7 - The Night of the Bleeding Ear

Gwendoline Martino was back in her apartment in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, early in December 1966, packing her things for a trip to Europe. Her unlisted phone rang. A female voice with a slight foreign accent came on the line.

“Hello, Gwen?“

“Yes, this is Gwen ...“

“Gwen Stevens?“

“No, this is Gwen Martino.“

“You’re not Gwen Stevens?“

“No ... you’ve got the wrong Gwen.“

This same woman called back again on two successive nights. The conversation was always the same. Mrs. Martino was mildly irritated that the woman would call her three times in a row but she thought nothing of it until I met her a few months later and asked my routine questions about unusual phone calls.

Because of the woman’s accent, it is possible she was asking for “Jen Stevens.“

Mrs. Martino had never heard of anyone named either Gwen or Jen Stevens. But at that time a woman named Jennifer (“Jen”) Stevens was very active in UFO research in the Albany-Schenectady area of New York State. Mrs. Stevens experienced a wide range of problems with her unlisted phone and a personal tragedy which seemed to be related to her UFO investigations.

In February 1968, Mrs. Stevens reported the following:

[One] night when my husband, Peter, and I returned home we found Jenny, our fifteen-year-old daughter, in a highly nervous state. She said the phone had been ringing all evening. She would answer it and hear nothing at the other end but heavy breathing. When her boyfriend called they were interrupted several times by high-pitched beeping noises and were also cut off twice.


The next day the calls continued. Sometimes there would be mechanical sounds, and others, the high-pitched whining, beeping sound that sent sharp pains through the mastoid bones. Our number is unlisted so I knew no one could have gotten it out of the phone book or through the operator. We had long since screened all calls through another number in order to avoid cranks. I called the telephone company and they gave our line a complete check with NO findings. The service man offered his personal opinion that the line “could have been tapped.“

Several days after our telephone problems began, my husband, who is a building contractor, was in a large downtown Schenectady store inspecting some work and dropped into the snack bar for a cup of coffee. A few moments after he seated himself, a tall, tan, “saturnine”-looking man, whom my husband had never seen before, sat down next to him and started a conversation.


He began with, “There have been people watching the sky every night down by the river in Scotia.“

Since Peter was one of “those people,” he was shocked ... but kept cool and said, “I beg your pardon?“

The man proceeded to talk about UFOs. Peter tried to draw him out and asked his name, and so on. All his questions were either parried or avoided. My husband was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable when the stranger finally excused himself after noting, “People who look for UFOs should be very, very careful.“

At my request, Peter Stevens made two sketches of the “saturnine”-looking man. They sent me one copy and kept the other. A few weeks later their home was broken into and thoroughly ransacked. But nothing was stolen . .. except their copy of the sketch. (1)

[1] No one ever tried to steal my copy. It was subsequently published in a special issue of Flying Saucer Review, June 1969.

Two months later Peter Stevens, a young man in his thirties, died very suddenly. Anguished, Jen abandoned UFO research. I never learned the full circumstances of his death. She would tell me only that it was “related” to the UFO business in some way.

I have shown Peter Stevens’s drawing to numerous Men-in-Black witnesses over the years and the usual response is, “It looks close enough to be a brother.“

Today “heavy breathers” plague telephone subscribers from coast to coast and are usually assumed to be sex nuts. When I received many such calls in 1967-68 I recorded some of them and studied the tapes. The sound is more mechanical or electronic than human and is probably caused by the introduction of a modulated current into the telephone line.


This phenomenon is not isolated to the cities.


People in remote towns with a population of only twenty-five or so also get these calls. The heavy breathing of the sex nut who (supposedly) masturbates while he listens to a female voice on the line contains certain recordable vocal characteristics which are totally absent in the heavy breathing calls I taped. Played at a slower speed, the recorded “breathing” was an evenly spaced series of pulses resembling the swishing sound of a phonograph when the needle reaches the end of the record and does not reject.


Heavy breathing would not be so uniform.

Mr. Kevin Dee and his NICAP subcommittee urged Woodrow Derenberger to submit to a psychiatric and medical examination. In early December Woody voluntarily entered St. Joseph’s Hospital in Parkersburg and underwent hours of tests administered by Dr. Morgan (I have changed his name here for reasons that will become obvious later on), a leading local psychiatrist, and Peter Volardi, an EEG technician.


In his final report, Dr. Morgan stated:

There was no evidences of abnormalities at all.

Subsequently, a report and interpretation was obtained from Baltimore, and the report indicated no abnormalities at all and was a perfectly normal electroencephalogram. There was no evidence of organic brain damage or of seizure disorders. We were particularly concerned about epilepsy and there was no evidence of this.


The record was a normal record with no indication of any central nervous system pathology at all. There was no evidence of any psychiatric disorders. I submitted a report to the Pittsburgh Subcommittee of NICAP, of the psychiatric examination of Mr. Derenberger in which I stated that I could find no evidence of mental disorder. There was no indication of any lower pathology.


I found Mr. Derenberger to be normal.


The NICAP investigators sent the medical records on to the Washington office of the organization, along with detailed reports on Woody’s encounter and his personal background. Typically, the NICAP newsletter later devoted a couple of paragraphs to the Derenberger case, denouncing it as a hoax, misspelling Woody’s name, and referring to Cold as “Kuld.” Woody had spelled the name C-o-l-d from the outset and it was spelled that way throughout the subcommittee’s documents.


How NICAP arrived at the K-u-l-d spelling is a mystery in itself.


“Look at that crazy character coming in downwind in that plane,” Eddie Adkins commented.

He and four other men were standing on the field of the Gallipolis, Ohio, airport, just across the river from Point Pleasant on Sunday, December 4, 1966.

At 3 P.M. that afternoon a large winged form came cruising majestically along the Ohio River, just behind the airport. The pilots later estimated that it was about three hundred feet in the air and was traveling about seventy miles an hour. As it drew closer they realized it was not a plane but was some kind of enormous bird with an unusually long neck. It seemed to be turning its head from side to side as if it were taking in the scenery.


The wings were not flapping.

“My God! It’s something prehistoric!” one of the men cried.

Everett Wedge grabbed his camera and sprinted to his small plane. But by the time he was airborne the giant creature had vanished somewhere Sown river.

Three days later, on December 7, I arrived in Point Pleasant for the first time. I found a sleepy little town, clean, well-managed, prosperous. The Ohio valley is a busy industrial area and the river is lined with chemical factories and thriving businesses. It is a far cry from the dreary coal mining towns of Appalachia further east. The neat, modern homes of the valley boasted more than their share of color television sets and late model cars.


The people are not hillbillies but, for the most part, are skilled technicians employed in the many factories; well-educated, well-paid Americans leading quiet, average lives. Although there was a hotel in Point Pleasant I chose to cross the Silver Bridge and take a room in one of the many modern motels on the Ohio side of the river.

My first stop was the Mason County courthouse and a chat with Deputy Halstead, a soft-spoken, serious man with a receding hairline and just a trace of the curse of all small-town policemen—the potbelly.

“There’s something to it,” he assured me. “The people who have seen this Bird were all mighty scared. They saw something. I don’t know what. Some say it’s just a crane.“

I asked him if there had been any flying saucer reports in the area.

“No, we haven’t had any of that. Just the ‘Bird.’ That’s enough!“

He told me how to find the McDaniel home and I drove out to do the thing I hated most—knock on the door of a total stranger, introduce myself as a hotshot writer from New York, and invade the privacy of people already weary from the publicity, reporters, and self-styled investigators.


Mabel McDaniel came to the door, an attractive woman not at all like the frail, drawn sparrow-like women I so often met up in the hills of Appalachia. It was early evening and within an hour Mabel had made a series of phone calls and the little house was filled with people. Roger and Linda, Steve and Mary Mallette, and Connie Carpenter and her fiancé Keith, and Mrs. Mary Hyre all arrived. My first reaction to Mrs Hyre was negative. Every town has a local busybody and I pegged her as that, erroneously it turned out.

Connie’s eyes were red and swollen, as I have already noted, but she was the only one who had experienced this telltale reaction. She seemed to be an emotionally fragile girl, but down-to-earth. Roger and Steve, lifelong buddies, talked with great enthusiasm about their great adventure. But I had learned long ago that young men usually tend to color their experiences with rich imagination and heroic posturing. However, there were no false heroics here. They had been genuinely frightened out of their wits and were not ashamed to admit it.

Later Mary Hyre told me she had heard them recount the episode dozens of times to innumerable reporters and investigators.

“None of them have ever changed it or added a word,” she noted.

Since they had viewed the creature only briefly and in the dark, their descriptions were understandably lacking in significant detail. Even Connie, who had seen the creature in broad daylight, could not describe the thing beyond the fact that it was gray, huge, and flew. Its face, she said, was “science-fiction like.” The glowing red eyes had made the biggest impression on her, as they had on the others. And the overriding sense of unreasonable fear was the main reaction. There had been no smells in the areas of the sightings. No footprints or droppings or other tangible evidence.

After taping their individual stories, we decided to go out to the TNT area so I could have my first look at the site. At about 9 P.M. we drove to the old ammunition dump. The police had now locked the old gate leading to the power plant, but it was no problem to squeeze through the fence. The night was dark and overcast and the rickety building was just a huge, black lump on the landscape.


We gathered outside the main entrance. The crowds who had swarmed there weeks earlier had given up so we were alone ... ten people. I carried my powerful six-cell flashlight. To me, this was just another broken, deserted building in a remote spot. I was used to prowling around such places alone in the dark, but I was troubled by the fear that now seemed to be gripping our little expedition. Their nervousness was real. Only Connie and Keith volunteered to enter the building with me. The others clustered outside.

The three of us went into the ruin. Connie was joking and in good spirits. Keith was sober and quiet. The interior of the building was filled with debris and silence except for the soft sound of dripping water. Large rusting boilers stood on the ground floor. I peered into them with my flashlight. Mothman wasn’t hiding there. I climbed the steel ladders and strolled the catwalks. Even the pigeons seemed to have deserted the place.

Satisfied that the building was empty, we started for the exit. I preceded the other two with my flashlight.


As she stepped through the door which led into the smaller chamber where the main exit was located, Connie glanced over her shoulder and let out a horrified gasp.

“Those eyes!” she screamed. “He’s there!“

She dissolved into total hysteria, crying uncontrollably. The brave, cheerful girl of a moment ago was now a blubbering wreck. Keith and I rushed her outside.

“I saw those eyes—two big red eyes—by the wall in the back,” she managed to choke out

While everyone gathered around her and tried to calm her, I turned and rushed back into the building. The wall at the far end of the boiler room was blank. There was nothing there that could have reflected the light from my flashlight.

Again I searched the building from top to bottom and found nothing.

When I got back outside I found a police officer, Deputy Alva Sullivan, had joined our group. Like the others, he had been reluctant to enter the building and help me with my search.


They were all looking through a fence facing a field that went behind the power plant.

“We thought we saw something back of the plant,” Mary Hyre explained. “A tall figure running. Was it you?“

“No ... I never left the building.“

“What was that noise while you were in there?” Mabel McDaniel asked.

“What noise?“

“It was metallic and hollow. A loud noise. Like a piece of metal had fallen all the way down from the top or something.“

Everyone had heard the sound ... except me. And I hadn’t done anything to make such a noise.

Keith led Connie, still crying, to their car.

“Please, let’s get out of here,” she begged.

“I’m bleeding,” Mary Mallette suddenly exclaimed, cupping her hand to her ear.

I flashed my light into her ear. A small trickle of blood was oozing out.

“Did you hear anything else?” I asked. Everyone shook his head.

“No, but it doesn’t feel right here, does it?” Mary Hyre observed. “It feels oppressive ... heavy.“

I had to agree with her. Something did seem to be out of whack. Steve Mallette led his wife away. Now we had two hysterical women on our hands!

“Did you really see somebody back there?” I asked Deputy Sullivan quietly.

“It’s hard to say. Might have been an animal. A deer or something.“

The whole group was now in a state bordering on sheer panic. I could see that their feelings were real. This was not just some kind of act being staged for my benefit. I’m no hero, but I did not share their fear. Mrs. Mallette’s bleeding ear was a sign of concussion, meaning the air pressure had changed suddenly. Connie had apparently had an hallucinatory or psychic glimpse of those frightening eyes.


The metallic clang could not have come from inside the building or I would have heard it, too. It may have been associated with the sudden change in air pressure. I scanned the black skies. There was not a star, not a light visible.

We all filed back to our cars and returned to the McDaniels’ home. Mary Mallette’s ear stopped bleeding. Keith drove a still-shaking Connie Carpenter home. And, being an all-time idiot, I returned to the TNT area for another look. It was well past midnight as I drove aimlessly up and down the dirt roads among the igloos.


Mothman did not pop out of the bushes to cry “Boo!,” but I did have one curious experience.


As I passed a certain point on one of the isolated roads I was suddenly engulfed in fear. I stepped on the gas and after I went a few yards my fear vanished as quickly as it came. I continued to drive, eventually returning again to the same spot. And again a wave of unspeakable fear swept over me. I drove quickly away from the place and then stopped, puzzled. Why would this one stretch of road produce this hair-raising effect?


I turned around and slowly headed back, trying to note trees, fenceposts, and other landmarks in the dark. Once again, when I reached that particular point the hair tingled on the back of my neck and I became genuinely afraid. When I emerged from the other side of this invisible zone I stopped and got out of my car. The air was perfectly still.


There wasn’t any audible sound ... not even a bird call. I was reminded of the hour of quiet that settles inexplicably over the jungle in early morning when suddenly, usually around 2 A.M., all of the animals, birds, even the insects, become totally silent for about two hours. If you’re not used to the jungle and its ways, this sudden silence can wake you from a deep sleep.

I walked back to the “zone of fear” slowly, alert for any rustle of bushes, measuring my own breathing and emotions. I was perfectly calm until I took one step too many and was back in the zone. I almost panicked and ran, but I forced myself to look around and proceed slowly. By now I had figured out that I was probably walking through a beam of ultrasonic waves and really had nothing to be afraid of.


After I had gone about fifteen feet I stepped outside the zone and everything was normal again. Now I had to walk through that damned spot again to get back to my car! It was too dark, almost pitch-black, and I was too unfamiliar with the TNT area at the time to attempt to go around the zone. Although I knew it was harmless, I dreaded re-entering it. I actually considered remaining there, only yards from my car, until daybreak.


But I finally steeled myself and walked once more through that invisible stream, scared out of my wits in transit yet privately pleased with my discovery.

In daylight I returned to the same spot. The zone of fear was gone. I searched for power transmission lines, telephone microwave towers, and anything that might have radiated energy through the area. There was nothing. Nor did a daytime exploration of the power plant reveal anything Connie might have mistaken for red eyes.

Mrs. Mallette’s bleeding ear and my discovery of the ultrasonic zone of fear convinced me that UFO-type phenomena were present in the TNT area even though the police and press had not received any reports. I asked Mrs. Hyre and the McDaniels to be alert for any rumors of sightings. Within days I tracked down dozens of UFO witnesses throughout the Ohio valley.


At 2 A.M. on the morning I was first prowling the TNT area, a young man living further up the Ohio River got up to go to the bathroom and saw a brilliantly illuminated object floating in the air just above the water. It was circular in shape and appeared to have windows in it covered over with curtains like crumpled aluminum foil. Two hours later, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hern of Cheshire, Ohio, saw something very similar. Their home was directly opposite the TNT area on the Ohio side of the river. Mr. Hern was walking his dog when he noticed a red light on the opposite riverbank.

At first he thought it might be a trapper in a boat checking his muskrat traps.

Then he realized it was on the bank, not on the water, and in the glare of the light he could see figures moving about. He called his wife outside and they both watched for several minutes trying to figure out what it was. The figures seemed to be very small in stature.

Dazzled and disbelieving, the Herns woke up their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Taylor, who joined them. Red and orange lights flashed on and off, and one light seemed to be directed toward the water most of the time. Finally the lights went out and a bright greenish light came on.


Then the object rose straight up into the air and disappeared into the sky.

“I’ve lived on this riverbank since I was twelve years old,” Mr. Hern told Mary Hyre and myself, “and I know every boat light, but this was definitely something I’ve never seen before.“

“It’s a funny thing,” Mrs. Hern added. “We were so stunned we didn’t even talk about it afterwards. We just sat silently at the kitchen table. We even forgot to say our ‘thank you’s’ that morning.“

As soon as Mrs. Hyre began publishing UFO reports in the Messenger dozens of other people came forward with their own stories.


She was able to print only a small percentage of all the reports she received.

Dr. Morgan, the Parkersburg psychiatrist, was watching a football game on television in his home in a suburb of the city that December when he was overcome by a strange sensation. A voice began to speak to him, announcing that it came from a spaceship somewhere overhead. He was becoming a contactee!

(A year later, Woodrow Derenberger was a guest on Long John Nebel’s radio talk show in New York and I was one of the panelists. Long John phoned Dr. Morgan on the air and he described his experiences in a beeper-phone conversation.)

While Dr. Morgan was tuning in to that phantom reality of the super-spectrum, Woody was entertaining more interesting visitors at Mineral Wells. A man identifying himself as Captain Bruce Parsons of the NASA security police at Cocoa Beach, Florida, called on him and invited him to Cape Kennedy, home of our
space program.


Shortly after Christmas, Woody, his wife, and children flew to Cape Kennedy to spend a week with Captain Parsons.


By day they toured the great rocket-launching installation. But each evening Woody was taken to a room somewhere on the Cape where he was questioned for hours, covering every detail of his visits with Indrid Cold. One of his questioners was a man identified as the head of NASA and called simply “Charlie.” (*)

[*] The head of NASA at that time was Dr. Thomas O. Paine.

According to Woody, at the end of the week his interrogators showed him a star map and pointed to a speck on it telling him,

“That’s where they’re from.”

They said they had interviewed several other contactees, all with stories similar to his own. When he asked why they didn’t release their UFO information to the public, they allegedly replied that it would only cause panic. Women would commit suicide, throw babies out the window, and this kind of panic could sweep the world, they said.

Derenberger brought home a flock of souvenirs as proof of his trip: photographs and even a scrap of the material used in our astronauts’ space suits.


This, Woody says, is the same kind of reflective material worn by Indrid Cold under his coat on that rainy November evening.

Back to Contents