Mar 09, 2023 I Nick Redfern

The Men in Black: The Origins of How I Got Interested in Those Black-Clothed Monsters.

People often ask me why it is that I take an interest in this or that and when and why? Well, that's a very good question. There is always a reason. For example, I got into UFOs because my dad was a radar operator in the U.K. military and, in 1952, he was involved in three encounters over the North Sea. As for the Loch Ness Monster(s), my parents took me to Loch Ness when for a vacation when I was a kid and that got me into the field of Cryptozoology (I like "Monster Hunting" much better). And, I was just eleven years of age 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. It was late on a typically – and most appropriately - bleak and windswept English evening when their occult presence first darkened my door. On the night in question – wide of eye and full of youthful, pre-teen excitement and anticipation - 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.

(Nick Redfern) Beware of the M.I.B.

A fiery-eyed winged-thing, surreal reports of contact with enigmatic alien intelligences 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 that, 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 onwards 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? Even as a child, and particularly so on those proverbial dark and stormy English nights that seemed all-dominating, such questions plagued and tormented my mind. And, 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, a skilled, atmospheric, Gonzo-style writer with a flair for all-things dramatic, gothic, and turbulent, 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, at all, of a 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. 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 unsettlingly familiar with matters alchemic, occult and nightmarish as they were with UFOs and faraway, fantastic worlds. 

(Nick Redfern) The Creepy characters of Ufology.

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 obsessing over 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.

 No wonder he quit Ufology and moved onto other things, such as obsessing over 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. As a kid, I found the books and tales of both Barker and Bender to be even more captivating than those of Keel; despite the fact that out of the three of them, it was Keel who, in the popularity stakes, soared. 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 British Isles from the 1950s onwards. 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 was very pleased to be asked to write a new foreword to an updated and expanded edition of Gray Barker’s 1983 very rare book: M.I.B.: The Secret Terror among Us, as well as a paper for Timothy Green Beckley’s mighty tome, Curse of the Men in Black.

(Nick Redfern) Not quite Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

In other words, while I have never been fortunate enough to have received a late-night visit from the terrible MIB (Yes, I would consider such a visit to be fortunate, as I might then be able to finally answer the riddle of who or what they really are), they have certainly got their grips into me in other ways. Having written about, and pondered so extensively on, the Men in Black, would I consider my research in this area to be a full-blown obsession? No. I prefer the word fascination. I should stress that pursuing the MIB is not something that – in any way, at all - impacts upon my social life or my day-to-day activities, but, even so, they never really go away. They’re always lurking, hovering in the shadows, and forever just out of reach. 

I’m certainly not the first – nor will I be the last – to be pulled, magnet-like, into the turbulent eye of the MIB hurricane. Bender, Barker, Keel: they all came before me, and all three became truly enveloped by MIB high-strangeness. And, doubtless, there will be those Men in Black seekers who will follow me down the maze-like rabbit-hole in which the MIB dwell darkly while carefully plotting their nefarious actions. But, in the meantime, my work in this particular arena is far from done – which is precisely why you are now devouring these very pages. As is often the case when someone writes a book, those who read it and who have a story, or sometimes several, to tell will contact the author and relate the facts. And, as far as the MIB are concerned, that has now happened to me on countless occasions. But, purely for space reasons and to ensure that my editors do not find themselves suffering from near MIB-overload, many of the accounts I have on-file of personal and extraordinary encounters with the Men in Black have never seen the light of day. At least, they haven’t until now. 

It’s fair to say that my latest book on the Men in Black is somewhat of a radical departure for me, in the sense that I have specifically let the witnesses and the theorists – certainly, the most important people when it comes to trying to understand the nature of the MIB phenomenon – tell their own stories, solely in their own words. My role, here, is merely to introduce you to the plethora of players in the seemingly never-ending saga of the crazed and creepy Men in Black, and have them relate their amazing and intriguing stories. It was my original intention to write a kind of “summary-analysis”-type section after each respective report or paper. But, then, after having given the matter deep thought, I decided otherwise. At the end of the day, we all have our views and opinions on the nature and actions of the MIB, and giving my opinion on each and every bit of data would be as pointless as it would be tedious and undeniably repetitive. Instead, I leave it up to the witnesses and the investigators to share their data, and I leave it up to you to digest that same data as you see fit.  

(Nick Redfern) Back in the 1960s the Mothman and the M.I.B. menaced the people of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

In some cases, the information is scant, but tantalizing. In others, it is lengthy and twisting. And in a few, it’s downright controversial to just about the ultimate degree possible. But, in all cases, the data is – just like the MIB themselves – uncanny, unsettling, and deeply bizarre. So, with the above all said, I now invite you to sit back – on what I most earnestly hope will be for you what it was for me the first time I encountered the MIB, namely a dark, shadowy and chilled eve – and immerse yourself in countless sinister tales of the Men in Black and the Women in Black, too. And, of course, there are those spin-offs from the Men in Black, such as the Shadow People, The Hat-Man, even the Slenderman, who is without doubt the world's most dangerous Thought-Form / Tulpa. So, in other words, my interests have largely surfaced at random. And, the way things are going, I doubt that the Men in Black and their "comrades" will ever go. I still get a lot of M.I.B. cases sent my way - primarily because they have had their own encounters, and want to try and figure out what the Men in Black are, what their agendas are, and where they come from. Unfortunately, and despite the huge number of M.I.B. cases that exist, the Men in Black are still as dangerous and mysterious as they were, way back in the 1950s, when Albert Bender and Gray Barker were around.

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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