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The Origins of the Men in Black, “Thanks” to Albert Bender: Part 2

Now, it’s time for the second installment of my 2-part article on the origins of the Men in Black. It’s a story that revolved around Albert Bender, an eccentric Ufologist, and someone who pretty much brought the M.I.B to the UFO scene. Evidently, and wisely, and warned off by the Men in Black in the 1950s, Bender chose to take his very own advice: he walked away from UFOs and began corresponding with an Englishwoman named Betty Rose,: she had been subscribing to Bender’s self-made journal. They actually corresponded for a number of years, finally marrying and settling down in the States and running a motel in California; but not before Betty came to visit Bender in New York – a period that totally changed his life. As Bender put it, when it was time for Betty to fly back to the U.K.: “As she walked up the stairs to enter the plane, she gave me one last wave, then moved quickly through the doorway. A strange feeling hit my stomach. I stood there still waving and could not move from the spot until I saw the plane taxi to the runway and take off. As the plane vanished in the distance I realized I had left something important undone, an unasked question which she now had no opportunity to hear from my lips.  And so it was that I found out, for the first time, that I was in love.” Marriage in 1954 to Betty, emotional stability, and a complete end to ill-health, were – thankfully – the orders of the day. Despite his worries about his health, Bender lived to the ripe old age of ninety-four, no less. The M.I.B. were gone. UFOs were finally behind Bender – for a while. And, as time progressed, Bender set up yet another project; a very different one: he founded the Max Steiner Music Society. Steiner wrote the music for (among others) the original King Kong, Casablanca, and Gone with the Wind and became a great friend to Bender. The organization ran until 1981.

It has to be said that although Bender fled the UFO scene, it certainly didn’t prevent his fellow UFO researchers from still digging into those claims Bender made of M.I.B. threats in 1952/1953. In 1956 Gray Barker – author and publisher – wrote a book on Bender’s experiences of a few years earlier. It was titled They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers. Notably, Barker largely backed-away from the paranormal aspect of the Bender affair – mainly because Bender had not shared with him the full story. Barker, then, was forced to fill in the gaps. In doing so, he presented the three mysterious men as agents of the U.S. government. For Barker, that was no problem: he was known for his ability to, ahem, “embellish” stories when such a thing was required. Hunter S. Thompson-style “Gonzo”-type writing became more and more present in Barker’s writings. Unfortunately, as time went on, embellishment became outright lying – and all for the sake of an exciting page-turner. Such is the nature in certain portions of They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. After Barker’s hardback hit the bookshelves, Bender made a tactful retreat. That is, however, until 1962. That was the year in which Bender made a brief comeback with his very own book on the controversy. It was titled Flying Saucers and the Three Men. No guesses who those three characters were. The book is a bizarre one. And it’s also one that Bender almost certainly regretted writing.

In his book, Bender expanded further on that terrifying night in 1953 when that trio of M.I.B. paid him a visit. Bender wrote he saw “…three shadowy figures in the room. The figures became clearer. All of them were dressed in black clothes. They looked like clergymen, but wore hats similar to Homburg style. The faces were not clearly discernible, for the hats partly hid and shaded them.” He added: “The eyes of all three figures suddenly lit up like flash-light bulbs, and all these were focused upon me. They seemed to burn into my very soul as the pains above my eyes became almost unbearable.” That’s quite a difference from the picture Barker presented for his fans back in 1956 – with the FBI prowling around – and in They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Bender’s own book achieved some degree of publicity, mainly because it was so far removed from the average, mainstream world of Ufology – something that made the overall story extremely controversial, but also intriguing, to Saucer-sleuths. Indeed, its threads include aspects of black magic, the occult, spiritualism and demonology – and not forgetting aliens and UFOs. Bender’s book was quickly followed by Bender Mystery Confirmed, a now-very-rare and pricey 99-page-long booklet self-published by Barker. It was filled with letters sent to Barker from readers of Flying Saucers and the Three Men and who wanted to give Barker their thoughts on the whole situation.

One of those letters came to Barker from Trevor James Constable, the author of They Live in the Sky; a classic 1958 UFO book. Constable wrote to Barker: “Dear Gray, It is difficult indeed for me, as an occultist with some firsthand experience of this field of UFOs, to sort out Bender’s journeys back and forth across the threshold line between the physical and the astral. A biometric examination of Al Bender would probably indicate similar things to what it revealed about certain other researchers – total inability to distinguish between events on two planes of reality.” Constable was not finished: “Bender’s honesty I do not for a moment doubt. His discrimination I would deem non-existent. It seems almost incredible that the man could relate the full story of the construction of his chamber of horrors in the attic in the way Bender has. This is what convinces me of his honesty. Nothing could be more logical, in an occult way, than that the invisible entities he invited by the preparation of this locale, should indeed manifest to him, and thereafter proceed to obsess him for a protracted period, using hypnotic techniques that brought the man completely under their control.” When Bender read Constable’s words he vowed never, ever, to return to Ufology. A couple of lectures and a few radio-based interviews in the sixties aside, Bender pretty much stuck to his promise. Bender and Betty had a long and loving life together: they moved permanently to California, never looking back. The Men in Black skulked off elsewhere.

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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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