Stylized depiction of a Man in Black

In popular culture and UFO conspiracy theories, men in black (MIB) are supposed men dressed in black suits who claim to be quasi-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 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] Several alleged encounters with the men in black have been reported by UFO researchers and enthusiasts.

Stories about allegedly real-life men in black inspired the semi-comic science fiction Men in Black franchise of comic books, films and other media.


Folklorist James R. Lewis compares accounts of men in black with tales of people encountering Lucifer and speculates that they can be considered a kind of "psychological drama".[2]


Men in black figure prominently in ufology and UFO folklore. In the 1950s and 1960s, UFOlogists adopted a conspiratorial mindset and began to fear they would be subject to organized intimidation in retaliation for discovering "the truth of the UFOs".[3]

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 maintained that the men in black were secret government agents who had been given the task of 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".[4]

Historian Aaron Gulyas wrote, "during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, UFO conspiracy theorists would incorporate the Men in Black into their increasingly complex and paranoid visions".[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".[5]

In popular cultureEdit

  • The first film appearance of men in black was in Hangar 18 (1980), which had four credits for MIBs,[6] who chase the film's protagonists and try to prevent them from learning the truth.
  • 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. It's stated the men in black may have mimicked these celebrities so no one would take him seriously.
  • Men in Black, 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.[7] 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 Agents' in The Matrix who are tasked with preventing humanity discovering and escaping from an artificial world, are styled on the classic appearance of Men in Black.
  • 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.[8]
  • The British spin off series from Doctor Who called The Sarah Jane Adventures features a group of android agents known as Men in Black that were used by the Alliance of Shades to remove any evidence of extraterrestrial life from planet Earth, they removed the memory of those who had encountered aliens and they secured alien artefacts and technology. They also featured in the animated Doctor Who serial, Dreamland (Doctor Who).
  • The 1997 movie The Shadow Men features a family that has a UFO encounter and are followed and harassed by Men in Black.
  • History drama Project Blue Book has a character known as "The Man in Hat", who leads Dr. J. Allen Hynek to many strange encounters and kills anyone who knows the truth.
  • In the alternate history short story Dukakis and the Aliens by Robert Sheckley in the 1992 anthology Alternate Presidents by Mike Resnick, Michael Dukakis defeats George H. W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election, but is revealed to be an alien attempting to infiltrate Dulce Base. The Men in Black along with some friendly aliens therefore rewrite history in order for Bush to win the 1988 election, instead.
  • National Lampoon's Men in White is a straight-to-television satirical parody of contemporary science fiction movies, mainly spoofing Men in Black and Independence Day. It debuted in 1998 on the Fox Family Channel.

See alsoEdit


  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.
  3. ^ a b Aaron John Gulyas (25 January 2016). Conspiracy Theories: The Roots, Themes and Propagation of Paranoid Political and Cultural Narratives. McFarland. pp. 86–. ISBN 978-1-4766-2349-8.
  4. ^ Harris, Aisha. "Do UFO Hunters Still Report "Men in Black" Sightings?". Slate. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  5. ^ Sherwood, John C. "Gray Barker: My Friend, the Myth-Maker". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 2006-10-10.
  6. ^ "Hangar 18 (1980): Full Cast and Crew". IMDb.
  7. ^ "Scott Rosenberg". Forbes.
  8. ^ "The Silence". BBC. Retrieved 2011-04-27.


Further readingEdit