PARKERSBURG, W. VIRGINIA
September 16, 2007
Mid-Ohio Valley has long history of UFO sightings — some recent
By BRETT DUNLAP, Staff Writer
PARKERSBURG — The truth is out there.
Parkersburg and West Virginia have had a long history of unexplained sightings in the sky with more than one person believing we have been visited by those from another world.
One of the most recent reported sightings in the Parkersburg area took place on Sept. 4, 2005, said Brian Vike, Director of HBCC UFO Research in Houston, British Columbia.
At around 6 p.m. on that date, a group of 12 people saw a round star-like object in the sky. The witnesses said they were sitting outside talking after dinner when their attention was drawn to a powered parasail aircraft passing overhead. As they watched it, they noticed what appeared to be a star as the parasail passed in line with it. One of the witnesses commented it was odd to see a star that early in the day.
The parasail moved on and the witnesses continued watching the “star” for several minutes before they lost track of it. Thinking it may have been a star or planet, they looked for the object on following days and evenings, but did not see it again.
One of the most famous UFO sightings in the Mid-Ohio Valley involved the late Woodrow Derenberger on Nov. 2, 1966, said local author Susan Sheppard who wrote “Cry of the Banshee,” which details the encounter through old audio tape interviews conducted at the time as well as newspaper reports and other sources.
“Mr. Derenberger was at the center of one of the most bizarre and fascinating UFO cases in U.S. history,” Sheppard said. “Derenberger’s claims were so mind-boggling, servicemen from West Virginia and the Ohio Valley listened to reports of Derenberger’s close encounter over the radio while serving in the jungles of Vietnam.”
Derenberger was a salesman, commuting daily from his farmhouse in Mineral Wells to his job in Marietta. On Nov. 2, 1966, he was driving home along a darkened Interstate 77 around 7 p.m. when he encountered a UFO similar to “the shape of a glass chimney of an old-fashioned kerosene lamp lying on its side, with a dome-like top.”
Within a few minutes, a hatch opened and a human-looking individual exited the craft. Derenberger later described the individual as “like any man you would see on the street,” and added, “there was really nothing exceptional about his appearance.”
The individual, who introduced himself as “Cold,” told Derenberger not to be afraid, that he meant no harm and he only wanted to ask a few questions.
“But the Marietta businessman was alarmed because while the man talked, his lips did not move at all,” Sheppard said.
Cold apparently pointed toward the city lights of Parkersburg that glowed in the distance and asked what that was. Derenberger answered it was Parkersburg, a city. Cold replied, “Where I come from, we call it ‘a gathering.’”
Cold held a 10 to 15 minute conversation with Derenberger, discussing topics such as cities and towns, the climate, population and the farming of livestock in the area.
Once the conversation ended and Cold gave his farewell, he got back into his craft and flew off. Derenberger went home, and his wife convinced him to call the authorities. He recounted the story to a number of authorities.
He also said Cold, who later revealed the first name of “Indrid,” remained in contact with him for awhile. He also claimed mysterious “men in black” visited him and threatened him if he didn’t stop talking about the encounter.
“What really happened to Derenberger after Cold’s visitations is open to speculation,” Sheppard said. “Some say that Woodrow Derenberger went about his life as normally as possible, ignoring both public sympathies and insults.”
Derenberger’s sighting occurred a couple weeks before the appearance of the Mothman, the insect-like being believed responsible for or which foretold the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant. The figure said to be a Mothman was a winged creature with large glowing red eyes reportedly seen around the state during the mid-1960s, causing havoc where ever it went.
This weekend the sixth annual Mothman Festival is being held in Point Pleasant.
Vike said UFO sightings are happening every day across the United States, Canada and the world. He handles around 1,200 reports a year, including UFO reports from West Virginia.
“It appears that UFO sightings are an ongoing issue,” Vike said. “Folks are seeing a great number of UFOs, some explainable and others are just unknowns.
“I believe if more people were to take some time and watch the night sky they would certainly see a lot of moving objects, most are either satellites, aircraft, etc. However, they just might actually see something that is really unusual.”
Vike said most UFO sightings are not reported, either to UFOlogists, media or the authorities. In many reports he receives, the names are kept confidential unless told otherwise by the witness. Vike does a regular radio show involving the topic of UFOs and has interviewed hundreds of people who said they have seen something.
“We are lucky to receive maybe 2 percent of what is actually witnessed,” he said. “People still are afraid to come forward to report what they have seen, mostly worried about what others will say about them.”
Vike said any reported sightings in West Virginia are always taken seriously.
“I am sure the Mothman incident will never go away, and there are researchers who are still looking for any clue from folks who may hold some knowledge of what took place there,” he said. “A case is never forgotten. We just are waiting for a possible break to carry on with a case.
“I must admit that it is a tough job trying to find answers for the really unusual things seen above. Each sighting is looked at and we try to find the answer for what it may have been.”
Vike admits many people are sincere in reporting their sightings to him, but there are many who fabricate reports.
“Sometimes this can be an extremely hard part of UFOlogy, trying to figure out what is true or a simple hoax,” he said. “I believe that most folks are telling the truth over what they saw. They are willing to be contacted by way of phone to discuss what they saw, plus they have other people with them at the time.”
Usually filing reports from multiple sources and having other witnesses to collaborate the story can help witness credibility.
The theories about what people see vary, from secret military aircraft to the extraterrestrial, Vike said.
“Some folks believe the alien visitors are here to save mankind and that is going to happen soon,” he said. “Some believe they are here to repopulate their dying world or the beings are here carrying out experiments on us, like we may do with animals.
“The list goes on. Some are excited about their belief in this helping hand from the visitors, and others are scared to death due to what they are going through being treated like a lab experiment. I guess there is good and bad from both sides of the fence on this topic.”
Vike said he likes to stick to facts and not go into a lot of speculation.
“For me, trying to come up with a reasonable answer for what people see is the goal,” he said.
“There are a lot of reports that come in, folks claiming they watched an alien spacecraft, this has turned out to be a lot of explainable, everyday things we see flying overhead, such as military aircraft, jet airliners, planets, stars, satellites and meteors, and so on.
“I do, however, believe in my heart that there are just so many excellent cases in which there are no answers for, hence they truly are UFOs.”
Contact Brett Dunlap at firstname.lastname@example.org