Men in Black: A History
There are various types of MIB encounters, but they typically follow a pattern: after a presumably credible witness reports or witnesses a UFO sighting, the witness is visited by a man or men who are often dressed in black suits, lending the reports their name. The men suggest—or the witnesses assume—that they are government agents, and often flash convincing-looking badges and demand that the witness recant their story or hand over photographs or physical evidence of a UFO. If the witness refuses or questions their credentials, they often subtly or overtly threaten the witness or their family with bodily harm or other hardship.
The men are often reported driving large, late-model cars, typically Cadillacs; in rare cases, they are reportedly seen in black helicopters.
While it is not known if these threats have ever been realized, there are largely unsubstantiated reports of hardships and harassment leveled against those who resist. The number of claimants of MIB encounters is unknown, and might be rather small. Chevon Wallace writes that "Some of those who write about UFOs 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.
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 public." 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 true.
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 first place.
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" from the public because people would panic if they knew that we really were being visited by superior creatures from another world. 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 ridiculous. 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 away. 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 saucers. 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. In 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 reveal. 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 own. 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, Albert 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 "glowing eyes."
But even before the publication of Bender's book in 1963, the Men in Black (or MIB's as they are known to insiders) had already been reported to be visiting 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 Cadillac’s. 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 vaguely menacing. 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.
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