Bowie’s Space Oddity Played at Man in Black Birthday, But Who Are They?

Maury Island Incident Historical Society commemorates the first American Man in Black warning.

The Men in Black are now part of the collective subconscious for both science fact and fiction fans. From the penlight-amnesia-inducing bureaucrats played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black to the Cadillac-driving Jeopardy host with the future-Minnesota-Governor sidekick of The X-Files, they are surreally familiar partners to alien incursion. The first Man In Black sighting was recently celebrated by the Maury Island Incident Historical Society with “Burning Saucer, LXXI.” The event was held during its Annual 2018 Meeting at the Woodmont Country Club in Des Moines, according to local news source the Waterland Blog.  The event included a “burning of the saucer,” a small replica of the Icarus spaceship from the 1968 science fiction classic Planet of the Apes, set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” performed live by Tinkham Road.

The Maury Island UFO sighting over Puget Sound was reported on June 21, 1947, months before the more famous Roswell, New Mexico, incident. The Maury Island Incident Historical Society highlights that and other area sightings from 1947. It caught the attention of J. Edgar Hoover and was the first reported mention of Men in Black.

The Maury Island Incident may be the only case written off as a hoax that led to the death of UFO Investigators who flew up from Hamilton Field in California. Army Air Force Intelligence officers Captain Lee Davidson and First Lieutenant Frank Brown died when their B-25 caught fire and crashed after examining retrieved evidence they classified as ordinary aluminum.

The story first came to light when Ray Palmer, an editor at Amazing Stories, assigned a story about a man named Fred Crisman who claimed to have evidence of a flying saucer to UFO investigator Kenneth Arnold.  Crimson was the shore supervisor for Harold Dahl, who worked as an informal harbor patroller pulling logs from the Puget Sound. Crimson said Dahl saw a doughnut-shaped aircraft dump piles of slag-like material on the beach of Maury Island.

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Dahl reported he was on his patrol boat with his son and their dog at about two in the afternoon. They saw six objects floating about 2,000 feet above the boat. The objects were 100 feet in diameter with center holes and portholes, and possibly an observation window. Dahl took pictures with his camera. One ship stayed in position for a few minutes and then dropped thousands of pieces a white, lightweight metal in the bay and on the beach. It then dropped about a ton of dark metal that erupted, burning his son and killing his dog. The boat’s radio did not work after the incident. Dahl skippered it back, dropped his son at the hospital and left the camera with Crisman. Dahl later said his son disappeared and was found waiting tables in Montana with no memory of how he got there.

Crisman developed the prints, which showed air craft, but said the negatives appeared to be damaged as if by radiation exposure. Crisman reported seeing an air craft hovering overhead when he went back the site to verify Dahl’s story.

Separate FBI and Air Force investigators determined the remaining samples were slag from a metal smelter, concluding Dahl and Crisman faked the incident for publicity. The FBI said the government wouldn’t prosecute Dahl and Crisman for a hoax that caused two deaths if they made no further statements. At first they recanted but Crisman told Fate magazine, in the January 1950 issue, the incident did indeed occur. Maury Island was included in Kenneth Arnold’s 1952 book The Coming of the Saucers.

Dahl told investigators a man wearing a black suit visited him the next morning, and said let’s do breakfast. Dahl followed man’s new black Buick with his own car. While they ate at a restaurant, the man detailed what happened during the incident without being asked, and vaguely threatened Dahl and his family if he told anyone. “I know a great deal more about this experience of yours than you will want to believe,” Dahl reported the man said.

The Men in Black, sometimes called the “silencers,” are individuals dressed completely in black wearing matching black hats and trench coats who show up after UFO sightings. These strangters warn about spreading the story and sometimes threaten people.

According to witness accounts, Men in Black or MIBs usually arrive in expensive cars, like black Cadillacs, with unrecognizable insignia on the sides and untraceable license plates. The interiors of the cars reportedly emit a purple or greenish glow.

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Most accounts say Men in Black have dark complexions, high cheekbones, thin lips, pointed chins, and big almond eyes that are mildly slanted. A woman told her boss how large and blue the eyes were, and said they may have been hypnotic. Some people believe the figures they encountered were able to read their minds, though they may just cause cognitive dissonance, a term coined in the 1950s by psychologist Leon Festinger, who illustrated the point by referencing a UFO cult.

Men in Black have been described it as “cartoonish.” One stranger’s expression never appeared to change at all. One witness said the Man in Black who visited her had “no facial hair, no eyebrows, no nothing.” The witness said her MIB never blinked, “not once.”

They give off “strange” or “odd” vibes, and speak like a boring computer. One person who was visited said it appeared they were wearing wigs attached to the hats. The fabric of their clothes is shiny, but not silky, like newly bought garments. One witness noticed a thick layer of wool underneath the pants of the suit his MIB wore. Their black shoes were usually shiny, sometimes even if they walked through mud.

On several separate occasions, it appeared the Men in Black walked awkwardly or had somehow odd appearances. One group of MIBs reportedly walked as if they were arthritic, another group waddled when they walked and were so abnormally thin it was scary. A Wildwood, New Jersey, report detailed an abnormally large man who had a green wire grafted onto his skin, visible when his pants legs hiked up.

A member of one group, wearing black hats pulled over their eyes and long, black trench coats in the summer heat, dropped a portfolio, leaving behind a coin with a man who looked like a wolf on one side and navigational lines and two crescent moons on the flip. The language on the coin could not be identified.

An alleged Man in Black was photographed in New Jersey and the picture was published in the Fall 1968 issue of Saucer magazine, accompanied by the car he drove and a detailed witness account. One sighting revealed a Man in Black leaving a mysterious object in the lobby of the U.S. State Department.

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A Man in Black disintegrated a coin in a witness’s hand, assuring that his heart would do the same if he talked. One report said an ex-Air Force serviceman was gassed and interrogated by Men in Black after viewing classified NASA files. UFO researchers and witnesses reported receiving harassing phone calls from metallic voices. Security equipment reportedly malfunctions for no reason. Videos don’t tape. There are reports of phone line problems, clicking sounds on phone calls, and dead air on calls received in the middle of the night.

Electronics entrepreneur Paul Bennewitz picked up strange transmissions on his amateur equipment in New Mexico in 1979. He contacted nearby Kirtland Air Force Base to report it. They found he was picking up on their transmissions but encouraged him to continue. After a while, he too was visited by Men in Black.

In his 1952 book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, Albert K. Bender said he was visited by three men in dark suits who threatened to imprison him after forming the International Flying Saucer Bureau. Days after mailing out material he wanted checked before sending to Space Review magazine, he suffered a dizzy spell and men in black suits with black hats materialized in his room. He said the men’s eyes lit up and it felt like they were speaking directly to his mind. Bender believed they were part of the U.S. government.

Many MIBs claim they are representatives of a secret government organization. Some theorize the Men in Black may be aliens who look human. Author John A. Keel believes Men in Black come from another time-space continua. UFO Men in Black are not the same as the demonic visitors who predated them, most notably depicted in the Richard Gere-starring The Mothman Prophecies. There may be more on that later, there’s a black Caddilac outside and it looks like a nice ride.

Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.