"Milligan and the other agents call them Ten Men."
"Because they're heartless?" asked Reynie, thinking of The Wizard of Oz .
"Not Tin Men, Reynie. Ten Men. It's true they're heartless, though, and they've gotten even more dangerous. The agents call them Ten Men because they have ten different ways of hurting you."
The Ten Men are a sinister group of men who work for Ledroptha Curtain. Disguised as ordinary businessmen, the only consistent way to recognize a Ten Man is by his stature: every one of them seems to be tall and burly. They have an infamous rivalry with Milligan Wetherall.
The Ten Men have been working for Mr. Curtain from their formation to their disbandment. Their chief motive is a large salary paid by Curtain periodically, but they also seem to have a sick enjoyment of their work. Originally their job as "Recruiters" was to round up orphans and runaways to take to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened and to guard said Institute, but from book two on they became sentries for Mr. Curtain to perform all manner of dirty work.The Ten Men are given certain restrictions and certain privileges. Although they seem to have little liking for their boss, they are willing to go above and beyond his orders anyway because they find it fun. They always operate in pairs.
In and before The Mysterious Benedict Society, the Ten Men are known as Recruiters. They are paid to kidnap children and take them to the Institute, where the children are brainswept and enrolled as students. They also make sure that no one sneaks onto or off of Nomansan Island. During this time only one Recruiter is named: McCraig, who is never mentioned again in the series so it can be assumed that he is apprehended early on. However, in the third book it is stated that McCracken has also been a Recruiter at least since Constance's second birthday.After the fall of the Institute, those Recruiters who escaped with Mr. Curtain became the Ten Men, so named because they have ten ways of hurting people, though their weapons are disguised as office supplies. They are deeply involved in the abduction of Mr. Benedict, Number Two, Reynie, Constance, Sticky, and Kate; posted a tstrategic intervals along the journey and delivering a homing pigeon to Rhonda Kazembe. During this time exactly four Ten Men are named: McCracken, Sharpe, Crawlings, and Garrotte. They are all injured to varying degrees in a battle with Milligan. In the third book, the Ten Men have tightened their security. They now know not to underestimate the Society ever again. The result of this is that the foursome are forced to stay cooped up inside Mr. Benedict's house for at least four months for their own safety. Even so, the Ten Men manage to ensnare them after two failed attempts. This proves to be their own undoing however, because the kids contact the adults and Mr. Curtain's lair is besieged. Eventually, all Ten Men are taken into custody. One new Ten Man is introduced in this novel: Hertz.
In The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner's Dilemma, it was revealed that McCracken appeared to Constance's orphanage to take her away, which eventually led to Constance's escape to Stonetown's branch library. He was presumably sent by Mr. Curtain to bring her to L.I.V.E before she escaped.
Although they supposedly carry only ten weapons, substantially more are referenced in the books. They are as follows:
- Laser Pointers: Perhaps the most dangerous device carried by the Ten Men. It fires a real laser that can set buildings on fire and cut clean through human skin, both of which have been done numerous times. The drawback is that the pointers can only be fired once every twelve hours, as that is how long they take to recharge. It is never specified how many seconds one shot can last.
- Handkerchiefs: Carried in the Ten Men's breast pockets, these are soaked in a sedative drug and have only to be pressed against a victims mouth or nose for them to be knocked out for quite a while.
- Neckties: While they look like normal striped business ties, concealed on the tip of each one is a metallic fringe that recalls a bullwhip; indeed, that is exactly what the ties are used for - whips.
- Chewing Gum: According to the Wetheralls, laced with poison. Never actually seen or used; referenced one time by Kate.
- Pencils: Virtually indestructible, these pencils are razor-sharp and used on countless occasions. The Ten Men can throw them so quickly that you never know what it is that they threw until you're impaled.
- Letter Openers: Extremely sharp, they are stored in leather sheathes and can be very hazardous.
- "Pandora's Box" = Only confirmed to be used by McCracken. This is a large decorative cigar box that some hideous creature is inside of making clicking and scraping sounds. It is used only as a threat and an incentive to talk, because in book three Pandora is revealed to be nothing but a mechanical sound made by springs and wires and powered by AA batteries.
- Clipboards: The purpose for these is to be used as a boomerang. They can take out a man with one flick of his wrist.
- Ink Pens: Unknown purpose. Never used, only seen once. Hertz raps Kate on the head with a gold pen, and Sticky says it sounds like he hit her with a lead pipe.
- Index Cards: Airborne projectiles, hurt more than a bullet to the head.
- False Teeth: Again, only used by McCracken. After losing several teeth in a fight with Milligan, (and one to Kate) McCracken has them replaced through "black-market dentistry." His new teeth are removable and, when squeezed, will grow a serrated edge of miniscule razors.
- Staple Removers: Described as looking like metal piranhas, but never expanded upon.
- Briefcases: Every Ten Man carries a briefcase. Along with the pinstriped suits they wear, the briefcases complete the businessman guise. They are surprisingly heavy and solid, and one can hear an evil humming sound soming from inside of them when they are filled up. Occasionally used as clubs.
- Shock-Watches: These were the original weapon of choice for Recruiters. One bulky silver wristwatch is worn on each arm. The use of them is always accompanied by shaking the wrists to loosen the watches from the man's suit cuffs. As an electrical whine fills the air, the Ten Man holds his hands out, palms forward, in a calming gesture. Suddenly, charged wires flick out of each watch and shock the victim into unconsciousness. In The Mysterious Benedict Society, it was observed by Mr. Benedict's followers that Constance, after being stunned by the shock-watches, became very woozy, her body emitted strange crackling noises and her hair stood up.
- Exploding Calculators = When everyone is trapped in the hold of the "Shortcut" the Ten Men place a calculator on the door of the hold. Constance notices so Kate removed it and after some thought chucks it into the ocean just in time. The screen of the calculator counts down the time before the explosion. It is noted that when Mr. Curtain blew her a kiss for not throwing the bomb back, to which "Kate made sure he saw her wipe it off."
- Paperclip Chain: These are perfectly unbreakable to the human by the human hand, because they were made of high-tensile metal. In the second book, McCracken informs Reynie that even he can't break it, and McCracken is quite good at, and fond of breaking things.
As of the end of Prisoner's Dilemma, there are/have been eight named Ten Men.
- McCracken: The leader and most formidable. He makes his debut in the 2nd book. Brawnier than any other Ten Man, he is described as having piercing blue eyes and shoulders like bedside tables. His feathered hair is brown and always perfectly coiffed (in the chapter illustrations he is depicted as having it slicked back). McCracken has access to a couple of weapons that the other Ten Men do not, and he seems to be the only one who is a match for Milligan and the only one ever to outsmart Reynie. Kate outsmarted him, though, in the 2nd book.
- Garrotte: Garrotte is usually the one who drives the vehicles. Mor often than not, he will be the one driving the Salamander, fake ambulence, etc. Described as having a beard and a face like a bat.
- Crawlings: Often scolded for being too careless. Indeed, because of his carelessness, he has lost one of his eyebrows. His remaining eyebrow is emphasized more than any other feature to define his expression. Bald.
- Sharpe: Garrotte's usual partner. Once knocked unconscious by Sticky with his own drugged handkerchief. Wears glasses.
- McCraig: One of the Recruiters guarding the Whisperer's computer room when Kate is in the elevator shaft, Kate easily defeated him.
- Mortis: Partner of the ten man who cornered the foursome at a hotel in Thernbaakagen. Defeated easily by Milligan.
- Hertz: Introduced in book three. Enjoys doing crossword puzzles with his gold pen, and is apparently afraid to touch the Whisperer. Described as swarthy and slight, with a birdlike face.
- Bludgins: Never seen, but referenced by McCracken. Evidently Bludgins was in charge of the messenger pigeon.
All of the Ten Men's names are puns on words concerning pain, suffering or death.