Apr 22, 2021 I Nick Redfern

Before the Men in Black: The Strange Life of the Man Who Made Them Famous

If you know the history of the Men in Black phenomenon, you'll also know that the whole thing began in the early 1950s with a guy named Albert Bender. He found himself on the wrong side of the creepy MIB. It was something that altered his life forever. And also something that led to the coining of those three, memorable words: Men in Black. But, what about Bender's life before that trio of menacing, strange characters were on the scene? Not many people - even in Ufology - are aware of those earlier years; a time when, for Bender, the nightmare had yet to begin. With that said, let's have a look at what went down in that pre-MIB period. It all began in a dark, eerie attic in a three-story, old house at 784 Broad Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut. And it revolved around a young man (Bender, of course), who was an undeniable eccentric and someone with a fascination for the realms of monsters, the supernatural, alchemy, the paranormal, and the occult. And with a significant degree of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and an obsession with clocks. Without him, they (the Men in Black) may never have left the terrible marks – or, perhaps, more correctly, the ugly scars – on society they most assuredly have. But, I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself. Read on...

The early years of Bender’s life were nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, quite the opposite was the case. Born in 1921, Bender lived in Duryea, Pennsylvania, where he worked in a factory. In the aftermath of the terrible attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1941, Bender joined the United States Army Air Corps, stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. He served from June 1942 to October 1943 – as a dental technician – and was given an honorable discharge. Bender, his mother Ellen, and his stepfather, Michael Ardolino, made a home for themselves in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And, that’s when things started to get weird. Very weird. Too weird, some might say.  Michael J. Bielawa – a poet and the author of Wicked Bridgeport – states that Bender "...was employed as chief timekeeper at Acme Shear Co., the world’s largest manufacturer of scissors. The factory was located across the Pequonnock River from downtown at Hicks and Knowlton Streets. Perhaps it was Bender’s sense of humor, but in an ironic salute to his job Bender filled his living space with an assortment of twenty chiming clocks. Every fifteen minutes, half hour and on the hour, 784 Broad Street resounded with the din of bells, bells, bells.” The strangeness had well and truly begun. It was followed by Bender’s decision to convert the attic room in which he lived into what can accurately be termed as his "Chamber of Horrors."

Artwork of bloodsucking bats, monsters, ghouls and skulls adorned the walls. There was barely a space for wallpaper. Imagery of vampires, the Moon, a horse’s head, and black cats could be seen. Interestingly, Bender painted a picture that showed a cloaked man wearing a fedora hat while prowling around an old, tree-shrouded cemetery after sunset. Both the cloak and the hat were, of course, black in color. Does that mean the MIB were already getting their claws into Bender? I should stress there's no evidence of that, but who knows? Fedoras were, and still are, part and parcel of the outfits of the MIB. In light of that, just maybe there's a part of the story that has been lost forever. Bender was very much a loner (he would marry later, though). Girlfriends were nowhere in sight. Much of his spare-time was taken up watching sci-fi movies and horror flicks on Saturday nights. By Bender's own admission, his visits to the local cinema were always made alone. As were the late-night walks back home. When the few friends Bender had called on him, he would entertain them with spooky sound-effects that boomed around the room. It was all good fun – albeit undeniably odd. And, it surely cannot have been healthy to have lived in such a claustrophobic situation. Even Bender himself had to admit: "Late at night the attic became a creepy place." No shit!

Interestingly, Riley Crabb – the director of Borderland Sciences Research Associates and who followed the Bender affair - went on record as saying of Bender that, for years, he had: "…dabbled in magic, with no success in table-tipping, and surprising success with a yes-or-no technique using the Holy Bible. There was a history of psychic phenomena in his family."

Nick Redfern

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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