I wasn’t going to mention Nick Redfern’s recent article on Neil Armstrong and the “Men in Black,” mostly because it is beyond my area of interest, and also because it was remarkably light on content, even for Redfern. But I saw the piece pop up a few times on social media and across the internet, so it seems like I had best point out the article’s biggest and most glaring flaw.
Redfern’s article concerns astronaut Neil Armstrong’s FBI file, which Redfern himself admits is rather boring. One particular incident, he says, is interesting because he reads it as an encounter with the imaginary “Men in Black,” even though a prima facie reading of the text offers little to no support for such an interpretation. Let’s look at what Redfern says and then we can see why he is probably wrong. Let’s begin with the text of the FBI file, from a February 2, 1976 memorandum:
On January 29, 1976, Detective [REDACTED], Lebanon, Ohio advised that he had been contacted by several people working at the Lebanon Town Hall, including his mother. [Deleted] stated that on the previous day, two individuals, one a male Negro, the second a white male, had appeared at the Town Hall asking numerous questions about Neil Armstrong, the former astronaut, what his address was, how many children he had, where his children went to school, and inquired if he frequently ate at the Golden Lamb Restaurant and other personal question.
This is not exactly scintillating material. Subsequent documents in the file state that the above was collected by an Ohio police detective but was simply filed and ignored for a decade for being of little to no interest to the Bureau. It only survived to become of any interest because the FBI was asked in 1985 to put together a file on Armstrong for a potential presidential commission appointment, and as part of the vetting process they collected any information that they had. This was about it.
But in the eyes of Nick Redfern, this minor incident in which two people, apparently acting like tabloid reporters or private investigators, tried to do some research using public records, becomes a shocking invasion of Men in Black. Or not. Here is how he puts it:
Having read the relevant section of the file a couple of times, it wasn’t hard for me to notice the MIB-style aspects of the story. The two men were described as being “well-dressed,” which strongly suggests they were wearing suits. The reference to the mysterious pair being “in town just to take some photographs of the house as they were tourists,” strongly and eerily echoed the actions of the so-called “phantom photographers” of MIB lore and legend and which John Keel investigated in the 1960s and 1970s. Finally, the issue of the pair asking questions concerning “how many children” Armstrong had, and “where his children went to school,” very much reminded me of the actions of the MIB-linked “Phantom Social Workers” (PSW) and “Bogus Social Workers” (BSW) which I wrote about, here at Mysterious Universe, just recently.
That final “who knows” is a bit of an insult to readers, since it (a) implies that any sort of random speculation is valid and (b) the author is justified in making no further effort to investigate his own utterly groundless claims. Is Nick Redfern a lazy conspiracy-monger, or is this a strange and innocent lapse in judgment? Who knows?
But to get to the specific problem, I’m sure you noticed that that the “Negro” young man was wearing a necklace, one with a quarter-moon and star motif. The moon and star motif strongly implies that this was an Islamic symbol, which would seem out of sorts with a Man in Black as typically defined. But more importantly, how would anyone have seen the man’s necklace if he was wearing a suit and tie like a stereotypical Man in Black? For the necklace to be visible, he either had to be wearing it over the suit, which is itself strange, or his shirt was open, making it visible, as was the style among the “well-dressed” polyester patrol of the mid-1970s. You have to squint really hard to see Men in Black here.
Now, why would anyone be trying to collect dirt on Neil Armstrong in 1976? That’s a great question, and one Redfern would have been wise to look into. Armstrong had retired from NASA in 1971, two years after walking on the moon, and had kept a relatively low profile. Indeed, in late 1976 Birmingham Magazine ran an article entitled “Neil Armstrong, Where Are You?”, and this was only one of dozens of 1970s articles on the man dubbed “The Hermit of Cincinnati.” Others bore titles like “Armstrong Stays Alone in His Private Orbit” and “In Search of Neil Armstrong.” Starting around 1974, such articles had become fairly regular, according to standard biographies of Armstrong. This low profile alone might be enough to explain why some young fans—or especially some journalists like the ones writing these stories—might have wanted to go on an obsessive search for him and invade his privacy.
However, as 1976 began, Armstrong had started out on a new venture, joining the search for Erich von Däniken’s imaginary cave filled with alien gold in Ecuador. Because it was pretty much his only major venture into the public eye, this trip garnered international headlines and dealt von Däniken his biggest PR blow ever. I’m not sure of the exact timeline to know if Armstrong’s plans would have been known in January 1976, but the long and short of it is that had Redfern extended his cursory research beyond his own assumptions and fantasies, he might have found a much more plausible explanation for the facts he is otherwise at a loss to explain. Why didn’t he? As Redfern might say, “Who knows?”
4/19/2017 09:45:18 am
4/19/2017 07:13:50 pm
He's a pretty sucky MIB if he happily poses for photos with slightly-famous people. He looks like a relative of Delonge's, to be honest. Did anyone bother trying to find out who he was?
Just some guy, you know?
4/20/2017 04:38:11 am
"They no longer wear hats and dark suits like the old days."
4/19/2017 10:10:44 am
The MIB element in ufology is nonsense. It was nothing more than an attempt to link the government to UFOs, playing upon fear and paranoia.
4/19/2017 10:58:37 am
Jason, it was light on content because there is not much to the story! Just a smallish extract from a small FBI file.
4/19/2017 11:20:01 am
Wait a minute, so anyone who goes around asking about Armstrong is immediately a mystery to you? And wouldn't the people questioned about the encounter say that they indeed wore suits, just as in MIB lore?
4/19/2017 11:28:26 am
You say, "So anyone who goes around asking about Armstrong is immediately a mystery to you?"
4/19/2017 12:38:25 pm
Perhaps not, but you chose to write about them, thus making it a mystery without further investigation. Hey, I'm sure you can find tons of these cases around every kind of star, may he or she have been in space or not.
4/19/2017 02:31:25 pm
I didn't say well dressed equals suits. I specifically said "strongly suggests." There is a big difference between equals and suggests.
4/20/2017 04:04:32 am
Redfern - I think it's pretty low on your part to basically spread gossip on the internet to kindle interest in your new book. Gossip about a very famous and very private American who put his life on the line for the benefit of all mankind. That's low even for the pseudo-history mongers like yourself. I don't really give a shit if you care or not. And I guess because he's dead there's no reason for you to be respect of his family either. I guess there's no one to stop you. But it is nice to think there are sites like this one here where people actually do critical thinking about what others claim to be fact. Please, keep up the good work Jason. Whereas there is absolutely no evidence or proof of MIB or any other organization of that description going around and checking up on people in vital or interesting jobs such as astronauts or NASA. The only "evidence" of these organizations being you and your contemporaries imagination. That and a nentertaining movie franchise of the same name. You people write books and self publish, or get someone like David Childress to publish the drivel you write, then reference each other as "proof".
4/20/2017 09:32:32 am
DPBROKAW: As far as the book is concerned, if I was overly interested in promoting the book right now, don't you think I would have mentioned it in the article? The fact is I did not mention it in the article. And I only made mention of the book here at Jason's blog as a brief aside in response to a couple of his comments. That's hardly going out of my way to promote the book.
4/19/2017 11:16:16 am
You also say: "That final 'who knows' is a bit of an insult to readers, since it (a) implies that any sort of random speculation is valid and (b) the author is justified in making no further effort to investigate his own utterly groundless claims. Is Nick Redfern a lazy conspiracy-monger, or is this a strange and innocent lapse in judgment? Who knows?"
4/19/2017 12:16:53 pm
So, you're saying that you published an article to spread a "mystery" knowing full well that you weren't actually presenting the whole story, but without sharing with your readers that you have more information that you simply chose not to share. That's not very nice, and it also intentionally creates a mystery where you know there is none. Readers can only judge by what the author publishes; it is hardly my fault that you have chosen to withhold facts pending another speculative tome.
4/19/2017 12:27:24 pm
I'm not withholding facts.
4/19/2017 12:32:33 pm
Do you see what you did, Nick? By asking the question and presenting no evidence for a prosaic explanation, you create the connotation that the mystery has a supernatural explanation. It's a rhetorical strategy whereby you purposely hobble one potential in order to artificially give strength to the other. I don't think you even know you're doing it. By bringing up the very idea of Men in Black (something decidedly NOT in the FBI file, but imposed on it by you), but omitting disconfirming evidence, you privilege that idea in the mind of the reader.
4/20/2017 01:15:47 pm
The appeal to mystery is an informal fallacy of the argumentum ad ignorantiam type; which effectively renders it meaningless.
4/19/2017 12:37:09 pm
I certainly did present the "whole story" of the file in the article.
4/19/2017 12:52:28 pm
Nick, if the article were only about the file, then you would not have speculated about the Men in Black. By introducing one (fake) mystery but not the actual factual circumstances of Neil Armstrong's life in 1976, you introduce a bias into the story in favor of your speculative ideas. You can't devote your article to speculation about the Men in Black and then claim it to be strictly factual.
4/19/2017 02:27:22 pm
Jason, the reasons why I brought up the issue of the MIB and speculated on them were (A) the issue of the two men wanting to photograph the Armstrong home (which echoes John Keel's "Phantom Photographers"); (B) the issue of the two men trying to find info on Armstrong's children (which echoes the "Phantom Social Workers" angle and Keel's "Census Takers"); and (C) the references to the pair being well dressed.
4/20/2017 02:10:50 pm
Dude, it was the 70s. There is no Islamic angle to the necklace. Everyone was wearing hippie trinkets. Did I mention I WAS THERE?
4/19/2017 01:10:22 pm
4/19/2017 02:25:58 pm
"Are you an ape fucker, Focker?"
4/19/2017 02:26:02 pm
Yep, here we go again. It's all good though, as it has been a while...
4/19/2017 03:33:23 pm
Actually your part is not good.
4/19/2017 04:37:46 pm
I have to disagree, of course...
4/20/2017 10:04:24 pm
I saw a guy walking down the street wearing a dark suit. Help, the MIB are following me! Wait, maybe it could be something else.
4/19/2017 02:02:24 pm
Who knew my long ago trip to the heartland would cause such a fuss? Don't think I have that necklace anymore but I'll look around.
4/19/2017 02:49:39 pm
So, what was it like working for the Men in Black? Are they aliens? Government agents? Interdimensional travellers? Demons? Are they anything like the comics? Did they make you wear a regular suit and four-in-hand tie, or a Ralph Furley leisure suit?
4/19/2017 03:36:06 pm
At least he got it right with one being black and one being white. Although the movie never elaborated on Will Smith's character being a muslim...
4/19/2017 04:29:20 pm
It was the 70s man. Moon and star could mean anything. (remember Proctor & Gamble?) Anyway we were just kids.
4/19/2017 04:53:51 pm
But in the third movie, they go back in time to the 70's, and they still are wearing black suits! And by that I mean the Tommy Lee Jones younger self in the 70's. Also, the REAL Men In Blacks are also going around in black suits and did so earlier in the previous century, so the organization must be really conservative. But oh well.
4/19/2017 07:40:30 pm
You can't believe the movies man. Anyway we were just kids, not MIB. Never did see Neil.
4/19/2017 04:50:02 pm
I was approached by a polyester-clad government operative today. He could have been there to determine what information I may have accessed while working on federal projects at a national laboratory. He could have been delivering my mail. Who knows?
4/19/2017 04:58:11 pm
It's good to hear I enrich your life! You're very welcome!
4/19/2017 05:44:35 pm
leave Redfern alone. he's not one of the fanatical, lying creeps that Jason usually writes about. besides, i read a book about him when I was a kid--"Where the RedFern Grows".
4/19/2017 06:11:21 pm
Mr. Redfern, as long as you're around: I don't know if you recall, but about a year ago I asked you about the possibility of posting the Collins Elite manifesto online. You said you'd look into whether that would be feasible. Is there any news on that?
4/20/2017 09:52:41 am
Mark: I would hope so. The problem, as I mentioned before, is that the file is not a government file that can be applied for via FOIA etc. It's the work of a private individual, so there is the copyright issue that is preventing it form surfacing. Although, I think permission will eventually be granted, but I'm not holding my breath right now.
4/20/2017 07:14:08 pm
Thank you for the update.
4/21/2017 09:27:20 am
Mark: the ANP isn't in the new book, as I don't have any new info on that angle to talk about. It mainly focuses on the balloon angle - with classified balloon-based programs far more controversial than Project Mogul etc.
4/21/2017 07:46:16 pm
But are you still asserting that the purpose of the test was a human radiation experiment by the NEPA project?
4/22/2017 11:29:12 am
Mark: If you go back to the book you'll see that one of the interviewees told me of an ANP incident in May 1947 (page 105), and that the ANP affair was specifically a "simulation" of some sorts (page 107) because as the source stated, "...there is no nuclear engine back then - none at all."
4/23/2017 11:30:23 am
It has, admittedly, been a long time since I read your book. Prior to writing my previous comment I went back and checked my review, which indicated that you claimed that Roswell was a human radiation experiment using radioactive materials rather than a nuclear reactor. If that's incorrect, I apologize. If it is correct, I stand by the claim that it's an untenable explanation, because the goals of the experiment can be achieved in a cheaper, faster, less risky way.
4/23/2017 12:15:05 pm
No, I have never said that Roswell was a human radiation experiment. What I said is that the Roswell event (which, in my view, did involve human guinea-pigs) was born out of the same era in which the human radiation experiments addressed by the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments occurred, which was tasked by President Clinton to investigate unethical medical experimentation from the mid-40s onward.
4/19/2017 07:56:25 pm
Mr Redfern- Who do you assert the MIB Are? If the do not have access to the information these two men were looking for, and do not have the means to impersonate federal agents. Is this story congruent with your previous theory of who they are?
4/19/2017 11:43:19 pm
BigNick, that was my question. Why are members of a mysterious, secretive organization drawing a great deal of attention to themselves seeking information that they already have access too?
4/20/2017 09:47:41 am
Buy my book to learn the answers? Huh? As I explained in a comment above to Jason, I have no more facts to reveal, etc on the case at all. There are no answers to reveal.
4/20/2017 09:36:18 am
I don't assert who they are. I have theories that - for the most part - push the mystery down a paranormal path. The absolute least likely scenario is that they are from a government agency. They clearly are not.
4/20/2017 05:53:35 pm
By all accounts Neil Armstrong was a private and humble man. I'm sure all sorts of folks wanted to meet him. I read in his authorized biography that Gina lolabridgida popped up at the university of Cincinnati where he taught to say hi! Please let the man who was a great engineer test pilot and human being some peace!
4/23/2017 11:51:16 am
Wasn't this guy a ghost hunter? What happened with that racket?
terry the censor
4/25/2017 03:23:00 pm
Nick Redfern: content provider!
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