Men in black

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A stylized depiction of a Man in Black.

In popular culture and UFO conspiracy theories, men in black (MIB) are men dressed in black suits who claim to be government agents and 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 various branches of government allegedly designed to protect secrets or perform other strange activities. The term is generic, used for any unusual, threatening or strangely behaved individual whose appearance on the scene can be linked in some fashion with a UFO sighting.[1]


Folklorist Peter Rojcewicz compares accounts of men in black to tales of people encountering the devil and speculates that they can be considered a kind of "psychological drama".[2]


Men in black figure prominently in ufology and UFO folklore. In 1947, Harold Dahl claimed to have been warned not to talk about his alleged UFO sighting on Maury Island by a man in a dark suit. In the mid 1950s, the ufologist Albert K. Bender claimed he was visited by men in dark suits who threatened and warned him not to continue investigating UFOs. Bender believed the men in black were secret government agents tasked with suppressing evidence of UFOs. The ufologist John Keel claimed to have had encounters with men in black and referred to them as "demonic supernaturals" with "dark skin and/or “exotic” facial features". According to the ufologist Jerome Clark, reports of men in black represent "experiences" that "don’t seem to have occurred in the world of consensus reality".[3]


In his article, "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker," John C. Sherwood claims that, in the late 1960s, at the age of 18, he cooperated when Gray Barker urged him 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".[4]

In popular culture

  • British punk rockers The Stranglers released The Gospel According to the Meninblack in 1981. Previous songs like Meninblack and Who Wants The World also explored the band's fascination with the legend.
  • The first film appearance of Men in Black was in Hangar 18 (1980), that had four credits for MIBs,[5] who chase the film's protagonists and try to prevent them from learning the truth.
Later they appeared in John Sayles' 1984 film The Brother from Another Planet.[6] In this film, John Sayles himself and David Strathairn, both credited as Man In Black,[7] are aliens in search of an escaped alien slave (the titular "Brother").
  • Blue Öyster Cult directly mention the Men In Black in the lyrics to two of their songs. In the opening verse of 1976's "E.T.I (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)" we are told: I hear the music, daylight disc, Three men in black said, "Don't report this".[8] Then in 1983's "Take me away": Don't ask if they are real, The men in black, their lips are sealed.[9]
  • Alternative rock band C.E.IV wrote and recorded a song titled 'Mib Men' in 1985. It appeared in their 1988 concept album 'Abduction' during a sequence where an abductee was chased by men in black. The song was re-recorded for their 1993 compilation album 'Visions of C.E.IV'.[10]
  • In the 1988 comical video game Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, set in the year 1997, the design of the villainous Caponian aliens is based on the Men in Black and the mafioso (Al Capone). Their leader was nicknamed "The King", resembled Elvis Presley and was subtly implied to be Elvis Presley himself.
  • In the role-playing game Mage: The Ascension, the Men In Black are an arm of the New World Order, a convention of technology-focused mages that use information control and espionage to enforce the scientific paradigm.[11]
  • The Steve Jackson Games volunteer demonstration program are called the "Men In Black" where the members of which are known as "MIBs." Members of this program attend local conventions and visit game stores to promote awareness of Steve Jackson Games products.[12]
  • In the alternate history short story "Dukakis and the Aliens" by Robert Sheckley contained in the anthology Alternate Presidents, Michael Dukakis is elected president in 1988. However, he is revealed to be an alien attempting to infiltrate Dulce Base. This results in the Men in Black (along with friendly aliens) rewriting history in order to let George H. W. Bush to win the election, instead.
  • Frank Black, the singer for The Pixies also known by the pseudonym Black Francis, released a single entitled "Men in Black" in 1995 which subsequently appeared on his album The Cult of Ray. He described the song in 1996 by stating that "it's about the Men in Black who are the psychological intimidators sent by the alien or maybe the government or maybe both."[13]
  • In Season 3, Episode 20 of The X-Files, "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", a man in a black suit, hat and gloves appears to warn and threaten a character in the episode not to share his experience witnessing an alien abduction. Another man in black also shows up in the episode and is played by Alex Trebek. The first man in black is played by Jesse Ventura.
  • Men in Black (1997), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as Agent K and Agent J respectively, was based on Lowell Cunningham's comic book about a secret organization that monitors and regulates alien activity on Earth – The Men in Black from Aircel Comics. The film was followed by Men in Black: The Series and its 2002 sequel Men in Black II. Men in Black 3 was released on May 25, 2012. Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, who published the comic book, took the property to Sony where it became a billion-dollar film franchise.[14] Will Smith made a song called "Men in Black" for the first film in 1997, and "Black Suits Comin' (Nod Ya Head)" for its sequel in 2002.
  • The British TV series Doctor Who features a race of aliens known as The Silence that appear to be dressed in black suits. These beings work behind the scenes altering the course of human history to their own ends, and cannot be remembered by those who see them. The only trace of their presence is either a vague memory or subconscious image of their appearance, or the hypnotic suggestions they leave during their encounters. The concept and appearance of The Silence partially draw upon the myth of the Men in Black.[15]
  • The Touhou Project fighting game Urban Legend in Limbo features the Man in Black as Mamizou Futatsuiwa's attributed urban legend.


  1. Clark, Jerome (1996). The UFO Encyclopedia, volume 3: High Strangeness, UFO’s from 1960 through 1979. Omnigraphis. 317–18.
  2. James R. Lewis (9 March 1995). The Gods Have Landed: New Religions from Other Worlds. SUNY Press. pp. 218–. ISBN 978-0-7914-2330-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Harris, Aisha. "Do UFO Hunters Still Report "Men in Black" Sightings?". Slate. Retrieved 3 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Sherwood, John C. "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 2006-10-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "SAYLES'S 'BROTHER'". New York Times. 1984. Retrieved December 27, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. The Brother from Another Planet on IMDb .
  14. "Scott Rosenberg". Forbes.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "The Silence". BBC. Retrieved 2011-04-27.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


Further reading