The same sort of people who believe that the moon landing was staged and that fluoride additives in drinking water will turn you into a mindless zombie, will also have you believe that we are constantly being monitored by Black Helicopters. These silent and mysteriously unmarked aircraft whisk about our metropolitan and rural skies alike on their mission of doom.

The stories of the helicopters purpose are as varied and wacky as their proponents. Some believe that the BHs are being used by the UN to ferry troops about our nation and place them in secret FEMA underground bases in preparation for the invasion of the United States by the New World Order. Others believe that the BHs are being used by the MIB as transportation to and intimidation of UFO witnesses. A few think the BHs are being used by the NSA to secretly spy on the innocent citizens of the USA, or that they are the disguised terrestrial transport of aliens monitoring our world.

Despite the many theories about their purpose there are many similarities in their description sparking the idea that they must be organized in order to be so similar.

  • The BH is almost exclusively a helicopter, although oddly enough there have been a few reports of small framed airplanes.
  • The BH is always black.
  • The BH is always unmarked, lacking the identifying numbers it would need to legally be flown.
  • Although audible BHs have been reported, they are almost exclusively silent, invoking the belief that they use some sort of stealth technology, or are propelled by some unconventional method, i.e. anti-gravity.
  • The BHs are normally military models of aircraft, or military versions of civilian models.
These aircraft and their mysterious missions have been spotted in many locations all over the United States. They have been featured in many works of fiction, sometimes tongue in cheek, and other times as fact. Unfortunately for those few who don their aluminum foil hats and hide under the livestock when they see helicopters, it's all myth and mass hysteria, sort of.

This is a spin off myth that while being false, supports itself with often witnessed but misidentified aircraft. Black Helicopters are the Joanie Loves Chachi to the Men In Black's Happy Days. In 1956 a small company called Saucerian Publications released a book written by the companies owner, Barker Gray. They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers was a marginal success that played extremely well on the anti-communist fervor of the day. This book is the basis for the modern MIB myth. The story is based on the recollections of a Connecticut man by the name of Al K. Bender. Bender saw a UFO, and when he tried to tell the world three men in black suits, driving a black car show up to intimidate him.

Barker was known by associates to flagrantly embellish the truth and even held most UFO believers in contempt. In the May 1998 issue of Skeptical Enquirer, John Sherwood, an associate and friend of Barker's lays to rest the old myth of the MIBs. He offers as proof, correspondence between himself and Barker that he saved in his files. According to his own letter Barker falsified much of the information in his books, peppering it lightly with fact to give it an air of authenticity. About his "moth man" book Barker said, "About half of it is a recounting of actual sightings and events in the Ohio Valley circa 1966. . . . I think that the `true accounts' are told in an exciting way, but I have deliberately stuck in fictional chapters based roughly on cases I had heard about."

So what of the Black Helicopters? I'm getting there. The stories about MIBs kind of dwindled out around the late seventies. It was a peculiar myth that played heavily on the fear of communism that was being pumped to the masses, but a report by intelligence historian Gerald K. Haines revived the myth and the paranoia. His unclassified article in the Studies of Intelligence, a CIA journal, reveals that during the 1950s a number of government agencies did conspire to cover-up UFO sightings and create stories to prevent the public from finding out about the construction and use of spy planes like the U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird. Haines' report fanned the flames of the MIB myth and it melded with another growing conspiracy myth. Suddenly a little talked about phenomena of Black Helicopter sightings had credence in a government apology and all the sudden the BHs had passengers.

Since the early eighties conspiracy theorists have been reporting sightings of mysterious Black Helicopters. At first these sightings were relegated to the proximity of military installations like the supposed Area 51 and the very real Wright-Patterson airbase. With Haines’ report and the speculation it prompted in the UFO community, these sighting began to increase as public opinion about the US government and its capacity to veil the truth began to shift.

Paranoia about the governments role in a variety of alleged conspiracies has only increased since the 1990s. Television shows like the X-files and Dark Skies have done an excellent job of feeding the American public with just enough misinformation and pseudoscience to further their own ratings and confuse a sometimes gullible audience. Every time something bad happens, the underground press begins screaming about cover-ups and secret government plots. Take any disaster reported by a major media outlet within the last ten years and there are probably ten conspiracy theories about that same disaster placing the blame on a secret cartel of cyber-jew-commandos controlled by the UN in league with the department of agriculture to put their chocolate in our peanut butter.

The Black Helicopters are only the latest manifestation of the same type of paranoia that led people to believe that Area 51 was real, in spite of countless denials of its existence. Here are a few facts for you. And for those of you who skipped over the wordy prose and were attracted to the information laden bullets, welcome. I don't blame you for skipping it, I didn't realize it would take this long.

  • With the exception of the Navy, almost all military helicopters are painted a very dark matte green. In most lighting and especially on cloudy days they appear black. The markings on these helicopters are black and often blend into their background. From a distance they appear to be black helicopters with no markings.
  • From a distance and at most angles almost all aircraft in the sky appear black. The bright light from the sky tends to bleach out the color of the aircraft. These helicopters could be painted yellow and orange and if the lighting is right it will still look black while in flight.
  • Military helicopters are not restricted to their bases. Although they don't normally land at civilian airports they do range outside of the airspace surrounding their bases and frequently fly low to the ground when not over the restrictive airspace of metropolitan areas.
  • If you see a helicopter in the city, chances are you won't hear it. The background noise combined with the height that air traffic over cities is restricted to makes them seemingly silent.
  • Many organizations legitimately operate black, unmarked helicopters. These vehicles are usually operated by anti-terrorist or military strike forces that require a certain amount of security or deniability.

The other day I was driving to work. I was in my car, with the windows rolled up and the radio pleasantly tooting. Coming towards me I noticed several helicopters in what appeared to be a tight formation. These helicopters were black and silent. Not being the reactionary type, I didn't swerve the car into a department store window to get away from the persecuting government conspiracy. Although, I did notice that as they approached and flew over me I could clearly see they were blue and white with the logos of local news agencies. As they came closer I could eventually pick up the steady thrumming noise of their blades.

Save the tin-foil for chicken and vegetables, there is no conspiracy.

My thanks to the_Custodian, karmaflux and k-tron for assisting in some of the finer points in this wu.

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