Counterculture

A Deep Southern #throwbackthursday: The Pascagoula Abduction, 1973

Forty-five years ago today, on October 11, 1973, two men named Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker reported to local sheriffs that they had been abducted by aliens while fishing on the Pascagoula River in southern Mississippi. Hickson and Parker claimed that a spaceship whizzed by, paralyzed them, and took them onto the ship to look them over.

The response from journalists was immediate and swift, and reading back over coverage from the time, it is clear the sightings weren’t limited to that one report. Less than a week after Hickson’s and Parker’s experience, The Greenwood Commonwealth‘s Jimmy Thompson shared this, on October 17:

Greenwood continued its pursuit of “UFOs” Tuesday night with two sightings reported, one witnessed by a number of Greenwood residents and the other by a lone observer near Schlater.

Greenwood joined the UFO hunt about two weeks ago when lights of various sizes were seen on the RB Moor plantation just west of the city limits.

Perhaps the most spectacular story was a sighting reported by Kerry Hamilton and Billy Henry reported [sic] being “spotlighted”  by a UFO they were observing south of Schlater.

Apparently, the claims seemed credible at the time. In addition to the rapid-fire appearance of UFO stories in Mississippi newspapers that month, the Enterprise-Tocsin newspaper in Indianola told its readers on October 25 that a poll of students found that 53% believed in the UFO sightings. (32% didn’t, and 15% were undecided.) That same day, The Yazoo Herald ran an op-ed by the editor of the Ocean Springs Record that declared:

UFO mania hit full swing when two Pascagoula men said they were taken aboard a spaceship and examined by strange looking creatures.

“Mania” might be the right word. The next month, Mississippi newspapers were again littered with stories and editorials about UFOs, including one in the Greenwood Commonwealth titled “Ezekiel describes UFOs in the Bible.” The craze even reached national audiences with Joe Ezsterhas’ “When the UFOs Fell on Dixie” in the January 17, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.

Obviously, the furor died down, and the events were never verified to full scientific satisfaction. In time, though, both Pascagoula men put out books about their experiences. Charles Hickson’s UFO Contact at Pascagoula was published in 1983. Calvin Parker’s Pascagoula–The Closest Encounter: My Story more recently. Though Hickson passed away in 2011, Parker is still busy sharing his story. Here he is last summer discussing the abduction on a New Orleans-based talk show:

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