Although the latter part of the 1940s proved to be a period in which sightings of apparent unearthly craft abounded, it wasn’t until the early 1950s that the Men in Black stepped out of the shadows – in force –and set about snaring us, manipulating us, and ultimately digesting us. And, no, the “digesting” term is not an exaggeration. Over the years there have been numerous investigators of the Men in Black phenomenon, such as UFO researchers Gray Barker, Jim Keith, and Harold Fulton – all of whom are now long gone. None of them, however, came anywhere close to Albert K. Bender – the man without whom our knowledge of the MIB and their agenda would be sorely lacking, and who created the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB). Born in 1922, Bender was someone who served his country during the Second World War in the United States Army Air Corps. Post-World War Two, Bender lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in a somewhat creepy-looking old house that stood at what was, at the time, the junction of Broad Street and North Frontage Road. Today, the house is no more, the secrets it once held now being just memories and stories in books.
Adding to the creepy atmosphere, Bender lived in the attic. Of course! Where else? As a fan of the worlds of sci-fi-, fictional horror (H.P. Lovecraft was one of Bender’s favorites), and the real world of the paranormal, Bender radically altered his attic-room into what he termed his “Chamber of Horrors.” Paintings of grotesque monsters filled the walls. Imagery of skulls and black cats abounded. A gothic-style painting of an old cemetery dominated the room. And, plastic spiders hung from the ceiling. Then, there was Bender’s altar – it was at the foot of that unsettling place of worship that Bender would engage in infernal rites designed to provoke a supernatural response from…well…who knew what? Bender didn’t care what “it” was, he just wanted that reply. He got it, alright. He opened the kind of door that it’s never, ever wise to open. And, something came through.
As Albert Bender noted in his 1962 book, Flying Saucers and the Three Men (zero prizes for guessing who the “three men” were…), in practically no time after he called forth something supernatural from the other side, he was paid a visit. Yes, the Men in Black had picked up on Bender’s request for communication – and they responded in kind. Bender was replying to a mountain of mail from the readers of the latest issue of his Space Review magazine when he received his first visit of what, finally, amounted to several. It was late one night in 1953 when the MIB turned up. There was no slow, loud, knock at the door, though. Nor were any U.S. Government ID cards flashed. Bender’s Men in Black walked through the walls and door of the attic. They were blazing-eyed, skinny, pale monsters. Their mode of dress was black suits, black fedoras, skinny black-ties, black shoes, and crisp white shirts. Imagine a 1950s-era member of the Mafia mixed in with a liberal amount of a resurrected zombie that has seen better days, and the image swirling around your mind won’t be too far off what it was that Bender encountered.
As the Men in Black got closer, so Bender started to feel sick. Nausea overwhelmed him and an odor of sulfur filled the attic. Worse still, Bender felt himself becoming weak. His energy levels plummeted like those of a diabetic who has missed breakfast, lunch and dinner. He was freezing cold and the shakes had suddenly set in. Even in his hazy, sickly state, Bender couldn’t fail to see something which chilled him to the bone: the weaker he got, the brighter and more fiery the eyes of the terrible trio got. Weaker, brighter. Weaker, brighter. You get the picture. Bender certainly did. In a macabre and terrifying way…Albert Bender was, bit by bit, being eaten; devoured, even. With Bender sprawled out on the bed, and as helpless as a newborn puppy, the Men in Black telepathically warned him to leave the UFO subject well alone. If he didn’t only something terrible would befall the man himself. The three turned on their heels (black, of course) and dematerialized as mysteriously as they had first appeared. Bender was no fool: he knew that if he didn’t quit chasing flying saucers that the MIB were surely likely to turn his life into a living hell. But, the allure of the space-beings and their silvery, saucer-shaped craft was way too strong. So, it was all but inevitable that Bender would get another visit. And another. He did. Things got worse and worse: like those ghoulish drivers who can’t keep their eyes off of a fatal car accident on the highway, the MIB couldn’t keep away from Bender: they would always arrive at night and hover over the bed, as Bender fell into that same state of sudden illness and weakness that hit him on the first occasion.
By the second visit, Bender’s health was suffering significantly: he had gotten progressively weaker. He started to develop stomach problems. From his descriptions, it may have been ulcers and a dose of ulcerative-colitis. His energy levels had fallen off the scale and he lost weight. He was constantly out of breath. And migraines plagued him day and night. As for those MIB? Well, their eyes just proceeded to get brighter and brighter with every visit. It didn’t take Bender long to realize that he was effectively being bled dry. It was, in a strange way, very similar to the actions of those black-cloaked vampires who drained bevies of buxom babes of their blood in the likes of Universal Studios’ 1931 version of Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. In a very strange state of twisted irony, the movie was one of Bender’s all-time favorites. Come the third visit, Bender was not in a good condition at all: he was now seeing the MIB in the darkened streets of town. They would stand on the street-corner, leering at him – entities that no-one but Bender could see. The stomach problems were getting worse. He was losing more weight. Bender knew he had to do something. And, he did. Bender, albeit somewhat reluctantly, walked away from UFOs and closed down Space Review. Bender shut the doors on the International Flying Saucer Bureau, too, and quit the subject. He made a very brief reappearance in 1962, to write the aforementioned Flying Saucers and the Three Men, after which he left the subject behind and never returned. From the 1960s, and until his death in 2016, Bender was, when it came to UFOs, permanently AWOL.
Albert Bender was not only the man who effectively birthed the MIB enigma; he was also the first person to astutely realize that the Men in Black were feeding on him. And, on who knew how many more people? Bender didn’t even want to think about that. Let’s now take a look at an absolute catalog of such cases in which the Men in Black demonstrate an aversion to conventional food and liquid and who appear to be using us as a form of fuel. John Keel, the author of the acclaimed 1975 book, The Mothman Prophecies, was someone who had a deep interest in the Men in Black enigma and who even found himself in their clutches from time to time. Of the many cases that Keel personally investigated, one of the strangest has a significant bearing on the story told in this final chapter. It all occurred in May 1967, even though the affair had its origins in late 1966. It’s a story which Keel shared in his 1970 book, UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse.
The location was a field in a rural part of the 19th century city of Owatonna, Minnesota – which just happens to be the home of the expansive Kaplan’s Woods, which are said to be haunted by multiple disembodied spirits of a terrifying nature. But, it’s UFOs and Men in Black that we are focusing on now, not the restless dead. It was late at night when Mrs. Ralph Butler and a friend were staring at a patch of the night sky, watching a curious display of unidentified bright lights dance around. Without warning, one of the lights dropped from the heavens at high speed. Just before it hit the ground, the UFO came to a sudden halt, bobbing a few feet above the field floor, not unlike a boat on the ocean. Without warning, Mrs. Butler’s friend – who declined to have her named used by Keel – fell to the ground and went into a trance. In what seemed to be akin to a case of demonic possession, the woman began to speak in a deep, almost robotic fashion. “What is your time cycle?” asked the voice. Mrs. Butler, then in her own voice, replied: “A day is approximately twelve hours long and a night is twelve hours long.” The strange question-and-answer session continued for a few more minutes, after which the woman finally came around. The light shot away, vanishing into the night sky. Ominously, and for the next few days, whenever the women tried to share the details of their encounter they were hit by pummeling migraines and weakness. But, there was something else, too.
During the course of the interview between Mrs. Butler and John Keel, something very intriguing surfaced. Quite out of the blue, she asked Keel if he knew anything about mysterious men visiting UFO witnesses; men who looked like military personnel, but who may not have been. Keel, hardly a stranger to the MIB phenomenon played matters down a bit and said that, yes, he had heard a few such stories. Actually Keel had dozens of such cases on record, but he didn’t want to risk putting words into Mrs. Butler’s mouth, or of influencing her. Keel sat back and listened as Mrs. Butler told her story. It was in May 1967, some six months after the UFO sighting, that a “Major Richard French” turned up on Mrs. Butler’s doorstep, identifying himself as a representative of the military and asking questions about flying saucers. Just like all of the Men in Black, there was something just not right about Major French: his skin was an odd shave of olive. His face was extremely pointed, and particularly so his chin. He spoke English, but his accent was as blank as it could be. And he was dressed in a suit and a black tie, rather than in a military outfit.
Very oddly, Major French – quite out of the blue – said that his stomach was causing him some trouble. Mrs. Butler offered him some Jello, which he quickly declined. He quickly left. The next day, though, the major was back. Yet again, he complained about his stomach. Mrs. Butler again offered him a bowl of Jello, hoping that it might help the major. Here is where surreal became beyond surreal. For a moment or two, Major French stared at the Jello, seemingly completely unware of what it was. He then stared at the spoon Mrs. Butler had given him as if he had no comprehension of what it was. He then awkwardly picked up the bowl and proceeded to try and drink the Jello. Mrs. Butler went silent and stared in disbelief. Major French did not hang around, realizing, it seems, that Mrs. Butler knew something was not quite normal – which is an understatement of epic proportions. He quickly left, never again bothering Mrs. Butler.
Cases of Men in Black not just not understanding what regular food is, but also having no understanding of how to eat it, abound. In roughly the same timeframe that Mrs. Butler of Owatonna, Minnesota had a couple of strange encounters with Major Richard French, another weird “man” walked into Max’s Kansas City, New York and asked for food. His suit was black and decades out of style, and his eyes bulged, like mad-dog eyes. “Something to eat” he said in a monotone, robotic fashion. It was followed by one more word: “Food.” Clearly, this particular MIB was a man of very few words. The man, John Keel reported in 1975’s Visitors from Space, stared menacingly at the waitress, who suggested a steak and while she cautiously backed away. The juicy steak was duly brought to the table but it remained untouched: knives and forks were beyond the comprehension of the man, who – quite out of the blue – claimed to the waitress that he was an extraterrestrial entity. He soon left, evidently not happy with what passes for food on Earth.