“THE MEN IN BLACK, SWAMP GAS, PROJECT GRUDGE, DAN AYKROYD, AND 400-YEAR-OLD UFOS” #WeirdDarkness
OCTOBER IS “OVERCOMING THE DARKNESS” MONTH when I dedicate the podcast to raising funds to support organizations who help people struggling with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Please help with either a small donation or share this link in your social media to encourage others to give, to get more information about the fundraiser and organizations we are helping, or to get the help that they or a loved one need: https://weirddarkness.com/hope.
Listen to ““THE MEN IN BLACK, SWAMP GAS, PROJECT GRUDGE, DAN AYKROYD, AND 400-YEAR-OLD UFOS” #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
PLEASE SHARE THIS EPISODE in your social media so others who loves strange and macabre stories can listen too! https://weirddarkness.com/listen
IN THIS EPISODE: The Men in Black, the beginning of Project Blue Book, America’s first UFO sighting from 400 years ago… and a mysterious incident experienced by actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd. This and more from the world of space, extraterrestrials, and government secrecy.
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
Visit our Sponsors & Friends: https://weirddarkness.com/sponsors
Join the Weird Darkness Syndicate: https://weirddarkness.com/syndicate
Advertise in the Weird Darkness podcast or syndicated radio show: https://weirddarkness.com/advertise
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music provided by Alibi Music Library, EpidemicSound and/or StoryBlocks with paid license. Music from Shadows Symphony (https://tinyurl.com/yyrv987t), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ) Kevin MacLeod (https://tinyurl.com/y2v7fgbu), Tony Longworth (https://tinyurl.com/y2nhnbt7), and Nicolas Gasparini (https://tinyurl.com/lnqpfs8) is used with permission of the artists.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
OTHER PODCASTS I HOST…
Paranormality Magazine: (COMING SEPT. 30, 2023) https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/paranormalitymag
Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/microterrors
Retro Radio – Old Time Radio In The Dark: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/retroradio
Church of the Undead: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/churchoftheundead
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
(Over time links seen above may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in these show notes immediately. Some links included above may benefit me financially through qualifying purchases.)
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright ©2023, Weird Darkness.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
DISCLAIMER: Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Depending on whom you ask, the “Men in Black” (MIB) are either another nutty UFO conspiracy or they are part of a secret government agency designed to prevent the public from learning more about UFOs. The Men in Black always appear unannounced, are usually clad in black business suits, and warn people to give up their research into UFOs or face dire consequences. In many cases, the Men in Black have also seen aliens—in some accounts, they are aliens themselves or some form of “demonic supernaturals.” But why would the government want to suppress information about UFOs? As the theory goes, it’s because aliens are closer to us than you think—they might actually be everywhere—and if ordinary citizens realized just how real the threat was, there would be a mass panic and a breakdown of the social order. Some folklorists, however, claim that the whole idea of “Men in Black” is itself a form of mass panic or of “psychological drama” due to suggestibility and a willingness to believe. Others, however, insist the Men in Black are part of a real government agency designed to prevent the public from learning “the truth about UFOs.” They also insist that their experiences are real and that anyone who thinks they’re crazy is merely a tool of government propaganda and manipulation. At the moment, there is no way to definitively declare whether the Men in Black are “real” or not, because if they are part of a secret government agency, they may not have entirely kept the secret, but they’ve prevented any conclusive evidence of their existence from leaking out to the public. As the dust settled from World War II and the USA launched into a Cold War with Russia, paranoia and conspiracies spread throughout the land. In this climate of high-tension suspicion arose the first mass sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in American history. The first known report of a mysterious stranger showing up and warning someone not to talk about their UFO encounters was in 1947 with Howard Dahl (covered in Item #3 below). Since then there have been countless reports where people who’ve claimed to have witnessed aliens say that they were subsequently visited by men in black suits who warned them to keep quiet about their experience. Writer John Sherwood claims that his friend Gray Barker concocted the “myth” of the Men in Black in a 1956 book called They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Sherwood swears that Gray came up with the theory as a joke, similar to rumors of how L. Ron Hubbard invented Scientology as part of a bet with another science-fiction writer as to whether he’d be able to invent a successful religion. Whether or not Sherwood’s story is true, this still doesn’t account for the fact that Howard Dahl’s report of a Men in Black sighting predates Barker’s alleged hoax by almost a decade. Since the 1997 release of the original Men in Black film and its sequels, reports of encountering MIBs have remained fairly steady. And the encounters are all eerily similar.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
The Men in Black, the beginning of Project Blue Book, America’s first UFO sighting from 400 years ago, and a mysterious encounter that terrified actor, comedian, and Ufologist, Dan Aykroyd – this and more from the world of space, extraterrestrials, and government secrecy.
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: AMERICA’S FIRST UFO SIGHTING=====
Before the arrival of the Men in Black in the 1950’s-60’s, there were UFO sightings. They are not a modern phenomena, as you’re about to learn. The very first UFO sighting reported in America took place on March 1, 1639. John Winthrop opened his diary in which he recorded the trials and triumphs of his fellow Puritans as they made a new life in America. As the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony put pen to paper, he began to recount a most unusual event that had recently caused a stir among the English immigrants.
Winthrop wrote that earlier in the year James Everell, “a sober, discreet man,” and two others had been rowing a boat in the Muddy River, which flowed through swampland and emptied into a tidal basin in the Charles River, when they saw a great light in the night sky. “When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square,” the governor reported, “when it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine.”
Over the course of two to three hours, the boatmen said that the mysterious light “ran as swift as an arrow” darting back and forth between them and the village of Charlestown, a distance of approximately two miles. “Diverse other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place,” Winthrop added.
The governor wrote that when the strange apparition finally faded away, the three Puritans in the boat were stunned to find themselves one mile upstream—as if the light had transported them there. The men had no memory of their rowing against the tide, although it’s possible they could have been carried by the wind or a reverse tidal flow. “The mysterious repositioning of the boat could suggest that they were unaware of part of their experience. Some researchers would interpret this as a possible alien abduction if it happened today,” write Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck in Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times.
Some have speculated that the curious glow could have been an “ignis fatuus,” a pale light that can appear over marshland at night due to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter. If Winthrop’s report was correct, however, the light was not rising from the swamp but shooting across the sky, making that explanation unlikely.
An odd sight returned to the skies of Boston five years later, according to another entry in Winthrop’s diary dated January 18, 1644. “About midnight, three men, coming in a boat to Boston, saw two lights arise out of the water near the north point of the town cove, in form like a man, and went at a small distance to the town, and so to the south point, and there vanished away.”
A week later, Winthrop wrote, another unexplained celestial event occurred over Boston Harbor:
“A light like the moon arose about the N.E. point in Boston, and met the former at Nottles Island, and there they closed in one, and then parted, and closed and parted diverse times, and so went over the hill in the island and vanished. Sometimes they shot out flames and sometimes sparkles. This was about eight of the clock in the evening, and was seen by many.”
His account continued:
“About the same time, a voice was heard upon the water between Boston and Dorchester, calling out in a most dreadful manner, ‘Boy! Boy! Come away! Come away!’; and it suddenly shifted from one place to another a great distance, about 20 times. It was heard by diverse godly persons. About 14 days after, the same voice in the same dreadful manner was heard by others on the other side of the town towards Nottles Island.”
Unlike the 1639 UFO, Winthrop had an explanation for the latest luminescence over his “city upon a hill.” The governor noted that the bizarre spectacle was seen near the location where a vessel captained by John Chaddock had exploded months earlier, after a sailor accidentally ignited gunpowder aboard the ship. The captain was not aboard at the time, but the blast killed five crew members.
Winthrop noted that rescuers had recovered the bodies of all the victims except for the man believed responsible for the calamity, a sailor who professed the ability to communicate with the dead and who was suspected of murdering his master in Virginia. The hand of the devil was thought to have taken possession of the body, and it was the haunting voice of the sailor’s ghost that was said to have accompanied the strange vision of Ye Olde UFO that mystified Boston.
Three hundred years later, the UFO phenomenon exploded.
It’s September 1947, and the U.S. Air Force has a problem. A rash of reports about mysterious objects in the skies has the public on edge and the military baffled. The Air Force needs to figure out what’s going on—and fast. It launches an investigation it calls Project Sign.
By early 1948 the team realizes it needs some outside expertise to sift through the reports it’s receiving—specifically an astronomer who can determine which cases are easily explained by astronomical phenomena, such as planets, stars or meteors.
For J. Allen Hynek, then the 37-year-old director at Ohio State University’s McMillin Observatory, it would be a classic case of being in the right place at the right time—or, as he may have occasionally lamented, the wrong place at the wrong one.
Hynek had worked for the government during the war, developing new defense technologies like the first radio-controlled fuse, so he already had a high security clearance and was a natural go-to.
“One day I had a visit from several men from the technical center at Wright-Patterson Air Force base, which was only 60 miles away in Dayton,” Hynek later wrote. “With some obvious embarrassment, the men eventually brought up the subject of ‘flying saucers’ and asked me if I would care to serve as consultant to the Air Force on the matter… The job didn’t seem as though it would take too much time, so I agreed.”
Little did Hynek realize that he was about to begin a lifelong odyssey that would make him one of the most famous and, at times, controversial scientists of the 20 century. Nor could he have guessed how much his own thinking about UFOs would change over that period as he persisted in bringing rigorous scientific inquiry to the subject.
“I had scarcely heard of UFOs in 1948 and, like every other scientist I knew, assumed that they were nonsense,” he recalled.
Project Sign ran for a year, during which the team reviewed 237 cases. In Hynek’s final report, he noted that about 32 percent of incidents could be attributed to astronomical phenomena, while another 35 percent had other explanations, such as balloons, rockets, flares or birds. Of the remaining 33 percent, 13 percent didn’t offer enough evidence to yield an explanation. That left 20 percent that provided investigators with some evidence but still couldn’t be explained.
The Air Force was loath to use the term “unidentified flying object,” so the mysterious 20 percent were simply classified as “unidentified.”
In February 1949, Project Sign was succeeded by Project Grudge. While Sign offered at least a pretense of scientific objectivity, Grudge seems to have been dismissive from the start, just as its angry-sounding name suggests. Hynek, who played no role in Project Grudge, said it “took as its premise that UFOs simply could not be.” Perhaps not surprisingly, its report, issued at the end of 1949, concluded that the phenomena posed no danger to the United States, having resulted from mass hysteria, deliberate hoaxes, mental illness or conventional objects that the witnesses had misinterpreted as otherworldly. It also suggested the subject wasn’t worth further study.
That might’ve been the end of it. But UFO incidents continued, including some puzzling reports from the Air Force’s own radar operators. The national media began treating the phenomenon more seriously; LIFE magazine did a 1952 cover story, and even the widely respected TV journalist Edward R. Murrowdevoted a program to the topic, including an interview with Kenneth Arnold, a pilot whose 1947 sighting of mysterious objects over Mount Rainier in Washington state popularized the term “flying saucer.” The Air Force had little choice but to revive Project Grudge, which soon morphed into the more benignly named Project Blue Book.
Hynek joined Project Blue Book in 1952 and would remain with it until its demise in 1969. For him, it was a side gig as he continued to teach and to pursue other, non-UFO research, at Ohio State. In 1960 he moved to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, to chair its astronomy department.
As before, Hynek’s role was to review the reports of UFO sightings and determine whether there was a logical astronomical explanation. Typically that involved a lot of unglamorous paperwork; but now and then, for an especially puzzling case, he had a chance to get out into the field.
There he discovered something he might never have learned from simply reading the files: how normal the people who reported seeing UFOs tended to be. “The witnesses I interviewed could have been lying, could have been insane or could have been hallucinating collectively—but I do not think so,” he recalled in his 1977 book, The Hynek UFO Report.
“Their standing in the community, their lack of motive for perpetration of a hoax, their own puzzlement at the turn of events they believe they witnessed, and often their great reluctance to speak of the experience—all lend a subjective reality to their UFO experience.”
For the rest of his life Hynek would deplore the ridicule that people who reported a UFO sighting often had to endure—which, in turn, caused untold numbers of others to never come forward. It wasn’t just unfair to the individuals involved, but meant a loss of data that might be useful to researchers.
“Given the controversial nature of the subject, it’s understandable that both scientists and witnesses are reluctant to come forward,” says Jacques Vallee, co-author with Dr. Hynek of The Edge of Reality: A Progress Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. “Because their life is going to change. There are cases where their house is broken into. People throw stones at their kids. There are family crises—divorce and so on… You become the person who has seen something that other people have not seen. And there is a lot of suspicion attached to that.”
In the late 1950s, the Air Force faced a more urgent problem than hypothetical UFOs. On October 4, 1957, the U.S.S.R. surprised the world by launching Sputnik, the first artificial space satellite—and a serious blow to Americans’ sense of technological superiority.
At that point, Hynek had taken leave from Ohio State to work on a satellite-tracking system at Harvard, notes Mark O’Connell in his 2017 biography, The Close Encounters Man. Suddenly Hynek was on TV and holding frequent press conferences to assure Americans that their scientists were closely monitoring the situation. On October 21, 1957, he appeared on the cover of LIFE with his boss, the Harvard astronomer Fred Whipple, and their colleague Don Lautman. It was his first taste of the national celebrity, but wouldn’t be the last.
With Sputnik circling the earth every 98 minutes, often visible to the naked eye, many Americans began looking skyward, and UFO sightings continued unabated.
By the 1960s, Hynek had emerged as the nation’s—perhaps the world’s—top expert on UFOs, quoted widely in his capacity as scientific consultant to Project Blue Book. But behind the scenes, he chafed at what he perceived as the project’s mandate to debunk UFO sightings. He was also critical of its procedures, judging the Blue Book staff “grossly inadequate,” its communication with outside scientists “appalling” and its statistical methods “nothing less than a travesty.”
The feeling, apparently, was mutual. In an unpublished manuscript unearthed by biographer O’Connell, Air Force Major Hector Quintanilla, who headed the project from 1963 to 1969, writes that he considered Hynek a “liability.”
Why did he stick around? Hynek offered a number of explanations. “But most importantly,” he wrote, “Blue Book had the store of data (as poor as they were), and my association with it gave me access to those data.”
If Hynek often angered UFO debunkers, like Quintanilla, he didn’t always please the believers, either.
In 1966, for example, he went to Michigan to investigate multiple reports of strange lights in the sky. When he offered the theory that it might have been an optical illusion involving swamp gas, he found himself widely derided in the press and “swamp gas” became a punchline for newspaper cartoonists. More seriously, two Michigan Congressmen, including Gerald R. Ford (who later became president), took umbrage at the apparent insult to their state’s citizenry and called for a Congressional hearing.
Testifying at the hearing, Hynek saw an opportunity to plead the case he’d been making to the Air Force for years, but with little success. “Specifically, it is my opinion that the body of data accumulated since 1948…deserves close scrutiny by a civilian panel of physical and social scientists…for the express purpose of determining whether a major problem really exists.”
Hynek would soon get his wish, or so it seemed. Now facing greater scrutiny in Congress, the Air Force established a civilian committee of scientists to investigate UFOs, chaired by a University of Colorado physicist, Dr. Edward U. Condon. Hynek, who would not be on the committee, was hopeful at first. But he lost faith two years later when the committee issued what came to be known as the Condon Report.
He called the report “rambling” and “poorly organized” and Condon’s introductory summary “singularly slanted.” Though the report cited numerous UFO incidents its researchers couldn’t explain, it concluded that “further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified.” It was exactly what Hynek wouldn’t have wanted.
The following year, 1969, Project Blue Book shut down for good.
The end of Blue Book proved a turning point for Hynek. As O’Connell writes, he “found himself suddenly liberated from the frustrations, compromises and bullying of the U.S. Air Force. He was a free man.”
Meanwhile, sightings continued around the world—UFOs, Hynek later quipped, “apparently did not read the Condon Report”—and he went on with his research.
In 1972, he published his first book, The UFO Experience. Among its contributions to the field, it introduced Hynek’s classifications of UFO incidents he called Close Encounters.
Close Encounters of the First Kind meant UFOs seen at a close enough range to make out some details. In a Close Encounter of the Second Kind, the UFO had a physical effect, such as scorching trees, frightening animals or causing car motors to suddenly conk out. In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, witnesses reported seeing occupants in or near a UFO.
Though less remembered now, Hynek also provided three classifications for more distant encounters. Those involved UFOs seen at night (“nocturnal lights”) during the day (“daylight discs”) or on radar screens (“radar/visual”).
The most dramatic of Hynek’s classifications, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, would, of course, become the title of a Steven Spielberg movie released in 1977. O’Connell reports that Hynek was paid $1,000 for the use of the title, another $1,000 for the rights to use stories from the book and $1,500 for three days of technical consulting—hardly a windfall by Hollywood standards. He also had a brief cameo in the film, playing an awestruck scientist when the alien craft comes into close view.
In 1978, Hynek retired from teaching, but he continued to collect and evaluate UFO reports under the auspices of the Center for UFO Studies, which he had founded in 1973. The organization continues to this day.
Hynek died in 1986 at age 75, the result of a brain tumor. He hadn’t solved the riddle of UFOs but, perhaps more than anyone else, he had made trying to solve that riddle a legitimate scientific pursuit.
But it’s that pursuit of knowledge of UFOs that brought the Men in Black… which we will look at next. When Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE MEN IN BLACK=====
*** Depending on whom you ask, the “Men in Black” (MIB) are either another nutty UFO conspiracy or they are part of a secret government agency designed to prevent the public from learning more about UFOs. The Men in Black always appear unannounced, are usually clad in black business suits, and warn people to give up their research into UFOs or face dire consequences. In many cases, the Men in Black have also seen aliens—in some accounts, they are aliens themselves or some form of “demonic supernaturals.” But why would the government want to suppress information about UFOs? As the theory goes, it’s because aliens are closer to us than you think—they might actually be everywhere—and if ordinary citizens realized just how real the threat was, there would be a mass panic and a breakdown of the social order. Some folklorists, however, claim that the whole idea of “Men in Black” is itself a form of mass panic or of “psychological drama” due to suggestibility and a willingness to believe. Others, however, insist the Men in Black are part of a real government agency designed to prevent the public from learning “the truth about UFOs.” They also insist that their experiences are real and that anyone who thinks they’re crazy is merely a tool of government propaganda and manipulation. At the moment, there is no way to definitively declare whether the Men in Black are “real” or not, because if they are part of a secret government agency, they may not have entirely kept the secret, but they’ve prevented any conclusive evidence of their existence from leaking out to the public. As the dust settled from World War II and the USA launched into a Cold War with Russia, paranoia and conspiracies spread throughout the land. In this climate of high-tension suspicion arose the first mass sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in American history. The first known report of a mysterious stranger showing up and warning someone not to talk about their UFO encounters was in 1947 with Howard Dahl (covered in Item #3 below). Since then there have been countless reports where people who’ve claimed to have witnessed aliens say that they were subsequently visited by men in black suits who warned them to keep quiet about their experience. Writer John Sherwood claims that his friend Gray Barker concocted the “myth” of the Men in Black in a 1956 book called They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers. Sherwood swears that Gray came up with the theory as a joke, similar to rumors of how L. Ron Hubbard invented Scientology as part of a bet with another science-fiction writer as to whether he’d be able to invent a successful religion. Whether or not Sherwood’s story is true, this still doesn’t account for the fact that Howard Dahl’s report of a Men in Black sighting predates Barker’s alleged hoax by almost a decade. Since the 1997 release of the original Men in Black film and its sequels, reports of encountering MIBs have remained fairly steady. And the encounters are all eerily similar.***
Dr. Herbert Hopkins was working as a consultant on a UFO case in Maine. One evening he received a phone call from someone purporting to be an activist in the UFO community, asking him if he could visit Hopkins to discuss the case. Only minutes later, the man arrived.
The man was wearing a black suit and black tie, and had very unusual facial appearances, with no hair or eyebrows, and an extremely pale figure. Hopkins’ dog began barking erratically the minute the man entered the home. After the bizarre visitor was finished questioning him about the UFO case, the visit got even stranger. Here’s how it went according to the website The Night Sky:
“[The Man in Black] informed Hopkins that there were two coins in Hopkins’ pocket (which was correct) and asked him to remove one. Hopkins complied and held the coin, a shiny new penny, in the palm of his hand. The MIB told Hopkins to watch the coin closely. After a few moments the coin took on a “silvery” appearance and then appeared to be going out of focus. It then began to fade and, eventually, disappeared altogether. The MIB informed Hopkins that the coin would never be seen ‘on this plane’ again. He then inquired as to whether Hopkins was familiar with alleged UFO abductee Barney Hill. Hopkins replied that he had heard of Hill, but was under the impression that he had died in the not too distant past. The MIB informed Hopkins that was correct. “Barney didn’t have a heart,” said the MIB, “just like you no longer have a coin.” (It should be noted that Barney Hill actually died of a cerebral hemorrhage.) The MIB then gently suggested that Hopkins destroy any material he had related to the UFO case.”
Hopkins, extremely shaken by the encounter, followed the advice of the man and burned all the files he had related to the case. While he had repeated phone troubles after (the phone company said his line had been tampered with, maybe to tap it?) he never saw the man again.
Dr. Albert K. Bender was a well-written and extremely intelligent researcher who founded the International Flying Saucer Bureau.
In 1955, his research was about to yield serious fruit, as he prepared to unveil a paper that would prove the US Government had — to one degree or another — covered up proof of UFOs. He planned to publish his findings in the Space Review. That was, until he was visited by the Men In Black.
Bender claims that three men, dressed in all black, visited him at his home and warned him against pursuing the topic of UFOs any further. The men left Bender scared for his life, and he immediately shut down all his research and the Flying Saucer Bureau.
Many people who knew him claim that Bender was a changed man after this encounter. His later works were rambly — almost unreadable — and he seemed to live his life in constant anxiety and terror. He purported to still receive mysterious phone calls, with nobody on the other end, until the end of his life in 2002.
Harold Dahl and his son were salvaging logs on a fishing boat when they spied six donut-shaped crafts flying in the air above them. The crafts drop molten waste onto the lake, which allegedly kills Dahl’s dog and injures his son.
A few days later, after talking about the affairs with his boss and friends, he was visited by a mysterious man dressed in all black. The man urged him to not discuss the encounter. Not long after, he was also visited by several Air Force agents who were said to be on a mission to “gather information.” Dahl’s story definitely got the attention of various law enforcement agencies in the United States, leading the FBI to write a report on the matter, stating…
“Dear Sir: The following, in general, are the facts regarding the flying disc story that started by (redacted) which subsequently resulted in news stories by the Tacoma Times, the Boise Statesman, and the Chicago Times, that a B-25 carrying Army Intelligence officers was shot down or sabotaged over Kelso, Washington on August 1, 1947 because it was carrying some flying disc fragments. The original story, as related by (redacted) was to the effect that (redacted) while patrolling in his boat near Maury Island, Washington, sighted six flying discs, one of which fluttered to earth and disintegrated, showering his boat with fragments which caused some damage to the boat and killed his dog. (Redacted) wrote a letter to (redacted) of Ziff-Davis Company which publishes fantastic adventure magazines in Chicago, sending him fragments of the flying disc and relating the above story. (Redacted) requested Trans-Radio News in Chicago to verify the story as related by (redacted) telegraphed (redacted) confirming (redacted’s) story. (Redacted) then engaged (redacted), Boise, Idaho, who was the first to report sighting the flying disc and whom (redacted) had previously made a contract for a story regarding the flying disc, to come to Tacoma and check the story related by (redacted). (Redacted) came to Tacoma, Washington July 30, 1947 and arranged a meeting the following day, July 31, with (redacted) in his room 502, Winthrop Hotel, Tacoma, Washington. (Redacted) also called to attend the meeting (redacted) United Airlines Pilot who has also reported seeing flying disc fragments, and Army Intelligence to attend.”
Not long after the encounter with the “Man in Black,” Dahl claimed that the whole thing was a hoax, but recanted years after, having allegedly made the first confession under duress.
Jim Templeton was shocked to discover a strange figure in the background of a photo of his daughter. The figure was not in the camera’s view when he took the photo, and nobody had any idea where it came from.
The film was verified as authentic by Kodak, and Templeton’s story went public. Not long after, he was visited by two “government agents” who referred to themselves as #9 and #10. They demanded to see the site of the photo and questioned Templeton about the event.
When Templeton told them he didn’t see the figure personally, the men became angry, and stormed out of the field, never to be seen again.
Templeton was later contacted by two employees at a missile launch pad in Australia, who claimed that they saw two figures that resembled the man in his daughter’s photo on launchpad security footage. Apparently the missiles at that site in Australia had been produced only 20 miles away from the field where Templeton took the photo.
Paul Miller was returning home after a hunting trip when they saw a “luminous” disc in the sky. The disc landed in an empty field, and two humanoids emerged from the craft. Miller fired his gun at them, and believed to have injured one, when he fled down a rural road in his car.
However, in that moment, he realized he had lost time. It was almost three hours later than when he first encountered the craft. He shrugged it off, and went back to his Air Force job the next day.
However, upon entering work, he was immediately confronted by three men in black suits. They told him that they “had his file.” Despite having told nobody about the event, the men said that they “knew all about it” and mentioned that the encounter would be best forgotten. Paul says:
“They seemed to know everything about me; where I worked, my name, everything else,” Miller said. They also asked questions about his experiences as if they already knew the answers.”
Miller, terrified, did not come forward about his experience until years later.
Danny Gordon was a radio personality who became interested in a flurry of Wythe County UFO sightings. Multiple people across the county claimed to have seen bizarre objects in the sky, and Gordon decided to investigate.
Gordon became obsessed with getting photos of the objects, including one time where an entire school bus of students saw the UFOs flying over a shopping mall as Gordon took photos. Eventually, Gordon snapped a few photos at extremely close range that allegedly verified they were not of this world.
However, strange things began happening to Gordon. He received a phone call from a man who claimed to be “ex-military” and warned him that his research could “cost him everything” and urged him to stop for “his family’s sake.”
Gordon was also “interviewed” by two men in black suits who claimed to work for a magazine publication. Not long after the interview, Gordon realized all his photos were missing. He contacted the magazine for information, and they claimed to have never heard of him, much less commissioned an article about him.
Not long after, Gordon suffered a heart attack, and his doctor warned him that all the research and stress was jeopardizing his health. Gordon gave up the story, and was never bothered again.
UFO researcher Jack Robinson and his wife Mary began to experience extremely strange events as they pursued more alien and UFO-related research. They would come home to find their house rummaged and looked through, and their UFO files disturbed. Mary also began to notice a strange man in a black suit and hat staring up at their apartment from the doorway.
Mary mentioned this activity to a friend, who drove over and saw what she was talking about for himself. The friend, Tim Green Beckley, snapped a photo of the man, which is believed to be on of the most ironclad pieces of proof of the Men in Black.
Professor Peter Rojcewicz claims that he was reading a UFO book in the library, when a strange pale man wearing all black sat down next to him. The man began talking to the Professor, and asked him about his opinion on flying saucers. The Professor replied that he wasn’t super interested, and the man became very agitated. He eventually left, leaving Professor Rojcewicz extremely uncomfortable and anxious.
He did not reveal this story until many years later, when he finally gave a lecture on the subject. He remains convinced that it was a Men in Black official who confronted him in the library, and to this day, is trying to find more people who have had similar experiences.
When Weird Darkness returns, we’ll hear from actor, comedian, and paranormal researcher Dan Aykroyd, who claims he too had a personal experience with the Men in Black.
Dan Aykroyd has come forward with his story about how he was taping a show about the paranormal. He stepped out to take a phone call from Britney Spears, who was asking him to appear on Saturday Night Live with her, when he noticed a black ford parked across the street. A tall man stepped out of the Ford, and stared him down. Aykroyd turned away for a moment, and then turned back, to find that the man and the car had completely vanished.
After he finished his phone call, he returned to the studio to learn that his show had been cancelled and he was ordered to stop filming immediately.
Here he is in his own words…
(AUDIO CLIP – 2:40)
Some doubt his claim, but Aykroyd says “he knew what he saw” and maintains that there was some kind of connection between these MIB and the end of his paranormal show.
In 1967, Robert Richardson was driving his car at night in Toledo, Ohio, when he hit something, which, he claimed, then vanished. He found a piece of metal that he believed originated from the mysterious thing he hit. A few days later, two men, wearing black hats and sunglasses and driving a black 1953 Cadillac, visited Richardson at his home at 11 p.m. to ask questions. A week later, two other men arrived, dressed in black suits, and asked Richardson to turn over the metal to them. When he informed them he had sent it for analysis, they threatened to harm his wife if he didn’t get it back. He never heard from them again.
But why? Who were — and, in some cases, still are — these strange individuals who give out seemingly meaningless warnings about UFO sightings and try to intimidate people?
“They are the archetypal sinister person who turns up on the doorstep specifically in relation to a UFO encounter,” said Nick Redfern, author of “The Real Men in Black”.
“People who have been visited by MIB tend to fall into two categories: One is the UFO witnesses. The other category is researchers who’ve been visited,” Redfern told The Huffington Post.
After digging closely into the history of many reported MIB encounters, Redfern thinks he has a good handle on what may be going on.
“What we have, I’m pretty sure, is a sort of covert department or office or personnel within the official infrastructure. There are people who dress in black deliberately and go around and threaten people in certain circumstances relative to UFOs,” he suggested.
“And they look like what you see in the ‘Men in Black’ movies. They look like agents of the government, like [actors] Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. And they issue veiled warnings not to talk about their UFO encounter.”
Hidden among the avalanche of documents leaked by Edward Snowden were images from a Powerpoint presentation by GCHQ, entitled The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations. Images include camouflaged moths, inflatable tanks, women in burqas, and complex diagrams plastered with jargon, buzzwords and slogans: “Disruption Operational Playbook”, “Swap the real for the false and vice versa”, “People make decisions as part of groups” and, beneath a shot of hands shuffling a deck of cards, “We want to build Cyber Magicians“. Curiously, sandwiched in the middle of the document are three photographs of UFOs. Not real ones – classic fakes: one was a hub cap, another a bunch of balloons, and one that turned out to be a seagull.
Devout ufologists might seize upon this as further proof that our governments “know something” about aliens and their transportation methods, but others suggest the opposite: that the UFO community is a textbook case of a gullible group susceptible to manipulation. Having spent too long watching the skies and The X-Files, it’s implied, they’ll readily swallow whatever snippet of “evidence” suits their grand theory.
If there really is a UFO conspiracy, it’s surely the worst-kept secret in history. Roswell, Area 51, flashing lights, little green men, abductions – it’s all been fed through the pop culture mill to the point of fatigue. Even the supposed enforcers of the secret, the “men in black”, have their own movie franchise. But a recent documentary, Mirage Men (which I have a link to in the show notes – you can watch it free on YouTube) unearths compelling evidence that UFO folklore was actually fabricated by the US government. Rather than covering up the existence of aliens, could it be that the real conspiracy has been persuading us to believe in them?
Mirage Men’s chief coup is to land an actual man in black: a former Air Force special investigations officer named Richard Doty, who admits to having infiltrated UFO circles. A fellow UFO researcher says: “Doty had this wonderful way to sell it – ‘I’m with the government. You cooperate with us and I’m going to tell you what the government really knows about UFOs, deep down in those vaults.'” Doty and his colleagues fed credulous ufologists lies and half-truths, knowing their fertile imaginations would do the rest. In return, they were apprised of chatter from the community, thus alerting the military when anyone was getting to close to their top-secret technology. And if the Soviets thought the US really was communing with aliens, all the better.
The classic case, well-known to conspiracy aficionados, is Paul Bennewitz, a successful electronics entrepreneur in New Mexico. In 1979, Bennewitz started seeing strange lights in the sky, and picking up weird transmissions on his amateur equipment. The fact that he lived just across the road from Kirtland air force base should have set alarm bells ringing, but Bennewitz was convinced these phenomena were of extraterrestrial origin. Being a good patriot, he contacted the Air Force, who realised that, far from eavesdropping on ET, Bennewitz was inadvertently eavesdropping on them. Instead of making him stop, though, Doty and other officers told Bennewitz they were interested in his findings. That encouraged Bennewitz to dig deeper. Within a few years, he was interpreting alien languages, spotting crashed alien craft in the hills from his plane (he was an amateur pilot), and sounding the alert for a full-scale invasion. All the time, the investigators were surveilling him surveilling them. They gave Bennewitz computer software that “interpreted” the signals, and even dumped fake props for him to discover. The mania took over Bennewitz’s life. In 1988, his family checked him into a psychiatric facility.
There’s plenty more like this. As Mirage Men discovers, central tenets of the UFO belief system turn out to have far earthlier origins. Mysterious cattle mutilations in 1970s New Mexico turn out to have been officials furtively investigating radiation in livestock after they’d conducted an ill-advised experiment in underground “nuclear fracking”. Test pilots for the military’s experimental silent helicopters admit to attaching flashing lights to their craft to fool civilians. Doty himself comes across as a slippery character, to say the least. “He remains an absolute enigma,” says Mark Pilkington, writer of the book Mirage Men, the basis for the documentary. He found the retired Doty working as a traffic cop in a small New Mexico town. “Some of what he said was true and I’m sure a lot of it wasn’t, or was a version of the truth. I have no doubt Rick was at the bottom of a ladder that stretches all the way to Washington. It’s unclear to what extent he was following orders and to what taking matters into his own hands.”
Doty almost admits to having had a hand in supposedly leaked “classified” documents, such as the “Majestic 12” dossier – spilling the beans on a secret alien liaison committee founded by President Truman. But he denies involvement in the “Project Serpo” papers – which claimed that 12 American military personnel paid a secret visit to an alien planet in the Zeta Reticuli system – only to be caught out as the source of the presumed hoax. The Serpo scenario, it has been noted, is not unlike the plot of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Does that suggest that the forgers lazily copied the movie? Or that the movie is based on real events and Spielberg was in on the conspiracy?
The place of movies in the grand UFO conspiracy is a tricky area. Depending on which theory you subscribe to, Hollywood’s steady stream of sci-fi is either a deliberate exaggeration, designed to make the “truth” look unbelievable (the “you’ve been watching too many movies” defence), or it’s a way of psychologically preparing the populace for staggering alien secrets yet to be revealed. There are at least grounds for suspicion in the latter camp. Pilkington points to the CIA’s Psychological Strategy Board, founded after the second world war to promote US propaganda. Associated with the board was veteran film producer Darryl Zanuck. In 1951, Zanuck executive-produced seminal alien-visitation sci-fi The Day the Earth Stood Still, often cited as a government-sanctioned testing of the waters for alien contact. Like Zanuck, the film’s writer, Edmund North, was ex-military, while director Robert Wise apparently became a UFO believer on account of discussions he had with Washington figures during the making of the movie.
Steven Spielberg is a less likely government stooge, though he has been obsessed by aliens his entire career, from Close Encounters and ET up to War of the Worlds and the last Indiana Jones film (not forgetting his producer role in Falling Skies, Transformers and, er, Men in Black). If anyone’s paving the way for the big reveal, it’s Spielberg, but, after 30 years of paving, we’re still waiting.
Mirage Men finds an even more extreme example in the form of industry veteran Robert Emenegger, who claims that in 1971 he was approached by the Pentagon to make a film revealing “what the government really knows”. The Pentagon’s big lure was that they would let him incorporate top-secret footage of an alien craft landing at Holloman Air Force Base in the 1960s. Predictably, the footage never materialised but Emenegger – no less cryptic a character than Richard Doty – claims to have seen it, and still believes alien contact has been established. He went ahead and made his documentary, entitled UFOs: Past, Present And Future. Presented by Rod “Twilight Zone” Serling, it culminates in a rather anti-climactic “reconstruction” of the Holloman UFO landing. I have a link to that documentary as well in the show notes – it too is free to watch on YouTube.
In the cold light of the post-cold war, the evidence is starting to look pretty shaky for UFOs. Numbers at UFO conventions and clubs are dwindling. The UK’s Ministry of Defence closed its UFO desk in 2009, and, like many countries, has declassified its UFO documents. If there was any smoking gun, you’d imagine it would have been found in our current golden age of leaks and disclosures – but so far there’s only been more smoke. On a Guardian webchat in 2010, relating to Wikileaks’ release of the US embassy cables, Julian Assange asserted that “many weirdos email us about UFOs” but he’d come across nothing concrete. There were references to UFOs in the cables, he noted, but mostly to do with UFO cultsrather than UFOs themselves – in the same way that GCHQ’s Art Of Deception slideshow references UFO cults.
If nothing else, the leaked GCHQ document tells us the Mirage Men are still out there, sowing deception and disinformation. These days they’re more likely to be targeting suspect extremist religious groups, or hackers and online fraudsters. Meanwhile, recent claims to have “deciphered” hidden backwards messages about UFOs in Edward Snowden’s interview only go to show how desperate the alien conspiracy cause has become.
There’s something else ufologists are a textbook example of: cognitive dissonance – the mental distress of trying to hold two conflicting worldviews simultaneously. The term was coined in the 1950s by psychologist Leon Festinger, who illustrated it with the example of a UFO cult shattered by the unfulfilled prophecy of an alien visitation. Some tenacious devotees still refuse to accept Mirage Men’s findings, says Pilkington: “If beliefs are strongly held, nothing can sway them and anything that appears to undermine them will just be absorbed and repurposed. So if you’re really, really dedicated, this is just chaff to throw you off the trail.” Pilkington himself has been accused of working for MI5 or being a stooge controlled by the government, if not the aliens. “If I’m under intelligent control from elsewhere then I’m unaware of it, and I’m a victim, and it would be against my programming for me to be able to prove it,” he reasons.
As always in the conspiracy-theory hall of mirrors, it’s possible to flip the hypothesis on its head: what if the lies and hoaxes Mirage Men reveals are simply a smokescreen for the fact that the authorities really do know secrets about extraterrestrials? What better way to conceal them than by getting “found out” in their disinformation tactics? What better way of throwing sceptics off the scent than disseminating the confessions of an ex-man in black like Richard Doty, in documentaries, and articles in respectable new organisations – like this one. Perhaps we’re no closer to knowing if the truth really is out there, but we can be sure the lies are.
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“America’s First UFO Sighting” by Christopher Klein and Greg Daugherty for History.com
“Men In Black”: Lee Speigel for Huffpost; Steve Rose for The Guardian; and Jacob Geers for Thought Catalog
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” – Matthew 25:40
And a final thought… “Every situation in life is temporary. So, when life is good, make sure you enjoy and receive it fully. And when life is not so good, remember that it will not last forever and better days are on the way.” – Jenni Young
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.