having placed the call.
In a letter correspondence, that has been filed at Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library in West Virginia, Keel asked Barker on August 18th 1967: “Gray, can you account for where you were and what you were doing at the time I received that odd phone call... ? Do you suppose that there’s any chance that you could have made that call without conscious knowledge of doing so?”
On September 23rd 1967 Barker told Keel he'd been in his apartment the night of the call: “The weird thing, is, though, that my telephone bill does show a dialed call to you on the 14th. A local hoaxter [sic] could very easily call up person to person and give my number to the operator, but this would be difficult or impossible to dial. This has me almost believing that I did make the call! I just don't get drunk enough to not remember having made calls. ... Maybe you can figure this one out. I can't”
Keel told Barker October 7th 1967: “Threatening phone calls were made to an individual on Long Island in your name. This individual (I must withhold the name because he is in grave danger) received a visit from the MIB. . . . Gray, this is an extremely serious business and these people play for keeps. I know for a fact that the MIB are active in West Virginia and have been seen several times in a large black car bearing Pennsylvania license plates."
In 1968, John suspected Moseley had made hoax calls to UFO enthusiasts in Florida and Texas. He urged Barker to “hammer some sense into Moseley” but Barker was a bad choice for this honest task.
Keel summed it up best in the letter he sent on March 15th 1969: "I made every effort to cooperate with you characters and devoted a lot of valuable time . . . I have been repaid by groundless gossip, rumors, and maniacal nonsense. You and Moseley are directly responsible for much of it. It is little wonder that the subject has acquired such a disreputable aura. I don't pretend to understand your motivations, but I do wish you would adopt a more mature approach to the situation."
John Keel later regarded Barker and Moseley as inept investigators and hoaxsters. He suspected that they were responsible for some of the bizarre phone calls he received. Keel said in 2001 that Gray Barker’s books had been laced with fiction and that he was appalled when Barker sent him a rough proposed chapter of The Silver Bridge about him. John objected to being turned into a "mysterious character". He said his rewritten version was probably that book’s only honest segment. John Keel wrote in his 2001 afterword, that one of the many reasons he wrote The Mothman Prophecies was to set the record straight after Barker tried to turn it all into a "celestial fairy tale".
The concept of the Men In Black, first written about in Barker's They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, has become a major part of UFO lore. The book inspired a fictional comic book written by Lowell Cunningham, which in turn inspired a popular film and animated television series. Barker himself became the subject of two documentary films: Whispers From Space (1995), which was created by The Last Prom, and Shades of Gray (2008), which was directed by Bob Wilkinson.
The Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library in West Virginia holds a collection of Gray Barker's writings, as well as files of correspondence between Barker and notable figures of the UFO field from the 1950s to the early 1980s such as George Adamski, Howard Menger, James Moseley, and others. The room has become somewhat of a tourist stop for UFO enthusiasts.
Gray Barkers Book:
- They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (1956)
- The Silver Bridge (1970)
- Men In Black: The Secret Terror Among Us (1982)
Books of Selected Gray Writings:
- Serpents of Fire (Edited by Andrew Colvin) (2014)
- Chasing The Flying Saucers (Andrew Colvin) (2015)
- When Men in Black Attack: The Strange Case of Albert K. Bender (Andrew Colvin) (2015)
- Saucers of Fear (Andrew Colvin) 2016)
- Saucers of Fire (Andrew Colvin) (2016)
- Mysterious Ascension (Andrew Colvin) (2016)