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The UFO Encounter
On the evening of October 11, 1973, 42-year-old Charles Hickson and 19-year-old Calvin Parker — co-workers at a shipyard — were fishing off a pier on the west bank of the Pascagoula River in Mississippi. They heard a whirring/whizzing sound, saw two flashing blue lights, and reported that an oval shaped "craft", some 8 feet across and 8 or more feet high, suddenly appeared near them. The ship seemed to levitate about 2 feet above the ground.
A door opened on the ship, they said, and three creatures emerged and seized the men, floating or levitating them into the craft. Both men reported being paralyzed and numb. Parker claimed that he had fainted due to fright. They described the creatures as being roughly humanoid in shape, and standing about five feet tall. The creatures' skin was pale in color and wrinkled, and they had no eyes that the men could discern, and slits for mouths. Their heads also appeared connected directly to their shoulders, with no discernible neck. There were three "carrot-like" growths instead - one where the nose would be on a human, the other two where ears would normally be. The beings had lobster-like claws at the ends of their arms, and they seemed to have only one leg (Hickson later described the creatures' lower bodies looking as if their legs were fused together) ending in elephant-like feet. Hickson also reported that the creatures moved in mechanical, robotic ways.
On the ship, Hickson claimed that he was somehow levitated or hovered a few feet above the floor of the craft, and was examined by what looked like a large football-shaped mechanical eye, about 6 to 8 inches in diameter, that seemed to scan his body. Parker claimed that he could not recall what had happened to him inside the craft, although later, during sessions of hypnotic regression he offered some hazy details. The men were released after about 20 minutes and the creatures levitated them, with Hickson's feet dragging along the ground, back to their original positions on the river bank.
In a later interview over 20 years after the initial incident, Parker's story became much more elaborate. Here Parker confessed to lying about fainting in sight of the creatures. He claimed that he was in fact conscious when the creatures took him on board the craft and led him into a room at the other end of a hallway to the left of the craft's entrance. He claims he was laid down on a sloped table and examined by a 'petite,' evidently female, being. Though he was paralyzed, he was able to observe the being inject a needle into the base of the underside of his penis. The being later communicated with him telepathically, suggesting that he had been taken for a reason. While he was not able to define it, Parker felt a sense of imminent harm. Nevertheless, he was led back outside the craft and deposited back into his original position unharmed. He then claimed that 19 years later, he came in contact with the same craft again. This time he voluntarily walked aboard the craft and met with the same female being that had examined his body in 1973. He claimed he had a conversation with the being, in English, in which she communicated to him a religious message. She informed him that they shared the same God, that the bible was an authentic text, and that her species wanted to live on earth but could not due to humanity's tendency towards war and destruction.
Hickson and Parker contact police
Both men said they were terrified by what had happened. They claimed to have sat in a car for about 45 minutes, trying to calm themselves. Hickson drank some whiskey. After some discussion, they tried to report their story to officials at Keesler Air Force Base, but personnel told them the United States Air Force had nothing to do with UFO reports (Project Blue Book had been discontinued about four years before), and suggested the men notify police.
At about 10:30 p.m., Hickson and Parker arrived at the Jackson County, Mississippi Sheriff's office. They brought the catfish they'd caught while fishing; it was the only proof they had to back up their story. Sheriff Fred Diamond thought the men seemed sincere and genuinely frightened and he thought Parker was especially disturbed. Diamond harbored some doubt about the fantastic story, however, due in part to Hickson's admitted whiskey consumption.
The "Secret Tape"
Diamond interviewed the men, who related their story. After repeated questioning, Diamond left the two men alone in a room that was, unknown to Hickson or Parker, rigged with a hidden microphone.
As Jerome Clark, writes, "Sheriff Diamond assumed that if they were lying, that fact would become immediately apparent when the two spoke privately. Instead, they continued to talk in the voices of the terribly distressed." (Clark, 447) This so-called "secret tape" was held on file at the Jackson County Sheriff's department, and has since earned wider circulation amongst UFO researchers and enthusiasts. Parker, who seemed particularly shaken, spoke repeatedly of his wish to see a doctor. A partial transcript of their interrogation and of the "secret tape" is available; immediately below is part of the conversation on the "secret tape", as transcribed by NICAP:
Hickson and Parker returned to work the day after the encounter (Friday, October 12). They did not initially discuss their purported UFO encounter, but coworkers noted that Parker seemed very anxious and preoccupied. Within hours, Sheriff Diamond telephoned the men at work, stating that news reporters were swarming in his office, seeking more information about the UFO story. An angry Hickson accused Diamond of breaking his confidentiality pledge, but Diamond insisted he had not done so, and that the case was too sensational to keep quiet.
Hickson's foreman overheard Hickson's side of the conversation, and asked what had occurred. Hickson related his story to the foreman and to shipyard owner Johnny Walker. After hearing the tale, Walker suggested that Hickson and Parker contact Joe Colingo, a locally prominent attorney (who was Walker's brother-in-law and also represented the shipyard).
Colingo met the men, and, during their conversation, Hickson expressed fears about having been exposed to radiation. Colingo and detective Tom Huntley then took Parker and Hickson to a local hospital, which lacked the facilities for a radiation test. (Clark's book does not make clear if Huntley is a police detective or a private detective.)
From the hospital, the men went to Keesler Air Force Base, where they were examined extensively by several doctors. Afterward, reported Huntley, Parker and Hickson were interviewed by the military intelligence chief of the base, with the "whole base command" observing the proceedings. (Clark, 448)
Colingo drew up a contract to represent Hickson and Parker. However, nothing came of this, and Hickson would later have nothing to do with Colingo, charging the lawyer with base financial motivations: Colingo, said Hickson, "just wanted to make a buck." (Clark, 449)
Within days, Pascagoula was the center of an international news story, with reporters swarming the town. Professor James A. Harder (a U.C. Berkeley engineering professor and APRO member) and Dr. J. Allen Hynek (an astronomer formerly with Project Blue Book) both arrived and interviewed Parker and Hickson. Harder tried to hypnotize the men, but they were too anxious and distracted for the procedure to work—Parker especially so. Hynek withheld ultimate judgment on the case, but did announce that, in his judgment, Hickson and Parker were honest men who seemed genuinely distressed about what had occurred.
Tiring of the publicity, Hickson and Parker went to Jones County, Mississippi (about 150 miles north of Pascagoula), where both men hoped to find relief with family members. Parker was eventually hospitalized for what Clark describes as "an emotional breakdown." (Clark, 449)
In an interview several years after the claimed UFO event, Hickson speculated that Parker fared worse after the encounter because he had never previously experienced a profoundly frightening ordeal. While Hickson described the UFO encounter as the most terrifying event in his life, he also noted that he had seen combat in the Korean War, and that he thus had some familiarity with a terrifying experience. The younger Parker, on the other hand, had never suffered through a terrifying encounter, let alone a bizarre confrontation with something that was not even supposed to exist.
On September 9, 2011, Charles Hickson died at age 80, but never backed off the alien abduction story despite ridicule.
As noted above, both Parker and Hickson volunteered to take polygraph exams to prove their stories. In the end, only Hickson did so, and the examiner determined that Hickson believed the story about the UFO abduction.
Aviation journalist and UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass argued that there was reason to question the reliability of Hickson's lie detector exam, writing,
The polygraph test was given to Hickson by a young operator, just out of school, who had not completed his formal training, who had not been certified by his own school and who had not taken a state licensing examination. Furthermore, that the lawyer for Hickson and Parker - who also was acting as their "booking agent" - had turned down the chance to have his clients tested WITHOUT CHARGE by the very experienced Capt. Charles Wimberly, chief polygraph operator from the nearby Mobile Police Dept. Also, that the lawyer did not contact other experienced polygraph operators close to Pascagoula. Instead, the lawyer had imported from New Orleans - more than 100 miles away - the young, inexperienced, uncertified, unlicensed operator who, by a curious coincidence, worked for a friend of the lawyer!
Subsequent investigation by Joe Esterhas of Rolling Stone uncovered some additional information, leading to increased skepticism about the abduction claim. The supposed UFO landing and abduction site was in full view of two 24-hour toll booths, and neither operator saw anything that night. Also, the site was in range of security cameras from nearby Ingalls Shipyard, but the cameras did not capture anything unusual that night.
Parker has avoided most public attention since the event. Hickson appeared on Dick Cavett's talk show in January 1974, and spoke at occasional UFO conferences; he co-wrote a book about the event with William Mendez titled UFO Contact at Pascagoula (1983, reprinted 1987).
In 2001, retired navy chief petty officer Mike Cataldo revealed that he observed an unusual craft at dusk on the same date. While travelling with crew mates Ted Peralta and Mack Hanna on U.S. Route 90 from Pascagoula to Ocean Springs, an object like a large tambourine with small flashing lights approached from the northwest and crossed the freeway, before hovering over the treeline and disappearing. As he approached his home in St Andrews, Ocean Springs, the craft made a second appearance at lower altitude.