This coming Sunday, Oct. 16, marks the 43rd anniversary of one of the most unusual events in the history of Evergreen.
Just after midnight on Oct. 16, 1973, two Evergreen police officers and a police dispatcher witnessed a bizarre sight over downtown Evergreen and the incident went on to gain a lot of attention. In fact, it was reported in newspapers and on television news programs across the country.
One of those two police officers was a young Henry Vickrey, who now works in the Evergreen area as an electrician.
“I was 23 years old when all of that happened, but I remember it well,” he said. “Something like that is hard to forget. I assure you.”
According to Vickrey, he and officer Johnny Blackmon, who was also in his twenties, had just walked out of Evergreen City Hall a few minutes after midnight when they saw something unusual in the sky behind city hall.
“We were standing in front of city hall when we saw it,” Vickrey said. “I forget who saw it first, but it was just this big, real unusual light. It’s hard to describe, but it had a very odd shape, and it was obvious that it was a lot lower than the stars as seen from the ground.”
The two officers asked the city’s radio operator, 32-year-old Swan Turner, to come outside, so that there would be more than two witnesses of the unusual sight.
“We probably stood out there for 15 or 20 minutes,” Vickrey said. “It wasn’t shaped like a flying saucer or anything, it was just a very unusual light that remained the same place for a long time.
Eventually, it just went away. Was it some type of an aircraft? I don’t know. Was it a UFO? Again, I don’t know, and I don’t think there’s any way of anyone ever knowing for sure.”
In the Oct. 25, 1973 edition of The Courant, Publisher and Editor Bob Bozeman reported that a UFO had been spotted over city hall.
“It wasn’t right over city hall,” Vickrey said. “The best that I could say was that it was over in the direction of Cemetery Street or more in the direction of MLK Drive.”
In the Cold War 1970s, it was the police department’s policy to contact the local Evergreen State Trooper Post in the rare event of unidentified flying objects or other unusual sightings in the night sky.
“Swan Turner went inside and contacted (Gene) Dubose at the trooper post,” Vickrey said. “And me and Johnny just went about our business and worked out the rest of our shift.”
Dubose, who was a dispatcher at the state trooper post, in turn, notified his superiors in Montgomery of the UFO report in Evergreen and reporters descended on Evergreen to interview the three witnesses.
“I’d already gone home and was in bed when I got a call from someone at city hall, telling me to get up, get dressed and come on back down to city hall,” Vickrey said. “When I got there about 10 a.m., WSFA News out of Montgomery was there with a reporter, TV cameras and everything.”
The report of the Evergreen sighting was broadcast nationwide, and one reader of The Courant said that he watched the televised news report of the sighting while living at the time in West Texas.
In the Oct. 25, 1973 edition of The Courant, Bozeman had the following to say in his weekly editorial column, “The Colyum.”
“I’m not going into the UFO bit this week as it has been thoroughly covered on radio, TV and in the daily newspapers,” Bozeman wrote. “I’m sure all of you know that three persons saw a UFO over City Hall last Wednesday night. Two were policemen who tried to focus spotlights on the object but were unable to do so.
“Frankly, I don’t know what they saw, but I still believe there is a logical explanation for UFOs, and it doesn’t involve creatures and spaceships from another planet.”
Vickrey tends to agree with Bozeman, saying that he believes there has to be a logical explanation for the unusual light he and two others saw on that night over four decades ago.
“I don’t know what’s out there, but it could have been a weather balloon or maybe a very strong light reflecting off the bottom of a cloud or something along those lines,” he said. “All I know is that we saw something, and I’ve never seen anything like it again.”
One of the likely reasons that the sighting in Evergreen was reported nationally was the fact that it came just five days after one of the most famous alien abduction news stories of all time.
On Oct. 11, 1973, two Mississippi men made headlines around the world when they claimed to have been abducted from the banks of the Pascagoula River by space aliens.
The 1973 sighting in Mississippi made headlines again in 2011 when Charles E. Hickson Sr., the eldest of the two men who claimed to have been abducted, died at the age of 80.
Hickson, then age 42, and Calvin Parker, a 19-year-old co-worker at the now-defunct Walker Shipyard in Pascagoula, went fishing after work and claimed to have encountered a domed, cigar-shaped aircraft that was about 35 feet across and about nine feet high.
The men reported that the aliens floated toward them with a glowing egg-shaped object with blue lights at its front, and that the aliens levitated them into a spacecraft. Both men reported feeling paralyzed, and Parker fainted from fright.
Once inside, the aliens examined the two men with a football-shaped mechanical device that scanned their bodies.
After about 20 minutes, the aliens levitated the two men back to the west bank of the river, and the two men reported the incident to the local sheriff’s department at around 10:30 p.m.
The two men passed a polygraph examination about the incident, which received massive, international media attention. To date, it is one of the most famous alien abduction cases ever reported.
In the end, I’d like to hear from anyone out there in the reading audience with more information about the Oct. 16, 1973 incident in Evergreen. If you remember seeing or hearing something out of the ordinary on that night, let me know. I’d also like to hear from anyone out there with information about the whereabouts of Johnny Blackmon. On and off for the past several years, I’ve tried to locate him for interviews about the 1973 incident in Evergreen, but haven’t had any luck.
Unfortunately, I learned last year that Swan Turner passed away at the age of 67 on July 7, 2009. After the 1973 UFO incident, she moved to Georgiana and married, taking the last name Maraman. She was working for a police department in Butler County when she passed away and was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Georgiana.