It is September 11, 1976. You are sitting quietly in a living room near Maine’s Old Orchard Beach. The sea air is strangely balmy as you settle down for a quiet evening. Your wife and children are out for a few hours and for once, you have the house to yourself. You are 58 years old and your name is Dr. Herbert Hopkins and your quiet life is about to encounter a road block that will send you careening into an area you’ve glimpsed but never visited before.
Though you are a renowned allergist and have done research for years on the causes and treatment of multiple sclerosis, you have been going down a slightly different avenue in your career recently. For the past several weeks you’ve been engaged doing what you most enjoy: hypnosis. The most interesting work of your career has been consulting on a case of alleged UFO teleportation in Oxford, Maine of David Stephens in 1975, work you find both fascinating and difficult to dismiss. Lately, it’s been keeping you up at night, pondering the possibilities of such a thing. How strange that so many people are convinced that they are experiencing things that…simply cannot be. Perhaps tonight you will review some of the tape recordings of the sessions to see if you can find your way into this strange case. Did these abductees really see strange mushroom-headed entities inside of their ships?
The peaceful silence is disturbed by the ring of the telephone. You answer, hoping it is a wrong number. Instead, you hear a strange, faint voice of a man who tells you that he is the vice-president of the New Jersey UFO Research Organization calling from a phone booth. He has heard of your recent work. He wonders if he might stop by, since he is in the area, and discuss your findings. This piques your interest – another researcher into the phenomenon that is so troubling you. You agree, telling him your address. You hang up the phone and switch on the porch light so that, when he arrives, he’ll know which door to approach.
But when you flip the switch, you see him mounting the steps, already nearly at your door. But there he is, walking up the steps. You are puzzled, since the closest phone booth is several blocks away. Startled, you open the door and quickly allow entrance into your house the single, strangest visitor you will ever have in your whole life – a man not quite of this world.
So begins one of the most famous encounters in the strange history of the Men in Black and one of New England’s closest encounters with them. For the uninitiated, Men in Black are usually black-suited men, often arriving unexpected in pairs or trios, whose provenance is dubious and whose purpose is unknown. They often arrive directly after a UFO sighting to speak with those who have witnessed the lights or craft in the sky. However, whenever people have reported meeting these mysterious beings, they are often left with a profound feeling of unease and distress. Who did they really just meet? What did these people actually want? Are they even human at all?
Dr. Hopkins let the man in before he even knew what was happening. His guest was impeccably dressed in an apparently new suit, pants perfectly creased, black suit coat, tie and shoes and a starched white shirt. He also wore grey leather gloves. On the top of his head was a black hat which the man removed, revealing a perfectly smooth bald head. Dr. Hopkins realized before he had even spoken a word to the man that he was totally hairless – no eyebrows or eyelashes graced the man’s face. Also, even in the dim yellow light of the hall, he could tell that his visitor’s skin was pale to the point of being nearly white. The only hint of color about him were his deep red lips. Later, Dr. Hopkins would swear that the man was wearing lipstick. His nose seemed too small for a man of his height and statue and his ears were very small as well as appearing to be lower on the head than they should have been.
Hopkins invited the stranger into his living room and they sat opposite each other on the chair and the couch. The stranger asked about the hypnotism sessions with the supposed abductees and Hopkins answered all of his questions, even though the strangeness of the whole encounter was beginning to have an impact upon his mind: who was this man, really? He seemed to know things about the case that only someone intimately invovled with it would. Why was he asking questions if he already knew all of the answers? With every answer that Hopkins gave to his inquires, the man would repeat the exact same phrase, “Yes, that’s the way I understand it.”
And then it occurred to him that he did not know the men’s name. Things immediately began to steer towards the unknown and Dr. Hopkins found himself in the presence of something else, something other. First, the man mistakenly brushed his lips with his gray gloves and a portion of lipstick was smeared off, revealing that he had no lips! Then he pointed to Dr. Hopkins’ pocket and told Hopkins that he had two coins in it. This seemingly random observation was true, though how he would have know this was beyond the good doctor. The stranger requested that Hopkins remove one of the coins and hold it in the palm of his hand, which he did.
“Watch the coin,” the stranger requested. As he observed it, his vision began to grow fuzzy and then to waver in his vision. After it changed color, it simply vanished. The man then said that no one on this plane would ever see that coin again.
The conversation was steered by the guest to the Betty and Barney Hill UFO encounter from Exeter, New Hampshire in 1961.
“Do you know what happened to Barney Hill?” asked the stranger.
“No, I don’t,” replied Hopkins, “except that he died.”
“Do you know what he died from,” asked the stranger.
“A heart attack, maybe?”
“No. That’s not entirely accurate. He died because he knew too much,” replied the stranger.
Then he arose slowly and awkwardly and began to move toward the door. With slurred speech he said to Hopkins, “My energy is running low. Must go now. Goodbye.”
And with that, he left Hopkins wondering who he had met and what had just happened.
He rushed to the door to watch the man depart but all that he saw were very bright blue light bathing the parking lot outside his home.
Were the man’s words about Barney Hill a threat against Hopkins, meant to stop his research on the hypnosis case and walk away? As time passed, he became convinced of the truth of this idea. If this had simply been another human being telling him to stop, he might not have, but because of the high strangeness of this man’s behavior and appearance, there was no doubt that he would comply., He erased all of the tapes from the prior session and stopped working on the UFO abduction case altogether. He discovered later that, of course, there was no New Jersey UFO Research Organization and like so many people who have claimed to have had interactions with these beings, he felt like he had been contacted and threatened by these entities. Were the man’s words about Barney Hill a threat against Hopkins, meant to stop his research on the hypnosis case and walk away? As time passed, he became convinced of the truth of this idea. If this had simply been another human being telling him to stop, he might not have, but because of the high strangeness of this man’s behavior and appearance, there was no doubt that he would comply., He erased all of the tapes from the prior session and stopped working on the UFO abduction case altogether. He discovered later that, of course, there was no New Jersey UFO Research Organization and like so many people who have claimed to have had interactions with these beings, he felt like he had been contacted and threatened by these entities.
The 1976 Herbert Hopkins case remains one of the most detailed reports of an interaction with a possible Man in Black. People who study the phenomena often cite this case as the most important and informed report ever recorded about the ominous visitors in the night.
However, a good story doesn’t have to be real to be appreciated. It is possible that the experience as reported by Dr. Hopkins was a fabrication designed to draw attention to his work and his own odd need for attention. Though the source of the following information is no longer available on the Internet, it is available at the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. It is in the form of a blog written by his nephew, author Herbert Hopkins. (see references for link to the blog). In his entry for January 13, 2008, he reveals to the world his intimate knowledge of the whole episode and explains how the whole thing was a desperate grasp for attention from a brilliant but troubled man. Herbert Hopkins writes:
“My uncle was, unfortunately, a fantasy-prone individual, craved the center of attention and limelight and on a base level he sometimes just made things up—no matter how hyperbolic—to top everybody else. As brilliant as he was in many areas, however, he was unskilled at fiction. And for much of the ‘70s and 80s, he was an alcoholic. Every night was spent alone with a magnum of wine…The bottom line for this particular Man in Black tale is unfortunately pretty mundane. This mysterious being in black, inspired by cheap fiction and alcohol, probably less of malicious intent and more from some sad need for attention, was, alas, a simple lie, one that needs to be corrected for those into serious research in this area.”
So, who are we to believe? The good Dr. Hopkins or his nephew? Was he truly threatened or was he simply seeking attention? Whichever one you choose, the story remains interesting and continues to dwell in the annals of the mysterious in the lore of New England. Perhaps when we consider the truly strange, the strangest of all might be the people who claim impossible things.
Hopkins,Herbert. “The Truth About a Man in Black”.Dark Bits, 13 Jan 2008. Hopkins,Herbert. “The Truth About a Man in Black”.Dark Bits, 13 Jan 2008. https://web.archive.org/web/20080524015547/http://howardhopkins.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html
Citro, Joseph A., Passing Strange, 164-167, 1997 Chapters Publishing Ltd., Shelburne, VT.
For a list of Herbert Hopkins’ works, visit www.herberthopkins.com