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The Mothman of Point Pleasant: An Extraterrestrial?

Certainly, that’s a very controversial question to ask. It was put to me last week, while doing radio. For many researchers, the Mothman is perceived as being a creature of purely cryptozoological proportions. Others take the view that the Mothman was (and, perhaps, still is) something of a definitively supernatural nature. But, to get back to the matter of that question put to me, let’s see what the evidence, testimony and data provides. But, first a bit of background on the weird winged-thing is required. There can be few people reading this who have not at least heard of the legendary Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, who so terrorized the town and the surrounding area between November 1966 and December 1967, and whose diabolical exploits were chronicled in the 2002 hit Hollywood movie starring Richard Gere: The Mothman Prophecies, so named after the book of the same title written by Mothman authority John Keel.

A winged monster with red eyes, Mothman came out of nowhere. Some say its presence culminated in high tragedy and death. But what was the Mothman of Point Pleasant? And how did the legend begin?  To answer those questions we have to go back to the dark night of November 12, 1966, when five grave-diggers working in a cemetery in the nearby town of Clendenin were shocked to see what they described as a “brown human shape with wings” rise out of the thick, surrounding trees and soar off into the distance. Three days later, the unearthly beast surfaced once again. It was at the highly appropriate time of the witching-hour when Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette – two young, married couples from Point Pleasant – were passing the time away by cruising around town in the Scarberrys’ car.

As they drove around the old factory, the four were puzzled to see in the shadows what looked like two red lights pointing in their direction. These were no normal lights, however. Rather, all four were shocked and horrified to discover that, in reality, the “lights” were the glowing, self-illuminating red eyes of a huge animal that, as Roger Scarberry would later recall, was “…shaped like a Mothman, but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big wings folded against its back.” Not surprisingly, they fled the area at high speed. Unfortunately for the Scarberry’s and the Mallette’s, however, the beast seemingly decided to follow them: as they sped off for the safety of Point Pleasant, the winged monster took to the skies and shadowed their vehicle’s every movement until it reached the city limits.

Water River Point Pleasant Bridge West Virginia

The four raced to the sheriff’s office and told their astounding story to Deputy Millard Halstead, who later stated that: “I’ve known these kids all their lives. They’d never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took them seriously.” And even though a search of the area by Halstead did not result in an answer to the mystery, the Mothman would soon return. Again and again. And again. As far as the question concerning Mothman being an extraterrestrial is concerned, I would be inclined to completely dismiss this “E.T.” theory were it not for one thing. Namely, that there was indeed a great deal of UFO- and alleged alien-themed activity going on at that time – and in relatively close proximity to Point Pleasant. In other words, where UFOs were seen, so were strange lights in the sky. Moving on…

Susan Sheppard is a friend of mine, who has expert knowledge of the strange tale of a man named Woodrow Derenberger and a creepy character named Indrid Cold. I’ll now turn you over to Susan: “…strangeness that enveloped West Virginia and Ohio Valley did not begin with the Scarberry encounter along route 2 north of Point Pleasant. There had been another puzzling event that occurred in Parkersburg 12 days before. This happened on November 2, 1966 one mile south of the city limits of Parkersburg. It involved a sewing machine salesman whose life was about to be disrupted in such a way that he would never entirely recover. 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 [Indrid Cold] 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.’

There ends an extract from an excellent paper that Susan very generously prepared for me.

Moving on, there’s the matter of the Men in Black. In his classic book, The Mothman Prophecies, John Keel said of one such case: “On a rainy night in April a man from Ohio had been driving along Route 2 near the Chief Cornstalk Hunting Grounds when a large black form rose from the woods and flew over his car. ‘It was at least ten feet wide,’ he claimed. ‘I stepped on the gas and it kept right up with me. We were doing over seventy. It scared the hell out of me. Then I saw it move ahead of me and turn toward the river.’” Keel continued: “Months later, late in October, he returned home from work and found a prowler in his apartment. ‘When I opened the door I saw this man standing in my living room,’ he reported. ‘I think he was dressed all in black. I couldn’t see his face, but he was about five feet nine. I started to fumble for the light switch when he took my picture. There was a big flash of light, so bright I couldn’t see a thing. While I was rubbing my eyes the burglar darted past me and went out the open door. I guess I arrived just in time because nothing was missing.’”

Mary Hyre was a woman who played an integral role in the series of 1960s-era events that led John Keel to write The Mothman Prophecies. In January 1967, Hyre was visited by a creepy, bowl-haired MIB of around 5-feet in height and who had oddly hypnotic eyes. Throughout the encounter, the black-clad “man” kept staring at Hyre’s ballpoint pen. To the point where Hyre told him he could keep it. He took it, laughed loud in a strange fashion, and vanished as mysteriously as he first arrived. As The Demoniacal notes: “Mary Hyre was the Point Pleasant, WV, correspondent for the Athens, OH, newspaper titled, The Messenger. Hyre documented strange occurrences happening in Point Pleasant in 1966-1967 and was well loved by locals due to her professional and open-minded take on the subjects. In one weekend alone, Hyre received 500 reports of UFO sightings from locals. Hyre’s fascination with flying saucers stemmed from her own sighting of a UFO which she claimed flew over her backyard.”

All of which brings us back to the matter of the Mothman. As we have seen, at the same time the Mothman was soaring around the skies of Point Pleasant, Mary Hyre had a close encounter with a weird Man in Black. The MIB are, of course, inextricably linked to the UFO phenomenon. Not only that, Hyre was the recipient of hundreds of UFO reports and someone who became one of Keel’s closest friends. Add to that the saga of Indrid Cold and what we have is an area that was dominated by not just the famous, flying monster, but by a number of UFO-related issues too. I consider it highly unlikely that the Cold controversy, the experiences of Mary Hyre, and the Mothman and MIB presences were completely unconnected. So, that’s why I am at least open to the idea that the Mothman just may have been an extraterrestrial – and not a creature of Cryptozoology or even of something of paranormal origins.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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