Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

MIBs, Mothman, and short guys with bowl haircuts

Well, given that it's May 22 and we're all still here, it's time to turn to more important topics, namely:  the terror campaign being waged by the Men in Black.

I bring this up because of the recent publication of a book by Nick Redfern called The Real Men in Black: Evidence, Famous Cases and True Stories of These Mysterious Men and Their Connection to the UFO Phenomena.  Which, if nothing else, is remarkable for being the longest book title I've ever seen.  As for the contents of the book itself, it describes the effort by the aforementioned Bad Dudes to spread confusion, disinformation, and threats to blind ordinary folk to... well, to something, presumably.  Redfern himself seems unclear on what they're actually trying to do.  Here's a quote from the description of the book, on Redfern's site, UFOMystic:
For decades – or perhaps even for centuries, some firmly believe – the infamous Men in Black have been elusive, predatory, fear-inducing figures that have hovered with disturbing regularity upon the enigmatic fringes of the subject of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), coldly nurturing, and carefully weaving, their very own unique brand of horror and intimidation of a definitively other-world variety.

He then goes on to describe how witnesses to UFO sightings have been intimidated by "painfully-thin, white-faced and sunken-cheeked" men who have scared the witnesses to the point that they have "firmly distanced themselves from the UFO controversy, vowing never, ever to return to the fold."  The logic, presumably, is that receiving a visit from a scary alien guy would make you less likely to tell anyone about seeing an alien spacecraft.

He then drifts onto the whole Mothman thing, as if John Keel's rambling, incoherent, and generally dreadful book The Mothman Prophecies hadn't already beaten this incident unto death.  Redfern describes an encounter between Men in Black and Mary Hyre, the Point Pleasant (West Virginia) journalist who is largely responsible for the Mothman nonsense in the first place:
In early January 1967, for example, Hyre – who, at the time, was working as the Point Pleasant correspondent for the Athens, West Virginia-based Messenger newspaper – received her very own, and typically absurd and unsettling, visit from a Man in Black. The new stranger in town wore his black hair in a bowl-style, was less than five-feet in height, possessed a pair of weirdly hypnotic eyes, and had curiously thick soles on his shoes. Notably, the late Jim Keith, who wrote his very own book on the Men in Black, pointed out that: “Thick shoe souls [sic] are a recurring detail in many MIB encounters.”

Crazier still: the odd, little man seemed strangely entranced by Hyre’s ballpoint-pen. When Hyre told him he was welcome to keep it, his only response was a bone-chilling, cackle-like laugh, and he charged out of the door at high speed, duly vanishing into the cold, dark night as mysteriously as he had first arrived.

 The take home message:  The short guys with Beatles haircuts are out there.  And they want your ball-point pens.

Me, I'm unimpressed.   It's interesting that Hyre was the only person to see the pen-obsessed alien; given the fact that her credibility is already nil from her Mothman claims, I'm not going to treat any of her other paranormal stories particularly seriously.  Redfern, of course, is willing to turn logic on its head, and seems to think that because no one else saw it, it therefore must be true.  He tells of a further encounter between Hyre and a pair of Men in Black that looked like identical twins:
One of the Men in Black noted, blankly, that there had recently been a lot of UFO activity in the area; a statement with which Hyre concurred. Then a barrage of questions began: had anyone asked Hyre not to publish the details of such activity?

Hyre assured the pair that, no, there had been no hush-up attempts by anyone. And, the MIB wanted to know, what would Hyre’s response be if someone did warn her not to print such tales?

Her forthright reply was concise and clear: “I’d tell them to go to Hell.” Perhaps this dark duo interpreted Hyre’s words quite literally. After glancing back at the mounting workload on her desk for a moment, Hyre looked up again and both MIB were utterly gone.

Redfern, unsurprisingly, seems to swallow the story whole, once again highlighting the vast gulf between my definition of the word "evidence" and that of the conspiracy theorists.

The Real Men in Black is available from Amazon, if against better judgment and general common sense you'd like to buy it.  But as one author to another, I thought I'd at least do him the courtesy of mentioning the fact.

In any case, I'd like to end by saying that if there are any Men in Black out there, I'd love to meet them.  I haven't seen any UFOs, or Mothmen, or much of anything else worth talking about, so I guess they wouldn't have much of an incentive for showing up on my doorstep and threatening me.  ("Don't mention to anyone what you've seen, or else."  "Actually, I haven't seen anything."  "Um... good, then.  Right.  Well... just remember.  See that you don't.  Or else.  We're not joking.")  But even so, I'm issuing a general invitation for any MIBs out there to pay me a visit.  Especially any who are wearing "thick shoe souls."

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