Indrid Cold, the Grinning Man

Men in Black, or MIB, are sometimes reported by people during periods of UFO or rumored alien activity. People say the MIB could be government agents, others say they could be aliens disguised as humans. Even though no one is sure what they are, it is generally accepted that the MIB are part of a wider organization, except for an urban legend which tells of one particular entity who is similar to reports of MIB by the name of Indrid Cold. Unlike similar encounters with MIB, Indrid Cold has a name, although it is disputed whether he is actually one entity or multiple. He does also have a nickname as well, the Grinning Man.

An artist's impression of Indrid Cold
An artist’s impression of Indrid Cold

Appearance-wise, accounts of Indrid Cold differ in certain respects. Although he is constantly grinning, one account says he has hair, while others say he’s bald. He is described as wearing a black belt, with a suit which is sometimes described as being blue, sometimes green, sometimes plaid, but always reported as being made of a shiny, reflective material. This is why even though Indrid Cold refers to one entity, there are those who think there are either multiple individuals going by the name or one entity which changes its appearance depending on the situation.

The first encounter with Indrid Cold occurred in the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey on October 11th, 1966. Two young boys named James “Jimmy” Yanchitis and Martin “Mouse” Munov were walking home at roughly 9:45 PM on a road that was adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike. Between the two boys and the turnpike was a steep 30-foot slant that went from the turnpike to the road below which Yanchitis and Munov were taking, as well as a tall wire fence which was placed alongside the boys’ road. Interestingly, they had heard that a “tall, green man” had chased a woman in the neighborhood earlier that evening. Eventually the two boys encountered a strange man standing in the bushes on the opposite side of the fence, staring at a nearby house. Yanchitis described the figure as:

“He was the strangest guy we’ve ever seen… He was standing behind that fence. I don’t know how he got there. He was the biggest man I ever saw.”

As both boys studied the figure, they saw that he was wearing a one-piece suit that was reflecting the light from the street lamp, and that he also had a black belt around his waist. In terms of physical features, the boys claimed that he had two beady little eyes that seemed space a little too far apart, and that the figure that no ears, no nose, and no hair. According to Munov:

“Jimmy nudged me 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… then he grinned a big old grin.”

Journalist, ufologist and investigator John Keel
Journalist, ufologist and investigator John Keel

After the entity noticed the two boys, they immediately ran home before giving it the chance to climb over the fence and give chase. Later during interviews with investigator James Moseley, actor Chuck McCann, and investigator John Keel, the boys stated that the figure was both broader and taller than McCann, who stood 6’2 ft tall.What is strange is how on the same night at the same time, a UFO was sighted forty miles north of Elizabeth by a police officer and his wife, who described the UFO as being an extremely bright light that eventually disappeared behind some nearby hills. However, on the other side of the hills two police officers, Patrolman Edward Wester and Sergeant Benjamin Thompson both reported seeing the UFO. Sergeant Thompson even stated that the UFO was bright enough that it temporarily blinded him, and that he was unable to see for roughly twenty minutes afterwards.

Because of how the Grinning Man and the UFO were sighted at the same time, this led many people to believe that the entity was either an alien or related to UFO phenomena somehow. But there would be plenty more sightings to come, which would relate the Grinning Man to not just UFOs but the Mothman as well.

On November 2nd, 1966, ten days before the first sighting of the Mothman in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, Woodrow Derenberger (a sewing machine salesman) was driving home on I-77 from Marietta, Ohio to Mineral Wells, West Virginia. At roughly 7:30 PM, Derenberger stated that a vehicle similar to a “kerosene lamp chimney” which flew six inches above the ground approached his truck from behind, passed him, then turned sideways so that both lanes of the road were blocked. As it did so, the object slowed down to the point that Derenberger was forced to eventually stop his car. Once both vehicles were stopped, a door opened on the UFO and a tall, grinning man emerged wearing a dark suit, who then walked over to Derenberger’s truck. Once he exited the vehicle, the door closed behind him and the UFO took off and hovered forty feet above the highway.

Woodrow Derenberger
Woodrow Derenberger

While walking over to the right side of the truck, the Grinning Man telepathically asked Derenberger to roll down his window, and that the entity meant him no harm. When he finally reached the truck’s window, the entity identified himself as “Cold,” and began to ask Derenberger some strange questions about himself and the surrounding area. When Cold saw the lights from nearby Parkersburg, West Virginia, he asked “What is that over there?” to which Derenberger responded that it was Parkersburg. Cold then asked if that was where local residents lived, and Derenberger told him that it was where business was conducted and that the people lived in the neighboring suburbs. When it appeared that Cold was satisfied with the answers Derenberger had provided, he stated:

“It’s been nice talking to you Mr. Derenberger. We will be seeing you again.”

After which the UFO returned to ground level, a door opened allowing Cold to enter the craft, then closed behind him as the UFO took off. The entire interview conducted with Derenberger can be listened to here, and certainly seems much more fantastic than the Munov and Yanchitis sighting in New Jersey. First off is the inclusion of a UFO, which now suggests the entity is of extraterrestrial origin. Then there is the matter of how the entity identifies himself as “Cold,” as well as his large grin. According to Derenberger, the entity smiles a large Glasgow smile to appear more friendly, although the grin does not move or go away when the Grinning Man speaks. This telepathy further reinforces the theory that the Grinning Man is an extraterrestrial.

Of course, ten days later the Mothman was first sighted, and would lead to a wave of sightings and encounters in Point Pleasant, West Virginia that would cement the Mothman’s place in cryptid history. Essentially, the Mothman was a large humanoid figure with large wings, red eyes, and no discernible head that some suggested was an undiscovered creature, a demon that foretold disasters, or an alien creature. However, after people began reporting the Mothman, there were soon other reports of UFOs, mutilated animals, MIB, and eventually the Grinning Man.

Artist's impression of the Mothman
Artist’s impression of the Mothman

During the Mothman craze, Derenberger and many other residents of Point Pleasant claimed to have more encounters with the entity who called himself “Cold.” This is also where the reports become stranger and stranger. For example, it is eventually revealed that the entity’s full name was Indrid Cold, although Derenberger later claimed that there were two more Grinning Men, named Karl Ardo and Demo Hassan. According to Derenberger, Indrid Cold originated from the planet Lanulos in the Genemedes galaxy, and that the entity had taken Derenberger to this planet at one point, which Derenberger claimed possessed Oriental-style “squiggly” writing and people who wore “colorful shorts.” Obviously, this is where Derenberger’s credibility somewhat takes a nosedive, and some believe that the renewed interest in UFOs and MIB led Derenberger to try and build off his original encounter with more colorful aspects. Derenberger even went on to publish a book on his experiences entitled Visitors from Lanulos.

Regardless of whether or not they were true, the Grinning Men did have an impact on Derenberger’s personal life. His wife stated that she met Demo Hassan and Karl Ardo, although unlike her husband she claimed that the Grinning Men had an “evil” agenda. Eventually the attention from his close encounters caused Derenberger’s wife to divorce him and relocate with their children to Cleveland, Ohio which would heavily strain the relationship between Derenberger and his children. Strangely, Derenberger’s family and loved ones stated that Derenberger didn’t intend for his story to draw such huge amounts of attention to him and his family, and that he made attempts to reconnect with his children throughout his life. There is also how later in his life before his death in 1990, Derenberger never went back on his claims about the Grinning Men, although he declined to speak about them and that he eventually became very religious.

Map with the location of Point Pleasant, WV
Map with the location of Point Pleasant, WV

Derenberger’s wife herself claimed to have had her own encounters with Indrid Cold:

“They aren’t only making contact around here, they are doing this all over the country. But they find the people in West Virginia more receptive.”

Later, it was also stated:

“It was at that second meeting, the night of November 4th, that Cold told me about himself. He’s from a planet called ‘Lanulos,’ located near the galaxy ‘Genemedes.’ They have woods, streams, fields, oceans, the same as we do. They’ve taken samples of our vegetation, our animals. Ours are much like theirs. Cold is married, his wife is named Kimi and he had two sons at that time. Has three children now, one was born right around Christmas time. A little girl.”

Both Mrs. and Mr. Derenberger also stated that Indrid Cold and his species were time travelers, making the story even more strange. However it does seem weird that Mrs. Derenberger would state her own encounters, since the attention would eventually cause her to relocate her and her family. If she didn’t want the attention, why would she back up her husband’s claims and admit that she’d encountered the Grinning Men herself?

Conrad Veidt from the 1928 film
Conrad Veidt from the 1928 film “The Man Who Laughs,” who many claim is very similar to the Grinning Man, Indrid Cold

There was also another encounter with the entity that was reported by a different family, the Lilly family. Prior to the encounter, the family had been experiencing some poltergeist activity, poltergeist being German for “noisy ghost” meaning a haunting in which objects seem to move or levitate by themselves. Aside from UFOs, MIB and Indrid Cold, residents in Point Pleasant also began experiencing poltergeists during the Mothman period. The Lilly family themselves had also reported seeing UFOs of multiple colors that made no noise on an almost nightly basis. However, the daughter Linda Lilly told John Keel (who was there chronicling the Mothman craze) that one night she awoke in her bedroom to find a tall figure looking down at her in her bed. As Linda told Keel:

“It was a man, a big man. Very broad. I couldn’t see his face very well, but I could see that he was grinning at me. He walked around the bed and stood right over me. I screamed again and hid under the covers, when I looked again he was gone.”

After seeing the entity, Linda ran into her parents’ room and informed her parents that there was something in her room. Apparently the incident scared Linda to such an extent that she refused to sleep alone for months afterward. There would be other sporadic sightings of a Grinning Man for awhile, including a few sightings of a similar entity in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1966 and 1967, a sighting in Italy in 1978, and only a couple others after that. Like the Mothman who disappeared after the Silver Bridge Collapse on December 15th, 1967, sightings of UFOs, MIB and Indrid Cold quickly tapered off in Point Pleasant, and for that matter Indrid Cold in particular has been reported extremely few times since then. However, there are many who theorize that Indrid Cold is somehow linked to other paranormal phenomena. Some suggest that Indrid Cold was a member of the MIB who were sent to study sightings of UFOs, while others believe that Cold was in fact the cause behind the UFOs. Others think that like the Mothman, the Grinning Men are omens to strange and sometimes bad events. Is Indrid Cold simply another urban legend, or was there a reason sightings of him seemed to occur around periods of UFO activity? Was it people’s attempts to gather attention, or were they legitimate?

If you enjoyed this article, try reading this one about the Mothman which many associate with Indrid Cold, or possibly this one about the Black Bird of Chernobyl which many speculate was actually the Mothman!

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