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An editor’s reblog: The Pascagoula Abduction, 1973

The following was originally published on editor Foster Dickson’s website in October 2018.


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:

 

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 17

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


Angry but don’t know why? According to USF, we are.

This “Generational Differences Chart” compiled by the University of South Florida features a column each for four American generations: Traditionalists, born before World War II; Boomers, 1945 – 1964; Generation X, 1965 – 1980; and Millenials, 1981 – 2000. Some of the observations are astute, like the fact that we largely took care of ourselves growing up and that we are anti-authority, but others are harder to figure out, like why they decided we’re “angry but don’t know why.”

“13 Things You’ll Remember If You Grew Up In Mississippi In The ’80s”

Whoever compiled this has little idea what children pay attention to. Although it is a list of things that happened in the 1980s in Mississippi, they’re probably of greater interest to someone who was an adult at that time.

“Nashville Then, January 1980” from The Tennesseean

This look back offers seventy images of Nashville and surrounding areas at the end of the ’70s / beginning of the ’80s.

“Snow in Gainesville?” from the Independent Florida Alligator student newspaper, 1977

From the “File Story” section of the website, this image of a newspaper story shows and describes a rare snow event in the northern Florida capitol city in January 1977.


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 16

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


Jim Clyburn elected president of South Carolina’s Young Democrats, 1972

Though Clyburn is not a GenXer, his election in this case shows a marked difference between the Southern politics that the Boomers were familiar with – in South Carolina, that meant Strom Thurmond – and the politics that Generation X became familiar with. For older Southerners, the Democrats were the party of segregation, but it had become the party of Civil Rights by the 1970s. Clyburn rose through the ranks of the party, and as a congressman has been credited with garnering many Southern black votes for Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.

Mississippi University for Women in the 1970s and ’80s

Showing perhaps some degree of change in Deep Southern culture, Mississippi State College for Women was renamed Mississippi University for Women in 1974. Then, MUW began admitting male students in 1982, and in 1989, the school got its first female president, Clyda Rent. Since its founding in 1884, there had been three female interim presidents who served brief terms before her. Since 1989, only one of the six presidents has been male.

The Todd Road Incident and Leadership Montgomery, 1983

Montgomery, Alabama is well-known as the site of Rosa Parks 1955 arrest and as the destination for the 1965 voting-rights marchers, but fewer people know about the city’s ongoing racial divisions, which continued. The Todd Road Incident involved the shooting of a black teenager by police officers who did not identify themselves as such. In the wake of the controversy, the organization Leadership Montgomery was formed, in hopes of addressing the issues that led to these situations.

“Flashback photos: 30 years ago, 1990 in Georgia” from ajc.com


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.