Men in Black is a name used in popular culture for UFO conspiracy theories to describe men dressed in black suits. Men in Black sometimes have glowing eyes or other monstrous features. Men in Black claim to be government agents who attempt to harass or threaten UFO witnesses into silence. "All Men in Black are not necessarily garbed in dark suits", writes American researcher Jerome Clark. "The term Men in Black is a generic one, used to refer to any unusual, threatening or strangely behaved individual whose appearance on the scene can be linked in some fashion with a UFO sighting."
Common depiction of the Men in Black.
The phenomnon was initially and most frequently reported in the 1950s and 1960s; it is contemporaneous with many other conspiracy theories. The M.I.B. supposedly intimidated a reporter in Pinewood, West Virginia to stop making articles in newspapers about the M.I.B.'s presence in Pinewood. Pinewood was near the area where sightings of a creature dubbed the Mothman were popular in the late 1960s, which make some people believe that the M.I.B. are linked with the Mothman.
Existence of Men in Black.
The actual existence of Men in Black has been the subject of debate. Furthermore, testimony of supposed witnesses is typically the only evidence presented in alleged Men in Black encounters, and eyewitness testimony - however compelling it might seem - can be notoriously unreliable, and is therefore often open to doubt. Indeed, one could argue that the involvement of Men in Black is often used as an excuse for lack of evidence in claimed UFO encounters, but it is unclear how often this has actually been claimed.
Some versions of the Men in Black conspiracy theory lead some to believe that the Men in Black's odd mannerisms and dress are due to the fact that they are aliens or alien-human hybrids, and that their job is to eliminate physical evidence of alien involvement on earth. Others believe that they are actual government agents who intentionally dress and act ridiculously, in an attempt to get UFO witnesses to discredit themselves if they ever report such an encounter.
Men in Black possible explanations.
Men in Black accounts often feature "High Strangeness" or the "Oz Factor" (the latter term coined by ufologist Jenny Randles). Both terms are used to describe a strange sensation of "otherness", or of a dreamlike dissociation that accompanies some UFO reports. Such reports have led to speculation that Men in Black accounts are not part of any objective reality, but are rather best explained by altered states of consciousness, such as fantasy-prone personalities, sleep paralysis, hypnagogic states, and the like.
In support of this hypothesis, Dash cites research by ufologist Nigel Watson, which suggests that many Men in Black witnesses "are often undergoing some sort of mental upheaval at the time of their encounter." (Dash, 162) Furthermore, Dash also cites work by Folklorist Peter Rojcewicz "who himself encountered a possible MIB in his university library after entering what appears to have been an altered state of consciousness." (Dash, 416) See above for an account of Rojcewicz’s encounter.
Men in Black folkloric explanations.
Although the phenomenon was initially and most frequently reported in the 1950s and 1960s, some researchers - John Keel and others - have suggested similarities between Men in Black reports and earlier demonic accounts. Rojcewicz noted that many Men in Black accounts parallel tales of people encountering the devil: Neither Men in Black nor the devil are quite human, and witnesses often discover this fact midway through an encounter. The meaning of this parallel, however, has been the subject of debate.
Men in Black military and CIA explanations.
More prosaically, Clark cites William L. Moore, who asserts that "the Men in Black are really government people in disguise ... members of a rather bizarre unit of Air Force Intelligence known currently as the Air Force Special Activities Center (AFSAC) ... As of 1991, the AFSAC, headquartered in Fort Belvoir, Virginia", and "under the operational authority of Air Force Intelligence Command centred at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas." (Clark, 321-22) Curiously, Moore also reports that AFSAC was inspired by the tales of Men in Black from the 1950s, and had nothing to do with those early accounts.
Similarly, Clark notes that Dr Michael D. Swords has suggested, in an admittedly speculative manner, that the Barker/Bender Men in Black case (occurring shortly after the CIA-directed Robertson Panel issued its recommendations to spy on civilian UFO groups) might have been a psychological warfare experiment.
Individuals who may be considered a risk to national security based on loose conversation or publishing information after being 'read-in' to or 'read-out' of a special access program are sometimes visited by 'men in suits' according to an unnamed source at AFFTC Det 3. These 'men' are very much human but can bring a tremendous amount of pressure to conform to the terms of the signed disclosure restriction statement due to the authority they have from an undisclosed federal agency.
Men in Black the hoax explanation.
In his article, "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker", John C. Sherwood reveals that at age eighteen, he collaborated with Gray Barker to create a hoax about what Barker called "blackmen", three mysterious UFO inhabitants who silenced Sherwood's pseudonymous identity, "Dr. Richard H. Pratt".
Men in Black & MIB references in popular culture: Music.
- British rock band The Stranglers, by their own admission, became obsessed with the Men in Black theory around 1979-81, culminating in the release of their concept album The Gospel According to the Meninblack. They attributed the many calamities they suffered around the time (deaths of road crew members, theft of their equipment, incarceration in jail, various contractual and business disasters, disappearance of master tapes of recordings, electrical explosions in recording studios...) to the influence of the Men in Black (Incidentally, this was one of the Stranglers' more poorly-received albums).
- Pixies front man Frank Black wrote about alien sightings and Area 51 in his latter work with the Pixies, and continued with the topics into his solo career. This culminated on the song "Men In Black" dealing specifically and explicitly with Men following the narrator who has camcorder footage of UFOs. This song is from Black's third album "The Cult Of Ray", which is one of the last albums Black uses to tell his tales of UFOs and the MIB.
Men in Black in Film and television.
- Area 51 in the television series Kim Possible is shown to Kim and Ron in one episode ("Rufus vs. Commodore Puddles") by a general that appears to be a man in black (albeit not in the typical wardrobe of one). The base is depicted as "the rumors" say: "U.F.O.s, alien technology, yadda yadda.".
- Cobra Bubbles from the Disney film Lilo & Stitch is similar in both appearance and behavior to a Man in Black.
- The 1984 film Brother From Another Planet by John Sayles features two darkly dressed bounty hunters credited as "Men in Black" (played by Sayles and David Strathairn), searching Harlem for a stranded alien ("The Brother", played by Joe Morton).
- The enduring popularity of the Men in Black conspiracy theory led to the 1990s comic book series, The Men in Black, which in turn became the 1997 film Men in Black starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The movie spawned a sequel (Men in Black II) and an animated television series.
- Agent Parcher in the movie A Beautiful Mind can also be seen as a fictional adaptation of the Men in Black.
- The Agents of the Matrix trilogy can also be seen as the archetypal adaptation of the Men in Black.
- The alien conspiracy mythology of The X-Files portrayed several versions of Men in Black, the first in the episode "Deep Throat", when a group of Men in Black threaten Mulder and confiscate photos from Roswell, New Mexico. Two satirical Men in Black, played by Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek, are featured in the third season story "Jose Chung's From Outer Space". Michael McKean played a Man in Black based at Area 51 in the episode "Dreamland", and the character returned in "Jump the Shark".
- The lead character in the television series Dark Skies, John Loengard, was for a short time a black-dressed agent for a secret government agency called Majestic-12, which was involved in an extraterrestrial conspiracy.
- A case about the Men in Black conspiracy was presented on an episode of CBS's Without a Trace. In the episode, the missing person claimed to be abducted by extraterrestrials, who later implanted him with a tracking device. The missing person also claimed to be chased by two Men in Black.
- In the anime series Serial Experiments Lain, there are Men in Black that trail the titular character.
- In the anime series Digimon Tamers, the Hypnos organization is a secrect Japanese agency hidden from the public. Its leader, as well as some of the field operatives, are Men in Black. Much like their analogs in UFO lore, Hypnos is involved with covering ups. In this case, they cover up the existence of digimon.
- In the TV series Stargate SG-1, the NID is a Men-in-Black-like organization which employs agents dressed in black suits and ties and works to cover up the existence of the Stargate and anything associated with it.
- In the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise there is a rogue autonomous group within Starfleet called Section 31 that claims to operate in the interests of United Earth and the United Federation of Planets. They unofficially exist and commit actions that are considered unethical and at times flagrantly reprehensible, all in the name of security. They wear black leather uniforms and they do an excellent job of covering up their existence.
- In the movie The Forgotten, Linus Roache plays "A Friendly Man", who has some characteristics of the Men in Black. Not to mention that all the characters in the film in all scenes (except for flashbacks) wear nothing but black clothes.
- In the television series Firefly, two mysterious agents pursue Alliance fugitive River Tam and her brother Simon, killing anyone who may have come into contact with her. They are identified by their blue gloves and suits and may be an allusion to the Men in Black.
- In the 1998 film Dark City, the mysterious alien "strangers" occasionally dressed and behaved in ways associated with the Men in Black when they moved among humans.
- In the cult science fiction film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, inter-dimensional aliens use mind tricks that cause human to perceive them as ordinary men. Many are stiff characters in suits, not unlike descriptions of Men in Black.
- In the cartoon Danny Phantom, Danny has had a few brushes with a secretive government ghost-hunting squad called the "Guys in White", who appear similar to the general description of Men in Black, except dressed in white.
Men in Black in books and comics.
- Grant Morrison's run on the Doom Patrol comic featured the ominous "Men in Green", who warned their victim that he was lucky they weren't the "Men in Mauve".
- The short story Angel Down, Sussex by Kim Newman is about an archetypal alien abduction in Edwardian England, described in terms appropriate to the period. A significant role is played by "the undertakers in smoked spectacles".
- UK comic 2000 AD ran a series of stories under the title Vector 13. In the strip, grey skinned agents in dark suits, sunglasses and trilby hats would recount stories related to various paranormal, supernatural and conspiracy theories.
- American cartoonist Greg Boone's "The Monster Posse" comic book series of the late 1980's and published by Malibu Comics in the early 1990s featured "They who dressed in black" who in the three-issue mini-series now scheduled for film, menaced the space alien children and humanity. They then turn out to be inefficient truant officers. In his series, Boone had Earth the subject of mischievous juvenile space alien delinquents.
- In the Dela the Hooda web comic, the Men in Plaid fill in for the role of the Men in Black.
Men in Black in games.
- The role-playing game Delta Green draws heavily from the Men in Black meme.
- In the Half-Life series, 'The G-Man' is a character that fits some characteristics of the Men in Black, despite the fact that he wears a blue suit.
- The 1987 game by R. Talsorian Games, Teenagers from Outer Space contained a parody of Men in Black called 'Alien Control Squads:' scary looking, heavily armed, but inevitably incompetent Federal truant officers in charge of maintaining control of all the super-powered aliens in ordinary high schools.
- In the RPG/First-person shooter game Deus Ex, the player encounters characters specifically called "Men in Black" (and Women) who are used by the secret conspiracy group Majestic 12. Many other parts of the MiB mythos are also incorporated, such as the silent black helicopters which shuttle the player around, and the Men in Black have metallic, echoing voices, as they are sometimes said to in Men in Black lore.
- In the video game Second Sight, the NSE agents act like the Men in Black.
- In the video game Destroy All Humans!, you (as an alien) must fight typical "Men in Black", who he calls the "Dudes in Dark", from the Majestic organization. Not only do they have particularly strong weapons, they can also see through your disguise.
- In the RPG Final Fantasy VII, the powerful Shinra Corporation employs a group of operatives known as The Turks, whose appearance and activities (espionage, subversion, kidnapping, sabotage, and other clandestine illegal acts) are similar to the Men In Black.
- In the Nintendo 64 game "Body Harvest", the main character Adam, whilst treading the outskirts of Area 51 (only identified as a military base), encounters an old man who speaks of lights and sounds not of this earth. Upon returning to where the man once stood, Adam finds a man in black who tells him that what he was told was fraudulent dellusions of an old man and that he should move along.
- In the roleplaying game Conspiracy X, there are Men In Black that are in fact aliens in disguise. These MIBs always work in three man teams.
- In the role-playing game Mage: The Ascension, the Men in Black are a sub-category of Technocracy agents.
Notes about Men in Black.
- Clark, Jerome (1996). The UFO Encyclopedia, volume 3: High Strangeness, UFO’s from 1960 through 1979. Omnigraphis. 317-18.
- Sherwood, John C. Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker. Skeptical Inquirer. 2006-10-10.
References to Men in Black.
- Clark, Jerome (1996). The UFO Encyclopedia, volume 3: High Strangeness, UFO’s from 1960 through 1979. Omnigraphis. ISBN 1-55888-742-3.
- Wallace, Chevon. Albert Bender and the M.I.B. Mystery. Bridgeport Public Schools. 2006-09-10.
- Barker, Gray (1956). They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers. New York: University Books. ISBN 1-881532-10-0.
- Condon, Edward; Daniel S. Gilmor, ed. (1968). Final Report of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. New York: Batnam. ISBN.
- Dash, Mike (2000). Borderlands: The Ultimate Exploration of the Unknown. Overlook. ISBN 0-87951-724-7.
- Evans, Beriah (March 1905). "Merionethshire Mysteries". The Occult Review 1 (3).
- Keel, John (1971). Our Haunted Planet. Fawcett. ISBN.
- Keel, John (1976). The Mothman Prophecies. Saturday Review Press. ISBN 0-7653-4197-2.
- Randles, Jenny; Peter Houghe (1994). The Complete Book of UFOs: An Investigation into Alien Contact and Encounters. Sterling. ISBN 0-8069-8132-6.
- Druffel, Ann; Dwight Connelly, ed. (February 2006). "Heflin's 1965 Photos Validated". MUFON UFO Journal (454).
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