Commentary

Missing Men: Truth or Legend?

Controversy is still raging over the authenticity of a photo presented at the annual "Global Forum on the Missing Men" meeting for the eighth day in Eastjesus, Iowa.

The grainy shot - submitted anonymously by a group purporting to be "forensic advertising researchers" at a major New York media agency that is spelled like a vegetable - is said to show an actual gathering of men 18- to 34-years-old reading a periodical. Because of the poor quality of the photo, it is difficult to discern if the individuals in the photo are actually males and impossible to determine if they are reading or instead looking at either the television or CRT screen in the background.

"This is a hoax on the magnitude of the Hitler diaries," says Adrants editor Steve Hall. "This is clearly a Photoshop forgery that has no more credibility than the guy who invites 2,000 people into watch the game on his HDTV. Please, stop this madness."

"Were this photo to be proved authentic," says MediaPost editor Joe Mandese, "it would be the first time anyone has actually seen the missing men since they disappeared from network TV. You have to be skeptical since hundreds of media outlets and companies have laid claim to this elusive audience, but so far no one has produced certifiable evidence of their whereabouts."

What are the undisputed facts about the Missing Men mystery? It's a fact that for more than 200 years people have reported seeing large, hair-covered, man-like young men in the campus areas of North America. It is a fact that sightings of these beings continue today. Real or not, these reports are often made by people of unimpeachable character. It is a fact that, for over two years, people have been finding, photographing, and casting sets of human-shaped tracks sized 9 to 13. Most are discovered by chance in remote areas. These tracks continue to be found to this day.

It is a fact that the cultural histories of many Native American and First Nation peoples include stories and beliefs about non-human "teens" of the wild. Many of these descriptions bear a striking resemblance to the hairy, man-like creatures reported today. These are some of the facts. There is, however, much speculation as to what these facts mean.

To many, these facts, taken together, suggest the presence of a tribe, probably of teenaged primates, that exists today in shopping malls and theaters featuring Jack Black movies. If true, this species, having likely evolved alongside adult humans, became astonishingly adept at avoiding human contact through a process of natural selection and attitude. To others, these same facts point to a cultural phenomenon kept alive today through a combination of the misidentification of known animals, wishful thinking, and the deliberate fabrication of evidence.

It is the mission of the "Global Forum on the Missing Men" to review the countless claims of sightings of the missing men by media companies to flush out any deliberate fabrication of evidence.

In 2002, The Missing Men Investigation Bureau was formed to act as a research organization and clearing house for information about the men. In the beginning, it only conducted research for a few weeks in the year, but by 2003 they established a more permanent presence around drive-ins and video game arcades. Eventually the Bureau established camera stations with both still and cinema cameras with telephoto lenses. They had vans which served as mobile camera stations, and state-of-the-art listening instruments. Searches were conducted using hot air balloons and infrared night time cameras, sonar scanners, and Escalades.

But to date, no one has captured clear evidence that the missing men are a real phenomenon. "I think they are urban legends kind of like snipe hunts, talking mounted bass, or those rabbits with deer antlers," says a media planner from Chicago. "If they really existed, somebody would have gotten a cell phone photo or at least found a trail of empty beer cans leading to their habitats." The Forum runs through Labor Day.

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