Grinning Man: The Curious Case of Indrid Cold

“But you have to be careful. Not every spirit’s a fairy godmother,” warns Vivien Parker in Rough Magic. She is speaking to Sarah Moretti about Indrid Cold. If the name sounds familiar, you’ve probably read it in John Keel’s book The Mothman Prophecies (1975), a nonfiction account of the paranormal activity surrounding Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the late 1960’s. Or perhaps you’ve heard of him through the 2002 film of the same name, where he talks to Richard Gere about ChapStick.

But who is (or was) Indrid Cold? Vivien Parker tries to answer that question below:
“I’m not sure what he really is. No one does. Sometimes he masquerades as an extra-terrestrial. Some people think he’s like an elemental, or something.”
This is as close to simple an answer as I can come. But I would like to explore some notions and theories as to Indrid Cold’s identity, pulled from such sources as John Keel himself and German philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
Let’s start with what we know about Cold historically. On November 2nd, 1966 a salesman named Woodrow Derenberger was minding his own business on Interstate 77 when a chimney shaped UFO obstructed his path. If we’re to believe Derenberger’s report (you can listen to the original broadcast yourself. The guy was pretty convinced he saw something), a hatch opened and this proverbial Grinning Man with tanned skin and slicked hair stepped out. The intruder told Derenberger his name was Cold and that he was a “Searcher.” He spoke telepathically, keeping his apparently pleasant grin in place the entire time.

Cold would visit Derenberger several times. During subsequent encounters, the entity claimed to be a visitor from the planet Lanulos, an idyllic paraidse located in the fictional Genemedes Galaxy. Derenberger would come to believe he visited Lanulos himself, a perfect utopian planet populated by sandhills, conveyor sidewalks, modern furniture, and quasi-nudists wearing loin clothes. Oh, also laundry rooms with hooks on the ceilings that became giant washing machines, or some such. Everyone spoke telepathically, a gift, Cold claimed, from God. Words like “hate” hadn’t been invented and there were no wars and no fighting.

Indrid Cold, sometimes accompanied by pals like Karl Ardo and Demo Hassan, would also appear to Woodrow Derenberger’s wife and children. His daughter Taunia Bowman, in fact, is currently in the process of publishing a book on her experiences, like her father in Visitors from Lanulos. Visitors was full of Cold’s peace and love philosophy, bringing to mind the alien’s supposed empathy for mankind. The book is dreamlike, bizzare and sometimes plays out like a passage from Grimm’s fairy-tales or a David Lynch movie.

Around the same time I read John Keel’s Mothman Prophecies , I was also discovering the work of Rudolf Steiner. As stated above, Rudolf Steiner was a German philosopher best known for his books on spiritual science and Anthroposophy. Students of Rudolf Steiner will recall two classes of obtrusive spirits occupying the metaphysical world. The first are called “Luciferic” beings, who follow the angel Lucifer. While not as malicious or dangerous as the mortal-hating “Ahrimanic” entities, they fall into the class of misleading and illusory beings. One of the hallmarks of a Luciferic being is its compulsion for speaking of “peace” and “love” and “abundance,” the peace and love of God especially and the Golden Age we’re embarking upon. Cults spring up around these entities, not unlike the cults centered upon the UFO craze where material is supposedly channeled by mediums.

It should be stated that Woodrow Derenberger, his family and the nearby town of Point Pleasant suffered greatly soon after. Derenberger’s marriage fell apart, and the Silver Bridge connecting West Virignia with Ohio collapsed, killing 46. Woodrow Derenberger later remarried a younger UFO contactee while his ex-wife and children moved often, continuously plagued by skeptics and believers alike. Taunia Bowman, it should be stated, suffers to this day from chronic, poor health, another hallmark of UFO contact. In a semi-recent interview, she claimed she still sees siluohetes and phantom shapes (ie: shadow people) resembling Indrid Cold.
So what did John Keel have to say about all this? In The Mothman Prophecies, he presented his alternative to the extra-terrestial, “shy alien” theory pruported by UFO and science fiction communities. He called these beings “ultra-terrestials” and claimed they were a naturally occurring “condition” of the planet that has been present for millenia. Where Keel was concerned, they are one and the same with the mischievous fairy folk of the mounds and the fallen angels of the Old and New Testaments. Their aim is to manipulate or drain us by preaching the peace and love message common in New Age philosophy in order to prepare us for a global disaster or doomsday which never comes. Time and again, Keel stated, cults sprung up adhering to this philosophy, preparing for the end of the world. Time and again, on the prophesied date announced by these spirits, nothing happened. The cycle apparently resets itself, like a “phonograph in the sky.”
My own theory would take another blog entry to produce, possibly two. Suffice it to say, my belief lies somewhere between Keel and Steiner and may be explored through related novels.
In the context of Rough Magic, Indrid Cold appears as a metaphysical entity. He is encountered by Sarah Moretti and Wendy Bishop at pivotal points in the story, closer to the end. He is a liminal figure and something of a trickster. I draw comparisons between him and the fabled Black Man spoken of in the records of Salem and the European witch trails.

Rough Magic is currently available through Amazon.


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