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Strange Days: UFO Files


Who were the Men In Black?

FT's UFO correspondent re-examines some of her investigations involving the mysterious MIB and looks for clues in the MoD files

Getty Images / Columbia Pictures

FT 250

I may have encountered the sinister Men in Black (MIB) during my UFO investigation. The fact that I’m unsure is part of the problem surrounding these legendary figures best known from the hilarious Will Smith movies.

Of course, those movies came about because MIB accounts are real aspects of the UFO mythology. The claim is that mysterious figures pop up after UFO sightings and attempt to dissuade witnesses from talking about what they have seen. Theories on their identity have ranged from terrestrial intellig­ence units to alien entities. Some believe they are eccentric UFO buffs – “Walter Mitty types”, as ex-MoD section head Nick Pope described them to me when arguing for this explanation.

My own possible contact came when a BBC journalist called to say that he was making a radio documentary about the Rendlesham Forest case and needed to speak to me. I agreed, but the interview ignored the case as such, focusing on how likely it was that secret military activity had been misperceived as UFOs.

However, what really seemed odd about this reporter was his demand to have a key audiotape. This was a real-time account by the air force team inspecting the landing traces, a recording which was interrupted by another sighting. At that time, it was barely known outside of ufology, but I played him my copy received from a US military source. He nodded with interest, but demanded the original tape. I explained why I couldn’t let this out of my possession, and offered him a first generation copy. This he emphatically declined, and the stand-off became strained.

In the end, I decided to give him a spare copy and say that this was the original, just to conclude this rather bizarre interview. Then I thought no more about it, assuming this was just an overly fastidious journalist who wanted the best quality audio for his documentary. Yet what he thought was a priceless original artefact that had been reluctantly handed over was never returned, and the programme did not air. In fact, when I followed up his supp­lied details there was no such documentary or reporter! He had simply disappeared, along with the evidence.

Like any UFO witness who describes an MIB encounter, I was nonplussed. Was my phantom journo just pretending to have a contract, which had then failed to come off? Was he a UFO enthusiast trying to secure memorabilia? Or was he from some unknown source, eager to learn what evidence I possessed?

Another problem with such cases is that if people are going around trying to stop witnesses from talking, then it’s likely we will only find out when they fail.

Here’s another example. Roy Sandbach and I interviewed a local couple who had been involved, many years earlier, in what seemed to be an interesting and never-documented sighting. I was not expecting what had happ­ened after the sighting.

From a small local press story at the time, I knew that a young couple was driving over the Yorkshire moors on a warm summer night (17 August 1972). Sandra was a professional dancer and had been performing at a club in the North East. Her husband was driving them home to Cheshire around 2am when they passed open countryside near the US military communications base at Menwith Hill.

Suddenly, the radio, which was playing soothing night music, filled with static and became inaudible. Then a strange, melon-shaped fluorescent green object appeared over fields to their side and gently landed. They were driving in a convoy of four cars, hugging the twisting lanes together, as often happens when speeds are reduced. Indeed, the lead vehicle was a police patrol, resulting in some careful driving behind. All the cars slowed to a crawl on seeing the object and Sandra suddenly felt an urge to get out and had to be physically restrained from doing so. With the car door open, they both noticed that the area was oddly silent. At the same time, a door was opening in the side of the object – it started as a dot and then opened very slowly to a vivid purple/blue T-shape. At that point, Peter decided to put his foot down and leave. Neither recalls passing the other vehicles, but they arrived back in Cheshire half an hour later than they had expected.

Curiously, a police car was outside their house. They were asked if they had ‘anything to report’ and had to account for their movements that night. They did so without mentioning the UFO. Only later did they wonder if the patrol had been sent there after police in Yorkshire had traced their registration number.

Next morning, they called the police. Rather unusually, given that they were reporting a UFO sighting miles out of local police jurisdiction, two officers were immediately despatched to document their story. The officers who came knew that other vehicles were involved and explained that Yorkshire police had advised them that they had all just seen an “illuminated tent in a field – so do you now want to change your story?” They said no and the police left.

A week later, the story made the local press. The couple had not talked to any reporters and the source was the police themselves. Moreover, in yet another surprising act, the local police now suggested to the couple that as the national press were now interested they should send an officer around and coordinate a press conference at the couple’s home!

This all seems an extraordinary fuss over ‘a tent in a field’. But on the day, several reporters did appear and the police officer arranged a rota for them to interview Peter and to use the one phone in the house to ring through their stories. However, proceedings were cut short when a smart black car pulled up outside and two further men arrived. They flashed ID cards with ‘Ministry of Defence’ on them and advised Peter to talk just to them. He pointed out that this would be difficult with a house full of reporters, but the men from the ministry said they would handle that. Within minutes, they had cleared the place. One of the sources present later told me that the reporters had been told that the couple had signed an exclusive deal with the two men; they introduced themselves to the press not as government officials but rival reporters.

The two men, now alone with Peter, then quizzed him about the sighting, asking repeatedly for intimate details of the T-shaped door. They then advised him that it was in his ‘best interests’ not to talk about the sighting to anyone ever again – a request with which he and Sandra complied for the next 20 years.

To Be Continued...

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