High Strangeness: UFOs & Rolling Stone

Friday, June 23, 2017

UFOs & Rolling Stone

The other day I had a great interview about my book with a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and I'm looking forward to seeing the article when it's posted! Before we began the interview I told the reporter that I had some good sidebar material for her story that I could share if she was interested, and she was...

I told her that back in 1974 Dr. Hynek had had a beef with Rolling Stone, and, as I had hoped, she was curious to know more. So, I took her back in time to October, 1973, just after the famous Charlie Hickson & Calvin Parker Pascagoula, Mississippi alien abduction case.

Hickson's and Parker's tale of being kidnapped by hovering robotic creatures with lobster claws for hands, and then examined by the creatures aboard their glowing "craft," had made national headlines, and created a media sensation. Rolling Stone wasn't going to be left out, so the magazine sent a writer named Joe Eszterhas to do a feature story on the Pascagoula abduction. Now, this guy Eszterhas has gone on to write a whole bunch of blockbuster movies, like Basic Instinct and Flashdance, but at the time he was just some smart-ass writer trying to make a name or himself. Kind of like me. Anyway, when he got to Pascagoula he made contact with Joe Colingo, a local attorney who was looking out for Hickson and Parker (I was fortunate enough to interview Mr. Colingo for my book, and he shared some interesting stories about those interesting days--more on Colingo and Eszterhas in a bit).
Rolling Stone's brutal takedown of the Pascagoula, MS, abduction.

As some readers may be aware, there was a lot of pressure on Hickson and Parker to undergo both polygraph tests and hypnosis. After much persuasion the two men agreed to hypnosis, but when the hypnotist tried to take them back to their experience with the creatures the two men panicked and had to be brought out of their trances (Dr. Hynek was there for the session, and he was so struck by the terror Parker and Hickson displayed under hypnosis, he felt certain the two men had had a real experience).

That left the polygraph test, and even though both Parker and Hickson had volunteered to do the tests, Parker had a breakdown just before the test could be done, and he had to be hospitalized... Here's where Eszterhas and Colingo come back into the story. When word got out that Parker was not going to do the polygraph test, Eszterhas tried to get Colingo to admit that Parker chickened out because he knew the polygraph test would reveal that he and Hickson were lying about their UFO experience. Colingo wouldn't bite, and Eszterhas was deprived of his story. But that didn't stop him from writing an article for the January 17, 1974 issue of his magazine that completely decimated Hickson, Parker, Colingo, Hynek, the city of Pascagoula and pretty much every part of the country that lay to the south of the Mason-Dixon line. Here's my depiction of Eszterhas' reporting from an early draft of my book:

In the Rolling Stone depiction of the events, everyone in Pascagoula spoke with a comically exaggerated, Skoal-muffled southern drawl, and all the key players—Hickson, Parker and Colingo among them—were either dumb hicks or scheming gold-diggers, or both.

Here’s a typical passage by Eszterhas, quoting Charlie Hickson’s account of what he saw on the pier: “I heard this buzzin like air gittin let outa a pressuh hose. We stood there watchin it, not movin we was so skeered.”

Eszterhas was equally brutal in his description of Hynek, presenting him as “goateed and stubbly,” and putting quotation marks around the title of “Professor,” insinuating that Hynek was some sort of academic fraud. “Dr. Hynek was the former head of the Air Force’s UFO probe, Project Blue Book,” Eszterhas went on, erroneously. “He lost his job in 1969, when the Air Force discontinued Blue Book and said there were no living/homing/zzzzing/beeping (sic) Claw Men up there.”
A few years later, Hynek got his due in his 1975 book The Edge of Reality, co-written with Dr. Jacques Vallee (whose discussions were sometimes moderated by their friend Arthur Hastings). Here's what he had to say about Eszterhas' article:

VALLEE: What do you think about the Rolling Stone article about Pascagoula?
HYNEK: First of all, those men didn’t talk that way. Hickson doesn’t have that exaggerated drawl, that extreme Southern accent. I can’t even imitate it.
HASTINGS: Where did the Rolling Stone get that idea? Obviously they wanted to take a Southern town apart.
HYNEK: Yes, they sure as hell wanted to take it apart."

Charlie Hickson ended up having the last laugh, passing his polygraph test a few weeks after his abduction, and silencing some--but not all--of his critics. Here's what Joe Colingo told me about his reaction to Hickson's polygraph test:

“We called a company out of New Orleans to come to Pascagoula, and they gave Hickson a polygraph. I wasn’t in the room, but they gave Hickson a polygraph, and I can still remember the quote that the polygraph operator said. He said, 'I’m not saying he saw a spaceship, but when he said he saw a spaceship, he wasn’t lying.’ That’s the way he put it.”

I am happy to say that Rolling Stone is far more enlightened today that it was in 1974. The writer and I had an hour-long talk about UFOs & UFOlogy, belief systems, what made Dr. Hynek tick, and all sorts of other good stuff. I'll be sure to post the link to the article right here as soon as it appears!


Unknown said...

well i can remember how most people were back in the early 70's ..... also the response to the moon landing was very critical to say the least ... back in those days i would look up at night and think ; who made the moon and how was it that we didnt know then how the moon was put exactly where it was needed to be for our oceans and life . in those days of the early 70's people would not only laugh at us who had questions but would scorn us from the group..... I know today we who have witnessed strange things in the past ..... will have the last laugh .

Bill Pilgrim said...

As I recall, the early 70's were tough times for the UFO research community. The Condon Committee and Robertson Panel had released their debunking reports. Blue Book was terminated in '69 with its dubious conclusions. Most of the mainstream legacy media - that until then would treat the subject with a measure of seriousness - did a 180 and turned the subject into The Great Taboo. Ridicule became de riguer.
Eszterhaus's piece was more likely the norm, rather than an exception.

Mark UFO'Connell said...

On the positive side, it was shortly after the Pascagoula abduction that Dr. Hynek founded the Center for UFO Studies, so Eszterhas may have ultimately had a positive effect on UFOlogy!

Bill Pilgrim said...

Such is the mysterious operation of Karma, aye?

Mark UFO'Connell said...

Karma to the nth degree!

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