Travis Walton Abduction

Travis Walton (April 20, 1957), claims to have been abducted by a UFO on November 5, 1975, while working on a logging crew in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Walton could not be found, but reappeared after five days of intensive searches.

The Walton case received considerable mainstream publicity, and remains one of the best-known instances of alleged alien abduction. Jerome Clark writes that "Few abduction reports have generated as much controversy" as the Walton case It is furthermore one of the very few alien abduction cases with corroborative eyewitnesses, and one of few abduction cases where the time allegedly spent in the custody of aliens plays a rather minor role in the overall account.

Randles and Hough write that "Neither before or since has an abduction story" begun in the manner related by Walton and his coworkers. Furthermore, the Walton case is singular in that "the victim vanished for days on end with police squads out searching … it is an atypical CE4 … which bucks the trend so much that it worried some investigators; others defend it staunchly."

Supporters argue it is an important and persuasive case, because of the number of corroborative eyewitnesses (the vast majority of alien abduction reports are based on a single individual's testimony), the fact that witnesses passed polygraph exams in support of their accounts, and because in the more than thirty years since the event happened, none of the witnesses have changed their accounts, in spite of at least one cash offer to do so.

Skeptics note that Walton failed his initial polygraph examination (and also argue there were problems with some of the other polygraph exams which call their reliability into question), speculate that the disappearance was a moneymaking scheme, and argue there are troubling inconsistencies and problems with the tale that raise significant doubts as to its veracity.

Background

The case began on a Wednesday, November 5, 1975. Walton was employed by Mike Rogers, who had for some nine years contracted with the United States Forest Service for various duties. Rogers and Walton were close friends; Travis was dating Rogers's sister Dana, whom he would later marry. The other men on the crew were Ken Peterson, John Goulette, Steve Pierce, Allen Dallis and Dwayne Smith; they all lived in the small town of Snowflake, Arizona.

Rogers was hired to thin out scrub brush and other undergrowth from a large area (Over 1200 acres) near Turkey Springs, Arizona. The job was the most lucrative contract Rogers had received from the Forest Service, but his crew was behind schedule. As a result, they were working long shifts to fulfill the contract, typically from 6.00am until sunset.

The encounter

A little after 6.00pm on the evening of November 5, Rogers and his crew finished their work for the day and piled into Rogers’s truck for the drive back to Snowflake.

Shortly after beginning the drive home, the crew reported that they saw a bright light from behind an upcoming hill. They drove closer, and say they saw a large silvery disc hovering above a clearing and shining brightly. It was around eight feet high and twenty feet in diameter.

Rogers slowed the truck to a stop, and then they claimed Walton leapt from the truck and ran towards the disc. The other men say they shouted at Walton to come back, but he continued towards the disc. He was nearly below the object, when the men in the truck reported that the disc began making noises similar to a very loud turbine. The disc then began to wobble from side to side, and Walton began to walk away from the object.

Jerome Clark writes that just after Walton moved away from the disc, the others insist they saw a beam of blue-green light emanate from the disc and “strike Travis”. Clark goes on to write that Travis "rose a foot into the air, his arms and legs outstretched, and shot back stiffly some 10 feet, all the while caught in the glow of the light. His right shoulder hit the earth, and his body sprawled limply over the ground.”

Rogers later says he was convinced Walton was dead, so he drove away very quickly over the rough road, afraid that the disc was chasing the truck. After about a quarter mile, the truck skidded off the road and Rogers stopped. After some discussion, the crew claim they decided to go back to the site and find Walton.

The disc was gone, and his coworkers said they searched for Walton for twenty minutes, but found no sign of him.

The search

At about 7.30pm, Peterson called police from Heber, Arizona, near Snowflake. Deputy Sheriff Chuck Ellison answered the telephone call; Peterson initially reported only that one of a logging crew was missing. Ellison then met the crew at a shopping center. They related the tale to him — all the men distraught, two of them in tears — and though he was somewhat skeptical of the fantastic account, Ellison would later reflect "that if they were acting, they were awfully good at it.”

Ellison notified his superior — Sheriff Marlin Gillespie — who told Ellison to keep the crew in Heber until he could arrive with Officer Ken Coplan to interview the men. In less than an hour, Gillespie and Coplan arrived, and heard the tale from the crew. Rogers insisted on returning to the scene immediately to search for Walton, with tracking dogs, if possible. No dogs were available, but the police and some of the crew returned to the scene. (Crew members Smith, Pierce and Goulette were too upset to be of much help in a search, so they elected to return to Snowflake and relate the bad news to friends and family.)

Back at the scene, the law enforcement officers became suspicious of the story related by the crew, mainly because there was nothing in the way of physical evidence to back up the account. Though more police and volunteers arrived to search the area, they found not a trace of Walton. Winter nights could be bitterly cold in the mountains, and Walton had worn only jeans, a denim jacket and a shirt; police were worried that Walton could fall victim to hypothermia if he were lost.

Rogers and Sheriff Coplan went to tell the news to Walton's mother, Mary Walton Kellett, who lived on a small ranch at Bear Creek, some ten miles from Snowflake. Rogers told her what had happened, and she asked him to repeat the account. She then asked calmly if anyone other than the police and the eyewitnesses had heard the story. Coplan thought her reserved response was odd; this factor contributed to the growing suspicion among police that something other than a UFO was responsible for Walton’s absence. On the other hand, Clark notes that Kellett was known as being generally guarded, and had furthermore raised six children largely by herself under often trying circumstances, which "had long since taught her to not to fly to pieces in the face of crises and tragedies. Yet in the days ahead, as events overwhelmed her, she would show emotion before friends, acquaintances and strangers alike — a fact that would go unmentioned in debunking treatments of the Walton episode."

At about 3:00am, Kellett telephoned Duane Walton, her second oldest child. He quickly left his home in Glendale, Arizona and drove to Snowflake.

By the morning of November 6, many officials and volunteers had scoured the area around the scene where Travis went missing. Still no trace of him was discovered, and police suspicions were growing that the UFO tale was concocted to cover up an accident or homicide. Saturday morning, Rogers and Duane Walton arrived at Sheriff Gillespie’s office "explosively angry" because they had returned to the scene and found no police there. By that afternoon, police were searching for Travis with helicopters, horse-mounted officers, and jeeps.

Publicity

Additionally by Saturday, word of Walton's disappearance had spread internationally. News reporters, ufologists and the curious began travelling to Snowflake. Travis Walton’s family and friends began receiving all manner of prank telephone calls regarding the case.

Among the visitors was Fred Sylvanus, a Phoenix UFO investigator, who interviewed Rogers and Duane Walton on Saturday, November 8. While repeatedly expressing worry for Travis’s well-being (and criticizing what they saw as a halfhearted search effort by police), both men would make statements that would return to haunt them, when seized upon by critics.

On the recordings made by Sylvanus, Rogers noted that because of Travis’s disappearance and the subsequent search, he would be unable to complete his contract with the Forest Service, and he hoped the search for his missing friend would mitigate the situation. Duane Walton reported he and Travis were quite interested in UFOs, and that some twelve years earlier, Duane had witnessed a UFO similar to the one witnessed by the logging crew. Duane reported that he and Travis had both decided that if they had a chance, they would get as close as possible to any UFO they might see. Duane also suggested that Travis would not be injured by the aliens, because "they don’t harm people." Without intending to do so, Rogers and Duane Walton had laid "the foundations for an alternative interpretation of the case" with their statements. Travis would later report that he never had a "keen" interest in UFOs, even after his supposed abduction, but the tape recorded statement of his brother Duane while Travis was still missing runs contrary to Travis's statements.
Shortly after the Sylvanus interview, Snowflake Town Marshall Sanford Flake announced that the entire affair was a prank engineered by Duane and Travis. They had fooled the logging crew by lighting a balloon and "releasing it at the appropriate time." Flake’s wife disagreed, suggesting that her husband’s story was "just as farfetched as Duane Walton's."

In the meantime, Police officers were making repeated visits to Kellett’s home; Duane once returned there to find her in tears as she was being questioned in her living room. Duane told the police to leave unless they had something new to relate, or to ask. Duane suggested that she speak with police only on the front porch, which would allow her to end the interview anytime she chose by simply going inside. She did exactly that after Marshal Flake arrived to relate a message, which Clark notes, contributed to the feeling among skeptics that Kellett was "hiding something. Or someone."

Duane also spoke with William H. Spaulding of Ground Saucer Watch. Spaulding suggested that if Travis ever returned, GSW could provide a doctor to examine him in confidence. Spaulding also suggested that if Travis returned, he should save his first urination after returning so it could be tested.

Polygraph

On Monday, November 10, all of Rogers’s crew (except Walton, of course) took polygraph examinations administered by Cy Gilson, an Arizona Department of Public Safety employee. His questions asked if any of the men caused harm to Travis (or knew who had caused Travis harm), if they knew where Travis’s body was buried, and if they told the truth about seeing a UFO. The men all denied harming Travis (or knowing who had harmed him), denied knowing where his body was, and insisted they had indeed seen a UFO.

Excepting Dallis (who had not completed his exam, thus rendering it invalid), Gilson concluded that all the men were truthful, and the exam results were conclusive. Clark quotes from Gilson’s official report: "These polygraph examinations prove that these five men did see some object they believed to be a UFO, and that Travis Walton was not injured or murdered by any of these men on that Wednesday." If the UFO was hoaxed, Gilson thought, “five of these men had no prior knowledge of a hoax.”

Dallis later admitted that he'd concealed a criminal record to obtain his job with Rogers, and fear of this lie being exposed was why he'd walked out of the polygraph exam.

Following the polygraph tests, Sheriff Gillespie announced that he accepted the UFO story, saying "There’s no doubt they’re telling the truth."

Flake was unpersuaded; he once appeared at Kellett’s home with a television camera crew, hoping to discover Travis hiding there.

Walton’s return

Just before midnight on Monday, November 10, Grant Neff reported that he answered his home telephone in Taylor, Arizona, a few miles from Snowflake (Neff was married to Travis’s sister Alison). The caller said, "This is Travis. I’m at a phone booth at the Heber gas station, and I need help. Come and get me."

Initially, Neff says he thought the caller was another prankster. Before Neff could hang up the telephone, however, the caller spoke again, nearly hysterical and screaming, “It’s me, Grant … I’m hurt, and I need help badly. You come and get me.” (ibid.) Neff reconsidered the caller’s identity: his panic seemed genuine to Neff, so he and Duane Walton drove to the gas station.

They reported they found Travis there, collapsed in the second of three telephone booths. He wore the same clothing as when he’d disappeared — still inadequate, the temperature was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit — and he seemed thinner and to have not shaved in the time he was absent.

On the drive back to Snowflake, Travis seemed afraid, and repeatedly mumbled on about beings with terrifying eyes. He thought he’d been gone only a few hours; when he learned that he’d been absent nearly a week, Walton seemed stunned, and stopped speaking at all.

Duane Walton says he decided not to reveal Travis’s return immediately, out of concern for his brother’s apparently fragile condition. By not notifying authorities, however, Duane would face charges that he was complicit in a cover up of evidence he or Travis might not want police to see.

At his mother’s house, Travis says he bathed and tried to eat, but was unable to keep from vomiting even after eating mild foods. As Spaulding had suggested, Duane told Travis to keep a sample of his first urination following his return.

Following a tip from a telephone company employee at about 2.30am, police learned that someone had called the Neff family from a pay phone at the Heber gas station. Gillespie sent two Deputies to dust the booths for fingerprints, but as near as the deputies could tell in the dark, none of the prints were Travis's. This fact would be noted by critics who thought the entire affair was a hoax, while supporters argued that a fingerprint examination carried out in the dark, early morning hours by two sheriffs wielding flashlights was hardly ideal and by no means exhaustive.

The "medical" exam

Duane remembered Spaulding's promise of a confidential medical examination. Without having notified authorities of Travis's return, Duane drove him to Phoenix, Arizona, late Tuesday morning, where they were to meet with Dr. Lester Steward.

The Waltons reported that they were disappointed to learn that Steward was not a medical doctor as Spaulding had promised, but a hypnotherapist. Spaulding and Steward would later report that the Waltons had stayed with them for over two hours, while the Waltons insist they were at Steward’s office for, at most, 45 minutes, most of which was occupied with trying to determine the nature of Steward’s qualifications (Clark, 635). The precise time spent with Steward would later become an issue in the case.

Travis’s return makes the news

By afternoon Tuesday, word of Travis’s return had leaked out to the public. Duane took a telephone call from Spaulding, and told Spaulding not to bother the family again. Clark writes that after this telephone call, "Spaulding became a sworn enemy in the case." (Clark 363)

Among the other telephone calls after news of Travis’s return was one from Coral Lorenzen of APRO, a civilian UFO research group. She promised Duane that she could arrange an examination for Travis by two medical doctors — general practitioner Joseph Saults and pediatrician Howard Kandell — at Duane's home. Duane agreed, and the exam began at about 3:30pm Tuesday.

Clark writes that "between Lorenzen’s call and the physicians’ examination, another party would enter, and hugely complicate, the story." Lorenzen was telephoned by an employee of the National Enquirer, an American tabloid newspaper known for its sensationalistic tone. The Enquirer employee promised to finance APRO’s investigation, in exchange for APRO’s "cooperation and access to the Waltons." Since the Enquirer’s financial resources were far more vast than APRO’s, Lorenzen agreed to the arrangement. (Clark, 363)

The medical examination revealed that Travis was essentially in good health, but they did note two unusual features:

* A small red spot at the crease of Travis’s right elbow that was consistent with a hypodermic injection, but the doctors also noted that the spot was not near a vein;
* Analysis of Travis’s urine revealed a lack of acetones. This was unusual, given that if Travis had indeed been gone for five days with little or no food as he insisted (and as his weight loss suggested), his body should have begun breaking down fats in order to survive, and this should have led to very high levels of acetone in his urine. Critics would argue this inconsistency is evidence against Travis's story.

Travis would later speculate that he’d gotten the mark on his elbow in the course of his logging work; critics would speculate that the mark showed where Travis (or someone else) had injected drugs into his system. Clark dismisses this possibility of drugging as most unlikely, given that the medical doctors found no sign of it, but he also notes that perhaps "more difficult to explain is the absence of bruises, which one might expect in the wake of Travis’s alleged beam-driven collision with the ground." (Clark 637) Travis later noted that he’d been an amateur boxer and had rarely bruised even after rough matches; he also noted that in his logging duties, he and others had taken some painful bumps and falls which had not left significant marks. This, of course, may raise an inconsistency in that Travis suspects that a minor puncture wound could still be visible after five days, while he simultaneously insists that being roughly tossed some ten feet would leave no bruise or abrasion.

When Sheriff Gillespie learned of Travis’s return through the mass media, he was angered. Gillespie thought that he had demonstrated his belief in the UFO story with his announcement following the polygraph exams. Duane, however, was still bitter over what he saw as the lackadaisical search effort during Travis’s absence.

Travis then told Gillespie what had happened during the five days he'd been gone. It was the first time he’d told anyone the tale, other than his family or close friends.

Travis in the UFO

In his survey of UFO abduction literature, Terry Matheson writes that "Walton’s experience stands out by virtue of its not being particularly bizarre as far as abduction accounts go." (Matheson, 111-112)

Travis reported that after approaching the UFO near the work site, the last thing he remembered was being struck by the beam of light. When he woke, Travis said he was on a reclined bed. A bright light shone above him, and the air was heavy and wet. He was in pain, and had some trouble breathing, but his first thought was that he was in a normal hospital.

As his faculties returned, Travis says he realized he was surrounded by three figures, each wearing a sort of orange jumpsuit. The figures were not human; Travis described them as similar to the so-called Greys which feature in some abduction accounts: "shorter than five feet, and they had bald heads, no hair. Their heads were domed, very large. They looked like fetuses … They had large eyes — enormous eyes — almost all brown, without much white in them. The creepiest thing about them were those eyes … they just stared through me." Their ears, noses and mouths "seemed real small, maybe just because their eyes were so huge." (Clark, 646)

Afraid for his safety, Travis says he got to his feet, and shouted at the creatures to stay away. He grabbed a glasslike cylinder from a nearby shelf and tried to break its tip to create a makeshift knife, but found the object unbreakable, so instead waved it at the creatures as a weapon. The trio of creatures left him in the room.

Matheson finds this portion of the narrative troublingly inconsistent, noting that "despite his 'weakened' condition, 'aching body' and 'splitting pain in his skull', maladies for which no cause is suggested, he has no trouble jumping up from his operating table, seizing a conveniently placed glasslike rod, and, assuming a karate 'fighting stance', frightened them with this display of macho aggression, enough at least to cause them to run away." (Matheson, 110) However, if one accepts Travis's story, an adrenaline rush might account for his quick recovery from his pains.

Travis then left this "exam room" via a hallway, which led to a round, spherical room with only a high-backed chair placed in the room's center. Though he was afraid there might be someone seated in the chair, Travis says he walked towards it. As he did, lights began to appear in the room. The chair was empty, so Travis says he sat in it. When he did, the room was filled with lights, similar to stars projected on a round planetarium ceiling.

The chair was equipped on the left arm with a single short thick lever with an oddly shaped molded handle atop some dark brown material. On the right arm, there was an illuminated, lime-green screen about five inches square with black lines intersected at all angles.[3]

When Travis pushed the lever, he reported that the stars rotated around him slowly. When he released the lever, the stars remained at their new position. He decided to stop manipulating the lever, since he had no idea what it might do.

He left the chair, and the stars disappeared. Travis thought he had seen a rectangular outline on the rounded wall — perhaps a door — and went to look for it.

Just then, Travis heard a sound behind him. He turned, expecting more of the short, large eyed creatures, but was pleasantly surprised to see a tall human figure wearing blue coveralls with a glassy helmet. At the time, Travis said, he did not realize how odd the man's eyes were: larger than normal, and a bright gold color.

Travis says he then asked the man a number of questions, but the man only grinned and motioned for Travis to follow him. Travis also said that because of the man’s helmet he might have been unable to hear him, so he followed the man down a hallway which led to door and a steep ramp down to a large room Travis described as similar to an aircraft hangar. Travis says he realized he’d just left a disc-shaped craft similar to the one he’d seen in the forest just before he’d been struck by the bluish light, but the craft was perhaps twice as large.

In the hangar-like room, Travis reported seeing other disc-shaped craft. The man led him to another room, containing three more humans — a woman and two men — resembling the helmeted man. These people did not wear helmets, so Travis says he began asking questions of them. They responded with the same dull grin, and led him by his arm to a small table.

Once he was seated on the table, Travis says he realized the woman held a device like an oxygen mask, which she placed on his face. Before he could fight back, Travis says he passed out.

When he woke again, Travis says he was outside the gas station in Heber, Arizona. One of the disc-shaped craft was hovering just above the highway. After a moment, the craft shot away, and Travis stumbled to the telephones and called his brother in law, Grant Neff. He thought that only a few hours had passed.

After hearing Travis’s story, Gillespie speculated that Travis may have been hit on the head and drugged, then taken to a normal hospital where he had confused the details of a routine exam with something more spectacular. Travis dismissed this, noting that the medical examination had found no trace of head trauma or drugs in his system. Travis told Sheriff Gillespie that he was willing to take a polygraph, a truth serum, or undergo hypnosis to support his account. Gillespie said that a polygraph would suffice, and he promised to arrange one in secret to avoid the growing media circus.

Duane and Travis then drove to Scottsdale, Arizona, where a meeting with APRO consultant James A. Harder had been arranged. Harder hypnotized Travis, hoping to uncover more details of the missing five days. Clark writes that "Unlike many other abductees, however, Walton’s conscious recall and unconscious 'memory' were the same, and he could account for only a maximum of two hours, and perhaps less, of his missing five days. Curiously … Walton encountered an impenetrable mental block and expressed the view that he would 'die' if the regression continued."

Suppressed polygraph exam and controversy

In the meantime, Spaulding had announced to the press that he and "Dr." Steward had questioned Walton for two hours, and had uncovered inconsistencies in Walton’s account that would "Blow this story out". (Clark, 637) The Phoenix Gazette ran a story about Steward, who related his claims that the "Waltons fear exposure" of a carefully-crafted lie. (Clark, 638)

Sheriff Gillespie arranged for a polygraph, but when word of the exam was leaked to the press, Duane canceled it, thinking that Gillespie had broken his promise to keep the test a secret. Gillespie would later insist he had not leaked word of the polygraph, and that the case had become too sensationalistic to keep anything secret for long.

The National Enquirer wanted Travis to take a polygraph as soon as possible, and arranged for one, after Duane insisted that he and Travis have the power to veto any public disclosure of the test results. Harder thought that Travis was too distraught to take a polygraph, but the examiner — John J McCarthy, of the Arizona Polygraph Laboratory — said he could take Travis’s nervous state into consideration.

In interviewing Travis before the exam began, McCarthy extracted two admissions from him: First, that he had smoked marijuana a few times, but had never used the drug regularly, and secondly, that he and Mike Rogers’s younger brother had committed check fraud a few years earlier by altering payroll checks. It was his only serious brush with the law — Travis completed two years probation without further incident — but Travis remained deeply embarrassed about the check fraud episode. (Incidentally, Philip J. Klass notes that Travis once claimed to have been jailed for this crime, though he actually received two years' probation as a first-time offender.[4])

McCarthy then administered the polygraph, which remains mired in controversy. Travis asserts McCarthy behaved unprofessionally, while McCarthy insists Travis both failed the polygraph and tried to cheat. At one point, says Travis, McCarthy asked if Travis had "colluded" with anyone to perpetrate a hoax. Travis said he was unfamiliar with the word, and Travis reported that McCarthy replied, in a confrontative and aggressive manner, that collusion was planning or conspiring with another, just as Travis had colluded to steal and forge payroll checks.

After completing the exam, McCarthy determined that Travis was lying. Clark quotes from McCarthy’s official report: "Based on his reaction on all charts, it is the opinion of this examiner that Walton, in concert with others, is attempting to perpetrate a UFO hoax, and that he has not been on any spacecraft." (Clark, 640) Later, McCarthy would assert that "sometimes Travis would hold his breath, in an effort to 'beat the machine."[2]

The Waltons, APRO and the National Enquirer then agreed to keep the results of this polygraph a secret, due in large part, they insisted, to doubts about McCarthy’s methods and objectivity. Eight months later, when word of this decision was made public, there would be more charges of deception and cover up. Travis would later take and pass two additional polygraph exams, though the suppressed results of the first exam would shadow him and earn mention in nearly every discussion of the case to the present.

Once word of the suppressed polygraph was made public by Klass, many who had thought Travis had related a true account (or at least what he thought was a true account) reconsidered the case with a more skeptical eye. Travis, Duane and APRO members argued that McCarthy was biased, and had asked Travis embarrassing, irrelevant questions in an effort to create turbulent conditions more likely to produce a negative result. According to Clark,[5] the opinions of recognized polygraph experts were divided about the propriety of McCarthy's exam: Harry Reed supported the validity of McCarthy's exam, while psychologist David Raskin of the University of Utah asserted that McCarthy's method was "more than 30 years out of date."

Philip J. Klass — an aviation journalist by profession, but also a well-known UFO debunker — launched a concerted, sustained critique against Travis's claims, arguing especially that there was a strong financial motive to the entire affair.[2] Rogers knew he would be unable to complete his contract with the Forest Service, argued Klass, and concocted a scheme to invoke the contract’s act of God clause, thus dissolving the contract without fault.[2] Others argued against this idea[6], noting that defaulting on a Forest Service contract was not necessarily the catastrophe Klass implied: Rogers had failed to complete two of his many earlier Forest Service contracts, yet had been rehired without apparent prejudice. Furthermore, despite his anxiety over the contract, Rogers never invoked or tried to invoke the "act of God" clause in the aftermath of Travis’s disappearance.[2]

Klass and others also noted that The UFO Incident was broadcast on NBC just a few weeks before Travis’s disappearance.[2] This made-for-television film was a fictionalized account of the Hill Abduction, the first widely-publicised case of alien abduction.[2] Klass and others speculated that Walton had been inspired by the program.[2] Walton denied that he had watched the program, but Klass notes that Mike Rogers watched at least a portion of the program. Clark argues that Walton’s account of his time on the UFO is quite different from the Hill account, and that furthermore, "there is not a great deal of similarity between Walton’s and any other abduction narrative" publicly discussed as of November, 1975.

Aftermath

In 1978 Walton published The Walton Experience, in which he outlined his own narrative of the event and its aftermath. The same year, Bill Barry published The Ultimate Encounter, in which he argues that the various debunkers, especially Klass, did not make persuasive cases, and that Walton and others claiming similar experiences expressed events more or less as they believed they’d happened.

Matheson argues that Walton's book makes a few fundamental errors that severely harm his case. While Travis "proclaims self-righteously" that he intends only to relate events and not "interpret" them, Matheson writes that "the reader will see almost immediately that large sections of the book are nothing more than highly speculative, purely imaginative recreations on his part." (Matheson, 109) For example, after he is zapped by the blue beam and knocked unconscious, Walton offers precise, novelistic dialogue describing the conversations of his fellow crew workers after they drove away in a panic. Yet Walton never mentions if he is paraphrasing their words based on what they related to him, if he interviewed the others to determine who said what, or if he simply assumed what they said. Matheson argues this represents a "lack of concern for literal accuracy that the reader cannot help but suspect is characteristic of the entire work." (Matheson, 110)

After the initial furor subsided, Walton remained in Snowflake and eventually became the foreman at a lumber mill; he married Dana Rogers and they had several children. Beyond the film based on his encounter, Travis has occasionally appeared at UFO conventions or on television specials.

An independent witness?

A curious episode occurred in the early stages of publicity for the film "Fire in the Sky". Walton was contacted by a man who claimed to have been hunting with his wife in the same area where Walton saw the UFO. The man reported that they had seen a disc which shot a beam of blue light, then flown off into the sky. As an active military intelligence officer, the man said he had reported the sighting to his superiors, who told him to keep quiet unless Walton's coworkers were actually charged with a crime related to the disappearance.

Travis judged the man's story plausible, and notified Tracy Torme, who had written the screenplay for Fire In The Sky. Torme arranged for the man to undergo a polygraph administered by Cy Gilson, who had conducted the polygraphs on the logging crew nearly twenty years before.

Gilson asked the man two sets of questions: The first regarding the UFO sighting and the man's claims to being a Military Intelligence officer; the second set of questions asked if the man was colluding with anyone (specifically Klass and/or the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) in order to discredit Travis, and if a military superior had indeed ordered the man to keep quiet about the UFO report. The man insisted his account was truthful.

Gilson decided that the man was lying about all of his claims, and furthermore, that he deliberately tried to mislead Gilson and fool the polygraph. Walton speculated that if the man had passed Gilson's exam, his presumable associates would have stepped to the fore with evidence to discredit Gilson's polygraph methods, and thus discredit the loggers who had early been deemed truthful following Gilson’s exams. There was some precedent for suspicon due to Project Alpha, a 1979 effort by James Randi to use stage magicians to demonstrate that parapsychologists could be fooled by sleight of hand. However, in Project Alpha, the undercover magicians were instructed to admit to the plan if asked directly if they were faking; this contrasts with the Walton case "eyewitness" who stuck to his story even when directly asked if he was lying.

Walton named Klass as a suspect in arranging the seemingly phony eyewitness, but Klass denied the charge: "I WOULD NEVER ENGAGE IN SUCH TRICKERY, KNOWING THAT IF IT WERE EXPOSED THIS WOULD RUIN MY REPUTATION AS A TECHNICAL JOURNALIST AND AS A UFO RESEARCHER. Nor would CSICOP." (text reprinted in all-caps as in original)

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