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An approximate caricature of a Man in Black.


Men in Black (MIB), in popular culture and in UFO conspiracy theories, are men dressed in black suits who are government agent who harass or threaten UFO witnesses to keep them quiet about what they have seen. It is sometimes implied that they may be aliens themselves. The term is also frequently used to describe mysterious men working for unknown organizations, as well as to various branches of government allegedly designed to protect secrets or perform other strange activities. The term is a generic one, used to refer to any unusual, threatening or strangely behaved individual whose appearance on the scene can be linked in some fashion with a UFO sighting."

Description

Origin

The phenomenon was initially and most frequently reported in the 1950's and 1960's, initially in a 1956 book by Gray Barker. According to Clark, the archetypal Men in Black encounter occurred in 1953, when publisher Albert K. Bender asserted that he uncovered the secret behind flying saucers, but had been threatened by three men who wore black suits and hats. Initially, Bender clearly implied the men were U.S. Government agents, but his later accounts blended supernatural features with UFO lore. In fact, Bender himself was initially skeptical of the Men in Black phenomenon and first encountered them "in the flesh" after publishing an account of the Maury Island Incidentmarker, which occurred in 1947 when Harold Dahl reported pieces of a UFO fell on the boat he was on in the Puget Sound, killing his dog. The next day Dahl was allegedly warned by a man in a black suit driving a black 1947 Buick that he would do well to keep silent about the incident. Hilary Evans points out that all elements in the MIB scenario (three visitors of swarthy or "foreign" complexion, in a black Cadillac) is never played out in complete form; e.g. some were limited to telephone calls.

Appearance

Early reports of Men in Black often described them as men short in stature with swarthy complexions, as if they were deeply tanned. Some reported them as Gypsies. Sunglasses, black suits and black cars have been a feature for the entire period since modern sightings began in 1947, but according to UFO historian Jerome Clark, "All MIB are not necessarily garbed in dark suits."

Behavior

According to the accounts of those reporting encountering them, Men in Black always seem to have detailed information on the persons they contact, as if the individual had been under surveillance for a long period of time. They have been described as seeming confused by the nature of everyday items such as pens, eating utensils or food, as well as using outdated slang, though accounts on the behavior of Men in Black vary widely. Accounts indicate that they often claim to be from an agency collecting information on the unexplained phenomenon their subject has encountered. In some cases they are said to use unidentifiable instruments to wipe the memories of their subjects clean, which is unlikely because of the very fact the subject remembered it. In other accounts, they seem to be trying to suppress information by, for instance, trying to convince their subject the phenomenon never existed. They have been described as behaving in either an exceedingly furtive manner or a completely outgoing one, with wide grins and disconcerting giggles. In the UFO research community the Men in Black often claim to be from the Air Force or the CIA. Those who have encountered them say they produce identification, but when verification is later sought, the people described either don't exist, have been dead for some time, or do exist but have a different rank.

Possible explanations

Alien explanation

Some ufo-ologists believe that Men in Black are in fact either aliens or androids controlled by aliens. According to this theory, they are sent out in order to cover up alien activity on Earth. All oddities in their appearance and behavior are explained by the Men in Black's extraterrestrial origin and their unfamiliarity with norms of the human society. Other people have reported that the men are three men who look exactly alike, thus implying that the UFO theory could be true.

Folkloric explanations

Although the phenomenon was initially and most frequently reported in the 1950s and 1960s, some researchers—John Keel and others—have suggested similarities between Men in Black reports and earlier demonic accounts. Keel suggests that MiBs are a modern-day manifestation of the same phenomena that were earlier interpreted as the devil or encounters with fairies. Similarly, folklorist Peter Rojcewicz noted that many Men in Black accounts parallel tales of people encountering the devil: Neither Men in Black nor the devil are quite human, and witnesses often discover this fact midway through an encounter. The meaning of this parallel, however, has been the subject of debate. Even so, the term "the black man" was used for centuries in reference to the Devil, up until contemporary times when "black man" was used to replace the term "Negro" and the satanic sense was lost. In witchcraft trials "The Black Man" was often reported as meeting with the accused and having sexual intercourse with them. In Washington Irving's story "The Devil and Tom Walker" set in 1727, Irving tells how Tom asks "the black man" who he is. The man says he goes by many names and is called the black miner sometimes or the black woodsman. He says that since the Indians are gone, he presides over the persecutions of various religious sects, supports slave-dealers and is the master of the Salem witches. Tom replies that he must be "Old Scratch," which is another name for the devil, and the black man acknowledges that he is Old Scratch. In 1932, H. P. Lovecraft also used the figure of The Black Man in his tale "The Dreams in the Witch-House" as a synonym for the Devil, but also uses the term and description for Nyarlathotep, a malevolent entity of his own creation. In the Middle Ages The Black Man was not a man with African features, but rather a man colored black and dressed in black.

Military/CIA explanations

More prosaically, Clark cites Bill Moore, who asserts that "the Men in Black are really government agents in disguise ... members of a rather bizarre unit of Air Force Intelligence known currently as the Air Force Special Activities Center (AFSAC) ... As of 1991, the AFSAC, headquartered in Fort Belvoir, Virginiamarker," and "under the operational authority of Air Force Intelligence Command centered at Kelly Air Force Basemarker in Texasmarker." (Clark, 321–22) Curiously, Moore also reports that AFSAC was inspired by the tales of Men in Black from the 1950s, and had nothing to do with those early accounts. Similarly, Clark notes that Dr. Michael D. Swords has speculated that the Barker/Bender Men in Black case (occurring shortly after the CIA-directed Robertson Panel issued its recommendations to spy on civilian UFO groups) might have been a psychological warfare experiment. On a more practical note, most US government law enforcement and intelligence agencies such as the FBI have strict dress codes that ordinarily require their members to wear suits in dark, non-obtrusive colors.

Hoax explanation

In his article, "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker," John C. Sherwood reveals that at age 18, he cooperated when Gray Barker urged him in the late 1960s to develop a hoax - which Barker subsequently published - about what Barker called "blackmen," three mysterious UFO inhabitants who silenced Sherwood's pseudonymous identity, "Dr. Richard H. Pratt."

In popular culture

In contemporary pop culture, 'Men in Black' has been adopted as a tongue-in-cheek term, possibly originating in geek culture, for any generic suited government/corporate official, originating as a result of the popularity of shows such as The X-Files, UFO culture, and the "threat" to hackers of Men in Black actually coming for them (in the form of the FBImarker or other cybercrime institutions). As a result of its popularity, Men In Black have been featured in a number of fictional works and media. There are many references to the Men in Black in film and television, some oblique and some straightforward.

Film



  • Knowing (2009). Men in black suits in a black car harassing 2 families when a document featuring a coded messages is found.


  • The Shadow Men (1998) starring Eric Roberts and Sherilyn Fenn. A family is besieged by a group of Men in Black after accidentally taping a close encounter. This film offers an unusual take on the exact nature of the MIB.




  • In 2007, a short film called Truth, directed by Nic Collins, of Tootalu Films , also centers around the Men in Black conspiracy, showing the Men in Black as aliens disguised as humans and using intimidation to discredit the witness. Also features the Majestic-12.


  • In the 2007 movie Transformers, agents of Sector Seven -- a secret organization of the United States government—are portrayed as MIB's.






  • Although a slim case might be made for the black-suited men who appear wordlessly near the conclusion of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), perhaps the first film appearance of MIB is in the 1984 cult film Repo Man by writer/director Alex Cox. The film depicts several men in black suits with names derived by taking the first letter from each actors first name, Biff Yeager as Agent B, Ed Pansullo as Agent E, Steve Mattson as Agent S, and Thomas R. Boyd as Agent T. The well known entertainer, Jimmy Buffett, played an extra MiB credited as "Additional Blond Agent."




  • Two men in black appear in two scene of the movie S. Darko , they walk in the background looking at the main character, even if they don't seem to have any relations with the main plot.


Television

  • Perhaps the first mass-audience appearance of UFO-related Men in Black occurred in the second aired episode of the cult television series The Invaders, written by the series' associate producer, Anthony Spinner, directed by Joseph Sargent and first aired Jan. 17, 1967. In the episode, titled The Experiment, an astrophysicist has learned space aliens have assumed human form on Earth; he is abducted by two sinister men who wear black trenchcoats and MIB-stereotypical black fedora hats and claim to be government agents; another "man in black" is dressed as a minister. The scientist later is found dead, and is thus effectively "silenced." The series hero later is subjected to a mind-control device by the three black-garbed men, aided by others who are all presumed to be space aliens. This dramatic use of the MiB theme in the mass media occurred during a period of widespread public fascination with UFOs, shortly after the March 1966 Michigan UFO/"swamp gas" flap (notably involving U.S. Air Force UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek) and the 1966-67 "Mothman" sightings in West Virginia.


  • The Second Series of Lost in Space introduced an alien race known as the Saticons who appear in groups of three, and apart from their covered faces, resemble MIB in appearance. They first appear, unnamed, in Wreck of the Robot where they display similar abilities to the MIB of UFO mythology. A solitary Saticon-type alien appeared in Treasure of the Lost Planet. They made their last appearance in The Galaxy Gift where they are named the Saticons, aliens with advanced psi-powers from a dead planet.````


  • Two episodes of the short-lived television series M.A.N.T.I.S. featured a trio of mysterious, malevolent figures who were clearly based on reports of encounters with the MIB. All three are virtually identical in appearance with black hair, black clothes, dark sunglasses, and chalk-white skin -- and even though they superficially look human, it's evident from their behavior that they're not.










  • In an episode of the television show Bones, Dr. Hodgins, an outspoken conspiracy theorist, is arrested for calling in a fake terrorism tip. When Brennan asks Booth if they should step in, he replies that being taken away by Men in Black is Hodgins' dream come true.


  • In the TV series Danny Phantom, there are a group of antagonists that Danny regularly fights called "The Guys in White". They are a clear reference to the Men in Black, speaking in a very mechanical, concise way and wearing color-inverted variations of the 'Men in Black' outfit (in other words, a white suit jacket, pants, and tie, and a black dress shirt.) They hunt ghosts instead of dealing with UFOs.






  • The TV Series Fringe features a character known as the Observer who has many similarities with Men in Black. He can be seen frequently throughout the series.


  • In the TV series Johnny Test, there are two recurring Area 51 agents dubbed Mr. Black and Mr. White.


  • On a 2009 episode of Reno 911, three mysterious people were experimenting with something in the Nevada desert. They infiltrated the sheriff's department. However, the only major issue the deputies had with them was the fact that the did not know the MIB's names.


  • Operatives from The Company in the American sci-fi show Heroes were comparable to Men in Black and often even dressed in black. Noah Bennett in particular was often treated as such by several characters in the show, and was sometimes referred to by a similarly themed name, 'the man with horn-rimmed glasses'.


  • The American TV Series "Unsolved Mysteries" hosted by Robert Stack. Hosted a segment on "The Men In Black." The segment dealt with the issue of "The Men In Black" with solid witnesses, stating to have had the visitation from the "Men In Black." A New York woman who passed alone figure of "Man In Black." passing by her on the street.


  • In the episode of the TV crime series Numb3rs called "The Dreamland", there is a character by the name of Agent Floyd from Department 44 of the Pentagon who acted like one of The Men in Black


  • In Disney XD original movie "The Skyrunners"its antagonist is Agent Armstrong, who is Part of Man in black, who is alien who want to destroy mankind


Music

  • British rock band The Stranglers, by their own admission, became obsessed with the Men in Black theory around 1979–81, culminating in the release of their concept album The Gospel According to the Meninblack. They attributed the many calamities they suffered around the time to the influence of the Men in Black.




  • The Blue Öyster Cult song "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" concerns "three men in black" looking to suppress the discovery of flying saucers. One of them is referred to as "Balthazar", suggesting that the "three men" could really be the Biblical Magi. Another song by the band, "Take Me Away", about the singer's wish to be abducted by aliens, contains the lyric "Don't ask if they are real, the men in black - their lips are sealed".




  • The Underground Alternative Rock band '9 Second Eternity' references Men in Black and the New World Order on several of their lyrics.


  • Roger Waters' 1987 Wembley performances of the Radio K.A.O.S. tour featured a film sequence dramatising Dr Herbert Hopkins' 1976 MIB encounter with the words: "neither you nor any other… humanoid… will see this coin again".


  • Michael Jackson wrote a song called "Men in Black" in 1989 and recorded it in 1990 which was going to be released on the shelved greatest hits album Decade: 1980-1990. And later considered it for the 1991 album "Dangerous" and was going to be the first single off the album, but didn't make the cut which was instead replaced by "Black or White". The track is rumoured to be produced by Jazzie B of Soul II Soul.


  • Merle Haggard's 2003 song "Lonesome Day" includes the lyrics "When the men in black come kickin' in your door / and guitar-playin' outlaws lay spread-eagle on the floor ... "


Books and comics



  • The British comic 2000 AD ran a series called Vector 13 where Men in Black acted as narrators for a series of strange tales, at the time when they were portrayed as ousting the editor Tharg the Mighty.


  • Horror author Kim Newman also featured featuring MIB-like characters, known as the "Undertakers" in smoked spectacles, in several of his Diogenes Club stories. The Undertaking is an organisation with connections to the British government, but is often in conflict with the similarly-connected Diogenes agents.




  • Irregular Webcomic! also features a Man in Black as a recurring character in the Martians theme. A running gag is the fact that he appears immediately after anyone mentions aliens to convince them that aliens do not exist, sometimes even to the Martians themselves.


  • Italian comic Martin Mystère features The Men in Black as a secret and ancient society of men aiming to hide knowledge and technology from humanity, waiting for the right moment in the future to unveil them.






  • The 2007 sci-fi/fantasy novel The Unreals, by Donald Jeffries, features several MIB characters.


  • In The Jackie Chan Magazine, a small article was featured.


Video Games

  • The Men in Black appear as enemies in the middle to later part of the game Deus Ex. Both male and female versions appear, and they speak in an unsettling robotic tone.


See also



Notes

  1. Clark, Jerome (1996). The UFO Encyclopedia, volume 3: High Strangeness, UFO’s from 1960 through 1979. Omnigraphis. 317–18.
  2. Clark, 1998
  3. Evans, Hillary (1984), Visions, Apparitions, Alien Visitors, Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, ISBN 0-85030-414-8 pp. 138-9.
  4. cited in Clark, 1998


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