PASCAGOULA, Mississippi - Charles Hickson never regretted the notoriety that came his way after he told authorities he encountered an unidentified flying object and its occupants 40 years ago on the banks of the Pascagoula River. Until his death in 2011, Hickson told his story to anyone who would listen.
But Calvin Parker Jr., the other man present for one of the most high-profile UFO cases in American history, says his encounter with gray, crab-clawed creatures from somewhere else on Oct. 11, 1973, turned his life upside down.
"This is something I really didn't want to happen," Parker told The Associated Press as the 40th anniversary of the encounter approached.
Parker was unnerved by the initial crush of attention, with reporters and UFO enthusiasts overrunning Walker Shipyard, where he and Hickson worked. Parker tried to dodge the spotlight for decades.
The incident sparked a wave of UFO sightings nationwide and became one of the most widely examined cases on record. Skeptics ranged from the deputies who first interviewed the men to an author who sought to poke holes in the story. Parker himself has had conflicting thoughts about whether he was visited by aliens or demons.
There's no historical marker on the river bank noting the encounter, and stores don't sell UFO souvenirs. But local people remember - though often with skepticism and jokes.
Parker was 18 when he went fishing with Hickson on a tranquil Thursday night after work. The two said a UFO with blue lights swooped down, making a zipping noise.
Hickson, then 42, said three creatures with leathery gray skin and crab-like claws - he thought they were robots - took them by the forearms and levitated them aboard the craft. He said something that looked like a large floating eye appeared to examine him.
Parker says he was conscious but paralyzed. "They gave a thorough, I mean a thorough, examination to me just like any doctor would," he said.
And then they were back on the shore, where it all began. Hickson reported needing three shots of liquor from a bottle in his car to calm his nerves before reporting what happened.
Officers at the Jackson County Sheriff's Department initially suspected both men were drunk, but they stuck to their story. After then-Capt. Glenn Ryder conducted a formal interview with, deputies left Hickson and Parker in a room with a hidden tape recorder, hoping to catch them in a lie.
On the tape, Hickson is heard telling Parker, "It scared me to death too, son. You can't get over it in a lifetime. Jesus Christ have mercy."
"I don't know what happened to them," Ryder said. "I wasn't there with them, but I know you don't fake fear, and they were fearful."
Overnight, Pascagoula became a magnet for news reporters and UFO investigators. In south Mississippi, hundreds of reports overwhelmed authorities in the two weeks after the Hickson-Parker encounter.
In his book "UFOs Explained," UFO skeptic Philip Klass noted Hickson changed some details of his story and Klass also questioned the competence of a polygraph operator whose test Hickson passed. Parker later passed a lie-detector test himself.
Hickson went on to appear on talk shows, give lectures and interviews, and self-publish a book in 1983 titled "UFO Contact at Pascagoula." He reported three more encounters in 1974.
"The only thing he wanted to do was let everybody know we were not alone," said Eddie Hickson, his son. "He didn't care if you believed him or not. If you wanted to listen, by gum, he'd tell you."
Parker has attended some UFO conventions, and briefly tried to capitalize on his story in 1993 by starting a TV production company called UFO Investigations. said intrusions by curiosity seekers have become less frequent but haven't stopped.
"You don't never have no privacy," he said.
Associated Press writer Stacey Plaisance in Pascagoula contributed to this story. Jeff Amy reported from Jackson, Mississippi.