A SPATE of bizarre sightings involving a group of “men in black” has left a rural American community on edge.
Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office in Iowa has received multiple reports of a mysterious person or persons, who appear to be dressed in black trench coats or cape, lurking beside roads and parks at night.
Several motorists have given disturbing accounts of seeing men standing silently along roadways. Others claim to have seen a black-clad figure jumping out into the road as they drove past.
Spooked drivers been coming forward to report their unsettling experiences on social media.
“They are on foot jumping out of ditches as you are driving past them and then they have more people up the road waiting and they’ll jump out as you drive by and watch you,” Ondrea Mawby wrote on Facebook.
Hot spots for “men in black” sightings have been the Muscatine Mall, a local bicycle path and Highway 22.
Local news outfit KWQC said the unsettling figures had even been seen in the backyards of homeowners.
There were claims on Facebook that “men in black” had also been reported in neighbouring Illinois and other nearby states.
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In 2014, America was gripped by the case of the “mysterious woman in black”. A social media campaign to find out her identity went viral as people from Ohio to Georgia reported seeing the lonely figure dressed in long dark robes walking silently, head bowed.
Scores of photographs were posted to Facebook and she was eventually unveiled as 56-year-old US Army veteran Elizabeth Poles. It soon emerged that the mother-of-two had embarked on an 800km journey as a way of coming to terms with the deaths of her husband in 2008 and her father in 2009.
The “men in black”, whoever they are, seem on a less noble mission. Local news site Coast to Coast am speculated the “spooky interlopers” were just young people being young people.
“We’re guessing that the ultimate answer to the mystery will have less to do with paranormal lore and more likely being just Muscatine County’s only goth teenager having just returned from his first year in college.
The first person to have brought the “men in black” to the attention of authorities appears to have been Port Louisa, Iowa local RJ Strong who said he saw the men around 2am last Monday while driving near the south end of Muscatine, near Ogilvie and F avenues.
Mr Strong said the “men in black” walked “right out in the road” to the driver’s side of his vehicle from the middle of the oncoming traffic lane.
“I posted about the encounter on my Facebook page immediately after it happened (so you can see that this isn’t made up) several days before people started reporting these actions on Highway 22,” Mr Strong wrote.
“On Thursday I read about this stuff and that is when I called the Muscatine Sheriff Department and left a message. I still haven’t heard anything or had a returned phone call. To me it appears that they have either moved on north for more traffic and more people to try and scare or there is more than one group.”
Mr Strong’s mother Beatrice was forced to defend him after several users dismissed his encounter.
“My son has experienced this and it’s no joke,” She wrote on Facebook. “It was really a frightening experience to him.”
Dawn Lane-Schultheis claimed her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend had seen the men, also on Highway 22, three or four weeks ago.
“She told me about it but didn’t seem too concerned so I just shrugged it off as a strange occurrence,” Ms Lane-Schultheis wrote on Facebook.
“She didn’t seem scared just thought it was really weird.”
Chaz Brick said the sightings reminded him of an eerie experience he’d had while driving through Texas in 2015.
“I saw a similarly attired figure about 2am to 3am about a year ago in Texas
on TX Hwy 190 headed into Killeen/Ft. Hood from Temple,” he said in a Facebook post.
“It startled me, and I’ve seen many sites (sic) in my life, some during combat tours.”
Police confirmed they have received multiple reports and were taking them seriously.
“We have had several reports of “men dressed in black” entering the roadway in rural Muscatine County,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.
“We don’t have any new information about these people, but we have seen several posts on Facebook about the same kind of activity.
“It would be extremely helpful to the Sheriff’s Office, if you witness this type of activity, that you call 911 immediately. Your help is greatly appreciated.”