Men in Black

mib by Mark Monlux

UFO folklore

Men in Black (MIB), in American popular culture and in UFO conspiracy theories, are men dressed in black suits who claim to be government agents 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.

Early reports of Men in Black often described them as men of short 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. 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.

MIB 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described as seeming confused by the nature of everyday items such as pens, eating utensils or food, as well as using outdated slang, though accounts of their behavior vary widely. Accounts indicate that they often claim to be from an agency collecting information on the unexplained phenomenon their subject has encountered. 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 U.S. Air Force, CIA or the FBI. Those who have encountered them say they produce identification, but when verification is later sought, the people described either do not exist, have been dead for some time, or do exist but have a different rank.

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.

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