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Indrid Cold: The Grinning Man of 1960s American Folklore

by Les Hewitt

For several months toward the end of 1966, the eyes of the world were focused on West Virginia, specifically on Point Pleasant. Scores of people all reported seeing something similar. This creature became known as the Mothman. All of this seemed to lead to a terrible disaster when the Silver Bridge collapsed. All of this dominated headlines and newspapers. However, buried deep inside the pages of the press were claims of another bizarre sighting that was overshadowed by both Mothman and the Silver Bridge. His name was Indrid Cold, also known as The Grinning Man, and this figure has earned a reputation in American folklore that persists to this day.

indrid cold, aka the grinning man

Indrid Cold, or The Grinning Man, is a legendary figure of the 1960s. Photo: astonishinglegends.com

The Legend of Indrid Cold

Sewing Machine Salesman

Woodrow Derenberger made his living by selling sewing machines. November 2, 1966, was a long day for him. By 7 p.m. he was driving along a hill just outside Parkersburg on Interstate 77 and was looking forward to arriving at home. On this cold and wet evening, the last thing he wanted was to have to stop on the side of the road to replace a sewing machine that had become dislodged in the back of his vehicle. The sewing machine was undamaged and he quickly resituated it. Derenberger might have parked a little bit better, but he left enough room for other commuters to pass by his stationary vehicle while he tended to his business. None of these drivers came forward to confirm Derenberger’s account of what followed.

Having returned to the driver’s seat of his van and continued on his way, a set of headlights passed him and began to slow down in front of him. For the second time, Derenberger had to stop. This time, he had to do so in the middle of the road. Careful not to dislodge any other appliances in his van, Woodrow was driving conservatively and likely not driving anywhere near the speed limit. Despite this, his first thought centered on a patrol car and a possible sobriety test. He quickly dismissed this conclusion when he realized that he was not looking at a car at all. Whatever this was, it was shaped much like an old-fashioned kerosene lamp with a central bulge and flared edges.

Encountering Indrid Cold

A door slid open and a man exited. According to Derenberger, this man was average in many ways. He had a deep tan and hair that was dark and swept back. A deep tan was unusual for the time of year, but the extraordinarily broad grin that this man wore was easily the most striking thing about his appearance. As soon as the man exited, he began to head in Derenberger’s way. As the distance shortened, Derenberger noted that this man had a dark overcoat on, and beneath that, he wore a metallic looking uniform that was green and glistened in the limited light. This man’s arms were folded, and both sets of knuckles seemed to nestle within his own armpits.

The man spoke. He identified himself as Indrid Cold and said that he came from a place ‘less powerful than the United States.’ He was very reassuring and admitted that he was flesh and blood just like Woodrow and in no way special or spectacular. Indrid also openly encouraged Woodrow to report the encounter to the authorities and confirmation would follow. Before he returned to his vehicle, Indrid revealed that this would be just the first of several such meetings the pair would have. The whole message was delivered by something similar to telepathy, and not a single word was spoken verbally. Both Indrid Cold and the vehicle departed the scene.

Contacting the Investigator

Indrid Cold did keep his word. Woodrow received several additional visits from the same man. On some of these subsequent visits, Indrid was not alone. Derenberger revealed that his new friends came from a planet called Lanulos and that during one visit, he was allowed to take a trip there. After the last of these meetings, Woodrow sought out renowned UFO investigator John Keel (who happened to also write a book about Mothman) and reported events in great detail. Purportedly, during Keel’s investigations, he often received mysterious phone calls from someone calling himself Indrid Cold. This was nothing new for him of course, but he did mention ‘persons’ and not ‘person.’ Keel believed that whoever phoned him was an informed third-party. Despite this, Keel wrote a forward in Derenberger’s book ‘Visitors from Lanulos.’

Two Guys and a Grinning Man

Woodrow Derenberger was not the only person to report an appearance from a sinister-looking grinning man. On the very same night on the very same road, two other men saw an elongated object land in front of their vehicle. They were also forced to stop, and they watched as a man disembarked and headed their way. He wore a dark coat and folded both arms in such a way that could be considered uncomfortable. He asked both men questions that seemed pointless to them before the man returned to the craft that subsequently took off.

The Strangest Walk

Several weeks before Derenberger had his encounter, a pair of boys met a man that scared both of them. The boys, James Yanchitis and Martin ‘Mouse’ Munov, were walking home along Fourth Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They reached a corner opposite a local landmark called the Turnpike. This was an elevated area with a high wire fence and a steep incline. They reported that behind the fence stood the ‘strangest man’ they ever saw. Neither had any idea how the man got there or where he came from. The man just stood there and grinned a big old grin.

There are other versions of the legend involving other sightings. However, not much else has been heard of from The Grinning Man since the 1960s. Who he was is unknown, but many consider the encounters to have been a contrived hoax. Nonetheless, he has earned a legendary reputation that persists to this day among the Men in Black and the Black-Eyed Kids. Interestingly, a recent admission by a man on Reddit claims that he was Indrid Cold.

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Mothman Sightings of Point Pleasant

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Ghost Theory

Sites pulled: 5 January 2018

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