A UFO abduction case in Mississippi made international headlines and forever changed the men who said they were taken.
In 1973, these two old boys from Mississippi went fishing.
Shoot. Went fishing? What kind of show is this? Is it a fishing show now?
Now listen, the events of that night divided these boys’ lives in two pieces. Things happened before. Things happened after. The tiny threads that bind those two pieces together, maybe as little as 20 minutes, made international headlines and forever changed those two old boys.
Alright. Let’s load up and head out. Throw your tackle in the truck bed, put them sack lunches on the floorboard. I’m Toby Sells. Let’s head to Pascagoula, Mississippi for what may be the South’s most famous UFO abduction case today on Haint Blues.
After Charlie Hickson and Calvin Parker went fishing that October Thursday in Pascagoula, they came home different, and they’d be different from then on. Theirs was a tale hardly anyone could believe, one that many did not believe. But one — whether you believe it or not — that remains a mystery to this day.
Yeah it changed them boys, but it changed them in different ways. And you could tell that from the beginning. There’s this famous newspaper photo of the two men at the time.
They’re sitting together on a couch I guess in the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Young Calvin’s got these perfect 70s sideburns. Alright, now, that don’t matter but they are amazing. What does matter is Calvin’s body language. His arms are crossed. Head down. His eyes unfocused. In his head, he’s a million miles away, wishing he could be a million miles away.
But Charlie’s bald head is up. His clear, piercing eyes are giving a look that says, I know this sounds crazy but you have got to believe me. By god, you’d better believe me.
Deputies got Calvin and Charlie’s full story that night. Then, they left them alone in the interview room together. See, the cops had a secret and they were gonna bust these boys, these hoaxers. But it backfired.
In that room alone, Charlie told Calvin, “I thought I’d been through enough hell on this earth and then to go through something like this. Something like this, you can’t get over it in a lifetime.”
Charlie was older, y’know. Back in ’73 he was 42 and Calvin was 18. But they both worked together there at the F. B. Walker Shipyard in Pascagoula.
Called Mississippi’s Flagship City, Pascagoula sits right on the Gulf of Mexico in between Biloxi and Mobile, Alabama.
There at the shipyard, Charlie and Calvin’s company built tugs, towboats, and fishing boats.
Charlie was a foreman and it’s been said that Calvin kinda looked up to him, kind of like a dad. While they both worked in Pascagoula, they were both from up north around Hattiesburg.
Well, they got to talking at work that Thursday and decided that they’d go fishing right after they got off.
They loaded their gear into Calvin’s brand new AMC Hornet. They drove to a spot on the Pascagoula River down by an old grain elevator.
At first, they’s after hardheads and croakers and they caught a few. But Charlie convinced Calvin to move. He said he’d caught redfish and speckled trout out by the old Shaupeter Shipyard, right off Highway 90.
After a brief drive, they were back at the river bank. They unloaded their gear and made for an old iron pier right over the water.
The October air was cool and clean with that Gulf breeze blowing on them. Probably all you could hear were the sounds of the boys’ spinning rods and maybe a low hum coming from the shipyards nearby. I bet it was so peaceful…. until they saw it.
They spotted a blue light, maybe two or three miles away and it surprised them. Lights in the sky weren’t unusual, but a blue light? It caught their attention.
Charlie said, ”Then it in just a little while, it come right down above the bayou.”
The blue light got closer, 25 yards or so and those two boys got scared. Then they were able to see it was an oval-shaped craft that had that blue light on the front of it.
It went over their heads and came to hover right behind them close to Calvin’s car. They said it was oblong and about eight feet tall.
Calvin said he “liked to’ve had a heart attack.“ And I don’t blame him.
They described the sound it made the same way for decades. It was a buzzing sound or a zipping sound or a long hiss. Nnnnnnnn. Nnnnnnn. Or, Zzzzzz, zzzzz. Ssss. Ssss. And there was no big blast coming from it like from a rocket would have, Charlie said.
They just stood there, watching it. Then, one end of the craft opened up and three of “them” just floated out.
They were about five feet tall. Pale, gray skin, like elephant skin, they said. A cone shape came out of their faces where a human nose would’ve been. Below that was a slit like a mouth but it never moved. They seemed robotic.
Charlie didn’t see any eyes. But they had something on each side of their heads that kind of looked like ears. They didn’t have necks and their heads just rested on their bodies.
Charlie told police the figures glided — not walked but glided — out of the ship and moved right up toward them and there was nothing they could do about it.
Charlie said, “I was scared to death. And me with a spinnin’ reel out there — it’s all I had.”
The figures glided up and around Charlie and Calvin. Both had been paralyzed either by fear or by some unseen force. They grabbed the men under the arms with hands that looked like pinchers.
Calvin said his arms froze up, “just like I stepped on a rattlesnake.” With no force at all, they lifted the men off the ground.
”And they glided me into that thing,” Charlie told police. “You know, how you just guide somebody? All of us When I got in there, they had me, you know, they just kind of had me there. There were no seats, no chain, they just moved me around.
I couldn't resist them, I just floated. Felt no sensation, no pain. They kept me in one position a little while, then they'd raise me back up.”
Both boys said the inside of the craft glowed brightly but neither could find a source of the light.
Then, an instrument neither man had ever seen before was set before em. The only way Charlie could describe it was that it looked like a big eye. It began to scan their bodies, up and down.
Then, the beings would leave for a time. They’d return and continue to scan. Then leave. Charlie said he wasn’t even sure if he was conscious but he thought he was. If he was, he could only move his eyes, he said.
He even tried talking to them. “I’d get a buzzing sound out of one of ‘em. That’s all. They didn’t pay me no attention, my talking or nothing.”
Charlie said Calvin kind of passed out when the beings first grabbed them. But Charlie might’ve just been covering for him. You see, Calvin didn’t want to talk. He was afraid if they did, “they’ll come back for us.”
When they were released, the two only remember standing on the bank of the river where they’d been before. There was no handshake. No hug. No butter bowl filled with leftovers. Just, poof.
Well, not just poof, I guess. There was that buzzing sound again and the craft was gone. But not before it shattered every window in Calvin’s brand new car.
And, then, Calvin and Charlie were alone again, right back on the bank of the Pascagoula River, nice and peaceful.
The two weren’t sure how long they’d been in there. Could’ve been three hours or could’ve been 20 minutes, Charlie said. He didn’t know because he never wore a watch. But he was sure about one thing.
He said, “I’ve never seen that sort of fear on a man’s face as I saw on Calvin’s. It took me awhile to get him back to his senses, and the first thing I told him was, son, ain’t nobody gonna believe this.”
Neither man had been drinking before the incident. Calvin didn’t drink at all. But once they were back on the ground, Charlie leaned against Calvin’s car and nipped on a bottle of whiskey. And I don’t blame him.
At first they weren’t going to tell anybody. But once Charlie collected himself, he decided that somebody, somebody official, ought to hear their story. Charlie was afraid that what’d happened to them, might be the first volley in a full-scale alien invasion.
They called Keesler Air Force Base but were told to call the local police. Fearing that the police wouldn’t believe them, the two drove over to the office of the The Mississippi Press, the daily newspaper there in Pascagoula.
It was late and the reporters were all gone. But Katherine and Dorothy Smith were inside the office cleaning up. Charlie came up banging on the door. They told him he couldn’t come in and that he needed to go to the police. But Charlie musta told them what happened, because Dorothy and Katherine said they were skeptical.
“He didn’t seem like he’d seen nothing,” Katherine told a TV news station at the time. “He seemed calm. He didn’t seem frightened.”
The two men finally decided to take their story to the police. Well, maybe Charlie decided that. A detective working that night said Calvin came in crying, begging Charlie not to talk, again, for fear “they” would come back for them.
But the two finally did talk with Sheriff Fred Diamond. Charlie told the sheriff he was afraid the police wouldn’t believe them. Diamond asked, “Well, how’d you know unless you tried?” Charlie apologized.
Charlie said he didn’t want publicity. Both of them said they didn’t want to upset their families. Diamond agreed and asked them to come back the next day and make a full statement.
Then, the police left Calvin and Charlie in the interview room alone. But they didn’t tell them they’d left a hidden tape recorder running.
Diamond and detectives hoped the two would get to talking. Hoped they’d say, we got ‘em. They’re believing this crazy fishing story hook, line, and sinker.
But they didn’t. In fact, their conversation on that tape became one of the most convincing pieces of evidence for their story.
Here’s how some of that conversation went down:
CALVIN: “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.”
“You see how that door just come right up?
CHARLIE: “I don’t know how it opened, son. I don’t know.”
“I knew all along they was people from other worlds up there. I knew it all along. But I never thought it would happen to me.”
After a pause, Charlie said he was going to have to get a drink when he got home to help him sleep. Calvin said he wanted to go home and that he was getting sick.
With that, Charlie got up and left the room. In there all by himself, Calvin began to pray.
“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “Oh, God, it’s awful…I know there’s a God up there…”
Then, the tape ended.
Glenn Ryder, a deputy, laughed at the two boys that night. Nearly four decades later, he told a newspaper reporter "I don't know what happened to them. I wasn't there with them, but I know you don't fake fear, and they were fearful. They were fearful."
Later, Calvin and Charlie underwent a thorough battery of examinations, by humans this time. They were psychoanalyzed, hypnotized, given physicals, and both passed a lie detector test. No one could prove they were lying.
Newspapers grabbed the story with both hands. Within days, reporters from all over the world converged on Pascagoula. They all told the same story: two local fisherman were kidnapped by aliens.
A Mobile television station said a psychic had predicted a UFO appearance and they were going to show it live. About 1,000 cars showed up at the site but nothing happened.
Nearby in Ocean Springs, an alderman wanted a rule against operating a UFO at more than twice the speed of light on Highway 90. Another wanted to make it illegal to land a UFO in the city limits. The mayor voted against it all, saying he didn't want to discourage tourism.
Some in Pascagoula thought it was all bull. Some, I guess, thought it was neat, y’know. One reporter said others would say — and oh my god this is so beautifully Mississippi — “we’re having a party at the house tonight with shotguns on the front porch. And if them suckers land here, we’re going to shoot ‘em.”
While everyone else was having fun, Charlie and Calvin were taking the first turns into what would be the rest Charlie told anyone who would listen. In the process, he became a bit of a Gulf Coast celebrity. He did TV interviews, got letters from all over the world, and appeared in a UFO documentary.
In 1983 he wrote and self-published a book called, “UFO Contact at Pascagoula.” Charlie appeared at UFO conventions and even directed a film about his abduction called “In Contact.”
Ah, but, Calvin, he ran. He chased oil jobs and construction jobs. If somebody at work figured out who he was, he said he’d just move on find another job, another town.
But he was always found out and that could only last so long. So, later, he tried to lean into the story, too, maybe trying to own what happened to him.
He made several television spots about UFOs and his own abduction. But later, he just gave it all up and headed back to the Gulf Coast.
In a 2013 interview with The Associated Press, Calvin said he was still recognized. Also, noting that he’s a man of God, Calvin wondered if the creatures that grabbed him that night weren’t aliens at all, but demons.
In 2018, Calvin told the Clarion-Ledger, the daily paper there in Jackson, that he’d finally changed his mind about keeping quiet. He’d attended a funeral, was immediately recognized, and left out respect for the family, saying people were making the funeral more about him than about the deceased.
He’d spent 45 years not talking about thing that defined his life and the time had come.
“I felt like everyone deserved an explanation," Parker said in the interview. "Everyone has an expiration date and I wanted to get this out there before I die.”
So, he did. Parker lays everything about his abduction and his life after in a new book called “Pascagoula, The Closest Encounter — My Story.”
"I catch myself going fishing at night and look up and wonder where they came from and how far did they travel and why they had to get me,” he said.
In that 2013 story in the Associated Press, Charlie’s son, Eddie, said his dad spent the rest of his life trying to let everyone know that we’re not alone. Charlie died in 2011 at the age of 80.
Charlie and Calvin’s story is considered one of the most influential UFO sightings in American history. And, in 2016, Pascagoula celebrated it.
The town turned out for a Halloween event called Galactic Adventure. It was just before the homecoming football game.
According to Biloxi’s Sun Herald newspaper, the event featured a costume contest, an electric light parade, the Great Haunted Halloween Bicycle Tour, and a pumpkin pottery demonstration.
Folks around back when Calvin and Charlie were abducted were expected to gather at Downton Buffet to share memories.
Scranton’s restaurant offered a $4 mixed drink called Absolut Alien Abuctions. They had Deep Fried Milky Way Anybody who spent $25 at Ali’s Gifts and More got a free Halloween tote bag. Anything space-related at Whimsy’s Books & Toys was 15 percent off.
I love this story and the Gulf Coast. I think about it anytime I’m on the beach down there. I find myself — maybe a bit like Calvin — looking up to the stars, looking for a blue light.
I do know one thing, y’all have got to respect Calvin and Charlie.
I don’t know em personally or anything but they don’t seem like the kind of guys who’d make up something like this. Why on Earth would two Southern boys turn their lives upside down like that? And over an alien abduction? I can tell you, you don’t.
My name’s Toby Sells. Thank for loading up and heading out. Holler back at me here soon for more Haint Blues.