; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Lessons Learned From A Contactee: Woodrow W. Derenberger (1916-1990) - Part III

An article, with rare and new content, written exclusively for Phantoms & Monsters

By Dr. Raymond A. Keller, author of the international awards-winning Venus Rising Trilogy, available on amazon.com while supplies last

Venus Rising: A Concise History of the Second Planet

Final Countdown: Rockets to Venus

Cosmic Ray's Excellent Venus Adventure

Claims of Hucksterism Continue

In the previous article by Murphy, it became clear that many believed Derenberger was some kind of fraud and huckster. Barker was disappointed that the directorate of the then largest civilian ufology research organization, NICAP, was leading the charge in leveling these accusations against his fellow West Virginian and UFO experiencer. The same NICAP group had even removed Barker from its membership rolls, perhaps for giving a platform to others like Derenberger who claimed contact with extraterrestrial beings.

(Gray Barker’s most well-known and controversial book, They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers (New York, New York: University Books, Inc., 1956), details some of the first encounters with the mysterious Silence Group known as the “Men in Black” by UFO witnesses and experiencers from all walks of life.)

Barker’s friend and research associate in New York City, paranormal expert John A. Keel, felt that UFOs were just one of many facets to a “super spectrum” of strange phenomena that manifested throughout the universe. In his personal reference notes that Keel used for writing books on such phenomena, he tries to fit where UFOs belong in this vast cosmic puzzle.

Once upon a time, Keel was an adherent to the extraterrestrial hypothesis, i.e. that the Earth was being visited by beings from other planets in outer space. In a letter written to Gray Barker’s Newsletter #5, dated March 1976. Keel points out some of the weaknesses in the extraterrestrial hypothesis.

Wrote the assiduous Keel: “On the other hand, if the ETists (proponents of the extraterrestrial hypothesis) are right, if UFOs are real machines from some other planet, then the historical record suggests only one proper avenue of approach. The subject is a matter exclusively for a highly trained, highly secret group of intelligence agencies, and not a matter for amateur investigators. If UFOs are real, then the situation is so grave that all amateur groups should be ruthlessly crushed, all UFO news should be censored, and the general population should be kept in total ignorance as long as possible. Apparently the government did try to implement such a program on a modest scale in the 1950s but it was fragmented, poorly financed and inefficient. The phenomenon itself has so many built-in contradictions it doesn’t need any outside help. If the government had found a real cause for alarm, you can be sure that people like (Major Donald E.) Keyhoe, Coral Lorenzen, Jim Moseley, etc. would have been jailed on trumped-up charges and no civilian UFO movement would have ever had a chance to organize.”

With all of these doubts about the extraterrestrial hypothesis, what would Keel make out of Derenberger’s claims? Like a good many of the contactee’s neighbors, would Keel just write off Derenberger’s story as some kind of publicity stunt, a fabrication hyped up by and for him to hit the UFO lecture circuit and sell some books? Or was Derenberger simply deranged?

Some clues to the development of Keel’s UFO philosophy are also garnered from this same letter to Barker’s Newsletter #5. We see it in his assessment of the state of ufology in 1976, wherein he classifies the belief structures of various prominent ufologists along the philosophical lines of a cosmic super spectrum, rife with possibilities. As to the extraterrestrial hypothesis, Keel notes that all who believe this is the only tenable explanation should be lumped together. He sees no reason to separate the contactees from the hard core scientists since they are all saying the same thing about UFOs. Among the more well-known proponents of the extraterrestrial hypothesis he lists the Mutual UFO Network, NICAP, Dr. Stanton Friedman, an astrophysicist; Major Donald E. Keyhoe, USMC, Ret.; as well as all the leaders and followers of the so-called “contactee cults.”
Politics of Ufology

Basically, and for the sake of convenience, Keel assigned the various UFO philosophies to a space along a political continuum. On one extreme was found the Radical Left; and moving toward the right the next was the Conservative Left, followed by the Middle, followed by the Conservative Right, and ending up at the other extreme of the Radical Right, which is where the astute Keel lumped all the adherents of the extraterrestrial hypothesis.

In justifying this amalgamation, Keel informs Barker and his newsletter’s readers that, “The extraterrestrial hypothesis has always been the core of the UFO belief and is therefore the best criterion for assessing the various factions of the so-called Ufological Movement. NICAP, for example, has always claimed to be ‘conservative’ because it excluded all other explanations. Actually, its basic position is the same as the contactee cults. Those who have dismissed the extraterrestrial hypothesis in favor of more complex concepts belong at the opposite pole, or the Radical Left. Eccentric theories such as those of (Raymond) Palmer, (Richard) Shaver, various religious groups, etc., cannot be fitted onto this scale.”

In maintaining his movement from right to left on the scale, Keel brings us to the Conservative Right. In this category are all of those who believe that the extraterrestrial hypothesis is probably the “most likely explanation.” Here we would find such luminaries as Coral and Jim Lorenzen of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization of Tucson, Arizona, that so carefully considered all UFO occupant reports, and Otto Binder, the famous comic book and science fiction author who also wrote non-fiction books and magazine articles about UFOs and various aspects of space exploration. Binder is also crediting with developed the extraterrestrial hybrid hypothesis slightly before Erich von Dӓniken came along with his Chariots of the Gods? Of the over 200 comic book and science fiction characters created by Binder, he is most noted for Supergirl and Ms. Marvel.

As one continues to drift leftward along this continuum, the questing ufologist will come to the Middle of the UFO universe. According to Keel, it is here that we find the moderate and cordial seekers, operating from the premise that, “All possible explanations should be equally considered.” Here we find some of the giants from the field of ufology, like Dr. J. Allen Hynek of Northwestern University, as well as all of the editorial staff and writers over at the Flying Saucer Review in the British Isles, which in 1976 was considered the epitome of UFO publications for both its accuracy and objectivity.

For the category of the Conservative Left, Keel placed first and foremost the United States government. Also included were some of the more vocal proponents that the extraterrestrial hypothesis was untenable, like the Aviation Week and Space Technology editor Phillip J. Klass, and the Harvard astronomer Dr. Donald H. Menzel, who wrote one book on his own, two others with co-authors, as well as numerous scientific journal and magazine articles, all debunking any possible extraterrestrial connections with the UFO phenomenon.

And at the Extreme Left, Keel finds himself most comfortable. Here we find those who subscribe to the notion that while the extraterrestrial hypothesis is untenable, the UFO phenomenon itself is very real. By this, Keel expounds that, “All UFO manifestations can be explained in philosophical and psychological terms as part of an environmental mechanism for producing beliefs and myths.”

Here Keel places himself in the company of such pronounced personalities in the UFO community as Dr. Jacques Vallee, a French computer scientist and author of many UFO books, Jerome Clark, similarly a UFO author and editor of the prestigious Fate magazine, and Gordon Creighton (1908-2003), a regular contributor to the United Kingdom’s Flying Saucer Review. The magazine was started in 1955; and Creighton became its editor in 1982 until his death. There was some criticism of the Flying Saucer Review after Creighton took the editorship, as many in the UFO community believed that the new editor’s penchant for conspiracy theories diminished the overall objectivity, and hence credibility, of the publication. Please keep in mind that as Keel was formulating this philosophical continuum in 1976, Creighton was still only an occasional writer for the periodical.
Derenberger’s NICAP Woes

Even though John A. Keel classified Derenberger and Keyhoe in the same philosophical camp when it came to UFOs and the extraterrestrial hypothesis, the NICAP organization never could embrace the West Virginia sewing machine salesman’s story of contact with Indrid Cold of Lanulos as well as other alien beings from more familiar planets in our own solar system. On 3 June 1968, Woodrow Derenberger of 25408 Butternut Ridge Road in North Olmsted, Ohio 44070, wrote a letter which he included in a package to Gray Barker at P.O. Box 2228, Clarksburg, West Virginia, no zip code given, providing him with a manuscript for his forthcoming book, along with some additional material. Below the letter is reproduced for the benefit of you, the inquiring reader.

Letter from Woodrow Derenberger to Gray Barker, 3 June 1968, reveals something of the nefarious tactics employed by NICAP against the contactees.

Please pay special attention to the third paragraph of this letter: “Also, the story of Alan Roberts, M.D., is the story of Robert Jenkins, the psychiatrist who examined me for NICAP who also didn’t want me to use his name in relating his own personal experiences with the space people.”

There are several important conclusions that ufologists can glean from the paragraph above:

First, NICAP was dismissive of Derenberger’s case from the very start of any investigation insofar as the first person they send to check into the matter is a psychiatrist, and not a physical trace chemist or other expert from the hardcore, “nuts and bolts” sciences. After all, there was a huge burn mark across the road where Indrid Cold’s flying saucer had allegedly landed and taken off. But the only thing NICAP officials were concerned about was finding some maladjusted character traits in Woody Derenberger that could be used to bring down his credibility.

Second, the psychiatrist, although engaged by NICAP to analyze Derenberger, admits to the contactee that he, too, has had his “own experiences with the space people,” and this in spite of NICAP’s director Keyhoe and the organization’s board making public statements disavowing any support for claims of contact with any of the UFO occupants.

Third, the psychiatrist’s frank admission to Derenberger underscores the growing rift that existed between the membership of NICAP and its leadership. Just one year after Derenberger’s letter, NICAP went into a gradual decline in its membership, starting with the expulsion of the retired Marine Corps Major Donald E. Keyhoe as its director, replacing him with retired Air Force Colonel Joseph Bryan, III, who was also an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The preponderance of federal government employees, active and retired military personnel, as well as scientists contracted through federally-funded research grants at major universities, in the leadership positions in the UFO group, lent itself to the UFO community’s suspicion that NICAP was a puppet organization of the Silence Group, infiltrated at every level. It was no surprise to anyone that NICAP was dissolved in 1980 and its files transferred to Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s Center for UFO Studies in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Hynek was, of course, the Air Force technical consultant on UFO research for over twenty years, up until Project Bluebook dissolved in 1969 upon the recommendation of Dr. Edward U. Condon’s Committee for the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, conducted out of the University of Colorado at Boulder during the period 1966-1968.

It comes as no small wonder why Gray Barker was ejected from NICAP not long before he met Woody Derenberger. There is some speculation in the UFO community today that this same type of scenario is repeating itself with the Mutual UFO Network. One prominent ufologist in Pennsylvania, in confidence, informed me that, “I’ll give MUFON another five years before it becomes defunct.”

(See the final report under Edward U. Condon, Dr., Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects (New York, New York: New York Times/Bantam Books, 1969). There are a whopping 965 pages in the UFO-debunking report. Sadly, many of the case files in this so-called “scientific study” were supplied by NICAP to the skeptical Dr. Condon.)

Book Promotion

Since their first meeting in November 1966, the friendship between Gray Barker and fellow West Virginian Woodrow Derenberger continued to grow ever stronger. It is clear that Barker respected Derenberger for his courage in coming out to the public-at-large about his alien encounters, despite the ridicule that sometimes was heaped upon him and his family members. Derenberger wasn’t the most prolific writer that ever came down the pike; but Barker encouraged him to write a book and promised the contactee that would do an outstanding job in the editing of the final manuscript, much as he had done with the manuscript of another contactee, Howard Menger of High Bridge, New Jersey, whose book, From Outer Space to You, ultimately became a UFO classic and bestseller, after being picked up from Saucerian Press for a mass paperback published by Pyramid Books.

Visitors from Lanulos is the one and only literary product of Woodrow Derenberger, which was co-authored by an associate ufologist, Harold Hubbard, the director of a local UFO discussion group that met during the evenings on the third Saturday of each month in a pancake house off Route 62 in Sebring, Ohio. In the book, Hubbard shares some of his own experiences with UFOs and the space people. The book also contains an introduction by John A. Keel dated 12 October 1968, but wasn’t self-published until three years later by Vantage Press in New York City. Although the company went out of business in 2012, in 1971 it was considered the largest self-publishing company in the entire world.

Why Derenberger did not go with Barker’s Saucerian Press is unclear. Barker did a commendable job in editing Woodrow Derenberger’s text, as you can see from the first two pages of his original manuscript which I have provided for you below. I can only speculate that the climate in the UFO community in 1968 through 1971 was turning against the contactees. Attendance at the annual Interplanetary Spacecraft Conventions at George Van Tassel’s Giant Rock Airport in Landers, California, was at an all-time low, finally shutting down completely in 1978 with Van Tassel’s death; and the dismissive findings of the Condon Committee with respect to the authenticity of UFO reports overall in 1968 led to the closure of the Air Force Project Bluebook in the following year. Derenberger, initially taken aback by all the negative publicity engendered by the media with regard to his revealed contacts, most likely decided it would be beneficial for himself and his family to just let things cool down for a while. Interestingly, when Derenberger and Hubbard finally opted on self-publishing the book, its distribution and sale was limited only to their appearances at UFO and metaphysical club-sponsored events. Apparently Derenberger garnered from his initial public speaking engagements that it would prove more fruitful to just “preach to the choir,” so to speak, and thereby dodge any flack that might be coming in his direction.

Gray Barker, who briefly taught English at a Maryland high school, lent an aura of credibility to many of the contactees through his professional editing of their personal accounts of alien contact.

Woodrow Derenberger received global attention following the publication of his interview by M. S. Marling in the October 1967 issue of Flying Saucers UFO Reports. Barker realized that in order to capitalize on this type of free publicity, Derenberger would have to strike while the iron was hot, and urged the contactee to write his story of the encounter so it could be published in book form. In the following article, Frank C. Walosin of the Bachelor News underscores many of the credibility issues Derenberger faced in getting his book published, even though one of Barker’s associates, his UFO photographic consultant at the Saucerian Press enterprises, had a demonstrative inside track with the editor of the Bachelor News.

There is really nothing to add to the editor’s note introducing Walosin’s “Derenberger” article. The Bachelor News editor succinctly states his case, casting reasonable doubt on Derenberger’s assertion that he met an alien being on a lonely country road in West Virginia and communicated with the entity through mental telepathy. It is clear that the editor believes that while Derenberger is sincere, he is also self-deluded. The editor also opines that the contactee is probably being exploited by the book promoters interviewed by his reporter, Frank C. Walosin.

Article: “Derenberger A Fraud?”
Author: Frank C. Walosin
Publication: Bachelor News, Paterson, New Jersey
Date: 11 May 1968

(Editor’s Note: The Bachelor News (BN) is interested in Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and possible space exploration, as are the majority of Americans. It is our position that UFOs do exist; but we also don’t know where they come from or to whom they belong. It is in the interest of solving this mystery of our times that the BN staff is exploring or attempting to explore the UFO and space civilization contactee reports.

It was in this spirit of exploration that contact was made with Woodrow Derenberger, a Parksburg, West Virginia, salesman who claims to have been in contact with saucers and space people.

Derenberger, currently engaged in a lecture tour in Cleveland, Ohio, and the author of a book on his experiences that will soon be published, is represented by Harold Salkin, president of Space Age Communications of Washington, D.C.

Our offer to Derenberger was sincere. The results of our efforts are printed below. It is our conclusion that Mr. Salkin is an overzealous promoter and that Derenberger is a truthful, sincere man who is a subject of self-hypnosis, telling a story that he firmly believes is true but is actually more of a dream than factual.)

UFO contactee Woodrow Derenberger tells of close encounters with beings from the planet Lanulos.

Woodrow Derenberger, a former West Virginia salesman who is firmly convinced that he has seen a flying saucer and has spoken on many occasions with its occupant, is a product of our times…. a period when our civilization is reaching out into space with the same degree of urgency that led to the founding of our nation by explorers of the Old World.

The BN came into contact with Derenberger and his story, which has been published in a national magazine and which will soon be in the book stores in book form, early this month, when a phone rang.

The voice on the other end of the line introduced himself as Harold Salkin of Washington, D.C.

“I’m in Paterson, New Jersey, and would like to stop at your office to pick up several copies of the March 30, 1968 issue of the BN in which the Joseph Ferrierer story was printed,” Salkin said.

The editor said that he would like to have Salkin meet the BN UFO expert, August Roberts, at 2 p.m., and that Roberts would pick him up and drive him over to the office.

That afternoon Roberts came to the BN office with Salkin and Gordon F. Shandley of Philadelphia, who introduced themselves as president and vice president of Space Age Communications of 1737 De Sales Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., a UFO promotion agency.

The conversation covered flying saucers and the government’s apparent attempt to keep the facts from the people; and then the name of Derenberger came up, Salkin said. Derenberger has just spent six weeks working at his home in Washington working on a book in which he related his experiences with space people, represented by one identified as Indrid Cold.

Salkin, who has Derenberger as a client, said the former West Virginian had many contacts with space people, and said one group of fifteen people from a town in Ohio had watched as a saucer landed and Derenberger went out and talked to a man who got out. None of the fifteen persons who made the trip to the landing site in anticipation of seeing the saucer land a spaceman talk with Derenberger had a camera, according to Salkin.

Salkin said Derenberger was in Cleveland, Ohio, working as an appliance salesman on commission. He said Derenberger was not financially exploiting his space adventure and, in fact, was finding times a little rough.

In the interest of UFO research, we offered Derenberger a sales position on salary. We also asked:

“Why is it that space people always are reported contacting a salesman, milkman or common citizen, instead of making contact with responsible officials of our government or the United Nations (UN)?”

“They don’t like densely populated areas, where those kinds of officials could most likely be found,” is the response that Salkin said Derenberger had given.

We asked if Derenberger would be able to contact his spaceman and arrange a meeting with responsible people, like Dr. J. Allen Hynek, former head of the Air Force’s UFO research project, and a representative of the UN, if a site was selected away from cities.

The BN offered to meet the expenses of flying the officials to the site, an undeveloped tract of woodland in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania.

Salkin and Shandley said they would have Derenberger call the BN.

On Wednesday, April 24, Salkin phoned to say that Derenberger had accepted the offer of a sales position.

“What about the meeting in Pennsylvania?” we asked.

“Oh, Woody said that U Thant, UN Secretary General, met with the spaceman twelve days ago in Washington, D.C.,” Salkin said. He said Derenberger had told him that the spacemen were interested in arranging a trade agreement with Burma and that U Thant had said he would have to check with other officials before replying.

The matter of checking on the possible meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 12 was simple, Salkin was informed.

On the morning of April 25, BN called the first secretary to the Secretary General at UN headquarters in New York City, speaking to Mr. Lucian Lumieux.

“Mr. Thant was not in Washington on April 12,” Mr. Lumieux said. “He was in Paris, and then flew back to New York. He was not in Washington.”

From left to right, UFO promoters Gordon F. Shandley and Harold Salkin of Space Age Communications in Washington, D.C., look over a recent edition of the Bachelor News (BN) in the offices of that Paterson, New Jersey, newspaper. They wanted the BN’s editor to help them publicize their client, Woodrow Derenberger, and his soon-to-be published UFO book about his encounter with extraterrestrials from the planet Lanulos, which is outside our solar system.


Other contactees, such as I, have much to learn from the Woodrow Derenberger case. From the BN article, we come to understand that Derenberger had fallen on hard economic times. In the few years following his encounter with the alien Indrid Cold, he went from job to job, and even had to move out of his home in West Virginia because of the undue amount of negative publicity generated in the media. This forced him to start all over as a salesman in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Perhaps this was the primary factor that impelled him to write his book. However, he should have put more time and research into writing it. He could have considered hiring a ghostwriter to do it correctly. It surprises me that when the book was finally published in 1971, the introduction by the prestigious paranormal investigator John A. Keel was not even listed on the cover.

From the likes of the BN article, it appears as though Derenberger’s situation was such that he could not afford to self-publish his book in 1968, nor could Barker afford to finance the undertaking at the Saucerian Press. With Barker’s UFO photographic consultant having an inside track at the BN, it seems that the meeting with the Space Age Communications representatives may have been somehow engineered by Roberts, staged for the sake of generating a publicity campaign for Derenberger’s book in the pages of the tabloid BN, that had covered other UFO events and contactees in its pages.

It is clear that Woodrow Derenberger lost control of his own narrative. I, for one, believe his story to be true. However, lacking any higher academic background, he failed to document the information in his book, either in the text or with applicable footnotes. In addition, he was too generous in providing information in sundry media outlets. Lacking discernment, he initially would speak to anyone who wanted to know about his experiences.

There are profoundly esoteric implications in Woodrow Derenberger’s contacts. Insofar as much of the public-at-large is unable to assimilate such advanced celestial information, it would have been wiser for him to limit his interviews to UFO and metaphysical circles from the very start. Among these dear ones, Derenberger would have found an appreciative and sympathetic audience. Sadly, it took him almost five years to figure this out. As the spiritual Master Jesus the Christ once taught, the teacher of such sublime truths should not find him or herself in the position of “casting pearls before swine.”

In the King James Version of the Holy Bible, this scripture is found in Matthew7:6:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Cover of Woodrow Derenberger’s book, Visitors from Lanulos (New York, New York: Vantage Press, 1971).


Lessons Learned From A Contactee: Woodrow W. Derenberger (1916-1990) - Part II


Editor’s Note: If you would like to ask the Cosmic Ray any questions about Venus or life on other planets, do not hesitate to send him an e-mail at rkeller1@mix.wvu.edu. The doctor will be appearing with Omnec Onec, the Ambassador from Venus, along with premier ufologist Laura Eisenhower, at the Promise Revealed Meet the Venusians Mt. Shasta Summer Conference, to be held Wednesday, 26 August 2020 through Sunday 30 August 2020 at the Siskiyou Masonic Lodge, Mount Shasta, California. For event information or to purchase tickets, please call Rob Potter at (530) 925-3502. Until then, in the profound words of Venusian Moon Base Clarion Commander Aura Rhanes, “Work, study, and meditate on all good things!”

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