Truman Bethurum was a Californian, born in 1898, who spent much of his early years working jobs that never seemed to last. His first marriage began and crumbled during the chaos of the Second World War. He entered into a second marriage only several months after the war ended, and ultimately wound up working out in the harsh, hot deserts of Nevada – specifically in the much needed highway construction game. And, it was while Bethurum was out in the desert, in 1952, and while his second wife, Mary, was stuck at home in Santa Barbara, that Bethurum claimed he had an extremely close encounter with extraterrestrials on Mormon Mesa, a near-2000-foot-high foot high mount in Nevada’s Moapa Valley. Bethurum's life was about to chagnge - and to change to a huge degree. On the fateful night in question, and after the working day was over, Bethurum climbed the mountain, primarily to search for shells, something that Mary particularly enjoyed collecting. The story goes that Bethurum was rendered into a strange, altered state of mind, during which aliens from another world suddenly manifested before him; having arrived in a huge, gleaming, flying saucer that quietly descended to the desert floor. Although only around four-feet-five to five-feet in height, the aliens were eerily human-looking and claimed to come from a faraway planet called Clarion. Not only that, their leader was one Captain Aura Rhanes, a shapely woman that the near-salivating Bethurum described as being “tops in shapeliness and beauty.” All thoughts of Mary – back in Santa Barbara – were suddenly gone from Bethurum’s mind.
Bethurum’s admittedly odd story continued and grew at a steady and controversial pace, as did his relationship with the flirty Captain Rhanes. For months, Bethurum and Rhanes had more and more clandestine meetings; usually, late at night. They generally occurred in isolated desert locations in Nevada, where, after Rhanes’ huge ship landed, the pair had long and deep conversations about the state of the Earth, atomic bombs, the Cold War, and the captain’s very own home world - to which she promised, one day, to take Bethurum, one day. While Bethurum certainly did not explicitly say so, there are more than a few nuggets of data in Bethurum’s collective work that suggest on a couple of occasions the pair had just about the closest and most intimate encounters, of all. Lucky guy! It’s hardly surprising, then, that many students of Ufology in that era of Cold War fear, outright dismiss Bethurum’s story as either a hoax, or a fantasy born out of Bethurum’s unhappiness with both wife number one and two (eventually, there would be wife number three). There is, however, one particularly fascinating aspect of Bethurum’s claimed experiences that has a significant bearing upon the matter of the Women in Black. That's right: Aura Rhanes, it seems, played two roles: (a) a sinister Woman in Black; and (b) a friendly Space Sister. And, Bethurum's chats about a possible Third World War caused the FBI to keep their eyes on hm.
On two occasions, Bethurum said, he encountered Aura Rhanes under circumstances that were very different to those which occurred out in the desert, and with Rhanes’ huge flying saucer and her crew of little men in view. These additional encounters saw Rhanes operating in what can only be termed disguise. In fact, in definitive Woman in Black mode. And, I should stress that there was nothing flirty or friendly about any of these close encounters, however: they were downright hostile and manipulative. The first encounter of the W.I.B. type occurred around 3:00 a.m. – a time, you may very well know, when a wealth of supernatural activity typically occurs - one August 1952 morning. Bethurum and a work friend, Whitey, had just finished their shift and decided to head off in Whitey’s pick-up truck to a favorite, all-night diner in Glendale, Nevada. Whitey was someone who Bethurum had quietly confided in about his experiences with Aura Rhanes. He was also someone who, although fascinated by Bethurum’s claims, was somewhat skeptical of the whole story. That is, until they entered the diner. Any skepticism Whitey had was very soon to be totally wiped out.
As the pair sat and drank coffee and ate pie, a noticeably quiet Whitey elbowed Bethurum in the ribs and motioned him to take a look at the end of the counter. Bethurum looked up. He was amazed and shocked to see Aura Rhanes, and an equally small male individual, standing there. “It’s her, isn’t it?” asked Whitey. Bethurum nodded, pretty much in a state of near-shock. Both men watched carefully as Rhanes and her colleague took seats at a window table. In stark contrast to everyone else in the diner, Rhanes was dressed in black: black beret, wraparound black sunglasses, black velvet blouse, and black boots. The only thing that wasn’t black: a “glaring red” skirt. A worried Whitey asked: “What are you going to do?” Bethurum knew exactly what he was going to do. He composed himself, and walk over and talk to them. Whitey, however, was having none of it. He quickly exited the diner, preferring to sit in his truck, in the overwhelming darkness of the desert, rather than confront creatures from another world.
Perhaps trying to be a gentleman and tactful at the same time, Bethurum asked: “I beg your pardon, lady, but haven’t we met before?” Rhanes slowly looked up, glared at Bethurum with a wide-eyed and hostile stare, and uttered just one word: “No.” In private correspondence with fellow contactee, George Hunt Williamson, Bethurum said that Rhanes’ “no” was uttered in a chilling, demonic tone. Almost like a “deadly hiss,” to use Bethurum’s own words. Bethurum wasn’t taking that for an answer: “You very closely resemble a lady I met some time ago out on Mormon Mesa.” The only response was another “No” of a very threatening style. Bethurum evidently didn’t get the message. He blundered on with his line of questions. The answer was the same again and again. All the time, the weird little man with Rhanes – who also sported dark sunglasses - said not even a single word. Bethurum clearly recognized this odd behavior (or, rather, non-behavior) on the part of Rhanes’ comrade: “The man did not give a hint that he either heard me or was even aware of my presence. He could have passed as a blind [and] deaf mute.” As Bethurum walked away, and back to his table, the waitress came over – she just happened to be someone else that Bethurum had told of his otherworldly experiences. She said to him: “They are surely the saucer people you told us about.”
He replied: “I thought so, too. But it may not be. The lady has on dark glasses and the man had a scar on his face.” The waitress gave a strange response: “I noticed that too, but it is not a scar. It is only penciled on.” With that, the odd little man motioned for the check. In a few moments, it was paid and the pair headed for the door. The waitress raced over to Bethurum and said: “The lady told me to tell you that she knows you, and that she was sorry and ‘yes’ is the answer to some of your questions.” It was then that something very strange happened, as Bethurum noted: “I saw them only a step from the door, before I turned to pay my check. When I turned back they were gone. I rushed outside, and there stood Whitey puffing nonchalantly on his cigarette.” When a dumbfounded Bethurum asked where the pair was, Whitey replied: “They never came out. Honest, Tru; not a blessed soul passed through that door until you came out.”
Just a couple of weeks later, on a Saturday afternoon, Bethurum was having his hair trimmed at a barber’s shop in Las Vegas, when he caught sight of Aura Rhanes, yet again. This time, she was walking along the sidewalk outside the barber’s – wearing her same outfit of black sunglasses, black beret, black blouse, and red skirt. Bethurum practically threw his dollars and coins at the astonished barber and raced out of the door. “Lady! Lady!” cried Bethurum, as he caught sight of Rhanes, about sixty feet ahead of him. She quickly turned, looked directly at him – despite the fact that the street was crowded and the shout could have come from any number of dozens of people on the sidewalk. She slowly shook her head.
The stone-cold look on her face was one of pure evil. Bethurum got the message, as Rhanes vanished into the crowd. Nevertheless, it wasn’t long before the nighttime liaisons in the desert were renewed – something which continued until November 2, 1952, when the little people of Clarion finally said their goodbyes. A crushed Bethurum was never to see his beautiful woman from the stars again. Maybe, as we’ve seen, that should be sometimes beautiful, but other times nothing but hostile. “Little people” is a very appropriate term to use, since there are clear and undeniable parallels between Aura Rhanes and the legendary female “fairy-folk” who would enchant men in Middle Ages-era Britain. The sexual aspects of such encounters, combined with notable amounts of missing time, make them the centuries-old mirror-images of today’s alien abductions. Was Aura Rhanes a 20th century equivalent of a fairy-like “elemental?” Perhaps, yes.
Although the story of Truman Bethurum most assuredly stretches credibility to the max, it’s important to note that it’s filled with both W.I.B.- and MIB-themed lore that simply was not in the public domain at the time in question, namely, the early years of the 1950s. In the 1960s, a curious trend began in which the M.I.B. regularly turned up to intimidate people in restaurants and diners – just as black-dressed Aura Rhanes did, way back in August 1952. The matter of Rhanes’ sunglasses-wearing comrade having a painted-on scar mirrors the 1976 saga of a Dr. Herbert Hopkins, who’s unsettling M.I.B. seemed to be wearing lipstick, and whose story plays a key role in the saga of the Women in Black - as will become apparent later on in this book. Other W.I.B. and M.I.B. are often described as wearing make-up, as if to mask their milk-white, pasty skin. Then there is the matter of the disappearance of the strange duo: as they exited the door of the diner, they vanished – as in literally. In no less than dozens of W.I.B. and M.I.B. cases, the black-clad fiends of the night seem to possess the unnerving ability to dematerialize as they exit the homes of those they terrorize.
I should stress that the Aura/Bethurum encounters of the Women in Black type were not the first. Ironically, none other than Albert Bender - the Man who began the M.I.B. mystery - was one of the first. In 1933, while he was just a young child, Bender’s mother told him the spine-tingling story of a deeply malevolent family ghost. That of a Woman in Black. There were no friendly, fun, night-time tales for young Bender. The story revolved around a second-cousin of Bender who, while only six years of age at the time, moved into a sinister old house with his family. It was a house that sat adjacent to an old, abandoned mine-shaft. The mine was a downright eerie place: it was filled with angular shadows and darkened passageways. Old wooden supports creaked and groaned endlessly, and a multitude of bats and rats called it their lair. It was also a mine in which, years earlier, a despondent young woman slit her throat and, as the blood cascaded forth, threw herself into the depths of one of the darkened, old shafts. Her battered and torn body was finally recovered and taken into the house in which Bender’s cousin lived, before being buried in the local graveyard. The woman, noted Bender, was said to have been a definitive witch, one that “lived alone with a great many cats” and who “was said to prowl about only at night.”
Bender added that: “My cousin wore a coin on an unbroken chain around his neck constantly, even to bed. After having lived in the house a few months, his parents noticed his health was failing. He would not eat, and claimed he saw a lady in black in his bedroom at night. Of course, they thought it all nonsense and that he was only dreaming, but soon they began to have sleepless nights when the boy would scream out in his sleep and they would find it necessary to go and comfort him.” In the early hours of one particularly fraught morning, Bender’s cousin awoke the whole family; he was wailing like a veritable banshee. His parents raced to his room and noticed that the coin had been unhooked from the chain and was now positioned on the pillow. According to Bender, the boy told his mother and father that “the lady in black was trying to choke him and take his coin away from him.” The local doctor in town dismissed the boy’s words with a wave of his hand, and said the entire thing was down to nightmares and nothing else. Very soon thereafter, the doctor would be proven catastrophically wrong.
With no end in sight for the boy’s malignant night-terrors, both parents elected to sleep in their son’s room, alongside him, until things finally calmed down and normality was hopefully restored. On the fourth night, they were woken up by the horrific sight of a hooded, female form - dressed completely in black, and with sickly-looking skin – that slowly and silently glided across the room, right in the direction of the boy. A bony hand moved slowly down to grasp the coin, at which point the boy’s father jumped up, lit a candle, and firmly thrust it in the face of the W.I.B. Bender said: “They could see a pale, chalky-white face staring at them.” In an instant the terrifying hag screamed at both parents; its wild and hostile eyes flashing quickly from father to mother and back again. Suddenly, it was gone – and so was the coin. Not surprisingly, the terrified family vacated the house within a week. The boy, to the relief of everyone concerned, quickly recovered. The W.I.B. phenomenon had taken off. And it's still with us.