Billy Watkins Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Published 3:44 p.m. UTC Aug 16, 2018
One of two men who claimed to have been abducted by a UFO in Pascagoula in 1973, Calvin Parker, has finally explained what he remembers about that night 45 years ago in a new book, ”Pascagoula — The Closest Encounter, My Story”
The other man, Charles Hickson, told Clarion Ledger columnist Billy Watkins his account of the event in great detail 16 years ago at his home on the Gulf Coast. Hickson died Sept. 9, 2011, at the age of 80. During that interview, he revealed something he had never talked about publicly.
Here is Watkins’ story from Oct. 20, 2002.
GAUTIER — Charles Hickson has no proof. No photograph he can pull from his wallet, no papers certifying his story.
Just his word that 29 years ago this month he and a fishing buddy were abducted by a UFO, examined by a machine resembling a giant eyeball, then released physically unharmed.
He has told his story under hypnosis, told it to Johnny Carson on national TV. Recently, while sipping coffee in his modest home in Gautier, he told the story to a Clarion-Ledger reporter. His account of that night never changes. He has passed numerous lie-detector tests.
What Hickson hasn’t talked about publicly, until now, is that he believes whatever – or whoever – was on that craft has kept track of him.
“I think they know where I am at all times,” he says. “Too many strange things have happened.”
Hickson, a retired shipyard foreman with five children and a no-nonsense demeanor, is 71 and spends most of his time caring for Blanche, his wife of 48 years who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. He is fighting health problems of his own, including clogged arteries in his neck.
Hickson says he is a God-fearing man who “believes Jesus Christ died for my sins.” Whether people believe his UFO story doesn’t seem to be a big deal to him. “If you were in my place right now, I’m not sure I’d believe you or not,” he said.
But others saw something that night, too.
Several people later reported strange lights in the Gulf Coast sky just after sunset on Oct. 11, 1973 – about the time Hickson and then 19-year-old Calvin Parker say they were abducted.
Mike Cataldo, a retired Navy chief petty officer now living in Rotonda West, Fla., says he saw “a very strange object on the horizon” late that afternoon while driving on U.S. 90, between Pascagoula and Ocean Springs.
“Puddin’ Broadus, a Pascagoula detective back then, told me he saw something streak through the air,” says Glenn Ryder, a former captain with the Jackson County Sheriff’s department who was the first to interrogate Hickson and Parker. “Puddin’s dead now, but he was a fine man. He wouldn’t make up something like that.
“A guard at Ingalls (Shipbuilding) saw it. Another guy was in his back yard and said he saw something streak above his house.
“When we studied it, all those reports were in a straight line. And I’ll tell you this: After talking with (Hickson and Parker) that night, I’m convinced they had some kind of experience. I don’t know exactly what, but something happened to them. They were both shook up, especially that boy.”
Parker, now 48, has avoided the media in recent years.
“This thing really messed Calvin up,” Hickson says. “He was so young … he just couldn’t handle it.”
In a 1993 interview with The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Parker said he was convinced it was demons, sent directly from Satan, who visited them that night.
Beverly Parker, Calvin’s stepmother who lives with his father in Kiln, says they haven’t heard from him “in a couple of months.” Last she knew, Calvin was working construction in North Carolina and “doing pretty good.”
The UFO incident is “something he won’t talk about anymore,” she says.
‘Looked like they had elephant skin’
It is late on a Saturday night, and Blanche Hickson has gone to bed. The house is quiet and dark, except for a single lamp softly illuminating the den.
“I don’t mind talking about it,” Charles Hickson says, settling his 5-foot-8, 172-pound body into an easy chair. “I don’t seek folks out to tell it, but it’s something I feel like people deserve to know if they ask.”
Hickson begins his story:
“Calvin was working for me at Walker’s Shipyard, and doing a dadgum good job. Calvin and his brother had sorta grown up with my oldest boy, Eddie. Some evenings after work, we’d go fishing.
“We got off about 4 o’clock that day and came by my house to get the fishing tackle, then we went and got some shrimp for bait. We tried several places and hadn’t caught anything. I said, ‘Calvin, there’s one more place I want to try. If they don’t bite there, we’ll give it up and go on home.’
“So we went down toward Ingalls and started fishing off a pier. We sat there for a while, and I finally got a bite. I was reeling in and started hearing this hissing sound. Like steam coming out of a pipe.
“I looked around, and it just startled me. Something was hovering two or three feet above the ground, probably no more than 10 or 15 yards from us. There were two blue flashing lights on the top part of the end that was toward us. I couldn’t tell if it was round or oblong. I could see a little dome on top, but I couldn’t see all the way around the thing so I couldn’t tell for sure how big it was.
“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. 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.
“All of a sudden, these three things began coming out of that door. They looked like they had elephant skin. Wrinkled. Real wrinkled. And triangle shaped ears that had to be some sort of antennas.
“These things were robots. They seemed to come right out of that beam of light. They never touched the ground. They moved right out there beside me and Calvin. I couldn’t move, and neither could he. Two of ”em came around behind me, took me under each arm. When they grabbed me, I seemed to rise to their height. They weren’t as tall as me, but they sorta had me in a leaning position.
“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.
“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.
“I didn’t see (the robots) for a while. Then an eyeball, about the size of a football, came out of the wall. It moved right in front of my face. I saw dials and gadgets moving around. It went behind me, then came back over me. 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.
“It seemed like a long time, but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes. (The robots) came and carried me back outside. They didn’t throw me down, they eased me down. And when they did, I fell to the ground. My legs were real weak.
“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.’ “
‘What if it’s a threat to our country?’
As they drove away in Parker’s Plymouth, Hickson and Parker agreed not to tell anyone about the incident.
“I knew people would call us crazy and everything else,” Hickson says. “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 (Air Force Base in Biloxi).”
The person who answered the phone at Keesler said they didn’t investigate UFOs and suggested Hickson call the sheriff’s department.
That’s when Hickson spoke with Glenn Ryder from a convenience store pay phone.
“He said, ‘I want to tell you something, but you’ve got to promise not to laugh,’ ” recalls Ryder, now 63 and retired. “I was about to get off work, so it kinda aggravated me. I said, ‘If you want to tell me something, then tell me.’ He asked me again to promise not to laugh, so I promised.
“He said, ‘I just got picked up by a UFO.’ And, of course, I busted out laughing. He got real upset, so I apologized and told him to go ahead with his story. I could tell he was serious.”
Ryder convinced Hickson and Parker to drive to the sheriff’s office. He called Jackson County sheriff Fred Diamond, now deceased, to join him for the questioning.
Ryder remembers: “When they walked in, Charlie said, ‘I just want to tell you up front, I’ve had a drink. I had to do something to try and settle my nerves.’
“The young boy was real fidgety. He was about to crawl the walls.”
Hickson and Parker told the officers what had happened. Ryder says it was a struggle to keep a straight face.
Then he and Diamond plotted to find out the truth. “We kept a tape recorder in the top drawer of the desk,” Ryder says. “It was a small office, so it would pick up everything said in there. We let them go to the bathroom and decided to turn the recorder on, then leave them alone for a while.
“We did that, and when we listened to the tape later, we expected to hear them saying, ‘Boy, we sure fooled them’ or something like that.”
But they didn’t. Here is the transcript from the hidden recorder.
Parker: “I got to get home and get to bed or get some nerve pills or see the doctor or something. I can’t stand it. I’m about to go half crazy.”
Hickson: “I tell you, when we’re through, I’ll get you something to settle you down so you can get some damn sleep.”
Parker: “I can’t sleep yet like it is. I’m just damn near crazy.”
Hickson: “Calvin, when they brought you out – when they brought me out of that thing – (expletive) I like to never in hell got you straightened out.”
Parker: “My damn arms, my arms. I remember they just froze up and I couldn’t move. Just like I stepped on a damn rattlesnake.”
Hickson: “They didn’t do me that way.”
Parker: “I passed out. I expect I never passed out in my whole life.”
Hickson: “I’ve never seen nothing like that before in my life. You can’t make people believe …”
Parker: “I don’t want to keep sitting here. I want to see a doctor.”
Hickson: “They better wake up and start believing.”
Parker: “You see how that damn door come right up?”
Hickson: “I don’t know how it opened, son. I don’t know.”
Parker: “I just laid up, and just like that, those (expletive) come out.”
Hickson: “I know. You can’t believe it. You can’t make people believe it.”
Parker: “I paralyzed right then. I couldn’t move.”
Hickson: “They won’t believe it. They gonna believe it one of these days. Might be too late. I knew all along they was people from other worlds up there. I knew all along. I never thought it would happen to me.”
Parker: “You know yourself I don’t drink.”
Hickson: “I know that, son. When I get to the house, I’m gonna get me another drink, make me sleep. Look, what we sitting around for? I got to go tell Blanche … what we waiting for?”
Parker: “I gotta go to the house. I’m getting sick. I gotta get out of here.”
Hickson leaves the room, and Parker is left alone.
Parker: “It’s hard to believe … Oh, God, it’s awful. I know there’s a God up there.”
Parker begins to pray. His words become inaudible.
‘There were people on that spaceship’
*When he got home, Hickson told his wife what had happened and where he had been.
“I was like everybody else … I had a hard time believing it,” Blanche Hickson says. “But three or four hours later, I knew something was wrong. I was up all night, wiping sweat off of him. He’d jump straight up in the bed. He was scared to death.”
Hickson went to work the next morning. “I had to get my men going,” he says. “But as soon as I got back to my office, the phone rang. It was a reporter from Jackson, asking what had happened the night before. I just slung the phone down.”
Diamond called minutes later. He said word had leaked out and that his office was flooded with reporters.
He asked me to come over and talk to them, and I told him I wasn’t going no damn where,” Hickson says.
Hickson took off work for two weeks, hoping things would die down. They didn’t.
Officials at Keesler interviewed him and Parker. Reporters and astronomers were coming to Hickson’s house, begging for details.
“It got to the point where I was like, ‘They know about it. I might as well tell them what happened.’ And I told Calvin that,” he says.
Hickson and Parker were all over the national news and made the talk-show circuit: The Dick Cavett Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Tonight Show.
Something surprised Hickson: “Nobody was laughing at us, at least not to our face. I never took any ridicule. My children at school never took any ridicule. It surprised me.”
Hickson became friends with Allen Hynek, an astronomer at Northwestern University and one of the world’s leading UFO investigators at the time. Hynek is now deceased.
“He convinced me to undergo hypnosis,” Hickson says. “I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I did it several times.”
His story was basically the same during each session.
“But under deep hypnosis once, I discovered something that still gives me chills,” Hickson says. “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.”
The Pascagoula incident was not the first — nor the last — reported abduction. The first documented case involved Barney and Betty Hill, who said they were taken aboard an alien craft in 1961 while driving in New Hampshire.
Hickson visited Betty Hill in Boston a few months after his encounter. “Her husband had died, but she wanted to try and find out if it could’ve been the same craft,” he says. “From what she described to me, I told her I didn’t think so.”
Peter Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle, has studied both cases extensively.
“It was the Pascagoula case that played a crucial role in convincing my predecessor (Robert J. Gribble) to set up this center,” says Davenport, a graduate of Stanford University with degrees in Russian and biology.
“He said cases like Mr. Hickson’s and Mr. Parker’s made him realize the need for a centralized place where people could call and report things they had seen.”
Davenport realizes many people believe UFOs are about as real as the Tooth Fairy.
He is not one of them. When he was 6, Davenport witnessed a bright red object, the size of a full moon, hovering like a traffic signal in the night sky above a drive-in theater in St. Louis. “People were getting out of their cars and pointing and actually running toward it,” he says. “In a matter of seconds, it accelerated and was gone over the horizon.
“My father had seen it with binoculars from the airport tower where he worked. I always thought it was strange he didn’t care to talk about it.”
Davenport can cite numerous inexplicable cases, including the Phoenix Lights of 1997. “Tens of thousands of people witnessed objects acting in an utterly bizarre fashion over Arizona,” he says. “The objects hovered, then flew at supersonic speed through the air space of at least three major airports.”
He says five years ago, “prestigious people” with the U.S. government requested a meeting with him in Washington.
“They asked not to be identified,” Davenport says, “and they were 32 minutes late to the meeting. But when they got there, they said, ‘As a courtesy to you, we’d first like to tell you our position on UFOs. One, we know they’re real. Two, they appear to be sophisticated crafts under intelligent control. And, three, we’re worried about them.’
“That confirmed everything I had suspected up to that time. I don’t think I’m crazy. I don’t think I’m dumb. And I believe the UFO phenomenon is real.”
So does John Podesta, President Clinton’s former White House chief of staff. Just last week, Podesta said he will be leading a group to gain access to secret governmental records about UFOs.
“It’s time to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the real nature of this phenomenon,” he said.
’See if that light ain’t following us’
On Mother’s Day, May 1974, Hickson was riding back from a family get-together in Jones County with his wife, their youngest son (Curtis), their daughter (Sheila) and the man she was married to at the time.
“It was almost midnight,” Hickson says, “and I kept noticing a light back behind us. I nudged Sheila, who was sitting on the front seat beside me, and said, ‘Look out that window and see if that light ain’t following us.’
She looked out the window and just froze. Blanche saw it and started screaming.”
Seconds later, a saucer-shaped craft was hovering 150 feet above, and to the right, of their car.
“I saw it with my own eyes,” says Sheila Hynum of Vicksburg, who was 18 at the time. “Mama was so scared, she was screaming.”
“It was a terrifying thing to see,” Blanche Hickson says. “It affected me bad. Tore me up. We stopped the car and Charles wanted to get out, but I wouldn’t let him. We were all grabbing him and holding him.
“It hovered there a while, then just disappeared.”
Charles Hickson, whose 1983 book UFO: Contact at Pascagoula will be re-issued in November, says that wasn’t the first sighting he’d had since the initial encounter.
While squirrel hunting in February 1974, he knelt down beside a tree to eat a sandwich. Through the brush, he says, part of a craft was visible. Suddenly, he heard a voice.
“It was like a radio signal or something inside my head,” he says. “They said, ‘Tell people we mean you no harm. You have endured. You have been chosen. There is no need for fear. Your world needs help. We will help before it is too late. You are not prepared to understand. We will return again soon.’
“I picked up my gun and came straight home.”
The same voice, with the same message, came to him again a month later in his backyard. Since then, he says, all the fear has left him.
“I want to go to that world – wherever it is they came from,” he says. “I don’t think they’d carry me if they couldn’t bring me back. And if they ever decide to destroy this world, they might save a few of the people. I’d like to think I’d be one of those.”
Well past midnight now, Hickson gets up from his chair, leaves the den, and returns with a large brown envelope. He pulls out several X-rays and shows them to the visiting reporter.
“See that little mole-looking thing behind my (right) eye?” he says, holding the image over the lamp. “I think they implanted something in there. I’ve been to the VA hospital in New Orleans twice. Been to a cancer doctor at Tulane University. Nobody can figure out what it is.
“Me, I think it’s maybe how they keep track of me. It doesn’t hurt. Doesn’t affect my vision. It just showed up when they were taking pictures of the arteries in my neck.
“Strange, ain’t it?”
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