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"Watch Your Back For The Men In Black" - John Keel

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The Men In Black or MIB were unknown persons that frequented 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.

They are known for attempting to threaten witnesses and reporters of strange occurrences, such as the Mothman, into silence. They are sometimes thought of as "damage control", as if it is their job to contain and stifle information from getting out to the public.  

Not only did they visit reporter Mary Hyre and question her about the creature but one of them also threatened Mothman witness Connie Carpenter with a vague threatening note reading "Be Careful Girl I Can Get You Yet" and ripped her blouse while trying to pull her into his car. When Mothman Witness, Faye Dewitt-Leport and her brother tried to return to The TNT Area a few days after their sighting, it was blocked off by two Men In Black who would not let them enter. 

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Their hair is jet black and shiny and their skin is said to be without blemish or even almost translucent. They are said to have had dark features. Some were reported as having an eastern European look with expressionless faces, strange eyes sometimes covered by dark sunglasses and movements that sometimes appear to have been robotic nature.

Mary Hyre noted that the olive skin tone and never blinked their eyes. The Men In Black also 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.

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's erased part of her memory.

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John Keel, the main investigator of the Mothman and author of The Mothman Prophecies, is credited for coining and popularizing the term "Men In Black" as a generic way of describing these mystery men. 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.

The MIB mainly drove black Cadillacs until John Keel started doing articles about the MIB driving these cars then they switched Volkswagens. The strangest thing about the vehicles were that they were late models, usually from the 40's or 50's, but they would entirely look brand new.

One night in January 1967, Mary Hyre was working late at her office in the county courthouse and an unknown man walked in the door. He was described as very short and had strange eyes covered by thick glasses. He had long jet black hair cut squarely like a bowl cut and spoke in a peculiar low halted voice. The man asked for directions to Welsh, West Virginia and kept getting closer and closer as they talked, his eyes stared almost hypnotically. He questioned her, asking what right she had to be printing these stories in the paper.
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Mary was alarmed and scared so she summoned the newspaper circulation manager to her office and they spoke to this person together. She said that at one point in the discussion, she answered the telephone and noticed the little man pick up a ballpoint pen from her desk. He looked at it in amazement as thought he'd never seen it before. Then he grabbed the pen, laughed loudly and ran out of the building. (The first patent for a ballpoint pen was issued on October 30th 1888, to John J. Loud but "Roller ball pens" which use ball point writing mechanisms with water-based liquid or gelled ink were introduced in 1963 by the Japanese company Ohto.)

A couple of weeks later, Hyre was crossing the street near her office and saw that same man. He appeared surprised when he realized she was watching and so he turned away and ran toward a large black car that suddenly came around the corner. The little man climbed in and the car quickly drove away.

During the Christmas week, after the bridge disaster, a short man entered Mary Hyre's office, He was dressed in a black suit and tie. He was not interested in the bridge disaster but wanted to know about the local UFO sightings. Hyre was too busy to talk with him so she handed him a file of related press clippings instead. He was not interested in them and insisted on speaking with her. She finally dismissed him from her office. That night, an identically described man visited the home of several witnesses in the area. He made all of them very uneasy and uncomfortable. While claiming to be a reporter from Cambridge Ohio he inadvertently admitted that he didn't know where Columbus Ohio was, even though the two towns are just a few miles apart.

Some MIB even dress in air force or military uniforms but always with sometimes 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. The cars they would drive had licences plates that had never been issued to anyone. One woman in Wisconsin said she invited the officer in and offered him Jello and he tried to drink the Jello. (Jello was invented in 1897 by Pearle Wait was fully mainstream and popularized in America by 1930.) These strange men impersonating officials are also referred to by the term Men In Black.

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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.

Then there was the "Phantom Photographers" who 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 were 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. 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 drive away without going up to the door or offering to sell the pictures.

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 when they roamed the streets of Point Pleasant.

Various Fortean Researchers – the late John A. Keel, the late Jim Keith, Jerome Clark, Timothy Green Beckley, Kenn Thomas, and most recently Nick Redfern – have written extensively about Men and Women in Black. The following is a list of their work on the topic for more insights on the subject:

  • Casebook on the Men in Black by Jim Keith and Kenn Thomas (1997, 2011)
  • Extraordinary Encounters by Jerome Clark (2000)
  • The Unidentified and Creatures of the Outer Edge by Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman (2006)
  • Operation Trojan Horse by John A. Keel (2013)
  • Mystery of the Men in Black: The UFO Silencers by Timothy Green Beckley and John A. Keel (2012)
  • Men in Black: Personal Stories and Eerie Adventures by Nick Redfern (2015)
  • The Real Men in Black by Nick Redfern (2011)
  • Women in Black by Nick Redfern (2016)

In Popular Culture

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".

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 alien or maybe the government or maybe both."

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.

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 comic book about a secret organization that monitors and regulates alien activity on Earth – The Men in Black from Aircel Comics. The film was followed by Men in Black: The 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.

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

The Silence From Doctor Who:

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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.

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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.

The G-man From Half-Life:

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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.

 References:

"Who are The Men In Black?" Long Poster in The Mothman Museum

The "Search For The Mothman" Documentary

John Keel Men In Black Lecture 1986

The "Eyes of The Mothman" Documentary

Monsters & Ghosts of West Virginia by Eric Turner and Isaac McKinnon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballpoint_pen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollerball_pen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jell-O

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_in_black

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silence_(Doctor_Who)

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

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