Be careful. We do not wish to get anyone into trouble. We do not believe publishing this instalment of Kook Komix will endanger anyone. If we did, we’d keep our mouths shut. That said: it may be in your best interests if you don’t share this with anyone.
Could author and publisher Gray Barker have manufactured a Men In Black mystery, egging on a contact who seems decidedly prone to fits of paranoid fantasy, in order to sell books? Had perhaps Albert K. Bender, a horror buff and fan of all things macabre, determined to play a tremendous hoax of his own on us all? Did cruel aliens simply get their own kicks by playing games with a fantasist? Might it all be true? Is Kazik watching? We make no claims in the matter, except to suggest that Mr. Barker would’ve looked very handsome in a Homburg hat and dark sunglasses.
Our story begins with a correspondence between two young, enthusiastic “saucerers” in late 1952, and an invitation for Gray Barker to become West Virginia representative (and later “Chief Investigator”) of the International Flying Saucer Bureau, a civilian research working group newly instituted by Albert Bender out of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The IFSB was to be an ambitious project: evidence would be gathered from around the world to be studied by “calm, clear-thinking individuals”, and, out of this collaborative effort, a solution to the Flying Saucer Mystery would be had.
In those early, heady days, it must have seemed a plan perfectly poised for success. Everything looked right. The momentum was theirs. Connections were being forged, eye-witness accounts catalogued, and evidence – of something – rapidly accumulated. The IFSB’s “Space Review” was going out to a small, but growing, circle of researchers and interested parties across the United States and other countries. As 1953 progressed, there was even talk of a need to reorganize to accommodate their rapidly expanding operations. The truth would will out and be revealed.
Enter the dark visitors, the Men In Black, bane of the Ufologist! These suppressive forces clearly saw Bender was too close to exposing their secrets, and had to be silenced! Or so the story goes. After confused letters and a final “Review” claiming that the mystery was solved but could not be told, Bender abruptly ended all work, shuttering the IFSB. When pressed for information, he would only repeat a fearful mantra: “I can’t answer that.”
(Naturally, some dispute this version of events, and claim it was just a clever lie out of a bust operation, all a lie told by an opportunistic or overwhelmed director who couldn’t afford to pay the bills. Do they offer any proof? Not hardly, buster.)
Even if Bender had been shut up, Barker would not be. His delving into the world of flying saucers and contactees continued unhindered. He published newsletters and books through his own imprints, establishing himself as one of the finer clearing-houses of ufology lore. The truth would not be silenced!
Or, at least, a kind of truth.
Barker ran with claims of crashed alien ships, meetings with other worldly beings, government suppression, and all the other fancies of the saucer community, while, simultaneously, engaged in pranks and perpetrated hoaxes upon the very believers who were his customer base. Whether the work was fact or fiction, it progressively became clear that Barker was more interested in if it was a good story.
Thus the scene was set for the silence around the IFSB’s end to finally be broken. After years of sitting on the information, Albert K. Bender publicly came clean, announcing his Men In Black were not the agents of any worldly government at all: they were monstrous aliens in human disguise, keeping him silent so they could carry out the sapping of our oceans without any Earthling meddling. His were unkind extraterrestrials from a planet called Kazik, terrors that freely manipulated and killed those who got in their way, and who seemed to delight in mocking the likes of Bender for their efforts to find the truth. It was a cruel game they had played, for of course no one would ever believe it! Bender’s claims were too ridiculous to be true!
(Yeah! Everyone knows that the Flying Saucers are flown by Space Brothers who love us and want us to help each other to live in cosmic harmony, man!)
Fortunately, out-and-out absurd fantasticality hardly meant Barker’s Saucerian imprint wouldn’t put it to press. It was the secret origins of the Men in Black, their extinguishing of the most promising saucer group of the ’50s, and their sinister mission on this planet! The long setup made for an irresistible marketing pitch, by any standard, even if the final product could never live up to the expectation created.
Which, of course, it didn’t.
“Flying Saucers and The Three Men” told all that will be telled by our heroes- sources have reported Gray Barker found expanded expositions hardly worth polishing for an audience, and that Albert Bender lost interest in providing further answers. It was the end of the story, so far as anyone was concerned; and it is a story that few today may care to dwell on, for contact with Kazik is less acceptable to any serious person than the concept of the Three Men all in black. Perhaps Kazik was just cock-and-bull, and perhaps it is for the best that we don’t look too carefully. Who knows to what lengths uninvited visitors may go if they fear we are seriously investigating their activities?
For extra credit, our book suggestions for this week will include: the book that started it all, Gray Barker’s “They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers” (1956); the follow-up that blew it all open, Albert K. Bender’s (with Gray Barker, who, according to some, ghost-wrote it himself) “FLYING SAUCERS and THE THREE MEN” (1962); and Gray Barker’s final foray into the MIB mystery, “Men in Black: The Secret Terror Among Us” (originally 1983, reprinted 2012)
Or, if you’d rather, a few links:
- Radio Misterioso presents “Albert K. Bender’s Contactee Experiences” — a recording from the Congress of Scientific Ufologists of Mr. Bender detailing his contacts, life on Kazik, and his psychic power! (MP3 link)
- Connecticut (Bridgeport) Sunday Herald articles on Bender:
- Ethel Beckwith, “Don’t Be Afraid, Darling; It’s Bender” (1952-05-25)
- Lem McCollum, “Saucerers Here Ordered to Quit” (1953-11-22)
- “Terror In the Skies; Fabulous Book Unveils Saucers, Messengers” (1959-01-25); and again, with added photos, as “Silenced Because They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers” (1959-02-01)
- Riley Crabb’s review of “Flying Saucers and the Three Men” is a none-too-comforting take on the Bender case, positing occultic possession and demoniacal forces at work in our man Albert’s life.
- A Catalogue of Men in Black Encounters, courtesy of Gareth J. Medway at Magonia / Pelicanist.
- The Skeptical Inquiry into Gray Barker and his penchant for hoaxing.
- The Gray Barker UFO Collection, presently housed at the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library in West Virginia.
Or, if poetry is your jam, try these Barker stanzas: “Ufo is a Bucket of Shit”.
You must tell no one what you have seen here. They would not believe you. We will contact you again through this medium, and present you with more information soon.