Regarded by many researchers as one of the seminal “abduction” events in the history of ufology, this genuinely disturbing case represents one of the most exhaustively researched — not to mention flat out bizarre — alien encounters ever recorded.
On the evening of Thursday October 11, 1973, 42-year old Charles Hickson and 19-year old Calvin Parker — both co-workers at the Walker shipyard and natives of Gautier, Mississippi — were fishing for “hardheads” near a grain elevator on the shores of the Pascagoula River. Not having much luck, Hickson suggested that they relocate to the rusty iron piers of the dilapidated, old Shaupeter Shipyard, where he had recently landed some redfish and speckled trout.
The duo settled down on a rundown pier on the Pascagoula, fully expecting to have a night of good conversation and fishing ahead of them. What they could not have imagined was that they were about to have an encounter with the unknown that would be so extraordinary — so outright terrifying — it would change their lives forever.
The first in a series of progressively odd events that would plague them on that ill fated evening occurred at approximately 9 PM, when the men spotted a bluish, oblong orb pulsating in the sky at what Hickson surmised must have been 2 to 3 miles away. At first the men were merely intrigued by the unusual light show, but when the glowing, egg shaped object hovered just a few feet above the bayou, approximately a 100-feet away from them, their curiosity was quickly usurped by fear.
“It was about eight feet tall. It wasn’t round. It was oblong, sort of oblong, and the opening it had was at one end of it. The only lights I seen on the outside was that blue light… you’re surprised when you look in the sky and you see a blue light. It really calls your attention to it.”
“Then in just a little while, it come right down above the bayou. You know, about two, three feet above the ground… it might have been thirty-five, forty yards. You see something like that, it scares you to death! And I couldn’t believe it… (There was) a little buzzin’ sound — nnnnnnnn-nnnnnnnn — just like that, that’s all. Wasn’t any back blast or anything… it didn’t hit the ground. It hovered… and you think you dreamin’ about something like that, you know?”
Just when it must of seemed that things couldn’t possibly get any weirder, a hatch opened at the end of the oval craft and three of the strangest beings ever chronicled in the annals of cryptozoology or ufology began to glide just above the water straight toward thei human quarry. Hickson described their first encounter with what he now believes were robotic creatures from another world:
“I jumped to my feet, looked over at Calvin, and he looked plumb strange. Then a door opened and this brilliant light came out of it. I couldn’t figure what in the world was happening… and all of a sudden, right in the end of it, this opening was laid up there and three of them just floated out of the thing. They wasn’t on no ground.”
“(They were) about five feet tall, had bullet-shaped heads without necks, slits for mouths and where their noses or ears would be, they had thin, conical objects sticking out, like carrots from a snowman’s head. They had no eyes, gray, wrinkled skin, round feet, and claw-like hands… they didn’t have toes. But they had feet shape. It was more or less just a round like thing on a leg– if you’d call it a leg.”
While Hickson admitted to being frightened by the trio of long armed, elephant skinned automatons that were floating toward them, he conceded that his young fishing buddy was downright petrified by the sight of these monstrosities:
The three “aliens” hovered around the fishermen, their upper limbs moving in a jerky, almost mechanical, fashion. That was when one of the creatures attempted to communicate with Hickson utilizing a series of unintelligible buzzing noises, which Hickson took to be a fruitless attempt to put him at ease.
The two other beings remained deathly silent as they floated behind Hickson and effortlessly lifted him off the pier with robotic, lobster-like pinchers. The third creature grabbed hold of Parker who — apparently overwhelmed by the whole ordeal — passed out cold. Hickson described the event:
“They just glided up there to me. Then one of ‘em made a little buzzin’ noise, and two of ‘em never made no noise… it might have been contactin’ the others. See, I don’t know. By then I was so damn scared I didn’t know anything. And two of ‘em just floated around behind me and lifted me off the ground… by my arms. With their pincher things. They must of done something. I just raised off the ground… (they didn’t use) no force. They didn’t hurt me. I didn’t feel nothin’.”
Hickson related that his experience levitating into the ship, while clearly frightening, was not altogether unpleasant — although his arm would bleed the next day where he had been grasped by one of he creature’s pinchers. Parker, on the other hand, had an all together more ominous perspective on what he’d endured as he was taken onto the craft:
“My damn arms, my arms, I remember they just froze up and I couldn’t move. Just like I stepped on a damn rattlesnake… I passed out. I expect I never passed out in my whole life.”
The three creatures proceeded to defy gravity as they escorted their prey back into their ovoid ship, taking the now unconscious Parker with them:
“”One took hold of Calvin, and I saw him go limp. He told me later that he fainted. They took us through that doorway, in the middle of a room, and I couldn’t see Calvin anymore. There was nothing in there, just a real bright glow. I couldn’t move anything but my eyes… and they glided me into that thing. You know, how you just guide somebody? All of us moved like we were floatin’ through air… They let go of me. I still wasn’t touching nothing, just kinda floating. All I could think was, ‘What are they gonna do with us?’ I figured they’d take us off and we’d never see our families again.”
It was at this point that things went from creepy to much, much creepier, as Hickson — whose pleas to be released (or at least communicated with) went unheeded by his bizarre hosts — claimed he was levitated a few feet off the floor inside the chair-less, brightly-lit spacecraft. While hovering in mid-air, Hickson stated that a big, football shaped, mechanical eye, approximately 7-inches in diameter, scanned his body. Hickson recounted his time inside the ship:
“Some kind of instrument I don’t know what it was. I didn’t see anything that I could call an instrument that I’ve ever seen before… it wasn’t like no X-ray machine. There ain’t no way to describe it. It looked like an eye. Like a big eye. It had some kind of an attachment to it… It moved right in front of my face. I saw dials and gadgets moving around. It went behind me, then came back over me… it went all over my body, up and down… then it disappeared back into the wall… I was just about out of my mind. I thought they were gonna kill me. Folks would think we fell off in the river and drowned, and nobody would ever know about this.”
Hickson speculated that during the time the beings left him alone they were examining his friend. Parker unfortunately (or, perhaps, very fortunately) could not recall what had happened to him while he was inside the ship, though, years later, he would begin to recall some hazy details during post-hypnotic regression sessions. Both men felt that about 20 minutes had elapsed before their wrinkly abductors carried them back to the river bank.
As Hickson snapped out of shock, he noticed that his young comrade was cowering on the ground, weeping and praying. Just seconds later the terrified pair watched in continuing disbelief as a blue, self-illuminated object rose straight up and shot up into the the atmosphere:
“I saw Calvin standing there, staring out at the water. He was in shock. I’ve seen men in shock, and if you don’t do something pretty quick, they’ll die. I started going over to where he was, and I saw the craft leave. The blue lights were on again, I remember that.”
“When I got to Calvin, I had to slap him a time or two. I finally got him to where he could say something. He said, Charlie, what in the world was that? I said Son, I don’t know, but they didn’t kill us.”
Even in his distressed state, Hickson realized that he and Parker’s tale would be simply too bizarre for the average person to believe. For the next 45-minutes the two men sat in Hickson’s parked car trying to calm themselves and make some sort of sense out of what they’d just been through:
“The only thing I remember is that kid, Calvin, just standing there. I’ve never seen that sort of fear on a man’s face as I saw on Calvin’s. It took me a while to get him back to his senses, and the first thing I told him was, Son, ain’t nobody gonna believe this. Let’s just keep this whole thing to ourselves.”
Although Hickson and Parker dreaded the embarrassment that would no doubt accompany the public revelation of that they’d endured, they both realized that the potential threat manifested by these creatures far outweighed their fear of ridicule. So, following a couple of stiff shots of whiskey to calm Hickson’s nerves, it was concluded that the authorities had to be notified:
“I knew people would call us crazy and everything else, but I thought about it some more and said, ‘What if it’s a threat to our country?’ That’s when I decided to call Keesler.”
Hickson first telephoned Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. The sergeant who took their call informed them that the Air Force was no longer investigating UFOs and instructed them to contact the local sheriff.
Hickson and Parker were understandably reticent to have a face to face confrontation with the sheriff, especially knowing how quickly rumors spread in small towns, not to mention the fact that theyunderstood their extra-terrestrial saga was simply too incredible to be believed by an upstanding Mississippi lawman.
Still trying to avoid a direct confrontation with the local authorities, Hickson decided to bring their tale directly to the press. As luck would have it, the office of the small town paper was closed. The men now knew that they had no alternative but to talk to the sheriff.
Approximately 2 hours following the harrowing ordeal, and still uncertain as to the reception their bizarre story would receive from local law enforcement, Hickson and Parker made the long drive to the Jackson County, Mississippi Sheriff’s office.
The two men, exhausted and still distraught, arrived at the sheriff’s office carrying the catfish they’d caught before their abduction. Sheriff Fred Diamond and Captain Glen Ryder conducted an interview with the men. Later, Sheriff Diamond would recall that, though he harbored serious doubts regarding their fantastic story, the men (in particular Parker) seemed genuinely frightened and disturbed by the events that had transpired.
Hickson explained straight away that, while he had been sober during the incident, he’d had some whiskey immediately following it. This did nothing to alleviate Sheriff Diamond’s doubts regarding the veracity of their fisherman’s tale, so, unbeknownst to the shell-shocked pair, he and and Captain Glen Ryder secretly taped the two discussing their abduction while they were alone in an interrogation room following the initial interview.
Diamond assumed that this “secret tape” would reveal the duo as the hoaxers he believed them to be, but was shocked to discover that in private they seemed even more disturbed than they were while talking to the authorities. Diamond and Hickson agreed to keep silent on the whole matter.
Despite the sleep deprivation and post traumatic stress, Hickson and Parker returned to work the following morning, both keeping mum about their experience the night before. Co-workers later noted that the men seemed inordinately anxious. Just hours after punching in, Sheriff Diamond telephoned the men at work and broke the news that reporters were infesting his office trying to uncover more information regarding the abduction.
Hickson was enraged that the Sheriff would so quickly break his word to keep their story secret, but an apologetic Diamond insisted that he had not betrayed them and that the case was simply too sensational to keep under wraps.
Although Hickson and Parker initially shied away from the local publicity surrounding their case, it wasn’t long before the wire services got wind of the incident and, in a matter of days, the Pascagoula alien abduction was major news across the globe.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the two men began to grow paranoid that they had been exposed to radiation during their encounter. They made their way to the local hospital, but soon realized that the facility was not equipped to perform the test they required. So the pair ended up at Keesler Air Force Base — the same base that steered them away just days before — where they were examined extensively by several doctors.
Following the examination, Parker and Hickson were interviewed by the military intelligence chief of the base. Hickson recalled that the “whole base command” observed the proceedings and that an Air Force artist made a sketch of one of the creatures.
Within days the region was at the epicenter of a cyclone of newsmen, astronomers and curiosity seekers. Even Joe Eszterhas — author of the not-so-classic Hollywood films “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls” — was one of the reporters on the scene as a representative of Rolling Stone magazine. Eszterhas concluded that the entire event was a hoax, due to the fact that the site of the alleged encounter was within sight of two tollbooth operators, neither of whom claimed to have witnessed the incident.
Of course, by Hickson’s own admission, the craft and the creatures only made relatively soft buzzing sounds, which would not have alerted men encased in booths some distance away. It’s also not much of stretch to imagine that beings which are ostensibly able to navigate the universe and counteract the laws of gravity, would be just as capable of concealing themselves from prying eyes or even incapacitating unwanted eyewitness without them being any the wiser.
Strangely enough, confirmation that an unusual craft was flying in the area would eventually come in 2001, when retired navy chief petty officer Mike Cataldo , after 28 years of silence, revealed that he observed a strange air-ship at dusk on the same night as the Hickson/Parker encounter.
According to Cataldo, he was traveling with crew mates Ted Peralta and Mack Hanna on U.S. Route 90 from Pascagoula to Ocean Springs, when he spied an object that he described as “a large tambourine with small flashing lights.” The UFO crossed the freeway, then hovered over the treeline before vanishing from their sight.
As the men were still trying to process their unusual sighting, the craft made a second even closer appearance near Ocean Springs. While Cataldo’s report does not necessarily substantiate Hickson and Parker’s admittedly wild claims, it does confirm that third party observers, military men no less, saw something bizarre flying in the skies above Pascagoula.
As if that weren’t intriguing enough, former Pascagoula detective “Puddin” Broadus told Captain Ryder that me saw something streak through the air that same night. According Ryder, Broadus, who has since passed on, was an honest man not prone to flights of fancy: “Puddin’s dead now, but he was a fine man. He wouldn’t make up something like that.”
At the height of the public fervor surrounding their encounter, none other than the illustrious Dr. J. Allen Hynek (who in just a few years would go on to serve in an advisory capacity on Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and was a consultant astronomer to Projects Sign, Grudge and Blue Book) arrived, representing the U.S. Air Force’. The Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) also sent James A. Harder — a U.C. Berkeley engineering professor — to investigate the Hickson/Parker incident.
The two famed researchers combined their efforts and interviewed Hickson and Parker together. Harder attempted to illicit more answers from Hickson by subjecting him to “regressive hypnosis,” but during the process the victim became so terrified that the procedure was halted.
In another hypnotic session, years later, Hickson would claim to have recovered some additional, even more disturbing, memories of other “living” beings on the space ship:
“Under deep hypnosis once, I discovered something that still gives me chills. There were people on that spaceship — living beings in another compartment. They never came in there where we were. And I’m telling you, they looked almost like us… only thing I can figure is that they couldn’t live in our atmosphere, so they let the robots come out there and carry us inside.”
Soon thereafter, both eyewitnesses took polygraph tests, which they passed with flying colors — in the years to come they would take many more such tests and pass them all. The polygraph test results, combined with the information on the “secret tape,” and the compelling and unchanging manner in which the victims related their tale convinced Harder and Hynek that the two men were telling the truth. Hynek had this to say regarding the case:
“… there was definitely something here that was not terrestrial… this was the first time I had seen for myself the profoundly disturbing effect of a UFO encounter on two ordinary human beings. It was impossible to be with Charlie and Calvin — or listen to that tape — and not believe that something terrifying had happened to them.”
In the months that followed magazine articles, paperbacks and even a comic book (with what must be termed as a liberal interpretation of the aliens emblazoned on its cover) all hit the newsstands, purporting to tell the real story of what happened that night on the Pascagoula River. It wasn’t long before all of the pressure of the publicity overwhelmed Hickson and Parker.
The men packed up and went to Jones County, Mississippi, where they hoped to find relief from the media storm with family members. The teenage Parker was still reeling from the terrifying event and was eventually hospitalized for what has been described as “an emotional breakdown.”
Years later, Hickson would suggest that the emotional blow 19-year old Parker had taken following their abduction was made all the worse for him because the youth had never before experienced a terrifying life or death situation. Hickson, on the other hand, was a combat veteran of the Korean war where he had been confronted my mortally dangerous situation numerous times. That having been said, Hickson still claimed that his experience with these robo-men had been the most terrifying event in his life:
“I’ve known fear. I fought 20 months in hand-to-hand combat in Korea. The only thing I’m scared of is a snake. I’ll run from a snake. But this wasn’t normal… this thing really messed Calvin up. He was so young. He just couldn’t handle it.”
While Parker has gone out of his way to avoid the public eye since all the hub-bub, Hickson eventually learned to embrace his role in UFO history, appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson as well as “The Dick Cavett Show” in January of 1974. While on that show, Dick Cavett’s artist, Tony Accurso, created this drawing based on the eyewitness descriptions.
Ten years after the event, in 1983, Hickson co-authored a book with William Mendez about his encounter titled “UFO Contact at Pascagoula.”
Scores of other books on ufology and the paranormal have also included segments recording Hickson and Parker’s nerve-racking rendezvous with the unknown. The incident has become such a pop culture phenomenon that now there are even toys of what were once considered terrifying celestial apparitions.
In the nearly 40 years since that fateful night Hickson and Parker’s stories have remained the same. In a March 7, 1974 newspaper interview, Hickson expressed just how devastating the lingering effects of his encounter had been:
“I wake up every three or four hours, sometimes in a cold sweat. I don’t know what is terrifying me so. Maybe I am reliving what happened… I know I always have the feeling there’s something important that I just can’t remember, no matter how hard I try.”
© Copyright Rob Morphy 2010