Tracking the MIB

Jenny Randles. Investigating the Truth Behind MIB - the Men in Black Phenomenon. Piatkus, 1997.

It is tempting to attribute the MIB motif in ufology to writers such as Gray Barker, James Moseley or John Keel, but UFO witnesses really do receive visits from journalists, ufologists and, occasionally, police officers and government officials. In this book Jenny Randles valiantly attempts to make some kind of sense out of the often bizarre MIB stories, and she does it in a manner which is both entertaining and informative.

One of Jenny's main theories is that many of the MIB are real and are government agents investigating UFO reports and witnesses. Their eccentric behaviour is deliberate in order to make reports about them seem incredible and thus to discourage serious enquiries into their activities.

There are some cases, though, where this explanation somehow doesn't seem to fit. For example, there was the case which began with the witness seeing merely "a white light moving slowly across the sky". He said that he was visited by two men claiming to be from the Ministry of Defence, who told him that the object was only a Russian satellite. Later the witness complained to investigators that two men in a black Jaguar car were parking outside his house at nights. Eventually the police were persuaded to investigate.

Now, ufologists are familiar with mysterious cars which stalk UFO witnesses. (Students of modern folklore will also be aware of the cars used by bogus social workers and suchlike.) In these cases witnesses hardly ever note the car registration number. On those rare occasions when they do, things can get complicated.

Well, the police staked out the area and at this point you will be thinking that the car failed to appear, leaving witness and ufologists grinning sheepishly, having wasted the valuable time of busy coppers with better things to do. But the car did appear, so we are told, and the police took its number, which they quickly found not to be registered. Now they were really interested and were instructed to bring in the occupants for questioning the following night. So the car failed to appear the following night, then? No, it was there all right and two policemen walked up to it, one on each side and (pause for fit of giggles) what happened next? Yes, you've got it! The car "just melted away into nothingness".

Jenny admits that this means the men in the car were unlikely to be government agents, and that the police made no official record of this unlikely incident, which "makes the case hard for anyone to verify".

This is obviously one of the numerous MIB cases where the problem is to discover who is kidding whom. Or do we need to look for more subtle psychological explanations? These would include confabulation, hallucinations, delusions and false memories. It's very easy for people involved in MIB and other strange goings on to get confused, as in a case efficiently investigated and explained by the Northern Anomalies Research Organisation. Unfortunately, the strict dress code imposed on ufologists in north-west England (which we have previously mentioned in Magonia) led some people to believe that witnesses had been visited by MIB, who were really only NARO members wearing their regulation dark suits.

There are many other weird stories in this book, and Jenny considers all reasonable explanations, and a few unreasonable ones. I enjoyed reading it and consider it a valuable contribution to the literature on this subject. -- John Harney (Originally published on-line, 1997)

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