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Watch Your Back For The Men In Black

About

Art by Gary Gibeat

The Men In Black or MIB are mysterious strangers that reportedly attempt to threaten witnesses and reporters of strange occurrences, such as the Mothman, into silence.

Some were reported as having an dark features, an eastern European look, expressionless faces and strange eyes sometimes covered by dark sunglasses. They're movements often appeared to be inhuman in nature.  

They usually traveled in groups of two or three and had knack for knowing things about the witnesses that they taunted, things that only the witnesses knew. There were even reports of them being masters of illusion by way of being able to make themselves appear and disappear without a trace. Some have reported them carrying sophisticated gadgets and one woman claimed that the MIB erased part of her memory.  

Sources:
The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel (1975)
John Keel Men In Black Lecture 1986
Monsters & Ghosts of West Virginia by Eric Turner and Isaac McKinnon
"Who are The Men In Black?" Long Poster in The Mothman Museum
The "Search For The Mothman" 2002 Documentary
The "Eyes of The Mothman" 2011 Documentary
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_black

Strange Impostors :

Some MIB are even reported to dress in air force or military uniforms but always with something just a bit wrong such as the insignia being in the wrong place, wearing the wrong shoes or driving a car that is not standard for a military officer.  

Mrs. Ralph Butler of Owatonna, Minnesota said an officer visited her in May of 1967 he went by the name Richard French. He was 5.9ft tall, had an olive complexion, dark long hair and pointed face. His clothing appeared to be brand-new, even the soles of his shoes were clean and un-scuffed. When Mrs. Butler offered him some Jello, he tried to drink the Jello and acted as if he'd never seen it before. These strange men impersonating officials and authority figures are also referred to by the term Men In Black.  

(Jello was invented in 1897 by Pearle Wait was fully mainstream and popularized in America by 1930)

The MIB are said to have had strange eating behaviors, witnesses say they didn't know how to use a knife and fork and that a waitress had to come over and show the man to cut his steak. They didn't chew their food, they just kind of swallowed it. Many thought of them as mysterious beings of unknown origin poorly pretending to be human.  

Sources:
The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Page 32, Chapter 2 - VII)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jell-O

Phantom Photographers :

Then there was the "Phantom Photographers" who would take photos of witnesses or investigators often using a camera that had a blindly bright flash which could surprise or disorient the person while the stranger ran or drove away.  

In October 1967, a man in Ohio was returning home from work. He opened the door to his apartment to find an intruder standing in his living room. The man said "I think he dressed all in black. I couldn't see his face, but he was about five feet nine. I started to fumble for the light switch when he took my picture. There was a big flash of light, so bright I couldn't see a thing". The stranger darted past him and went out the open door. Nothing had been stolen.  

These photographers would also take pictures of houses after the owner had been witness to something strange. They'd pull up in black Cadillacs, take out a big tripod and heavy camera, set it on the tripod, snap a picture of the house then put it all back in the car and quickly drive away without ever going up to the door or contacting them.  

Some would drive up to the house of a witness who had just had a baby and say they were professional photographers who wanted to take pictures. The new parents would be delighted and agree to have it done, the men would set up their equipment and take pictures, give the people a business card with a neighboring town listed, then drive away and never return to sell them the photographs.  

Sources:
The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Chapter 13)
John Keel Men In Black Lecture 1986

Phantom Meter Readers :

Another strange occurrence which could be classified as MIB is that of the "Phantom Meter Readers" which is when a man dressed in coveralls would knock on the door of a house in the suburbs and say he'd come to read the electric or gas meter. He'd go down into the basement and not come out. Eventually, after hours had past the owners of the house would go check on him. Sometimes the man would be gone all together never to be seen again even when there was no way out of the basement. Other times the man would be just starting up the stairs as they opened the door. There were also reports of strange tanned men driving black limousines and claiming to be census takers.  

Sources:
John Keel Men In Black Lecture 1986
The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Chapter 8)

Origin of the Term / Etymology :

In 1953, a UFO researcher named Albert Bender claimed to have been visited by three mysterious men in black clothing. He claimed that it frightened him so much that he no longer wanted to investigate UFOs. Others began reporting similar encounters and examples of stories like this were found throughout time.

Modern Alleged Photo

John Keel, the main investigator of the Mothman and author of The Mothman Prophecies, investigated reports of this kind and popularized the term "Men In Black". He also introduced the shorthand "MIB". He used the phrase as a generic label for reports of threatening and mysterious strangers or impostors.

Hypothesizes / Other Researchers

Some people thought they were government agents. Some thought they aliens. Some thought they were time travelers or from another dimension or spiritual realm. Whoever they were, they left a strong impression on those who witnessed these mysterious men.

Various Fortean Researchers such as, Nick Redfern, have written extensively about Men and Women In Black. The following is a list of work on the topic for more insights on the subject:

  • The Real Men In Black by Nick Redfern (2011)
  • Men In Black: Personal Stories and Eerie Adventures by Nick Redfern (2015)
  • Women In Black by Nick Redfern (2016)

MIB Encounters In Point Pleasant, WV :

Unknown persons were reported to frequent the small town of Point Pleasant WV, usually dressed from head to toe in black suits, white shirts, black ties and black shoes which all appeared to be perfect in appearance but yet completely out of style for the time of 1966 and 67. They are said to have asked people questions about the Mothman and told them not to speak about it.

Art by Gary Gibeat

Not only did they visit reporter Mary Hyre and question her about the creature but one of them is said to have also threatened Mothman witnesses such as Connie Carpenter.

A friend of Mary Hyre named Dottie Campbell spoke on the subject of the MIB in interviews. She said that she and Mary were very frightened by them and that Hyre had mentioned to her that these strange men never blinked their eyes.

Mothman witness, Linda Scarberry, said in an interview: "The MIB wore black suits, black hats, and sunglasses. They drove black cars -Cadillacs, I think. ... They looked like human beings, but their skin was somewhat transparent. You could see the veins in their hands very clearly. Their fingers were longer than a normal person's fingers, as well. Daddy shook hands with them, and he said they were awkward in shaking hands. They seemed to not know what to do or how to shake hands."

She said: "One of the cars would follow us around. There were three men in the car. ... The MIB went so far as to follow us through the drive-thru of a restaurant. We were afraid to turn around, and just looked in the mirror at them."

A man and a woman carrying a camera visited Mothman witnesses, Steve and Mary Mallette, wanting to take a picture of them. The Mallettes took down the license plate of the Volkswagen but the police said the number was nonexistent.

 Sources:
"Who are The Men In Black?" Long Poster in The Mothman Museum
The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Page 204-205, Chapter 13) - Mallettes

Mothman: The Facts Behind The Legend by Jeff Wamsley and Donnie Sergent Jr 2001
(Page 29 and 34) - Linda

The "Search for The Mothman" 2002 Documentary - No Blinking
Mothman... Behind The Red Eyes by Jeff Wamsley 2005 (Page 83) - No Blinking
The "Eyes of The Mothman" 2011 Documentary

John Keel vs MIB:

Keel would chase The Men In Black in attempt to confront them. He had the local police in many towns looking for them. When he was in West Virginia and Ohio, people would call his Hotel and tell them that the MIB were there, he'd race over to the location but they would be gone by the time he arrived.

John Keel said that the MIB were mainly reported to drive black Cadillacs until he started doing articles about the MIB driving these cars. At which point they are said to have switched to Volkswagens. The cars they would drive often had licenses plates that had never been issued to anyone.

One afternoon in spring of 1967, John Keel and a female friend were walking along 42nd and 3rd Avenue, NY when a stranger with a pointed face deliberately took a photo of them and then turned and ran away. The man was wearing a poorly fitting sports jacket and slacks.

Sources:
Search For The Mothman 2002 Documentary
John Keel Men In Black Lecture 1986
The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Page 205, Chapter 13) - Licenses Plate
The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Page 200, Chapter 13) - Phantom Photographer

In Popular Culture:

Music:

Blue Öyster Cult directly mention the Men In Black in the lyrics to two of their songs. In the opening verse of 1976's "E.T.I (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" we are told: "I hear the music, daylight disc, Three men in black said, "Don't report this'". Then in 1983's Take me away: "Don't ask if they are real, the men in black, their lips are sealed".

Classic Alleged Photo

British punk rock band The Stranglers released several songs about The Men In Black such as The Gospel According to the Meninblack in 1981 and other previous songs like Meninblack and Who Wants The World which explored the band's fascination with the legend.

Frank Black, the singer for The Pixies also known by the pseudonym Black Francis, released a single entitled "Men In Black" in 1995 which subsequently appeared on his album The Cult of Ray. He described the song in 1996 by stating that "it's about the Men In Black who are the psychological intimidators sent by the aliens or maybe the government or maybe both."

Film and Television:

The first film appearance of Men In Black was in Hangar 18 (1980), which had four credits for MIBs, who chase the film's protagonists and try to prevent them from learning the truth.

Later, Men In Black appeared in John Sayles' 1984 film The Brother from Another Planet. In this film, John Sayles himself and David Strathairn, both credited as Man In Black, are aliens in search of an escaped alien slave (the titular "Brother").

In Season 3, Episode 20 of The X-Files, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", a man in a black suit, hat and gloves appears to warn and threaten a character in the episode not to share his experience witnessing an alien abduction. Another man in black also shows up in the episode and is played by Alex Trebek. The first man in black is played by Jesse Ventura.

The Men in Black film in 1997, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as Agent K and Agent J respectively, was based on Lowell Cunningham's Men in Black comic book published by Aircel Comics which was about a secret organization that monitors and regulates alien activity on Earth. The film was followed by the Men in Black: The Animated Series and its 2002 sequel Men in Black IIMen in Black 3 was released on May 25, 2012. Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, who published the comic book, took the property to Sony where it became a billion-dollar film franchise. Will Smith made a song called "Men in Black" for the first film in 1997, and "Black Suits Comin' (Nod Ya Head)" for its sequel in 2002.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_Black_(film)
 
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_Black_II
 
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_Black_3 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_Black:_The_Series

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Men_in_Black:_The_Series_episodes

The Silence From Doctor Who:

The Silence

The British TV series Doctor Who features a race of aliens known as The Silence that appear to be dressed in black suits. These beings work behind the scenes altering the course of human history to their own ends, and cannot be remembered by those who see them. The only trace of their presence is either a vague memory or subconscious image of their appearance, or the hypnotic suggestions they leave during their encounters. The concept and appearance of The Silence partially draw upon the myth of the Men In Black.

In creating the Silence shown in "The Impossible Astronaut", Steven Moffat drew inspiration from Edvard Munch's 1893 expressionist painting The Scream as well as the Men In Black. The Silence continues Moffat's trend of using simple psychological concepts to make his monsters more frightening. In this case of the Silence, their existence is a secret because anyone who sees them immediately forgets about them after looking away, but retains suggestions made to them by the Silence. This allows them to have a pervasive influence across human history while being difficult to locate or resist.

The Scream

Actor Matt Smith, who portrays the Eleventh Doctor, called these aliens "the scariest monsters in the Show's history" and Karen Gillan, who portrays the Doctor's companion Amy Pond, commented that the Silence could "rival the Weeping Angels in terms of scariness".

The Silence shown in "The Impossible Astronaut" are depicted as tall humanoids with bulbous heads and mouthless, bony faces, partly inspired by Edvard Munch's The Scream. Their eyes are sunken within their sockets and the skin of their cheeks stretches to the point of their narrow chins. Their large, shrivelled hands resemble a human hand except where the ring and middle fingers would be is a large flipper-like finger.

They speak in low, guttural voices though they have no apparent mouths. Aliens affiliated with The Silence seen to date in the series have been dressed in black business suits with an unusual texture. According to Steven Moffat, their resemblance to Munch's The Scream is not coincidental: although humans are not consciously aware of their existence, a "subconscious awareness" of the Silence manifests in such works.They are also inspired by mythological figures known as "men in black" that became popular amongst UFO investigators during the 1950s and 60s.

Video Games - The G-man From Half-Life:

Moth640.png

The G-Man, voiced by Michael Shapiro, is a mysterious recurring character in the Half-Life video game series. Described as a "sinister interdimensional bureaucrat", he is known to display peculiar behavior and capabilities beyond those of normal humans.

Throughout the story of the Half-Life series, the G-Man plays the role of an overseer and employer - he controls player-character Gordon Freeman's insertion to or extraction from the game world on several occasions, and his monologues with Freeman reveal his importance in the series' overall narrative. He claims to answer to some unseen higher authority which he refers to simply as his "employers". His mysterious nature has made him an icon of the Half-Life series, with his identity and motives remaining almost completely unexplained.

His odd manner of speaking, bordering on the cryptic, along with his appearance, alludes to the behavior of the Men In Black in various reports, and the apparent age and physical status of the G-Man doesn't seem to change in the time that passes between Half-Life and Half-Life 2 which, according to the Episode One website, is nearly twenty years.

The Touhou Project fighting game Urban Legend in Limbo features the Man in Black as Mamizou Futatsuiwa's attributed urban legend.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silence_(Doctor_Who)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-Man_(Half-Life)

The MIB Timeline :

  • 1953: The term Men In Black is coined by Albert Bender
  • 1956: They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers Book by Gray Barker* (*Considered questionable)
  • 1966: John Keel begins investigating UFOs
  • 1966-1967: MIB reports in Point Pleasant WV
  • December 1966: Marcella Bennett encounters mysterious hostile driver
  • January 1967: Mary Hyre encounters strange visitor at her office
  • February 22nd 1967: Attempted kidnapping of Connie Carpenter
  • May 5th 1967: Hyre sees the same visitor again on the street
  • May 8th 1967: Phantom Photographers at Mary Hyre's house
  • Spring 1967: John Keel encounters Phantom Photographer
  • December 22nd 1967: Two "UFO researchers" and "Jack Brown" at Hyre's office
  • 1968: Flying Saucers And The Three Men* book by Albert Bender (*Printed/Edited by Barker)
  • The 1970s: John Keel popularizes the term Men In Black and MIB
  • 1975: The Mothman Prophecies book by John Keel is released
  • 1976: Blue Öyster Cult references MIB in their song "E.T.I"
  • 1977: MIB report in Dover Massachusetts following "Dover Demon" case
  • 1983: Blue Öyster Cult references MIB in their song "Take me away"
  • 1995: Frank Black - Men in Black song
  • 1997: Men in Black movie is released
  • 2002: Men in Black II movie is released
  • 2011: The Real Men In Black by Nick Redfern
  • 2012: Men in Black 3 movie is released
  • 2015: Men In Black: Personal Stories and Eerie Adventures by Nick Redfern
  • 2016: Women In Black by Nick Redfern
  • 2018: Black Diary by Nick Redfern
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