Although Charles Fort’s books were obviously highly influential in developing not only my theories on various paranormal topics, but also how I look at and interpret reality in general, I would be remiss if I didn’t also give John Keel his due credit as well. Though my interest in paranormal phenomena has been a life-long one, it wasn’t until probably 2008 or so that I discovered Fort’s, and a little later, Keel’s works. Their writing styles, the content of the writings, and perhaps most importantly of all the way in which they encouraged a non-dogmatic approach to the topics, helped shape the person you see today. (For better or for worse, I suppose only time will tell). With Keel’s birthday being yesterday, March 25th, it got me to thinking back on some of the stranger tales that Keel related in his works.
One of my favorites is the case of Indrid Cold. While in Point Pleasant, West Virginia digging up information on the various strange occurrences which followed in the wake of the Mothman sighting, Keel meet and interviewed a man named Woodrow Derenberger. Keel tells “Woody’s” story in his famous book, The Mothman Prophecies:
At 7 P.M. on November 2, 1966, he was heading home in his panel truck after a long, hard day on the road. The weather was sour, chill, and rainy. As he drove up a long hill outside of Parkersburg on Interstate 77 a sudden crash sounded in the back of his truck. He snapped on his interior lights and looked back. A sewing machine had fallen off the top of a stereo, but there didn’t seem to be any real damage.
A car swept up behind him and passed him. Another vehicle seemed to be following it. He eased his foot on the accelerator. He had been speeding slightly and thought it might be a police car. The vehicle, a black blob in the dark, drew alongside him, cut in front, and slowed.
Woody Derenberger gaped in amazement at the thing. It wasn’t an automobile but was shaped like, “an old-fashioned kerosene lamp chimney, flaring at both ends, narrowing down to a small neck and then enlarging in a great bulge in the center.”
A door slid open on the side of the thing and a man stepped out. The stranger was about five feet ten inches tall with long, dark hair combed straight back. His skin was heavily tanned. Grinning broadly, his arms crossed and his hands tucked under his armpits, he walked to the panel truck. He was wearing a dark topcoat.
Underneath it Woody could see some kind of garment made of glistening greenish material almost metallic in appearance. "Do not be afraid." The grinning man did not speak aloud. Woody sensed the words. "We mean you no harm. I come from a country much less powerful than yours." He asked for Woody’s name. Woody told him. "My name is Cold. I sleep, breathe, and bleed even as you do."
Cold told Woody to report the encounter to the authorities, promising to come forward at a later date to confirm it. After a few minutes of aimless generalities, Cold announced he would meet Woody again soon. The object descended, the door opened, Cold entered it, and it rose quickly and silently into the night.
You can listen to Derenberger’s account in his own words here, it’s file # 47. Derenberger has been interviewed by a radio station and is offered the chance to tell the story. Derenberger would go on to have other adventures either with Indrid or his kin, visit the planet Lanulos, and eventually write a book called Visitors from Lanulos. Interestingly enough Keel actually wrote the foreword to Derenberger’s book even though he didn’t necessarily believe the man’s story.
The story of Indrid Cold does not end there, however. Keel mentions that a number of times while investigating the Point Pleasant area he received phone calls from mysterious persons claiming to be “Indrid Cold”. Of course Keel was no stranger to mysterious and bizarre phone calls, as many portions of his books dealt with his seeming “harassment” by some informed third-party. This concept is captured in the 2002 Richard Gere film, The Mothman Prophecies, where Gere played a ‘John Klein’. You can see that scene here on YouTube.
In The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings, which has been republished making it easier to come by, Keel discusses the idea of the “Grinning Man”. Within this category he includes the figure of Indrid Cold. Keel also tells another story of a similar type of entity which two young kids encountered. Keel writes:
A blazing white light "as big as a car" nearly scraped the 550-foot-tall television tower outside of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, site of the large DuPont explosives factory, on the night of October 11, 1966. A policeman and his wife watched the object move slowly northward and disappear beyond the neighboring hills.
On the other side of those hills. Sergeant Benjamin Thompson and Patrolman Edward Wester, of the Wanaque Reservoir Police, observed the same sight at about 9:45 P.M. as it swooped low over the reservoir. "The light was brilliantly white," Thompson said. "It lit up the whole area for about three hundred yards. In fact, it blinded me when I got out of the patrol car to look at it, and I couldn't see for about twenty minutes afterwards."
Forty miles south of Wanaque, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, two boys had a frightening experience that October 11, at approximately the same time that Officers Thompson and Wester were watching the glowing object cavort above the reservoir. There had been a number of aerial sightings in the vicinity of Elizabeth the previous week, apparently clustered around the New Jersey Turnpike which slices through that city. New Jersey newspapers from one end of the state to the other were filled with UFO reports during that period.
The two boys, James Yanchitis and Martin "Mouse" Munov, were walking home along Fourth Street and New Jersey Street when they reached a comer parallel to the tumpike. The tumpike is elevated and there is a very steep incline dipping down from the busy thoroughfare to Fourth Street. A very high wire fence runs along the street, making it impossible for anyone to scramble up the incline to the tumpike. There are bright street lights on that particular comer.
It was on this comer that the two young men encountered "the strangest guy we've ever seen."Yanchitis spotted him first. "He was standing behind that fence," the youth said later. "I don't know how he got there. He was the biggest man I ever saw." "Jimmy nudged me," Mouse reported, "and said, 'Who's that guy standing behind you?' I looked around and there he was . . .
behind that fence. Just standing there. He pivoted around and looked right at us . . . and then he grinned a big old grin."
Yeesh, that Keel tells a good story. I’ve got goosebumps after reading that account. The story of Indrid Cold seems to evaporate around the same time that the Mothman flies back to wherever he had made his home and after the collapse of the Silver Bridge.
There is an interesting postscript to all of this however. A man on reddit claims to have been contacted by “Indrid Cold”. With this being the internet, I’m inclined to be skeptical, but still suggest you follow this link and read about it on Reddit.
After it’s all said and done, I’m not sure what to make of Indrid Cold. Did Derenberger actually encounter a man from Lanulos that night back in 1966? Was the figure the two kids in New Jersey saw Indrid Cold making his rounds and generally creeping people out? I don’t know. I do know that Indrid Cold, as well as the other myriad creatures and spooks which Keel wrote about inspire me to always keep an open mind, to deny belief and dogma, and to always say, “ Forget the answers! What’s the question?”