PARKERSBURG - It's not as well-known as the infamous Mothman, but at the time a Wood County man's claim of an encounter with an extraterrestrial captivated the region.
Woody Derenberger and his alleged encounter with Indrid Cold has largely faded into obscurity. But it was a media sensation in 1966, overshadowing the alleged Mothman sightings.
"I was in junior high at the time," recalled Jan Crego. "Everybody was talking about it."
"My Dad talked about it all the time," said Rebecca Delaney.
In November 1966, Woody Derenberger, a 50-year-old sewing machine salesman from Parkersburg, claimed to encounter an extraterrestrial on Interstate 77 near Mineral Wells. His tale was astonishing, but it was corroborated in part by multiple reports from residents throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley who reported strange lights and phenomena the same evening.
However, Derenberger was the only the one who claimed to encounter Indrid Cold, an alien visitor from the planet Lanulos.
Derenberger's story appeared in The Parkersburg News on Nov. 4, 1966. The evening before he appeared on the local television station to describe his encounter.
For almost three weeks, the newspaper chronicled Derenberger's story, the inquiry of state and federal agencies and a number of forthcoming witnesses, many of whom asked to remain anonymous or have their names withheld. The story was big news in the area, becoming national news and eventually chronicled into a 1971 book, "Visitors from Lanulos."
Derenberger, who spent the several years drifting back and forth between Cleveland and Parkersburg, was sought after throughout the 1970s to speak about his encounter. He eventually faded from the public.
Derenberger became religious late in life, becoming a deacon at the Latrobe Street Church of Christ, according to his obituary. He died in 1990 at the age of 74. Derenberger's story generated far more publicity than the now more-famous Mothman sightings. But it's faded into obscurity. It's either been forgotten by locals or cannibalized into the Mothman legend, which has evolved into an annual fall festival in Point Pleasant. On Nov. 17, 1966 the first story of a "thing" reported in Mason County appeared in the newspaper. Two days later, the "thing" would be identified as a rare Sandhill Crane by Mason County officials. Despite that, the legend and the story grew into the present-day Mothman legend. It did so in part because of the "Mothman Prophecies," a 1975 book by John Keel, which heavily borrowed from Derenberger's story. In the 2002 movie "The Mothman Prophecies," based on Keel's book, Derenberger's encounter with Cold is portrayed with the character Gordon Smallwood.