UFO Conjectures

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Carl Sagan and The 1973 Pascagoula Event

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.

Our friend Susan [aka Brownie] raised the issue of Carl Sagan’s “snarkiness” in her comment to my post providing clips of Sagan discussing the 1961 Hill abduction case.


Susan noted that Sagan treated Charlie Hickson, of the 1973 Pascagoula episode with derision, and another person who saw the show felt likewise. This from a comment on YouTube about the Hickson/Parker incident:


“Carl Sagan was no friend of UFO sighting witnesses or people who had been abducted by aliens. I remember him making fun of Charles Hickson on the Dick Cavett show. Hickson was there to tell about his alien abduction while fishing with a friend on a pier on the Pascagoula River in Mississippi in 1973.


"Sagan mocked this man as he told his story of the abduction on network TV. Carl Sagan made Hickson's life more difficult by ridiculing him in front of a national TV audience. Punk move.”

The High Strangeness UFO site also acknowledged Sagan’s condescending demeanor

Robert Mead’s Blog – robertmead.blogspot .com – provides much about the 1973 case.


I concede that Carl Sagan could be demeaning, but he was charming at the same time, throwing off criticism by the less discerning viewer of his TV appearances.

There is no YouTube video of the Cavett show which had Sagan and Hickson on (although there are a gazillion other clips of personalities interviewed by Mr. Cavett).

We may have a VHS tape of the show, and if I can find it, among the literally thousands of VHS tapes we have, I’ll upload it to YouTube, and note it here.

For me, Charles Hickson and his fishing buddy, Calvin Parker, were good ol’ boys, not inclined to create a rather bizarre UFO encounter and hoax; it’s possible but never struck me that way.

The one glitch, for me, were the descriptions of the alleged aliens who transported the fellows to their craft:


Unique and never reported again, just as such creatures had never been reported before.

What does this suggest?

That the event was unique, and possibly hallucinatory, brought on by “moonshine” (I’m being derogatory here, but think it’s a possibility) or some other ingested substance.

If it were a real event, one would think that other sightings would have produced witness testimony of creatures, at least similar to the Pascagoula “aliens.”

The Hickson/Parker event is interesting, and falls into the Caravaca Distortion Theory category perhaps or it’s a one-of-a-kind psychotic episode that needs further examination.

As for Carl Sagan, he, like some of regulars here, was nagged by he possibility that some UFO sightings and events were extraterrestrial visitations or interventions,

But his skeptical scientific discipline forbade him conceding that: extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

That he was rude to Mr. Hickson on a nationally televised TV show disheartens me, but skeptics do get flummoxed when confronted by seemingly credible, honest folks who say they’ve had a weird UFO encounter.

I thank Brownie/Susan for bringing her observation to this blog.



  • Oh that article from the highstrangeness ufo site is very good! I'd almost forgotten about the Capt. Laurence Coyne (and crew) helicopter incident and Sagan suggesting to Hynek that he and his crew were wrong. As I recall, in reading reports about that incident, there were people on the ground who witnessed the event. No doubt Sagan would have considered them wrong too.

    The past few years some in ufology have been buzzing with rumors that Carl Sagan was secretly following crop circles and he believed there was something to them regarding an ET linkage (more than 'Doug & Dave' stomping out funnies in English fields). Who cares, I say. Sagan did lots of damage and made lots of money doing the damage. That's unforgiveable as far as I'm concerned.

    As an 18 year old kid who watched Sagan behave so bad on that Dick Cavett show and knowing, from a close encounter experience that was also experienced by some family members and neighbors a few years earlier - there was indeed the reality of ufos (be they ETs, UTs, Cryptos, Djinn, Fallen Angels, military black ops ect - who knows which or what?)...I sensed Sagan knew better but was delivering the official line on the subject (maybe for money and the freedom to do what he wanted to do at Cornell, as well as the illegal dope smoking, lucrative book/tv contracts ect). That was an era where Sagan's presence saturated tv, the weekly Parade magazine insert in Sunday newspapers and the book shelves.

    ~ Susan

    By Blogger brownie, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • Parker's later additions to the story stretch its credulity, admittedly. However, there may have been SOMETHING afoot when the two men were fishing. I'm just not certain it was what they think it was. I must confess: my own assessment of their case isn't entirely devoid of snark. http://strangestate.blogspot.com/search?q=pascagoula

    By Blogger Cullan Hudson, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • Readers here would do well to check out Cullan's observation of the 1973 event and the aftermath(s).

    Copy his URL above and paste in your browser.

    Snarky? Not all all, Insightful?

    Indeed, as is usual with Mr. Hudson's observations at his superb blog/site.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • Since there's no footage of Sagan dissing Hickson on the Dick Cavett show, I guess this is one more UFO-related unsubstantiated assertion we're expected to believe is true based based on blind faith.

    I think Sagan pretty much laid out his beliefs about extraterrestrial life in "Contact". He said in his fictional work what he couldn't say as a scientist. Please note that the ETs in "Contact" don't reach us by riding around in tin can UFOs or by abducting and performing sexual experiments on hapless members of the human race.

    From what I've seen and read of Sagan, he never ruled out the endless possibilities for extraterrestrial life. He did, however, pragmatically point out that we're the only planet in our solar system that could support life like ourselves. He was always skeptical (and rightly so, IMO) of the wild claims circulating about UFOs in his lifetime.

    Too many in Ufology think that if you ask hard questions about or point out the glaring inconsistencies in a UFO story, you're automatically a debunker or skeptic. That's exactly why Ufology has gone absolutely nowhere in over 60 years.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • I always liked Sagan, PG, but hearing he was willing to humiliate a guy like Hickson -- a good ol' boy, even if deluded -- on national TV disturbs.

    One would have to see the show to make a proper evaluation, but Susan's observation and that of the Tommy guy at YouTube seems to indicate that Sagan was, at least, rude.

    Those having a UFO experience should be considered free of fraud until proven otherwise.

    If they've had a psychotic event, that's not a reason to lambaste them.

    If they have been found to have hoaxed, they should be "outed' and dismissed, of course.

    Hickson and Parker were subject to something bizarre -- internally or externally.

    I don't think their story was an elaborate confabulation.

    They weren't up to such.

    If Sagan played to Cavett's sophisticated audience, shame on him.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • I remember this case very well, it was huge in its' day and yes, Hickson and Parker did appear on the Dick Cavitt show, but I remember Norman Mailer as being on the panel, and he was struck silent by the story, at an unusual loss for words for him and Cavitt commented on that. What stuck out was that Hickson did pretty much all the talking and I remember even as a kid being a little skeptical, but don't remember Sagan on that show and Mailer was deferential and kept silent to the point that Cavitt brought it up.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • Thanks, Frank...

    I hope your memory is not flummoxed by the Smiley Blanton Syndrome -- the mixture of two separate events, by the mind, into one event.

    I'll go back into YouTube and check the several Mailer clips on Cavett to see if any also have Hickson and Sagan in them.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • Talk-show legend Dick Cavett tells an anecdote about false memory. Excerpt from the documentary, "Unforgettable".



    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • No Mailer with Hickson on Cavett, Frank.

    The Gore Vidal -- Norman Mailer dust-up show is there only.

    And references to the show does not have Mailer as part of the panel.

    Smiley Blanton strikes again!


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • See this:



    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • Being articulate, charismatic, and telegenic gave Sagan more clout with the lay public than he had in the scientific community (which sometimes is evident when his work is discussed by serious scientists).

    But, he at least got a generation of young Americans interested in science, even if they were initially attracted only by his glamour.

    He was always a little supercilious in his presentation, which was bothersome even through the astronomy he presented was fascinating. I'm ambivalent about him. I think if he were up against Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kako today, he would be outclassed on several levels.

    Anyway, Sagan didn't believe in UFOs, alien abductions, and Velikovsky's theories of the solar system. So what? Many decent, honest, hard working people from all walks of life around the world don't either. Hard core reality -- a helluva lot of people don't believe and Ufology can't make them.

    Anyway, Sagan is dead. Let's leave him buried. And let's leave Phil Klass buried, too. Sheesh! Ufology seems to think it can go forward by staring intently in the rear view mirror.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • PG:

    Archaeologists, historians, cosmologists, et al. have got to make you livid, looking at the past as they do.

    When it comes to UFOs, looking forward (or at current sightings) offers little to those who hope to resolve the phenomenon or mystery.

    It's good, as I see it, that UFOs have a priority value of one or two in the great scheme of things.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, June 22, 2013  

  • I think the case of Sagan and the public expression of what could be construed as a hard boiled skepticism
    toward extraterrestrial life is not quite so black and white, just as in the case of nearly everyone. He wanted to find the evidence he did seek, and had a low threshold toward anything that was not definitive proof. He did consider (for example) that the Dogon \ Sirius case was a remote possibility and at one point called it "the best case" for circumstantial evidence that we had been visited in the past. However Dr Robert Temple (who came up with this thesis )alleged that Sagan went behind the scenes to blackball his membership in a scientific association. While brilliant, he was a product of his times as any historical scientific character. As science progressed beyond his time, the possibilities of overcoming the vast distances of space became more probable. Not by Newtonian rockets but by bending space itself.
    I would not judge him too harshly unless we judge our own prejudices first.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Sunday, June 23, 2013  

  • Hickson speaks for himself. It's pretty interesting.


    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Sunday, June 23, 2013  

  • Gilles Fernandez sent some enlightening material on the Hickson/Parker encounter:


    BTW, we have documented the Pascagoula UFO case in our forum. http://ufo-scepticisme.forumactif.com/t2554-l-enlevement-de-charles-hickson-et-calvin-parker-sur-la-riviere-pascagoula-en-1973

    Dunno if you know "recent" CSICOP article by Joe Nickell (may-june 2012) defending hypnagogic state and "folie à deux" regarding the case:


    There are other skeptical arguments [and] sources in the Literature regarding the case...

    i.e. Hickson seems to be a multi repeater (or embellished it) of UFO sightings/experiences: Hickson said then this wasn’t his first encounter with aliens or his last;


    Joe Eszterhas, for Rolling Stone magazine stated that the "landing site" was visible by 2 highway payment cabin (dunno the word in English: cabine de péage d'autoroute) 24/24 open. Nobody saw something, including the operators.

    It seems the site was filmed by a Naval shipyard camera, shipyard called "Ingalls" and nothing too (same Rolling Stone magazine).


    Gil Carl Sagan Fernandez

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, June 24, 2013  

  • * Bruce, I didn't know that particular pettiness with Sagan regarding Robert Temple. I suppose, like the bickering of some drama kings & queens in the ufo field, some scientists can be just as small. It's an unflattering aspect of our human nature.

    * To what Giles wrote in about - The mystery of others being in close proximity to an alleged abduction or even an alleged close ufo encounter, yet not visually observing it (nor catching it on video) has been noted by a few researchers over many years. Off the top of my head I think the book that addressed it most is. -

    Sight Unseen: Science, UFO Invisibility and Transgenic Beings by Budd Hopkins & Carol Rainey

    ~ Susan

    By Blogger brownie, at Monday, June 24, 2013  

  • From Gilles:


    I suggest Brownie to read Carol Rainey - the Co-Creation of the Abduction Phenomenom: http://ufo-scepticisme.forumactif.com/t2050-carol-rainey-the-co-creation-of-the-abduction-phenomenon

    Same concerning John Mack strange methodology with witnesses. My friend Nablator made excellent English translation of what we think French UFO-Skeptics about him here:


    and this, from our original French thread:


    We have many threads regarding the topic of abductions in our Forum. Of course, it is in French :(

    I've done many interventions about Ariel School case in French Skeptics forum, as an interview: the methodology used by Mack and Cynthia Hind is catastrophic! The adults and interviewers have clearly suggested the answer wished, to be very short, to the children.

    This topic of Alien abductions have been addressed by Susan Clancy.

    Kevin Randle himself wrote a "skeptic" book too concerning this topic: The Abduction Enigma: The Truth Behind the Mass Alien Abductions of the Late Twentieth Century

    So, Red flag imho... But well, people are free to believe what they want, but I hope they read the counter-arguments too, not only what is presented by "UFOlogists."



    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, June 24, 2013  

  • Hi Giles,

    Oh yes, I'm quite familiar with Carol Rainey's expose of the Linda Napolitano case which Carol's former husband Budd based his book 'Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions' on. Wouldn't it have been nice if Rainey had brought her issues and rough cut documentary out (as she had filmed it back in the 1990s) previous to her 'Sight co-authoring with Budd, instead of years later when he was literally in the the final stages of terminal cancer. At least he had companion Lesley Kean in those brutal last months.

    Anyone interested can find Rainey's rough cut documentary on youtube, which she uploaded in the months before her ex-husband's death.

    Personally, when I read 'Witnessed', shortly after it was published, I found it to be a convoluted mess solely based on the word of Napolitano (Cortile). I think Hopkins may have been hoaxed by her, at least in part. Napolitano had been a longtime attendee to Hopkins abductee support groups in NYC where she could have picked up lots of material to spin her tale (as well as the sci-fi book 'Nighteyes').

    As for your mention of Mack and Hinds - re. The Ariel School multiple close encounters...youtube also has at least part of their interviews with the students. Hinds - who was on that case first - was impressive to me. Mack - was his typical newaged self asking off-point questions.

    And, I'm very aware of Mack leading his research subjects under hypnosis. Youtube has a gem, practically hidden within a ufo documentary) of Mack actually arguing and swearing with a patient he has under hypnosis who is revolted that a female 'alien' is going to forceably have sex with the man. Mack thinks there's nothing wrong with that (whether the memory is real or not seems beside the point - which is Mack's 'love & light'/it's all good agenda).

    As for Susan Clancey and Kevin Randle - I'm not impressed with their debunking efforts on the subject.

    Though I don't mind discussing the people you've brought up, none of them have anything to do with Carl Sagan's misbehavior.

    ~ Susan

    By Blogger brownie, at Monday, June 24, 2013  

  • Thank you Susan....

    for noting we are off point, off topic.

    This happens at Mr. Randle's blog all the time, and it happens here too, when I'm not quiet paying attention.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, June 24, 2013  

  • Oh, it's okay Rich. I just didn't know where Giles wanted to go with it. I'm familiar enough with all he's brought up. ~ Susan

    By Blogger brownie, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • I have a great admiration for you, Susan, and PurrlGurrl, our female contingent.

    You both present reasoned and knowledgeable comments, and stay on topic.

    The fellows are easily distracted.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • Gilles is irritated with me again, because I posted his e-mails to me and then indicate he went off topic.

    It's my fault that we strayed from the snarkiness of Sagan to the Pascagoula episode itself.

    I find the Hickson/Parker story interesting for a number of reasons; I couldn't help myself.

    And Gilles keeps looking and finding fault with how I handle his stuff and this blog.

    He will never be happy until I write and use material as he would, in his approach and style.

    That ain't gonna happen.

    Gilles provides great insights and good reference sources.

    I have to include them, they are that good or valuable.

    if he feels I misuse his private material to me, he should not send it.

    It's obligatory by me to input things that resonate.

    And I shouldn't accuse Gilles or CDA of going off topic when it's me that did so, using their input.

    But Gilles has got to lighten up.

    This is a blog, not a scientific thesis and it's ufology as he often notes.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • RR, Maybe if Giles were to post directly to the thread, rather than use you as a personal channel, things might go easier.

    ~ Susan

    By Blogger brownie, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • yes, Susan, that would work, but he's so temperamental.

    (And there is a little pique because my goofy ideas, as he sees them, get some attention. He'd just like me to be a skeptic like him or CDA. And when I'm not, it irks him.)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • It should be noted that Mr. Hickson was a highly decorated veteran of the Korean war having been awarded five major battle stars. I find Mr. Hickson's and Calvin Parker's testimony to be highly persuasive and credible. Neither men ever wavered in their accounting of events.

    By Blogger ffkling, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • ...RRRG-guy:

    ..I am not being critical here, as your blog is the most interesting and open minded UFOesque that I am aware of...

    So as an old person, let me offer a little Sagan-background that might explain his changing allegiances:

    ..in the very early 1960's Sagan joined a Soviet astronomer (Shklovskii) to release in the West an updated translation of his book on space, aliens, yadda, yadda, yadda:


    ..this book was the very first mainstream postulation of the 'ancient astronaut' meme....

    (how else could the newly minted Phd Sagan gain quick fame???)

    By Blogger Kurt Peters, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • P.S. RRRG-Guy:

    ...for more clarity, do a cross-search for 'Soviet science' and 'Lysenkoism'

    By Blogger Kurt Peters, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • Yes, KP, I have Intelligent Life in the Universe right here in front of me.

    The 10,000+ year ago visitation of extraterrestrials in or near Sumeria, which Shklovskii proposed (and Sagan did NOT disagree with) has always been a ET high point with me.

    I find it plausible.

    The book is a must-read for UFO aficionados, but there are so many must-reads for them, i think they'd be overwhelmed with the information.

    Just as Kevin Randle has a pre-1947 Arnold-like sighting under his nose but misses it -- even with an Anomalist citation -- one doesn't expect much from the UFO crowd in the way of UFO literacy -- some visitors here the exception however.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, June 25, 2013  

  • Might just mention that new witness, apparently, who came forward about 2001 - Mike Cataldo, retired officer (navy?) as reported. He was on duty there that night, and spotted a strange luminescent "tamborine-like" ufo, two sightings a few minutes apart. Reported it to authorities at the time, but kept quiet otherwise to avoid ridicule, from what he says.

    By Blogger Brian Akers, at Monday, July 15, 2013  

  • Brian:

    Something happened to Hickson and Parker.

    What that was remains unknown or unclear.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 15, 2013  

  • @Brownie
    > As for Susan Clancey and Kevin Randle - I'm not impressed with their debunking efforts on the subject.

    I have to ask: have your read their abduction books? I have. Their findings are based on original work with abductees. They actually cite scientific findings (not found in proponent books). Not easily dismissed.

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Saturday, August 03, 2013  

  • Ralph Blum in "Beyond Earth" gives an extensive first-hand report of the Cavitt episode (pp 195-205). He says it occured January 4 1974 and the guests were Hickson, Hynek, John Wallace Spencer, Larry Coyne, Jim McDivitt and Sagan.

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Saturday, August 03, 2013  

  • Yes for an answer to Terry the Censor - Clancy's 'Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens' and K. Randle's 'The Abduction Enigma'.

    I recall their "findings" lacked serious investigation or consideration for conscious, daytime close encounters as well as the cryptic aspects that often present in CEIV cases.

    ~ Susan

    By Blogger brownie, at Saturday, August 03, 2013  

  • > their "findings" lacked serious investigation or consideration for conscious, daytime close encounters

    They could only investigate the actual abductees who came to them, not hypothetical abductees who did not come to them (and from a type that has ceased to exist in substantial numbers).

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Sunday, August 04, 2013  

  • Dear RR.

    Have you been able to locate tape of the Cavett show at the end?

    If not, do you think there is still hope that the recording could be recovered somewhere from your archives sometimes in the future?

    Best wishes.


    By Blogger uforadio, at Monday, January 06, 2014  

  • Giuliano...

    We do not have the tape of that Cavett show, and it seems no one has it.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, January 06, 2014  

  • RR

    thanks for your comment. So unfortunate.

    On the similar note, you can hear one here Sagan's audio that I recently discovered and archived:


    Best wishes.

    By Blogger uforadio, at Tuesday, January 07, 2014  

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