Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith from the feature film MIB – Men In Black
With April 15 fast approaching, perhaps this would be a good time to remind our readers that there are much scarier things than a visit by the IRS. Paranormal researcher Justin Bamforth would certainly attest to that – particularly when it comes to the subject of Men In Black (MIB).
“In popular culture and UFO conspiracy theories, 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.” (Wikipedia)
We first encountered Bamforth at last fall’s Mystery of Space & Sky Conference, where he was a featured speaker on the topic of Men In Black. Bamforth has been an active investigator and researcher into all angles of the paranormal – including UFOs, mental phenomena, and other areas of high strangeness – for close to two decades. The following post-conference interview touches on several portions of Bamforth’s chilling presentation that day.
LAPX: Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be interested in the paranormal — particularly in the subject of MIB.
Bamforth: Like anyone else who is interested in this field can tell you, most of us don’t choose to pursue the phenomenon, but rather “it” seems to choose us, for whatever reason.
Growing up in a haunted environment was my first real introduction (to the paranormal) and prompted my curiosity. Fast forward to 2009, when I started this little online group called Normal Paranormal, which has since gone on to become a much larger website and blog. Through that and my own independent research, I’ve been able to hear some truly remarkable accounts. This led me to self-publish my first book, titled The Spectrum: Glimpses of the Paranormal and Encounters with the Strange.
Since then, I’ve met even more people who have come forward to tell me about their experiences, which never cease to amaze me. There must be some sort of purpose to all this high strangeness or else I wouldn’t still be here pursuing it.
LAPX: How do witnesses describe the MIB? Are they a calming presence? Benign? Disturbing?
Bamforth: Witnesses typically describe these beings as highly unusual. At first, they might appear rather “normal” so to speak, but then there’s something very “unnormal” or unnatural about them. It can be either in the way they look, act, move, or speak. These peculiar attributes and mannerisms really end up standing out enough to cause the witness to take notice.
Of course, these observations can vary greatly from one case to the next, but generally, it’s almost as if these guys – and gals – try too hard to fit in and be perfect, so they come across as extremely imperfect.
LAPX: Gals??? You mean these so-called Men In Black are not always male figures?
Bamforth: Correct. Although it’s not quite as common to hear about, there are certainly enough reports out there that we can’t overlook it.
LAPX: What about their physical appearance and body movement?
Bamforth: Probably, the most common observation that I hear quite often is this awkward, clunky, or even mechanical movement pattern that the MIB seems to exhibit. And they somehow just “show up” out of nowhere too, whether it’s just one of them, or a pair, or a trio.
Their physical appearance can seem rather mundane at first glance, but upon closer inspection, the witness will notice several things that could seem out of place. Like eyes that don’t blink or are absent of eyelashes. Or not a single piece of head hair, facial hair, or even skin pores whatsoever. The lips might appear painted on. Or their attire might be without a single fold, crease, or wrinkle.
Contrary to the popular stereotype of the MIB as completely black-clad individuals, that doesn’t always seem to be the case. But they generally stick to rather bland looking or nondescript attire in most instances.
LAPX: Do you believe the MIB are actually government agents or something else?
Bamforth: The truth could be a lot stranger than we ever imagined.
Back when these guys first showed up on the UFO scene in the 1950s, they took on a lot of the same traits as FBI agents of that time. As a result, people began to suspect they might have been an extension of some branch of government. However, not even J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI, knew who these guys were. In fact, according to various memos, we know Hoover had the real FBI look into these reports. Hoover mainly wondered who these impersonators were that claimed to be from his office and, more specifically, why they were intimidating UFO witnesses, to begin with.
LAPX: Do MIB only impersonate government agents, or do they also appear as ordinary or familiar people?
Bamforth: The impersonation factor indeed creeps up time and again in my own research. One of the more interesting cases surrounds former Air Force captain Gary Sudbrink, who claims to have received four phone calls from what he believes is MIB in nature. Thankfully, Gary was able to record these calls, which I posted to the Normal Paranormal website for anyone to take a listen to.
What’s particularly troubling about his case is that, just prior to receiving the first call, Gary phoned a friend he wanted to meet up with. But the friend told Gary that this doppelganger “Gary” had already phoned him earlier. As Gary was on the same call, trying to convince his friend otherwise, the first of these MIB calls came through on the other line. And, in the call, this creepy, robotic-sounding character reveals to Gary that he is, in fact, “being impersonated by the other voice.”
LAPX: What – if any – is the connection between the MIB and the Laplanders?
Bamforth: John Keel, best known for his work on The Mothman Prophecies, was also intrigued by the MIB. He would often present a series of photos to witnesses, in an attempt to paint a more accurate description of what they may look like. More often than not, the witness would point to a picture of a person of Sami descent.
The Sámi natives inhabited large parts of Norway and Sweden, northern parts of Finland, and northwestern Russia. They were previously known as Laplanders, after the Lapland area in the same region. Those terms have become rather outdated (and less than politically correct). However, there is some interesting history behind their culture and beliefs, like with Sámi Shamanism for example. In that, their reincarnation cosmology divides the world into three quadrants—the upper world (personified by the color white), the middle human world (being red), and the underworld (represented by the color black). I just found that to be a very interesting connection.
LAPX: Is there any connection between visits by the MIB and UFO sightings?
Bamforth: Generally speaking, there seems to be a correlation between UFO experiences and the
MIB showing up on the scene soon after. However, that does not necessarily demonstrate that one is the direct result of the other.
Sometimes these bizarre individuals will show up even after paranormal occurrences too. Like in the 2009 Shane Sovar Niagara Falls case, where these guys showed up and were recorded on the hotel lobby surveillance camera. That incident didn’t take place until seven months after Shane’s initial UFO sightings. Yet, this event also followed months of poltergeist activity that took place in his home at the same time.
LAPX: How do rival UFO research groups factor into the equation?
Bamforth: Well, keep in mind that back in the “golden age” of ufology, there were lots of other UFO groups running around town. So, there was a lot of competition to get the scoop on a story or case. It’s not like today, in which there is primarily just MUFON and maybe a few other independent groups here and there looking into this.
I’ve often wondered if perhaps the rival UFO groups were telling witnesses to keep quiet so that they themselves might be the first to break the news on a UFO event. However, this possibility doesn’t quite explain the more bizarre aspects to these MIB encounters.
LAPX: Who was Albert Bender? And what is his connection to the MIB?
Bamforth: One of the first well-known examples of the MIB can be found in the curious case of Albert Bender. He was president of the hugely successful International Flying Saucer Bureau in 1952. But his group abruptly shut down a year later, after he made the bold claim that he had solved the UFO mystery and planned to publish a report on it. He was then apparently visited by three MIB that shut him up for good, and he walked away from his research altogether.
In some of these MIB reports, witnesses can be so disturbed or terrified by their encounter that they decide to never talk about their experiences again.
LAPX: At the conference, you talked about a family named Hopkins. Would you briefly relate that story for our readers?
Bamforth: Dr. Herbert Hopkins is another individual that factors into the MIB equation, in his encounter with a solitary man in black in 1976. After this visit, he was so terrified that he destroyed all of the files he had on an alien abductee he had been treating, as a family physician.
During that encounter, there was a bizarre display of power which resulted in a complete dematerialization of a penny Dr. Hopkins held in the palm of his hand. It was made clear that the same could be done to him should he continue to pursue his case or the subject of UFOs altogether. What’s even more interesting is that I discovered later on that some other members of the Hopkins family also had run-ins with bizarre individuals.
These don’t necessarily fit the same mold as Dr. Hopkins’ encounter, but they still aligned perfectly with other reports of these bizarre beings showing up in the strangest of circumstances.
LAPX: You also mentioned a couple from New Jersey?
Bamforth: Yes, fellow researchers Mike Brown and Beth O’Brien are two people that I interviewed about their experiences at the Stonehenge apartment buildings in North Hudson Park, New Jersey last summer.
They were out there to follow up on a profound UFO case that took place in the same area in 1975. In this case, numerous small entities were seen by an individual. As they approached the spot where a UFO reportedly touched down, the GPS on their phone started to malfunction in ways similar to how the original witness had experienced radio interference while the UFO was present. Later on, a shorter pale-looking man appeared out of nowhere and began to sniff Mike and Beth like a bloodhound. This curious character suddenly walked out of sight really fast, in an odd physical manner that is similar to other reports of MIB movement. But this is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these strange individuals physically sniffing somebody!
LAPX: Given the preponderance of cell phone cameras, is there any clear photographic evidence of the MIB?
Bamforth: There are only a few genuine instances where the MIB have been photographed, but the 2009 Niagara Fall case that I mentioned earlier is one of the few cases where they were videotaped. The original footage can be found on my site and the full detailed story in my book.
The case was originally investigated by Marsha Barnhart from the Aerial Phenomena Investigations (API) team. Marsha was incredibly helpful in providing additional research into my follow up of the event. The MIB aspect is only a small piece of the larger picture that centered on the key individual at the heart of this case.
LAPX: What advice would you give to anyone who has had a brush with the MIB?
Bamforth: I would advise them to contact me as soon as possible! The best way to reach me is
through my site or by email at email@example.com I’d love to hear from people who may have had a strange encounter with these bizarre individuals. And, it doesn’t just have to be MIB encounters. It can be anything really. The stranger, the better.
Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A former reporter at The Washington Herald and an occasional contributor to the Voice of Baltimore, Tony’s poetry, humor and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore; Magic Octopus Magazine; Destination Maryland, and Tales of Blood and Roses.