"Watch Your Back For The Men In Black" - John Keel
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- Flying Saucers and The Three Men by Albert Bender (1968)
- Operation Trojan Horse by John Keel (1970)
- The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel (1975)
- 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.
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
Connie Carpenter's MIB Encounter:
At 8:15AM on February 22nd 1967, Mothman Witness Connie Carpenter was walking to school when a black 1949 Buick pulled up alongside her. The driver opened his door and asked her for directions. He seemed to be a clean-cut young man of about twenty-five or so with thick neatly combed black hair and a deep sun-tan.
When Connie got closer to the vehicle, the stranger suddenly ordered her to get in and grabbed her by the arm trying to pull her into his car. She managed to get away and the sleeve of her blouse was ripped in the process. She ran back to her house and locked herself in. The next day a threatening note was slipped under her door reading "Be careful girl, I can get you yet."
Source: The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Page 119-120, Chapter 8) The "Search For The Mothman" 2002 Documentary
Marcella Bennett's MIB Encounter:
Mothman Witness, Marcella Bennett, and her small daughter Tina were driving just outside of Point Pleasant when a red Ford Galaxy began following her. The driver was appeared to be wearing a bushy wig. She slowed down for the vehicle to pass her but instead it tried to force her off the road. She sped up but the Ford then raced around her and parked sideways on the narrow dirt road, blocking her path. Marcella warned her daughter to hold on as she hit the gas pedal to the floor. The stranger in the red Ford, pulled away hastily and allowed her to pass. She had never seen the man before and never saw him again.
Source: The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Page 106, Chapter 8)
Mary Hyre vs MIB:
One night in January 1967, reporter Mary Hyre was working late at her office opposite the county courthouse and an unknown man walked in the door. He was described as very short, about 4.6ft tall, and had strange dark deep-set eyes covered by glasses with thick lenses. He was wearing odd shoes with very thick soles which probably added an inch or two to his height. He had long 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 remained fixed on her as he stared almost hypnotically. Mary was alarmed by this person so she brought 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 though he'd never seen one 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.)
On May 5th 1967, Mary Hyre saw the same odd man on the streets of Point Pleasant. This time he was wearing a khaki-colored uniform but still had on the thick-soled shoes. He appeared alarmed when he saw her approaching. He ran toward a large black car that suddenly came driving around the corner. The little man climbed in and the vehicle took off.
Three days later, on May 8th 1967 at 11:30PM, Mary Hyre was arriving home from a civic meeting. Just as she was on her porch opening her door, a black car stopped outside her house and a man got out. He snapped a picture with a blindly bright flash and drove off while she was briefly disoriented.
On the afternoon of December 22nd 1967, during the Christmas week and after the local Silver Bridge disaster, two men walked into Mary Hyre's office. Both were short and wore black overcoats and had dark complexions and eastern features. They were not interested in the bridge disaster but wanted to know about the UFO reports in the area. Hyre handed him a large file folder of related press clippings but they were not very interested in them. They asked her what she would do if someone ordered her to stop writing about UFOs. She basically said that she'd continue anyway. The two men glanced at each other. Mary went back to her work and when she looked up again, they were gone.
Later that same afternoon (Dec 22nd 1967) another strange man walked into Hyre's office. The man introduced himself as "Jack Brown". He was 5.7ft with black piercing eyes, unruly black hair and long fingers. His complexion was even darker than that of the two previous visitors and he as well had eastern features. He wore an ill-fitting cheap black suit with an oddly knotted tie. He claimed to be a UFO researcher and once again asked Hyre what she would do if someone asked her to stop writing her articles. Mary asked if he was with the two men that she'd talked with earlier and he said he wasn't. The man stammered as he asked about author John Keel and Mary Hyre witnessing UFOs in the area. He wanted to know where John Keel was and wanted Mary to take him to the sighting location. Mary told him that she couldn't just escort him around and that she was going home for the night. She dismissed him from the office and told him that he'd have to look around the town himself.
The strange man then visited the home of several witnesses in the area, including the Scarberry and Mallettes as well as Connie Carpenter. He made all of them very uneasy and uncomfortable. His piercing black eyes stared hypnotically. He was now claiming to be a friend of Mary Hyre. He brought a tape recorder yet seemed completely unfamiliar with how to thread or operate it. He didn't seem all that interested in the Mothman or UFO reports. He instead asked mostly questions about Mary Hyre and John Keel. Early in the evening he said he didn't know Keel personally but later on he claimed they were good friends. While said that he was reporter from Cambridge, Ohio but then inadvertently admitted that he didn't know where Columbus Ohio was, even though the two towns are just a few miles apart. Jack Brown eventually drove off into the night, reportedly never heard from again.
Sources: The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Chapter 8) - January Encounter https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballpoint_pen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollerball_pen The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Chapter 13, Page 201) - May Encounter The Mothman Prophecies 1975 (Chapter 2) - December Encounters
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 licences plates that had never been issued to anyone.
A mysterious blonde woman in her thirties with a southern accent, visited people in West Virginia and Ohio whom Keel had interviewed, she even visited those he had not mentioned in print. She introduced herself claiming to be "John Keel's secretary" thus winning instant admission. The clipboard she carried held a complicated form filled with personal questions about the witnesses' health, income and the type of cars they owned as well as their general family background and some fairly sophisticated questions about their UFO sightings. John Keel didn't learn about this woman until months later when his one of friends in Ohio wrote to him and happened to mention her.
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 105-106, Chapter 8) - Secretary 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".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."
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.
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 II. Men 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 Silence From Doctor Who: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.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: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
- 1966: John Keel begins investigating UFOs
- 1966-1967: MIB reports in Point Pleasant WV
- January 1967: Mary Hyre encounters MIB at her office
- February 22nd 1967: Connie Carpenter's MIB encounter
- May 5th 1967: Hyre sees the same MIB again on the street
- May 8th 1967: Phantom Photographers at Mary Hyre's house
- Spring 1967: John Keel encounters Phantom Photographer
- December 22nd 1967: MIB return to Hyre's office
- 1968: Flying Saucers And The Three Men book by Albert Bender is released
- 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 reference 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