Part 1 of this 3-part feature is focused on the the guy who began the Men in Black phenomenon almost on his own: Albert Bender. Indeed, had Bender not had the bad luck to get into the field of Ufology, the chances are we would not have known of the MIB. Or, at the very least, the creepy phenomenon would not have reached the levels of interest that it did in the 1960s and 1970s. But, it’s not the MIB that we need to focus on in this article. Rather, it’s what the UFO subject did to Bender. It plunged him into a dangerous situation that he was lucky to get out of. Like a lot of people, Bender developed an interest in UFOs in the immediate wake of the Kenneth Arnold affair of June 24, 1947. At the time, Bender was in his mid-twenties. As the 1950s came around, Bender created the International Flying Saucer Bureau. He also published his own newsletter, Space Review. Neither were destined to last for very long. What began as an exciting hobby for Bender turned into an absolute nightmare. After being visited by a trio of strange characters with shining eyes, and with the ability to read minds and walk through walls (yes, the MIB), Bender’s life changed quickly. He didn’t have that many friends to begin with, but after his MIB encounters, Bender spent just about all of his free time in the attic of his stepfather’s home, digging ever deeper into the UFO phenomenon. And into the world of the occult, too. When Bender did go out (his day job aside), it was usually to go to the local cinema in Bridgeport, Connecticut. On his own.
For reasons that were never really explained, but also in the wake of his MIB encounters, Bender developed a weird fear that he had developed cancer. He wrote about it on several occasions – making it very clear that that he was in a deep state of hypochondria. History has shown that Bender, thankfully, did not have cancer. In fact, when he passed away in 2016, Bender was just six years short of 100! Moving on: a careful reading of Bender’s 1962 book, Flying Saucers and the Three Men, reveals that he clearly had a dose of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Everything in his attic had to be in its place. If it wasn’t, he would get frustrated – even angry, at times. And if it looked like something had been moved, Bender suspected that it was due to the MIB, government agents or…well…you get the picture. Spending your time in an attic room, with a fear of a deadly disease, with a significant dose of OCD, and while you’re worrying that someone is creeping around that same attic when you’re out of the house, surely cannot be healthy. For Bender it definitely wasn’t.
Here’s the part when the story becomes uplifting. Yes, the story does end in a happy fashion. It was something that, in the early 1950s, changed Bender’s life for the better and that led him to finally quit Ufology. An English woman named Betty – a flight attendant at the time – became a friend to Bender. Betty very soon became far more than that: Albert and Betty got married and they moved to California. Their first home was in Bakersfield. They later settled, in what turned out to be permanently, in Los Angeles. And, guess what? Bender’s fears of having cancer went away. As did the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As did the deep fear that people were skulking around his home. Apart from a very few and brief forays into Ufology in the 1960s, Bender was done with it all. And that was a very good thing.
I’m not saying that Ufology is always a dangerous field to get into. I am saying, however, that sometimes – whether due to a person’s character, to the intrusion of certain aspects of the UFO phenomenon itself, or most probably to a bit of both – lives begin to change. “Mutate” might be a good term to use. On occasions, those changes are subtle. But, very often, they are not destined to stay like that. Albert Bender did the right thing: at first he balanced his interest in UFOs with his life with Betty. That is, until the time came when Bender knew he had to quit Ufology – as in completely. I should stress that not everyone, of course, needs to totally quit the Saucer scene to remain sane. For some, however, like Bender, it’s just not a good place to hang out. I’ve seen the signs in more than a few people in Ufology and it’s not a positive situation. For the most part, balance is the key to all of this. Enjoy your UFO research. But, enjoy having fun in the world outside of Ufology, too. And don’t spend most of your time alone in an attic.
In Part 2 I’ll share with you an even weirder – and equally disturbing – saga from New Zealand.
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