Gray Barker: UFO Prankster

by Charles Lear

Right at the very beginning of modern UFOlogy, researchers had to contend with hoaxes.  This has continuously been an issue and causes great indignity among serious researchers.  From the point of view of an historian, however, hoaxes and hoaxers have provided stories and characters that range from amusing to downright bizarre.  Motivations for hoaxing range from those of the practical joker to those of people with a penchant for making a dishonest living.  A person who was subject to both of those was Gray Barker, who was an early investigator of the Flatwoods Monster case and who had links to the introduction of the Men In Black and the Philadelphia Experiment into the literature.  Barker’s associates included legendary researchers from the fifties and sixties including Ivan Sanderson, Jim Moseley, Morris Jessup and John Keel.  All of these people were writers trying to make a living in a tough market and if there was a scale for measuring truth in journalism, Jessup followed by Sanderson and then Keel would be on the side of truthful whereas Moseley followed by Barker would be towards the opposite.

Gray Barker first became prominent in the world of UFOlogy with his investigation of the September 12, 1952 Flatwoods Monster case which was reported in his native Braxton County, West Virginia. He arrived on the scene just after Ivan Sanderson and both interviewed primary witnesses as well as many residents of the area.  Sanderson was preparing an article for True while Barker was commissioned by Fate.  Barker seems to have been earnest in this early investigation and this is reflected by his recollection of it in his classic 1956 book, “They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers.”  After the Flatwoods case, Barker wrote articles for Space Review, which was a regular publication of the International Flying Saucer Bureau run by Albert Bender and later became IFSB’s chief investigator.  In his book, Barker relates that Bender claimed to have solved the mystery of UFOs but was forced into silence by higher powers and visited by three MIBs.  This is the first mention of MIBs in UFO literature but the story originated with Bender.  Bender abruptly ceased his IFSB activities and Barker seemed to have been impressed that there was a genuine element to the story, which can be discerned from his archived correspondence with Morris Jessup.

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