Men in Black
An approximate caricature of a Man in
), in popular culture
and in UFO conspiracy theories
, are men
dressed in black suits
who harass or
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."
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
features with UFO
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 Incident, 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
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."
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.
Some ufo-ologists believe that Men in Black are in fact either
controlled by aliens. According to this
theory, they are sent out in order to cover up alien activity on
. 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
Although the phenomenon was initially and most frequently reported
in the 1950s and 1960s, some researchers—John
and others—have suggested similarities between Men in
Black reports and earlier demonic
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
: 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
'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
, 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.
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, Virginia," and "under the operational authority of Air Force
Intelligence Command centered at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas."
(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
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.
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
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 FBI or other cybercrime
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- In The Jackie Chan Magazine, a small article was featured.
- 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.
- Clark, Jerome (1996). The UFO Encyclopedia, volume 3: High
Strangeness, UFO’s from 1960 through 1979. Omnigraphis.
- Clark, 1998
- Evans, Hillary (1984), Visions, Apparitions, Alien
Visitors, Aquarian Press, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire,
ISBN 0-85030-414-8 pp. 138-9.
- cited in Clark, 1998