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That Charming Man: Indrid Cold Reconsidered, Pt. 7
Getting Spooked in the Land of Mothman and Indrid Cold
During a short break in the newsletter’s regular posting schedule, I had the opportunity to check out multiple locations relevant to the Woodrow Derenberger and Indrid Cold story in person. Emily of Weird Reads and I drove all over West Virginia past numerous points of paranormal interest. Among these was the city of Parkersburg and the nearby town Mineral Wells, two communities where Derenberger made his home at various points in time. We drove past—though could not exactly pinpoint—the location along Interstate 77 where Derenberger first met Indrid Cold in 1966, even going the same direction. The primary takeaway from this stretch of highway is that it’s incredibly unremarkable and—in 2023—quite well-traveled. Mineral Wells was a hushed, domestic community that seemed much sleepier than the cosmic stories of Derenberger would imply. Yet I could not help but think of the quiet corners of the area, where Woody would slip away to meet Indrid Cold’s spaceship. With a population of less than 2000, there’s plenty of roads less traveled for a speedy interstellar getaway.
We also visited Point Pleasant, home to the infamous Mothman sightings of 1966 and other high strangeness documented by John Keel and Gray Barker. Emily and I stayed at the centrally located Lowe Hotel which is purported to be haunted. We neither heard nor saw any specters, but we did recall hearing odd old-timey music in the early morning hours while half-asleep. Grabbing a cute little Mothman cookie from the coffee shop across the street, we geared up to visit the Mothman Museum, a small space with a comprehensive collection of everything Mothman-related. The museum is a very enjoyable and affordable visit for anyone interested in the Point Pleasant high strangeness of 1966 or the paranormal in general. While containing comparatively little related to Woodrow Derenberger or Indrid Cold, it did contain the original tapes of one of Derenberger’s earliest interviews regarding his bizarre encounter. While not listenable in the museum itself, I believe the interview is the one reproduced here. We took some nice photos at the nearby Mothman statue (with the incredible posterior) shockingly less than two weeks before former (?) intelligence officer and UFO disclosure prophet Lue Elizondo did the same.
On our exit from Point Pleasant, we visited the Silver Bridge Memorial and drove across the New Silver Bridge. Understated in the midst of all of the Mothman fervor is the fact that Point Pleasant would be an adorable, well-situated town with or without its legendary monster. I was especially reminded of my upbringing in small-town Kansas, with its quaint downtown, friendly locals, and lack of light pollution on the outskirts. Unfortunately, luck did not favor me and I grew up in a town without a local cryptid. At the edge of town during a nighttime drive-by of the famed TNT area where many Mothman sightings took place, I was struck by how spooky and dark the area was, the perfect locale for a hulking birdlike creature. Despite its spookiness, it must be one of many obscure tree-lined stretches of dirt road that exist throughout the United States just outside of quiet communities. We saw no Mothman but got some Dairy Queen afterwards.
Like the site of Derenberger’s meeting with Indrid Cold on I-77, we drove past the stretch of I-64 where Tad Jones’ saw a rotund UFO. While it is a semi-busy highway now, it’s easy to imagine the road as a new thoroughfare in 1967 with less traffic. The similarities of the Jones encounter to that of Derenberger’s are amplified when you view the locations in quick succession: Both are not exactly rural but still a little way outside of complete civilization. The appearance of a UFO in either space would be unmistakable and downright surreal. Also of note: The Dow Chemical Plant (formerly Union Carbide) in Institute, West Virginia is astonishingly close to the highway and the spot of Tad Jones’ sighting.
Luckily for us, several famous cryptids call West Virginia home. We spent another day in the genuinely charming Braxton County, home to the Flatwoods Monster. The Flatwoods Monster Museum in the town of Sutton was small but packed to the gills with memorabilia, photographs, and clippings from the Green Monster incident. Additionally, the museum includes some of the cheapest souvenirs (monetarily, not quality-wise) I’ve seen in cryptid tourism which is quite fortunate because Braxxie is one of the most aesthetic monsters around. Just down the block is the West Virginia Bigfoot Museum which was undergoing some renovations but still displayed an impressive number of Sasquatch footprint casts—the most I’ve personally seen in a single place. Bundle that with the beautiful small-town scenery along the Elk River and you have a heck of a daytrip hidden gem.
The next day was spent in the incredible and overwhelming Gray Barker UFO Collection at the Clarksburg Public Library. Assisted by David Houchin, the extremely knowledgeable caretaker of the collection, both me and Emily wound up with stacks of documents to peruse and scan. While it will definitely warrant nearly endless return visits, at the moment I was interested in any files Barker kept on Woodrow Derenberger. After all, Barker was regularly in touch with Woody and even edited an early manuscript of Visitors from Lanulos. The copy with Barker’s editing marks remains in the files. Many of the relevant letters and clippings that are housed in the collection are mentioned or reprinted in Dr. Raymond (Cosmic Ray) A. Keller’s series of articles on Woodrow Derenberger that appeared on Phantoms & Monsters if anyone is interested in further material on Woody to be gleaned from the Barker papers.
Among other interesting Derenberger-related tidbits found in the archive was a letter written to Charles Shuman of Hull, Massachusetts from Woody in February 1984. I had not previously heard of Shuman nor was I able to find much information on him in cursory searches. How this letter wound up in the possession of Gray Barker is also unknown. In the contents, Derenberger expresses a rather dire financial situation:
I have travelled (sic) all over giving talks to senior citizens groups and all talks given to senior citizens are free of charge(,) so it keeps me pretty well broke. I try to sell a few used cars to keep me going, but some times (sic) it gets pretty hard. (…) They paid my plane fare, or I couldn’t of (sic) went. Indrid’s people are not supposed to interfere in any way on our world, so he can’t help me with money.1
Despite this lack of financial help from the Lanulosians, Derenberger seemed to still be in constant contact with Indrid Cold and his crew. He promised Shuman that Cold and his people are attempting to engage with him as well. “Indrid says he will be in your area some time (sic) in March or April,” Derenberger writes. “He will arrange it that you will see his ship and some way will make himself known.”2 Woody also warned his pen-pal that he was being watched by two individuals “who were not (his) friends,” but that they were scared away by a red light in the sky—assumedly one of the members of Team Cold. Nearly two decades removed from his initial experience by this point, Derenberger nevertheless continued to sing the praises of Lanulos and retained the hope that he will be able to make his home there eventually.
Shuman, who donated some money to Derenberger at this point in time, received another letter a month later where Woody elaborates that Indrid, Demo Hassan, and Jitro Kletaw are all still buzzing around the globe in their UFOs. He tells Shuman: “Keep going to the beach near the wall for that is where you will be contacted. And please keep up your good efforts to contact Indrid or me with mental telepathy(,) for I feel you are getting close.”3 Shuman did not receive physical or mental contact from one of the Colds in the documents available, but did get a letter from Indrid’s wife Kimi on May 9th, 1984. In it, she implies that Shuman is not ready for contact with the Lanulosians and that he should wait until Indrid contacts him. She also (curiously) implores him to help Derenberger however he can. In a later undated letter, she expresses gratitude to Shuman for helping Woody who “was being pursued by the men in black.”4 She again appears to delay Shuman’s meeting with her people due to his “nervous condition.” Of note: Derenberger’s personal handwriting is in cursive, but Kimi Cold’s correspondence is curiously penned in printed letters. While the Kimi messages certainly give off the impression of someone attempting to conceal their handwriting, I am no expert so will leave the speculation to others.
Additionally, there were a number of Derenberger-centric newspaper clippings I was previously unaware of. Local reporter Larry W. Murphy was assigned to the Derenberger story for The Parkersburg News and while I had seen some of his writing on the bizarre local interest saga, a story from December 11th, 1966 immediately caught my eye. Murphy writes about Derenberger’s brother-in-law, Sgt. William C. Mullins of the United States Air Force, who read about the Indrid Cold encounter in an Okinawa paper while stationed in Japan:
Sgt. Mullins was sitting in a barber shop, awaiting his turn to get a haircut. He picked up a copy of “The Asia Magazine—The Morning Star,” dated Sunday, Nov. 6. A heading on a front page story caught his attention—“Sober Citizen is a Believer.” It was a UPI story, datelined Parkersburg. Mullins started reading, and then nearly fell out of his chair. The story was about the bizarre experiences of his brother-in-law, Woodrow Derenberger of Mineral Wells, who told police officers and a roomful of reporters that he had been stopped by an Unidentified Flying Object from outer space and was “interviewed” (by means of telepathy) by one of its occupants who stepped from the (well, let’s say it) spacecraft. Quite a shock for a veteran Air Force sergeant. Over in the Pacific was where things were supposed to be happening. But Mullins suddenly found himself wishing he was back in Parkersburg—where the action is!5
While Derenberger’s own experiences in the Army Signals Corp (attached to the Air Force) and subsequent interaction with Air Force representatives in 1966 were covered in previous installments of this series, I have never seen the fact that his brother-in-law was a decades-long airman mentioned elsewhere. Mullins was, according to his obituary, with Strategic Air Command from 1951-1962 and then later served as Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Aircraft Records and other advisory roles until an honorable discharge in 1971.6 While this connection probably means very little in the case of Derenberger himself, the close proximity between him and the Air Force from a variety of angles is nevertheless interesting and warrants further investigation.
Emily and I headed home after the Barker archive but made a variety of cool stops in our three-day span in West Virginia. The state has so much to offer the paranormally-inclined and getting from one place to the next takes little to no time at all. On the whole, I would recommend each location we visited for the curious traveler or high strangeness seeker. It will quickly become evident why Mothman, Indrid Cold, Braxxie, Bigfoot, and a bevy of other weird beings came to the region or made it their home.
Thank you for reading Getting Spooked. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read, consider becoming a paid subscriber to the newsletter. Doing so gives you access to archived articles and helps ensure the publication’s continuation. On that note, I want to thank all subscribers for making the first year of Getting Spooked worth it. Your readership and patronage have kept my motivation for writing and research high and I hope to keep releasing these posts for years to come. Thanks to The Anomalist for coverage of this site’s previous article. This week I recommend listening to a recent episode of the podcast Ghost Stories for the End of the World featuring Mirage Men author Mark Pilkington and hosted by my buddy Bradley. Until next time, stay spooked.
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Derenberger, Woodrow. Letter to Charles Shuman. 20 February 1984. Gray Barker UFO Collection, Clarksburg Public Library.
Derenberger, Woodrow. Letter to Charles Shuman. 6 March 1984. Gray Barker UFO Collection, Clarksburg Public Library.
Cold, Kimi. Letter to Charles Shuman. Undated. Gray Barker UFO Collection, Clarksburg Public Library.
Murphy, Larry. “The Passing Scene.” The Parkersburg News. 11 December 1966. Gray Barker UFO Collection, Clarksburg Public Library.
Noll, Andrew. “Obituary: Mullins, William C.” WTAP. 3 February 2022. https://www.wtap.com/2022/02/03/obituary-mullins-william-c/.