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I was just a kid when I was introduced to the menacing and macabre world of the enigmatic Men in Black, those dark-suited ghouls that terrorize UFO witnesses and researchers alike. I eagerly began reading the disturbing-yet-compelling pages of John Keel’s now-classic title, The Mothman Prophecies, which told of distinctly strange goings-on at Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the mid-to-late 1960s. Come to think of it, “strange goings-on” may not be the correct terminology to use. Outright paranormal foulness and malignancy would be far more apt, methinks. A fiery-eyed winged-thing, surreal reports of contact with enigmatic alien entities on lonely, moonlit, tree-shrouded roads, occult phenomena plaguing the entire town by the dead of night, and lives manipulated and transformed in ways near-unimaginable were the order of the day. And then there was the brooding, predatory, and repeated manifestations of the dreaded MIB who, I got the distinct impression, were pulling the supernatural strings of just about all those myriad entities and unspeakable things that had chosen Point Pleasant as their targets.

For reasons I have never truly been able to fathom, from that very day onward I became particularly fascinated by the actions of the Men in Black, their silencing of UFO witnesses, their near-ethereal presence in our world, and, of course, their overwhelming and mysterious elusiveness. Who, or more likely what, were they? From where did they originate? What did they want of us? Why were they so deeply intent on silencing Flying Saucer-seekers? The further and deeper I dug into the subject, the more I found myself attempting to penetrate the veil of unsettling darkness and hostility that seemed to forever surround the MIB. In the immediate years that followed my reading of John Keel’s legendary study of Mothman, I sought out just about as many works on the MIB as was conceivably possible. And, at the absolute top of my list – in undeniably joint first-place – were Gray Barker’s 1956 title They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers and a small and overwhelmingly bizarre book titled Flying Saucers and the Three Men. The latter was penned in 1962 by a curious and undeniably paranoid character named Albert Bender, without who there simply would be no MIB puzzle. Period.

Barker, who had a flair for all-things dramatic, was the perfect person to address the MIB mystery – even though a self-admitted combination of embellishment, parable and exaggeration was his typical and controversial style. But, Barker would never have been in a position to do much of an MIB nature had it not been for the eccentric and occult-obsessed Bender, who, in 1953, was allegedly silenced by a trio of black-garbed, blazing-eyed entities from some strange netherworld after getting too close to the truth about Flying Saucers.

As time went on I also learned, unfortunately, that Barker would tell a tale purely for for effect. He was also someone who was willing to hoax, to fabricate, and to outright lie in the name of the M.I.B. In other words, reading Barker’s works requires one to be on one’s guard all of the time. His writings do contain facts, but there is a hell of a lot of fiction and lying there, too. All of that just has to have a bearing on the early days of M.I.B. lore and legend. Far less Mulder and Scully, and far more H.P. Lovecraft meets Devil Girl from Mars meets Bram Stoker, Flying Saucers and the Three Men presented the MIB not as government agents of the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones variety, but as harshly cold and emotionless aliens who seemed to be as familiar with matters occult and nightmarish as they were with UFOs and faraway, fantastic worlds.

Appearing as well-dressed, pale-faced corpses, the terrible trio intimidated and terrified the obsessive-compulsive Bender to the point of near physical and emotional collapse. No wonder he quit Ufology and moved onto other things, such as focusing on the works of Austrian composer, Max Steiner, who was responsible for the soundtracks to the original of King Kong and Gone with the Wind. Indeed, in 1965, Bender established the Max Steiner Music Society, and left his old life firmly in the past. As for Barker, in 1984 it was ill-health, rather than the black-garbed ones, that took him before he reached sixty. Keel continued on for a quarter of a century after Barker, still caught up in – yet never, ever quite resolving – the conundrum of the three shadowy men from beyond the veil.

Of course, as my teens became my twenties, and then my thirties, my views on the MIB phenomenon changed, in some ways subtly, but in other ways far less so. But there was one thing that never did alter: My earnest wish to solve the puzzle of the true nature, origin and intent of the Men in Black. Since those days of my childhood, I have pursued the MIB on a scale that has easily far exceeded my quests for the truth about Bigfoot, the Chupacabras, and Roswell combined. My first book, A Covert Agenda, which was published in 1997, detailed a number of curious MIB-style encounters in the U.K. from the 1950s onward. My 2003 title, Strange Secrets, included a chapter on the little-known issue of government files on the Men in Black. Three years later, I penned On the Trail of the Saucer Spies, which was a full-length study of the secret surveillance of certain elements of the UFO research community by MIB-type characters in government. Then, in 2011, The Real Men in Black hit the bookshelves. This latter title from me specifically addressed the paranormal side of the MIB phenomenon. And, in that same year, I wrote a new foreword to an updated and expanded edition of Gray Barker’s 1983 book: M.I.B.: The Secret Terror among Us. Since then, I’ve written Men in Black, Women in Black, and The Black Diary. As well as a book on the ultimate Man in Black, the Slenderman. It has been a curious journey, to say the least…

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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