The Grinning Man is the name given to one or more mysterious figures that has become associated with various reports of paranormal activity. The Grinning Man is sometimes described as being an extraterrestrial, Men in Black or a hominid cryptid and was investigated by notable paranormal author John A. Keel and ufologist James Moseley. Arguably the best known Grinning Man was Indrid Cold, who appeared during the 1960s’ Mothman sightings. Reports of Grinning Men often occur during periods of increased UFO sightings.
Perhaps the most famous sighting of a Grinning Man is reported to have taken place on October 11, 1966 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The entity was sighted by two boys, James Yanchitis and Marvin Munoz, as they were walking home along Fourth Street and New Jersey Street when they reached a corner parallel to the New Jersey Turnpike (40°39’17.43″N, 74°11’29.48″W). The turnpike is elevated and there is an extremely steep incline going down from the busy street above which leads to Fourth Street. A very large, high wire fence runs along the edge of the other street below where the boys were walking, making it incredibly difficult to near impossible for anyone to want to climb up the incline to the turnpike above. There are bright street lights in that area, which gave the boys a good glimpse of what they called “the strangest guy we’ve ever seen.” Yanchitis noticed the strange entity first. “He was standing behind that fence,” he stated later to investigators. “I don’t know how he got there. He was the biggest man I ever saw.” “Jimmy nudged me,” Marvin Munoz reported to police, “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.” There had been recent reported incidents of violence in the nearby neighborhood, such as a middle-resident being chased by a “tall green man” down that same street and on the same night, so the boys fled quickly.
Well-known author, paranormal investigator, and journalist John A. Keel visited the two boys in Elizabeth, New Jersey, three days after the incident. Along with Keel came UFO lecturer James Moseley and actor Chuck McCann. Munoz and Yanchitis were interviewed by Keel separately in the home of Mr. George Smythe and both boys told the exact same story. “The man was over six feet tall, they agreed, and was dressed in a sparkling green coverall costume that shimmered and seemed to reflect the street lights. There was a wide black belt around his waist.” The boys also said “He had a very dark complexion, and little round eyes…real beady…set far apart.” The most frightening and bizarre aspect of the encounter is the fact that “They could not remember seeing any hair, ears, or nose on this figure.”
The figure reported by witnesses became associated with extraterrestrials because it was sighted shortly after a UFO report near the same area. The report states that a “blazing white light as big as a car” almost hit the 550-foot tall television tower outside of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. A policeman and his wife witnessed the object move in a slow manner north, and it then disappeared beyond the nearby hills. On the other side of the hills, Sergeant Benjamin Thompson and Patrolman Edward Wester, of the Wanaque Reservoir Police, also witnessed the same light at around 9:45 p.m. as it flew low over the reservoir. “The light was brilliantly white” officer Thompson stated, “It lit up the whole area for about three hundred yards. In fact, it blinded me when I got out of the patrol car to look at it, and I couldn’t see for about twenty minutes afterwards.”
Several Grinning Man reports were made in 1966, during the same period as the Point Pleasant, West Virginia Mothman sightings. These reports were recorded by John A. Keel in chapters 5 and 10 of his book The Mothman Prophecies.
- The first encounter happened on November 2, 1966, a man named Woodrow Derenberger was driving home in his panel truck after a hard day of work. As he drove up a hill outside of Parkersburg on Interstate 77, he heard a sudden crash. A vehicle was speeding behind him, and it suddenly cut in front of him and slowed down. Derenberger looked in amazement as the vehicle that passed him looked like “an old fashioned kerosene lamp chimney, flaring at both ends, narrowing down to a small neck and then enlarging in a great bulge in the center.” The “thing” blocked the road, and a door slid open on the side of it. Then a man stepped out, the man was around 6 feet tall, with long dark hair combed straight back. His skin was heavily tanned. He wore an outfit that was made out of some sort of “glistening green material,” similar to the outfit worn by the other Grinning Man that was encountered in Elizabeth, New Jersey by the two boys. He was grinning broadly.
The man spoke to Derenberger telepathically and said his name was “Cold”, and went off asking him strange questions, and the two talked for a few minutes. Then the strange entity said that he would visit Derenberger again, and he got back in the craft, and left.
- Another case described in chapter 10 in the Mothman Prophecies book, happened in the home of the Lillys, a family living in a rural section of Point Pleasant. The Lillys were witnessing strange lights in the sky right above their home at least every night, as well as poltergeist-like manifestations inside of their home.
Mrs. Lilly said “We’ve seen all kinds of strange things…blue lights, green ones, red ones, things that change color. Some have been so low that we thought we could see diamond-shaped windows in them. And none of them make any noise at all.” Automobiles near the Lilly home would stall unexplainably, and kitchen cabinets and doors inside the Lilly home would slam inexplicably in the middle of the night while everyone was asleep. Their living room door, which was chained and snaplocked at night, was sitting there wide open the next morning as if someone had opened it somehow from the outside. They would hear loud metallic sounds, “like a pan falling”, and Mrs. Lilly said she heard a sound like “A baby crying” throughout the inside of the home. It seemed to come from only a few feet away from her in the house, but there were no babies in the home and she never saw anything. One notable fact is that the Mothman was known to utter a cry that sounded similar to a baby crying or woman screaming.
John A. Keel, who personally investigated and questioned the Lilly family, asked them “Did you ever dream that there was a stranger in the house in the middle of the night?” Linda Lilly, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lilly then confessed her story. She described how she woke up one night and saw a very large figure towering over her bed. “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.”
Mrs. Lilly said that she heard a terrible scream that night, and Linda ran into her room screaming “There is a man in my room! There is!” She refused to sleep alone ever since the encounter.