UFO sightings that launched the “men in black” mythology

It is possible that the history of the Men in Black, the mysterious figures who would become the subject of fascination in UFO conspiracy circles and eventually break into mainstream popular culture, dates back to one day: June 27, 1947. It is quite possible that it all started with a man, a boy and a dog on a boat.

According to the story, Harold Dahl was on a conservation mission on Puget Sound near the east shore of Maury Island in Washington, collecting logs, when he saw six donut-shaped obstacles hovering about half a mile at the above his boat. Shortly after, one fell nearly 1,500 feet, followed by rain of metal debris, some of which hit Dahl’s son Charles in the arm, as well as the family dog, who did not survive the ordeal. Dahl was able to take a few photos of the plane with his camera, which he then showed to his supervisor, Fred Crisman. A skeptical Crisman returned to the scene to look for himself and saw a strange plane with his own eyes.

READ MORE: Meet J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who first classified UFO “close encounters”.

The next morning, Dahl was visited by a man in a black suit. They meet at a local restaurant, where the man was able to relate in extraordinary detail what Dahl had just experienced. “What I have said is proof for you that I know a lot more about your experience than you might like to believe,” said the man, according to author Gray Barker’s 1956 book. They knew too much about flying saucers.

Dahl was ordered not to talk about the incident. If he did, bad things would happen.

The supposed events at Maury Island have continued to fuel conspiracy theories to this day, although a U.S. government investigation ruled it a hoax after Dahl and Crimson later admitted it. In particular, the mention of the man in the black suit would become a key obsession for UFO enthusiasts and spread throughout American popular culture, thanks to a comic series and a blockbuster movie trilogy.

READ MORE: Interactive map: UFO sightings taken seriously by US government

In all of their various incarnations, the Men in Black (MIB) typically have one primary goal: to muzzle witnesses to strange and paranormal phenomena. They almost always wear black suits and hats with dark sunglasses, drive black cars, and arrive in groups of two or three. Some describe them as an FBI agent, while others remember the MIB as having strange appearances, sometimes with supernatural characteristics like glowing eyes and strange complexions.

The cover of Gray Barker’s book, They knew too much about flying saucers.

So how did we go from Harold Dahl to Will Smith?

“The transformation of the story from a first press report into a folk tale into a comic strip and now into a film illustrates how the myth is transformed”, wrote Phil Patton in The New York Times at the time of the first Men in black The film was released in 1997. “This process is reminiscent of the children’s game of ‘telephone’ or what literary critic Harold Bloom calls ‘innovation through misinterpretation’. ”

Sticking to the phone analogy, the first call was made to Kenneth Arnold, a pilot who had his own alleged UFO sighting on June 24, 1947 near Mount Rainier, Washington. Although this happened three days after the Maury Island incident, it was the first widely reported sighting and it “triggered the saucer sensation” as it was written in a government report from 1949 on “Flying saucers”.

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The report states that Dahl and Crimson contacted a Chicago magazine in an attempt to sell their story, and the magazine’s publisher then contacted Arnold, hoping he could help verify their account. Arnold then “summoned two intelligence officers from the A-2 Army to assist with the investigation of Dahl and Crisman’s claim,” according to the report.

In July 1947, two intelligence officers from the A-2 Army came to investigate. After leaving in their B-25 the next day, the plane caught fire and crashed, killing both officers and doing nothing to calm the UFO conspirators.

But the history of Maury Island hardly attracted the attention of the UFO community until Barker’s 1956 book, in which he wrote his “dossier on the Maury Island affair” which consisted of much of the writings of Ray Palmer, the publisher of the Chicago magazine mentioned in the government report. report. Barker went on to connect the dots between “the man who wore a black suit” who took Dahl to breakfast and three similarly dressed men who allegedly visited a young UFO enthusiast named Albert K. Bender in 1953.

It was Bender who “almost single-handedly ushered in the scourge of the men in black, just as Arnold ushered in the era of UFOs.” Ufologist Nick Redfern written in his book Real men in black. But it was Barker’s book that told Bender’s story, thus introducing the concept of MIB to a much wider audience.

(The phone game analogy still holds.)

Kenneth Arnold, center, looks at a photo of an unidentified flying object they saw en route to Seattle, Washington with pilots EJ Smith and Ralph E. Stevens.

Kenneth Arnold, center, looks at a photo of an unidentified flying object they saw en route to Seattle, Washington with pilots EJ Smith and Ralph E. Stevens.

READ MORE: First UFO sighting in America.

“He still has an important legacy,” said Robert Sheaffer, a UFO researcher. “Prior to its publication, no one outside of a very select group of flying saucer newsletter subscribers had ever heard of Bender or his MIB.”

Barker described visitors to Bender as: “Three men in black suits with threatening expressions on their faces. Three men who run into you and make certain demands. Three men who know you know what saucers really are!

Bender, in his own 1962 book Flying saucers and the three men, described the MIB in much more frightening language.

“They were floating about a foot above the ground… They looked like clergymen, but wore hats similar to the Homburg style. The faces were not clearly discernible, as the hats hid them and partially shadowed them… The eyes of the three figures suddenly lit like flashlight bulbs… They seemed to be burning in my soul even as the pains in- above my eyes were getting almost unbearable, ”Bender wrote.

Barker went on to write several other books related to the paranormal and UFOs, including the 1970s The Silver Bridge, who helped spread the story of another popular paranormal figure, the creature known as Mothman. But how much of his writing was done in good faith has been questioned by many in the UFO research community.

“Barker made it clear to me that he didn’t take MIB or Mothman very seriously,” said Sheaffer, who corresponded with Barker on occasion. “However, he believed there was still ‘something mysterious’ about the UFO set and the paranormal.”

Whatever Barker’s motives, countless MIB meetings have since been reported They knew too much was published almost 60 years ago, and at least another movie is on the way.

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