Oct 14, 2022 I Nick Redfern

A Very Important Story in the Mothman Saga: The Grinning Creep Known as Indrid Cold

Susan Sheppard was a good friend of mine and someone who died way too soon. Susan was also someone who was an expert in the mystery of the strange and sinister character known as Indrid Cold. Before she died, Susan very generously put together a really great paper for me to use. And, I'm going to share it with you. And here's how it goes. As Susan said: "I may be one of the few people who remembers the West Virginia Mothman and related events before the 'Mothman' even had a name. It was one chilly November day in 1966 that my sister came home from school to tell a peculiar story that happened the night before to Merle Partridge’s family. I was small at the time but I remember it this way: I sat at the kitchen table eating what remained of Halloween candy from the bottom of a grocery store bag. There was plastic over the kitchen windows to keep the cold out.  The hill outside was covered with brown and yellow grass that seemed to ripple. It always seemed like there were presences in our woods. My sister burst through the front door and then told a story about 'Paula Partridge’s Dad' seeing red eyes in the barn the night before and that their German-Shepherd dog Bandit was now missing."

(Nick Redfern) Susan hanging out at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, 2016 - the home of the Mothman

There is way more to come: "Strange red eyes staring out of the doorway of an old barn wasn’t something you heard about often in central West Virginia, so my childish mind was awakened and I held on to the story probably longer than anyone else in my family cared to. I can tell you that your ordinary West Virginia citizen didn’t believe the tale at first. Until these strange manifestations that became Mothman, Indrid Cold and the Men in Black began to touch their lives in both big and small ways. My family lived on Shannon’s Knob in the small town of West Union, in Doddridge County, West Virginia, while the Partridges lived about 8 miles away from us in a country community called Center Point, basically across a ridge or two. My grandmother had been the post mistress of Center Point where she grew up in a log cabin and there was even a Banshee story associated with the community. Although the dates given vary it is usually accepted that the day of the Merle Partridge sighting or the 'red eyes in the barn,' happened on November 15, 1966, was the same night as the Scarberry encounter with the Mothman an hour and a half later near the TNT plant in Point Pleasant, which was about 100 miles away from Center Point."

And more from Susan came along: "Shortly before 10 o’clock in the evening, Merle Partridge was watching late night television with his son Roger, who was about 11 years old at the time. They first noticed their German shepherd dog barking outside, it seemed at a distance from the house, in an atypical kind of way that made them think something was terribly wrong. At that same time, the television set started “screaming” as the picture blanked out and the TV made a loud grinding sound, which Mr. Partridge later told author John Keel, 'sounded like a generator winding up.' Partridge’s account, which he told me (Susan Sheppard) in an interview in 2006, differed slightly than what John Keel eventually included in his The Mothman Prophecies. First, Keel must have misheard Merle Partridge’s name and wrote it down as 'Newell Partridge.' Mr. Partridge was always open about the story and never asked to be given an alias. Merle Partridge told me, “I don’t know why John Keel wrote my name down as Newell.' It’s possible the New York City author couldn’t understand Partridge’s West Virginia accent."

(Nick Redfern) Mothman: one of the most famous monsters of all time

More from Susan on the matter of all the mystery in and around Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the 1960s. She wrote: "After listening to Bandit bark for a little while longer, Merle Partridge decided it might be a good idea to investigate the noises. It could have been a prowler on his property or even a black bear. Center Point was miles from any town. Mr. Partridge grabbed a flashlight, took Roger in tow and the two headed outdoors to find out what all of the ruckus was about. Partridge didn’t see any red eyes from a distance, as some accounts claim. Instead, he saw Bandit standing at the entrance to the empty barn, which Partridge described as “a football field away.” The dog barked frantically as he continued to stare into the barn. As Merle Partridge and Roger got closer to the barn, Partridge said he felt the hair raise up on his arms. When he looked into the barn, he saw what he described as what looked to be, “Red, rotating electrical lights.”  Partridge explained to me, “Red lights, red eyes, whatever you want to call them. 'On that chilly November night Partridge noticed what he thought was a dark shape lumbering up from the floor of the barn. The fur stood up on Bandit’s back, the dog snarled angrily and he shot into the barn toward whatever the dark form was. Merle Partridge and Roger ran back to the house. As they sat down in front of the television set, Bandit stopped barking and the picture came back on the screen of the TV. Calm was restored. Still, Mr. Partridge later mentioned that he slept with his rifle beside of him that night. The next morning, Bandit did not come to the back door for his breakfast as he usually did. Merle Partridge remembered that the last time he’d seen Bandit, the dog was running into the barn seemingly in pursuit of the red eyes, or 'lights' and the dark form."

The story continues: "Merle and his children Mary, Roger and Gary headed for the barn and what they found inside was chilling and mysterious. They discovered Bandit’s paw prints in the dirt floor of the barn, but the paw prints only went in a circle and didn’t lead away. It was as if that dog had been picked up and carried away by something much stronger and larger. Mary Partridge also commented there were other tracks, but they didn’t belong to the dog. She said they looked like giant turkey tracks but ones like she’d never seen before. At this point, Merle Partridge didn’t realize that the night before, less than an hour after his encounter with the 'red eyes in the barn,' Roger and Linda Scarberry, of Point Pleasant, along with Steve and Mary Mallette, would also meet up with these 'red eyes' at the TNT plant on the outskirts of town, and then more times along Route 2, except now they were able to see a figure attached to the red eyes or 'lights' in detail. It was a tall humanoid creature of over six feet tall, with crimson eyes that seemed to be set in its shoulders, and a wing span of almost 10 feet. (Later witnesses would describe the creature as varying shades of grey, brown or tan and sometimes flesh-toned.) In later interviews, Linda Scarberry, like Merle Partridge, described the eyes of the creature as looking like 'red lights' and not really bicycle reflectors that Keel compares them to in his book. In fact, at one point when the Scarberry’s thought they had outdistanced the Mothman after he had been flying over their car, Linda looked into a field and thought she saw red lights on a billboard. When the billboard was caught in the beams of the Scarberry’s car, Linda claimed the Mothman was perched on the edge of the billboard. As they passed, the Mothman once again took flight and continued in pursuit of their car."

(Nick Redfern) Historic Point Pleasant

Susan wrote: "As they came upon the city limits of Point Pleasant, Linda Scarberry looked and saw the dead body of a large dog beside the road. As the young couple drove, the Mothman soared overhead but only a few feet above the car.  The wings of the creature were so huge that as they flapped they hit the side doors of Roger’s car. Once they arrived in town, they drove directly to the Point Pleasant Police Station and made their famous report. Sources say it was Roger Scarberry who made a sketch. When the police went out to check the car, they found large scratches on each side door. When finally the frightened couple returned to their house, Linda Scarberry claimed the Mothman had followed them and peered into the windows the rest of the night. In one interview Linda remarked, 'Even to this day, I will not look out my windows after dark.'  Within a day or two, the Mothman story (the creature did not yet have a name and was referred to as a 'bird' or 'Birdman') made its way through news syndicates, appearing in newspapers but mostly in the mid-Atlantic region. These caught the eye of Merle Partridge in Doddridge County because the account seemed eerily similar to what he had experienced on the same night, but what he really noticed was the mention of the dead dog beside the city limits sign of Point Pleasant. The Partridge’s German shepherd dog Bandit did not return, nor would he ever. Merle called the News Syndicate who put him in touch with Mary Hyre where the Doddridge Countian gave his report. Mary Hyre wrote up Partridges account and kept it. Later, John Keel would follow up on the story and include it in his book The Mothman Prophecies."

Now, to another aspect of the story: "But 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.”

(Nick Redfern) At Point Pleasant's "TNT Area"

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. 

Susan said: "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.'

(Nick Redfern) The sun goes down at the 2022 Mothman Festival

And the story is still not complete: "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. 

Susan tells the next part: "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.'

Susan gets closer to the end of the Indrid Cold saga: "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. There are a few other accounts that add some believability to key aspects of Woodrow Derenberger’s fantastic story. An elderly man driving south of Parkersburg on I-77 reported seeing a man by the side of the road (one that meet Indrid Cold’s description) who tried to flag him down."

(Nick Redfern) Point Pleasant - where so much weirdness went down from 1966 to 1967

Susan gets to the end of the story: "The gentleman slowed down but when the darkly-clad man headed for the passenger door of his car, the senior citizen became frightened and drove away. 'There was something off about that character,' the old man later told Glenn Wilson of WTAP-TV. I also ran into something curious when I was researching stories for my ghost tour back in 1996. I found the news article about Woodrow Derenberger’s UFO tale in the Parkersburg News & Sentinel dated November 4th, 1966 where the story was on a front section of the newspaper. The account read 'Local Man Stopped by UFO.'  In the same section of the newspaper, right beside of it, was another smaller article about a complete power outage that happened in South Parkersburg at precisely the same time Derenberger claimed he was interrupted by Indrid Cold’s spaceship. South Parkersburg borders the community of Mineral Wells. An energy disturbance in Mineral Wells would likely also affect South Parkersburg." The saga of Indrid Cold still continues.

Although a great deal has been written when it comes to Indrid Cold, Susan's paper is one of the best.

Nick Redfern

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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