The Travis Walton UFO sighting and abduction story is a good one. But even though it’s an intriguing tale, and made a great movie, there are some things that don’t ring true in this famous UFO case. Aside from having everything involved with it but the kitchen sink.
The story has all the hallmarks of a great tale: adventure, intrigue, drama, danger, a UFO sighting complete with a classic tractor beam abduction; the cops, a lie detector test, and a harrowing account of probing and prodding by alien creatures, even a navigation room with a star map or viewing screen.
As the story goes, on November 5, 1975, Travis Walton and his fellow crew members were clearing brush and dead trees in an area of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, not far from the town of Heber-Overguard, Arizona. They worked late into the evening and were driving out of the area in a crew-cab pickup truck when they noticed a glowing light filtering through the trees. They approached an area where they were able to observe the source of the light and saw an object hovering in a clearing.
The driver, crew mate Ken Peterson, started to pull away but Travis had allegedly exited the vehicle and walked toward the light as the others watched. They described an object about fifteen to twenty feet in diameter and ten feet high, hovering about fifteen feet off of the ground.
Recounting the event for a documentary entitled Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton, Travis claimed to hear a persistent “alternating” frequency with very high and very low, rumbling frequencies as well; a sound that Walton claimed “Carried real well”. Ken Peterson described a similar loud sound which he also claimed to feel through low frequency vibrations in the vehicle. Another crew member, John Goulette, referred to the sound simply as “a beep.” That’s a little bit not the same.
Peterson saw “a blue light hit Travis” after which, he stated, Travis fell over sideways. Goulette claims that he had turned and was looking in the other direction when this happened, but says he saw a bright bluish-green light illuminate the surrounding forest, then turned to see Travis raised up a foot or two off of the ground and held there in the light with his arms and legs outstretched before finally dropping to the ground, a crumpled and apparently lifeless form.
Other crew members allege that Travis was more or less blasted off of his feet by the impact of the beam, or electrical charge, or whatever it was, and not necessarily suspended in the air for any length of time.
In an apparent panic Peterson hit the gas and drove the truck out of the area but after a short distance they decided to turn around and go back to help Travis.
Upon returning to the location they found that Travis was gone. They searched for fifteen minutes but found no trace of Travis or the UFO. On their way to nearby Heber they called the police. Debuty Sheriff Chuck Ellison met with the boys initially, and alerted County Sheriff Marlin Gillespie who organized a search for the missing 22 year old Walton. The boys were held but not under arrest, and early suspicions were that they had murdered their crew mate.
Interviewed for the documentary, Ellison recalls the boys “stomping around” and commented that “a couple of them were crying.” He said he tried to get as close as he could to each one to determine if alcohol or marijuana had been involved but did not detect any use.
Five days passed with no progress in the search, and the boys all stuck to their story. On November 10 Travis made a phone call from a phone booth in Heber, Arizona, and was picked up by his brother then brought home.
The rest is UFO abduction history. It’s a fun story, but is it real? I doubt it. Based on my cursory examination of various bits of info available online, and my bunk-senses, there are many things that just don’t add up. Inconsistencies in the story are revealed through various newspaper articles. The abduction scenario changes and grows more elaborate in subsequent tellings. Early on Travis described your run-of-the-mill UFO abduction scenario, but in a later statement he claims to have piloted the UFO. Later still, instead of just one kind of alien he encounters bald headed beings, who he heroically battles, and then encounters a more humanoid alien. His story changed and was embellished.
In one report Walton’s friend and crew boss Mike Rogers is said to have been driving the truck, and that is how it presented in the movie, however in the documentary mentioned above it is indicated that Ken Peterson was the driver. That could be just a simple case of misreporting, but the rest just seems like a story getting worse.
UFO investigators who arrived during the period when Travis was missing and interviewed the witnesses, and Travis’ mother, noticed inconsistencies. When they prodded with more questions to get more information the stories began to unravel. Those Ufologists, and anyone else who seemed to doubt the story, were not allowed any further access to the witnesses. Only those who believed and were supporting the story were permitted.
To me this reeks of a con. According to those shunned UFO investigators Travis and his close family had an apparent history of UFO interest and experiences, claiming numerous sightings. His mother also seemed unfazed by the disappearance of her son. Stating, “That’s how these things happen…”
As I watched the documentary it seemed that they were trying to convince the viewer of the validity of the story. The last portion of the film centered on Walton and others bashing the late Phillip J. Klass, a popular debunker of UFO sightings and abduction claims. It’s common for someone with dubious claims to lash out when confronted with contradicting information; Christians hate atheists, Bigfooters hate anyone who criticizes their monster-in-the-woods, and UFO believers hate UFO debunkers. I’d hate it if someone kept pointing out facts that contradicted my tall tale too.
Klass suggested that Mike Rogers and Travis Walton concocted the scheme in order to get Rogers out of the contract he had with the U.S. Forest Service because he was seriously behind schedule to complete the acreage he had agreed to tend. He had already received a penalty and an extension for missing the first deadline, and was about to miss the extended deadline. The idea was that if the crew were too afraid to return to work because of the UFO then Roger’s could get out of the contract due to an “Act of God” but still receive his full contract amount. I wonder how that worked out? Because he damn sure didn’t finish the job after all the hubbub about this alleged event hit the press.
Maybe the young twenty-somethings weren’t thinking, and just wanted to make a few bucks and move on. They were paid $5000 by National Enquirer for the story. Travis got a check for $2500 and the remainder was divided among the rest of the crew. $5,000 was a lot of dinero back in 1975, nearly $24,000 in todays economy. Once you stake a claim in UFO land you have to ride that puppy though. Can’t turn back or you reveal yourself as a fraud.
Travis continued, continues, to profit from his story. He wrote a book about his alleged experience in 1998, later revised and re-released as Fire in the Sky, which was later made into a movie of the same name. He tried his hand at an annual UFO convention of sorts with the SkyFire Summit, but it was short-lived with only one event each in 2014 and 2015. Walton continues to make appearances, paid of course, at other UFO related conventions, radio shows, TV appearances and other events, not to mention the 2015 documentary.
Toward the end of the documentary Travis is talking with a friend as they stroll through the woods, apparently near where the alleged event took place, and Travis posits yet another possibility: Maybe the aliens zapped him by mistake and didn’t mean to hurt him so they took him abord the UFO to fix him up, returning him to earth five days later when he was fully recovered. That’s a cute idea, but it completely contradicts his story in which he battled the aliens. Just more smoke to fog things up. A continuously changing story that still resonates with true UFO believers regardless of how outlandish or inconsistent it is, or may become.
That’s all for now my friends. Keep your eyes on the skies! I might be a skeptic but damn I wish this stuff was for real.
Sheaffer, R (Revised August 5, 2016) Skeptical Information on the Travis Walton “UFO Abduction” Story. Retrieved from https://debunker.com/texts/walton.html
Jen Stein (Producer/Director). (2015). Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HNJLDYY
Wikipedia: Travis Walton UFO Incident – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travis_Walton_UFO_incident
Wikipedia: Phillip J. Klass – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_J._Klass