Thursday, January 12, 2012

Louis Proud Reviews The Real Men In Black

Louis Proud - author of Dark Intrusions: An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences - reviews my The Real Men in Black:

You don't need to be an expert on the UFO phenomenon to appreciate how complex and multifaceted it is. Clearly, the phenomenon isn't limited to reports of strange objects in the skies or cases of alien abduction, but incorporates numerous other elements, some of which belong to the realm of the occult and the truly weird. A few examples include cattle mutilations, the contactee phenomenon, and spectral entities like the mothman. And of course, who could forget the men in black (MIB).

Which brings us to Nick Redfern's latest book The Real Men in Black, a much needed investigation into one of the most unappreciated and little understood aspects of the vast UFO mystery. Born in England but now living in Dallas, Texas, Redfern is an expert in conspiracies and all things paranormal.

Much to my frustration, whenever I attempt to have a serious conversation with someone about the MIB, they invariably bring up the cheesy 90s sci-fi comedy film Men in Black, in which the MIB are portrayed as government agents working for the good of humanity. As Redfern’s book demonstrates, however, the MIB are a very real presence on this earth and there’s nothing pleasant about them. In fact, they couldn’'t be creepier.

The MIB are named as such because of the black suits they wear and the black cars they drive. Commonly gaunt and pale in appearance, with mechanical voices and a mechanical manner of movement, they neither look nor behave entirely human. The MIB are known to spook and threaten UFO witnesses and researchers, and their aim, it would seem, is to prevent anyone from ascertaining the truth about UFOs.

The book is written in a fast paced and absorbing journalistic style, and, like all of Redfern’s books, it captures the reader’s interest from the very first page. Redfern begins with the case of Albert K. Bender of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the first person (in modern history at least) to claim an encounter with the MIB.

Bender was an eccentric individual with an intense interest in the occult and paranormal, who, in 1952, established a UFO research organisation called the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB). The IFSB became successful very quickly. About a year later, however, Bender closed down the organisation and dropped UFO research altogether, advising "those engaged in saucer work to please be very cautions."

It was later revealed that the reason Bender quit the UFO scene is because he'd been ordered to by three mysterious men dressed in dark clothes, who scared him half to death. Bender's story of terror and paranoia, first told in Gray Barker's sensational They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers (1956), shaped UFO lore in a profound and enduring way. Explains Redfern: "It was Bender...who almost singlehandedly ushered in the plague of the Men in Black – just as [Kenneth] Arnold inaugurated the era of the UFO [with his famous sighting of UFOs in 1947]."

Ever since the MIB first came knocking on Bender’s door in the early-1950s, encounters with them have continued up until the present day, leaving many a victim shaken and terrified. Among the many cases included in Redfern's book (a large proportion of which, I'm pleased to say, don't appear anywhere else) is that of prolific author Marie D. Jones.

In the mid-1990s, while living in San Diego, Jones and a friend, whom she calls Anna, formed a UFO research group that "took off really quick." Before long, however, both women started to receive threatening telephone calls from a man "with a very robotic voice."

According to Jones, the man displayed an intimate knowledge of the goings-on within the group. And, more disturbing still, he knew everything about her – what clothes she had on at the time of the phone call, what book she was reading, what room she was in, etc. Though Jones never saw the man (or men) responsible for the harassment, apparently Anna did. She told Jones that a number of men – who "moved like robots" and "stared without blinking their eyes" – trespassed into her property late at night.

Another fascinating, modern case is that of paranormal investigator and Wiccan priestess Raven Meindel, who first encountered the MIB in April 2008. For months following the encounter, the Meindel family home was plagued by paranormal activity, and on several occasions Meindel's husband heard "whispered voices throughout the apartment." Overcome by a very strong feeling that she wasn’t supposed to continue with her UFO research, Meindel, frightened and intimidated, reluctantly gave it up. "I got the message,” she explains, “and I’m not going to mess with the UFO thing anymore."

The Real Men in Black is more than just a collection of spooky and entertaining stories. There is plenty of food for thought within its pages as well. In the second half of the book, Redfern explores a number of compelling theories – ranging from the mundane to the remarkable – as to who or what the MIB might be.

Some MIB, he explains, are probably nothing more than government agents, others civilian investigators. While others, perhaps, could be tulpas (thought forms) that, in order to sustain their existence, feast on human fear and other negative emotions, making them similar to vampires. Also presented is the intriguing time traveller theory of Joshua P. Warren.

Fans of the paranormal are sure to enjoy this book. It's immensely interesting, well-researched, and grips the reader from beginning to end.