My recent article on Mothman and a controversial story that appeared in a 2014 edition of Soldier of Fortune prompted a few comments here at Mysterious Universe. It also prompted one person to message me at Facebook, asking how I felt this impacts on the story of the ultimate “Grinning Man,” Indrid Cold, who – while not directly connected to the Mothman saga – has certainly become a part of the overall puzzle. Well, the fact is that it doesn’t – at least not directly. But, with the matter of Cold having been brought up, I thought I would share with you the strange story of the man himself (if, indeed, he was a man), and from someone who has lived in the area all her life. Last year, paranormal investigator Susan Sheppard very generously prepared for me an extensive paper on Mothman, Indrid Cold, and much more. So, with that all said, I will now hand you over to Susan, to tell the controversial-but fascinating tale of Indrid Cold:
His name was Woodrow Derenberger, but everyone called him “Woody.” It was shortly after 6 p.m. in the evening, when Woody Derenberger was driving home from his job as a sewing machine salesman at J.C. Penny’s in Marietta, Ohio to his farmhouse in Mineral Wells, West Virginia. The ride home was overcast and dreary. It was misting a light rain.
As Derenberger came up on the Intersection of I-77 and Route 47, he thought that a tractor trailer truck was tailgating him without its lights on, which was unnerving, so he swerved to the side of the road and much to his surprise, the truck appeared to take flight and seemed to roll across his panel truck. To his astonishment, what Derenberger thought was a truck was a charcoal colored UFO without any lights on. It touched down and then hovered about 10 inches above the berm of the road. Much to Derenberger’s surprise a hatch opened and a man stepped out looking like “any ordinary man you would see on the street – there was nothing unusual about his appearance.”
Except the man was dressed in dark clothing and had a “beaming smile.” As the man proceeded to walk toward Derenberger’s panel truck the “craft” jetted up to about 40 feet in the air where it floated above the highway. What happened next was unsettling, because as the darkly-dressed man came up toward the vehicle Woody Derenberger heard the words, “Do not be afraid, I mean you no harm, I only want to ask you a few questions.” Derenberger did become afraid because as the man spoke to Woodrow his lips did not move. The man then moved to the opposite of the truck and told Derenberger to roll down his window so they could talk better, which he did. Next what formed in Derenberger’s mind were the words, “Now you can speak, or you can think… it makes no difference, I can understand you either way,” … this is what the dark man said.
Later, when Derenberger was questioned on local live television, he was scrutinized over what seemed a contradiction because if the dark man communicated through a type of mental telepathy, why would Derenberger need to roll down his window to talk? Wouldn’t it be easier just to talk mentally?
Woodrow Derenberger explained it was because Indrid Cold wanted to look directly at him as they spoke and he felt that, really, Cold wasn’t so interested in what was said but more interested in keeping up a communication with him. To Derenberger, that seemed the entire point of it all. Derenberger also noted that when Cold stared into his eyes, it was as if he knew everything about Woodrow Derenberger, and also, if he could only let go of his fear and do the same, he felt he would also know and understand all about Cold. In any event, Cold spoke through the passenger side window the entire time.
The physical description of Cold was commonplace. Derenberger described him as about 35 years of age, having a trim build, was about six feet tall, 185 pounds with dark eyes and dark hair slicked straight back. Cold wore a long dark coat and beneath the coat Woodrow Derenberger was able to glimpse the fabric of his “uniform” that glistened beneath the coat. He also described Cold as having a “tanned complexion.” Throughout the conversation Cold kept a frozen smile and curiously hid his hands beneath his armpits most of the time.
Cold did, however, point at the city lights above the distant hills of Parkersburg and asked Mr. Derenberger, “What do you call that over there?” Derenberger said, “Why, that’s Parkersburg and we call that a city.” Cold responded, “Where I come from we call it a gathering.” Cold later added the curious statement that “I come from a place less powerful than yours.” As the men talked cars passed under the craft which drifted above the road. The occupants were seemingly unaware of the spaceship being there. After all, there were no lights that could be seen. Cold then asked about Parkersburg, “Do people live there or do they work there?”
Woody Derenberger answered, “Why, yes, people live and work there.” Cold interjected “Do you work, Mr. Derenberger?” (Woodrow told Cold his name as the conversation began)
Derenberger answered, “I am a salesman. That’s what I do. Do you have a job?” Cold answered, “Yes. I am a searcher.”
After that the conversation became mundane. Cold seemed to notice Woodrow Derenberger was scared and commented on it. Mr. Derenberger claimed Cold asked him, “Why are you so frightened? Do not be afraid. We mean you no harm. You will see that we eat and bleed the same as you do,” and then added an emotive note, “We only wish you happiness” which Cold said to the frightened man more than once.
While Mr. Derenberger was being interviewed on live television on WTAP-TV, he attributed this puzzling statement to Indrid Cold, “At the proper time, the authorities will be notified about our meeting and this will be confirmed.” The entire conversation took between five and ten minutes and then Indrid Cold looked inside Woody’s car with his ever-present smile, and said, “Mr. Derenberger, I thank you for talking to me. We will see you again.”
He ended the conversation with “We will see you again” and as soon as he did the spaceship immediately came back down, floated about 10 inches off the road. A hatch opened and a human arm extended pulling Cold up into the craft. The ship then jetted up into the air about seventy-five feet, made a fluttering noise and then shot away at a very high rate of speed. For a few moments, Woodrow Derenberger sat stunned. Finally, he started up his car and drove to his farmhouse in Mineral Wells where his wife met him at the door. By now it was shortly before 7:00 o’clock.
Mrs. Derenberger met her husband at the door. She later said that Woodrow “could not have been any whiter if he had been lying in a coffin.” The stories vary but from Mr. Derenberger’s account his wife is the one who called the West Virginia State police, or at least she dialed the phone. Woodrow Derenberger gave them a brief report of what he claimed to have happened. It is interesting to note that in the initial report, Derenberger called the alien “Cold,” but did not mention “Indrid” until later.
The next day Derenberger attempted to go back to work but was sidetracked when he agreed to a live television interview about his experience on the previous night with a UFO with WTAP-TV the NBC affiliate in Parkersburg, housed in a small building not much bigger than a garage. The interview took place shortly before noon where Woodrow Derenberger was grilled by veteran reporter Glenn Wilson and city Police Chief Ed Plum, as well as other local law enforcement, including the head of the Wood County Airport. Representatives from Wright Patterson were in route to interview Derenberger but whether that came about is not known.
The interview went on for about two and a half hours. The live part of the broadcast was under an hour long and then the television cameras were turned off, and the interview continued off the air for another hour or so. During that time, Derenberger drew a picture of the spacecraft which he described in his thick West Virginia accent as a charcoal grey, with no lights and looking like an “old-fashioned chimney lamp.” (You may want to google this because I am not clear what he intended. I found some interesting images when I did…Parts of the lamps may look like UFOs.)
Probably one of the most curious statements Woodrow Derenberger made about his meeting with Cold was, “And then Cold said to me, we will see you again…” then his voice trails off. Police Chief Ed Plum asked, “Do you really believe you will see him again?” Derenberger then answered, “I think so…I believe I will…I don’t know… because that’s what I am afraid of.”
After that interview, Derenberger’s life transformed drastically and not for the better. He changed jobs, developed marital problems, clung to his church for a while, and then came the strange visits from men dressed in black clothing whom Derenberger suspected to be some kind of hidden government group of spies or maybe even the Mafia. He wasn’t sure, they just spooked him. They would arrive his house, ask Derenberger simple questions, (some had to do with his UFO experience) and then the Men in Black acted in a threatening manner.
But nothing was as incredible as the return of Indrid Cold. At least, this is what Woodrow Derenberger claimed. He said that Cold visited him many times at his farmhouse in Mineral Wells. At one point, Derenberger came up missing for almost six months and said he was “with the aliens.” The local population finally became skeptical. The sewing machine salesman’s tale grew more and more far-fetched. Derenberger even claimed to have been impregnated by the aliens. In 1967, Woodrow Derenberger stated to have visited Indrid Cold’s home planet of Lanulos where its residents walked around wearing no clothing. He said the aliens lived in a galaxy called Ganymede where everything was peaceful and there was no war. People began to snicker.
Still, there were odd flashing lights in the sky almost nightly and the curiosity seekers stalked not only Derenberger’s modest farmhouse, but an area called Bogle Ridge, not far from Mineral Wells where the aliens were claimed to land. The ridicule became too much. Derenberger, with his family, moved from the area and stayed away for decades. He returned to Wood County in the 1980s and died in 1990. Woodrow Derenberger was finally laid to rest at Mount Zion Cemetery in Mineral Wells, West Virginia.
John Keel was not a believer in Woodrow Derenberger’s UFO story, so it’s mysterious why he would make it such a big part of The Mothman Prophecies book. In The Mothman Prophecies movie the character Gordon Smallwood is based upon Woodrow Derenberger, but the Wood County man most often appeared in a suit and not overalls. A few elements to his story make it believable that, initially, something of an extraordinary nature, happened to him. First of all, his account predates the Mothman sightings by 12 days. Derenberger would have had to have been a prophet to know what was about to happen next, making his story even more extraordinary. His family explains that they believe something of an otherworldly nature initially happened but he added to the tale to sell books when he self-published a book called Visitors from Lanulos in 1971.