The Real Men in Black: Beyond the Hollywood Myth

In June 1947 after an alleged encounter with a UFO, government agents in dark suits were said to have approached Harold Dahl, a Washington native who was out in the east bay of Maury Island, and told him not to discuss the incident. This was one of the earliest reported encounters with the supposed ‘Men in Black’. But are there Men in Black in real life, or are they just a Hollywood construct with brain-wiping zappers? Read on to find out.

Mysteries
14 May 2024

The enigmatic figures known as the Men in Black have long captured the public’s imagination, straddling the fine line between myth and reality. Often depicted as sombre, shadowy individuals dressed in a black suit and tie, white shirt, and sunglasses, the stories of the real Men in Black permeate the realms of UFO sightings and extraterrestrial encounters.

Believed by many to be agents of the government, Men in Black are said to mysteriously appear at the scene of alleged UFO sightings and alien abductions and interrogate, threaten, intimidate and muzzle witnesses into keeping silent.

Are they agents of the government engaged in programmes of disinformation? Are they part of a clandestine organisation trying to suppress the truth about the existence of UFOs and extraterrestrials? Are they, as some believe, aliens themselves?

Or are they figments of pop culture imagination, glamourised in a fun and lighthearted way by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones – the fictional Men in Black from the film franchise – as galaxy defenders?

Let’s go undercover in an attempt to shed light on the true story of the Men in Black.

The Origins of the Real Men in Black

Eastern side of Maury Island, Seattle (Credit: Bob Pool via Getty Images)

One of the earliest recorded incidents of pseudo-government Men in Black style characters – a staple of conspiracy and UFO folklore – can be traced back to June 1947. Harold Dahl, a marine patrolman in the east bay of Maury Island, around 25 miles south of Seattle in Washington, saw, in his own words, ‘six, very large doughnut-shaped aircraft.’

According to Dahl, the unidentified craft dropped what he thought were newspapers, but turned out to be very thin sheets of a metal-type substance, as well as lava-type rocks that injured a crewman.

He reported the sighting to his boss, Fred Crisman, who’s believed to have gone to the scene and saw the strange UFOs for himself.

The morning after, Dahl said he was visited by a man in a dark suit – one of the Men in Black in real life perhaps – who described the incident in incredibly specific detail and was supposed to have said words to the effect of ‘what I’ve told you is proof that I know a lot more about your experience than you’ll want to believe.’

Dahl was also allegedly threatened with unspecified ‘bad things’ should he speak of the incident.

The Maury Island incident has largely been debunked as a hoax and Dahl himself admitted as much. While this was one of the first reported incidents, there have been other, well-documented – but unproven – cases of confrontations with the Men in Black, usually involving people who have claimed to have seen a UFO. Government agents, it seems, have the ability to give people more than just a stern talking to.

The Three Men

Do UFOs exist? (Credit: OsakaWayne Studios via Getty Images)

The story of Albert K. Bender is one of the most intriguing tales in the lore of UFO research. Did he encounter alien Men in Black in real life?

In the early 1950s, Bender founded the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB) with the aim of creating a global database of sightings and fellow enthusiasts. Yet within a year, the project, the world’s first civilian UFO club, came to an abrupt and mysterious end.

After claiming to have discovered proof of the existence of UFOs in 1953, Bender said he was visited by three men in dark suits. He called them ‘silencers.’ These visitors, who came to be known as the Men in Black, allegedly warned him – telepathically – to stop his research.

The visit shook Bender physically and mentally. He believed they were from another world. Attempts to share his experience with members of his club – his friends – were unexpectedly and immediately shut down. Many have subsequently speculated that the incident was a vivid dream. Others believe it happened.

He went on to report that he had a second visitation from three ‘men’ who didn’t stand on the floor, but hovered just above it. In his 1962 book Flying Saucers and the Three Men, Bender says ‘they looked like clergymen, but wore hats similar to a Homburg style. The faces were not clearly discernible, for the hats partly hid and shaded them… The eyes of all three figures suddenly lit up like flashlight bulbs… They seemed to burn into my very soul as the pains above my eyes became almost unbearable.’

His account solidified government Men in Black as sinister agents of suppression within the realms of UFO lore.

The Tragic Case of Paul Bennewitz

USAF HH-60G Pave Hawk at Kirtland AFB (Credit: Riccardo Niccoli/Stocktrek Images via Getty Images)

During the 1970s in Arizona, Paul Bennewitz became involved with APRO, the Aerial Phenomena Research Organisation. In April 1979, he attended a public meeting about a strange spate of cattle mutilations.

It’s been suggested that the real Men in Black identified Bennewitz and targeted him for some sort of ‘participation’. This case became a pivotal and unsettling episode in the annals of UFO lore.

In the early 1980s, Bennewitz began to intercept what he believed were communications from alien spacecraft, originating near Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Convinced he had found evidence of an extraterrestrial presence, he contacted the Air Force and became embroiled in a complex saga that would have a tragic end.

It’s alleged that instead of dismissing his claims, Air Force officials and intelligence agents – the supposed Men in Black in real life – are said to have encouraged Bennewitz, feeding him false information about alien activities and technologies designed to discredit Bennewitz and prevent him from uncovering sensitive military projects. The pressure led Bennewitz to suffer with his mental health for the rest of his life.

This case exemplifies the purported role of the real Men in Black. To silence or discredit people who claim to have had otherworldly encounters. Whether through psychological means or presence, they’re said to ensure the secrets of the unknown remain just that – unknown.

The Real ‘Men’ in Black

Do aliens walk among us? (Credit: David Wall via Getty Images)

Beyond these unsettling encounters (of which there are dozens, if not hundreds from around the world), rumours persist that the Men in Black may themselves be of extraterrestrial origin. Various descriptions of their odd behaviour, unfamiliarity with common objects, otherworldly features and their remarkable ability to appear and disappear at will have fuelled speculation.

Is it possible that with every alleged sighting of alien activity, like the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter, or a UFO, government agents miraculously appear on the scene?

Such theories suggest these men could be aliens in disguise, monitoring human activity and managing our exposure to the wider universe.

The Quest for Truth: The Real Men in Black

Who are the Men in Black? (Credit: Jasmin Merdan via Getty Images)

In the vast expanse of the universe, the line between the known and the unknown is decidedly blurry. The intriguing and mysterious stories of the so-called Men in Black, shadowy figures linked to the government, continue to fuel speculation about whether the truth about UFOs is really out there, and whether there are in fact concrete efforts to prevent it from ever being discovered.

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