Jerome Clark - Walton Abduction Case
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Jerome Clark - Walton Abduction Case

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Entry from Volume 3 of The UFO Encyclopedia: High Strangeness: UFOs From 1960 Through 1979.

Entry from Volume 3 of The UFO Encyclopedia: High Strangeness: UFOs From 1960 Through 1979.

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    Jerome Clark - Walton Abduction Case Jerome Clark - Walton Abduction Case Document Transcript

    • HighStrangeness:UFOsfrom1960through1979
    • Walton Abduction Case WALTON ABDUCTION CASE Few abduction reports have generated so much con­ troversy as an incident that began on Wednesday, November 5, 1975, in a remote area of east-central Arizona.Two decades later the dispute still rages.To all but a very few combatants the stakes seem high. If Travis Walton and other participants are telling the truth, so it is assumed, UFOs exist; UFO abductions are physical, not imaginary, events; and UFOs are piloted by alien, presumably extraterrestrial beings. No wonder, then, that the Walton case has become one debunkers particular obsession. By now, after years of wildly conflicting claims and charges, a mass of confusion surrounds the episode.Thus the sorting of the reasonable conclusion from the unreasonable inference, much less the certifiably true from the undeniably false, is no simple task.It is not,however, entirely impossible. This account draws on many sources, including the two books that have been written on the case. The disappearance. Travis Walton, 22, worked on a wood-cutting crew in the Apache-Sitgreaves Nation­ al Forest, set in a high mountainous area 15 miles south of Heber. The crews foreman, Mike Rogers, had contracted with the U.S. Forest Service to thin out 1277 acres of scrub brush at Turkey Springs. In practice that meant that brush six inches or less in diameter was to be cleared with chainsaws. While half of the crew wielded the saws, the other members dumped the debris into slash piles behind them. Besides Walton and Rogers, the crew consisted of Ken Peterson, John Goulette, Steve Pierce, Allen Dalis, and Dwayne Smith. All were young men, rang­ ing from 17 (Pierce) to 28 (Rogers).All of them lived in Snowflake, a small Mormon town 33 miles east of Huber. Rogers had been doing contract work for the Forest Service for nine years. The Turkey Springs contract was the most lucrative he had landed so far, but he was late in fulfilling it. He already had secured one extension, and he and his crew were working hard and long to catch up. Thus the men labored until after sunset. When they quit for the day at 6 P.M., darkness had begun to fall.545
    • Walton Abduction Case High StrangenessTen minutes later the exhausted workers piled into beginning to emit sounds. The men in the truck weretheir battered pickup to begin the return trip to hearing low beeps. Then Walton heard them, too,Snowflake. Rogers, Walton, and Peterson,the three only they were mixed somehow with a distant rum­nonsmokers, sat in the front seat, the others-al­ bling, an industrial sound reminiscent of a "multi­ready puffing away-in the back. As Rogers drove, tude of turbine generators starting up. " The UFOWalton sat by the right window, bouncing up and started to wobble slowly, one side tipped toward him.down as the vehicle, its shock absorbers long worn Then it wobbled faster, and the sounds grew louder.out, negotiated what passed for a road. It had gone By now thoroughly shaken, he ducked down behind ano more than 200 yards before something unusual log which was jutting from the slash pile. He had tocame into view. get away. He rose to his feet, and just as he wasEither Walton or Dalis (accounts vary) saw it first.It turning away from the UFO and toward the truck, hewas a glow shining through the trees on the right, felt a "numbing shock . ..like a high voltage electro­about a hundred yards ahead of them. As the truck cution." It hit particularly in his head and chest,butdrove up the hill, the men fell silent.Forty yards away, he could feel it all over his body. He heard a crackingthe light bled over the road,but a dense stand of trees or popping sound, and then he heard, saw, and feltstill obscured its source. Then they passed a small no more.clearing to their right, and the source was now clearly Walton did not know what had hit him. Those look­in view. It was a luminous, disc-shaped structure, ing on,however,saw a bluish-green beam strike him.hovering 15 to 20 feet above a slash pile and casting a He rose a foot into the air, his arms and legs out­milky yellow glow through all of the clearing. Ap­ stretched, and shot stiffly back some I 0 feet, all theproximately 100 feet from them, 20 feet wide and while caught in the glow of the light. His right shoul­eight feet high, it was divided by dark-silver vertical der hit the earth, and his body sprawled limply overlines, longer than they were wide, into panel-like the ground.geometrical forms on its surface. A thin band with anouter protruding ring encircled the middle. Some· Rogers and his crew were beside themselves with fearone blurted out, unnecessarily at this point, "Thats a at this point, and amid much shouting and cursingUFO!" they fled the scene, leaving their fallen comrade behind. Rogers was driving dangerously fast, thoughRogers was bringing the truck to a stop when Walton he could barely see the road; he was certain that thejumped out and walked briskly toward the UFO. object was coming up behind him.A quarter of a mileLater he would explain his action thus: "I was sudden­ later, he swerved to avoid hitting a pine tree. Thely seized with the urgency to see the craft at close truck slid sideways and stopped, stuck crossways in arange. I was afraid the thing would fly away and I bulldozed pile of hard dirt.would miss the chance of a lifetime to satisfy my As one of his passengers screamed at him to getcuriosity about it." When his co-workers, whose going, Rogers looked around and saw that the UFOreactions to the UFOs presence ranged from in· was gone. The sky was quiet and empty of anythingtrigued to petrified, saw what he was doing, they but stars. No one spoke for some moments. Thenshouted at him to get back. Walton paused for a everyone began to talk at once, not necessarilymoment, turned to glance over at the truck, and coherently. Peterson and Rogers argued that theyreflected briefly on the wisdom of his course before should go back to rescue Walton.At first the othersdeciding to proceed. rejected the idea, but over the next few minutes, asIn short order he was standing on the perimeter of the discussion continued outside the truck and nervesthe dim halo of light the object was casting on the calmed, they changed their minds. As they piled background.He was only six feet away from being directly into the truck, Rogers thought he saw a flash of whiteunderneath the object.Mesmerized by the "unbeliev· light in the woods, something like a streak ascendingably smooth, unblemished surface of the curving into the air. No one else saw it, but then none hadhull," he at first did not realize that the UFO was been looking in Lhat direction at that moment. Rog- 546
    • High Strangeness Walton Abduction Caseers believed he had witnessed the departure of the good part of their attention on the trail that wouldUFO. have led Walton from the pickup to the slash pile. There were no prints in the hard ground. The pineRogers drove around in the gathering darkness in needles that covered the clearing floor looked undis·search of the spot where they had seen the UFO. turbed.There were no broken twigs. There were noThere were a number of clearings and any number of bum marks or other unusual effects in the slash pileslash piles in the vicinity,and one looked pretty much or in the trees.Nothing,in short, to back up the story.like another, so it was not easy. But eventually theyfound it. Rogers drove into the site. His headlights When last seen, Walton had been wearing no morerevealed nothing except the slash pile their compan­ than a light jacket. As the evening progressed, theion had been standing beside. He shined a flashlight temperature plummeted. If Walton was somewherethrough the clearing. Then he stepped out of the cab, out in the woods, the bitter cold could represent aand his crew reluctantly followed.The panic they had direct threat to his life.Ellison went back to Heber tosuffered had made them feel almost physically ill. collect additional searchers,but even with the further manpower the mystery of Waltons whereabouts re·Twenty minutes of searching failed to uncover any mained unresolved.trace of Walton. As the enormity of the eveningsstrange events began to sink in, some of the men, Finally around midnight Rogers remarked that Travissincluding Rogers, who considered Walton his best mother, Mary Walton Kellett, ought to be notified.friend, wept. When they pulled themselves together, She was staying in a remote cabin on a ranch in Bearthey headed for Heber and the initiation of the police Springs, about I 0 miles in the woods to the east.investigation. (Kellett lived there part of the year and spent winters at her home in Snowflake. She was shortly to returnFive days. The authorities first heard of the incident to town. Rogers and Undersheriff Coplan set off to )just after 7:30, when Navajo County Deputy Sheriff see her. They showed up at her door around I A.M.Chuck Ellison took a call from Ken Peterson, who Mrs. Kellett knew Rogers, of course, but had not metsaid only that one of the crew was missing. Ellison Coplan before now.met the group at a Heber shopping center. The menwere in a highly emotional state. Two were crying. Still visibly shaken, Rogers related the circumstancesEven as they related the bizarre and unbelievable of her sons disappearance. Apparently not quiteUFO story, Ellison could not help reflecting that if comprehending what he was telling her, Kellett askedthey were acting, they were awfully good at it. him to repeat the story.Then, after some moments pause, she asked him if he had told anyone else.Ellison quickly notified Sheriff Marlin Gillespie, whoordered him to wait with the crew until he could get Coplan, who had expected Kellett to respond moreto Heber.Gillespie was in Holbrook 40 miles to the dramatically, did not like the way she was acting, andnorth. Within the hour he and Undersheriff Ken he-as well as later critics of the case--would makeCoplan arrived and commenced their own interview much of Kelletts apparent composure, interpreting it as evidence that as a party to the hoax she knew herof the witnesses. Rogers, who wanted to get back to son was all right and hidden away somewhere. In fact,the site as quickly as possible,urged the sheriffs men those who knew Kellett far better than Coplan wouldto bring bloodhounds to aid in the tracking,but none insist that a hard life--she had raised six children onwere available. Pierce, Smith, and Goulette said they her own under difficult economic circumstances­had no desire to return, and so they went off in had long since taught her not to fly to pieces in theRogerss truck to Snowflake to notify Rogerss wife of face of crises and tragedies. It was part of her person­what had happened. al code not to display emotion before strangers. YetAt the site the six men stalked the clearing and in the days ahead, as events overwhelmed her, shesurrounding area with flashlights and a searchlight would show emotion before friends, acquaintances,mounted atop a four-wheel jeep. The understand­ and strangers alike--a fact that would go unmentionedably suspicious law-enforcement officers focused a in debunking treatments of the Walton episode. 547
    • Walton Abduction Case High StrangenessAt 3 A.M. Kellett called Duane Walton, the second brought back because "they dont kill people." Heoldest of the Walton sons and the one who, owing to and Mike denied, however, that they were UFO buffs.strength of personality, typically took charge when I follow it like I do a lot of other things," Duane said.circumstances called for it. Duane left his home in Later in the interview Rogers expressed concernGlendale, a western suburb of Phoenix, almost ahoul another sort of problem: "This contract thatimmediately. we have is seriously behind schedule.In fact, MondayBy morning yet more volunteers, including local [November 10) the time is up.We havent done anyForest S enice personnel, had joined the search. The work on it since W ednesd ay because of this t.hing;three crew members who had stayed away the night therefore, it wont be done.I hope they take that intobefore had not returned in the morning, so again account, this problem." He then returned to a promi­only Rogers, Peterson, and Dalis participated in the nent theme in the interview: his frustration with whatrenewed effort.Already the !iihf:rifr.-. men and o ther he. st�w as a less than adequate sear ch for his missingarea police officers were entertaining dark suspicions friend. "Nobody seemed that interested in searchingthat the UFO tale was a story concocted to cover that extensively. No bloodhounds were brought in.somet hing far more sinister, such as murder. Dut at And now its too late. Ive been mentioning iL t:Vt:I)the same time Mike Rogers, who presumably would day." Duane also complained bitterly about the Jacka·have been in on this hypothetical murder plot, was as daisical nature of the search.insistent as Duane Walton, who presumably would It certainly seemed, Sylvanus thought, as if the twonot have been, that the search be continued.The two were genuinely concerned about Travis. Yel at theof them showed up together at Sheriff Gillespies same time Duanes remarks about UFOs am.l tlu:office on Saturday in an explosively angry mood. intentions of their occupants made him uneasy; soThey had just been to the site, they said, and hall did Mikes expressed concerns about the lateness ofdetected not a soul. The search resumed that after­ his Forest Service contract. As would soon becomenoon. This time it included a helicopter, riders on clear, the foundations for an alternative interpreta·horseback, and four-wheel jeeps. tion of the case had been laid.That day also brought the outside world into this Meanwhile Snowflake Town Marshal Sanford (Sank)obscure corner of America. Along with hordes of Flake was telling the press of his certainty that thereporters and curiosity-seekers, UFO investigator story was a hoax "staged by Travis and his brotherFred Sylvanus showed up, sought out Mike Rogers Duane to make some money. I believe the other kidsand interviewed him in the late afternoon and early did see something, but they were hoaxed, too." Theeven in g. Duane Walton, who sat in on the interview, Walton brothers, he said, had "lit up a balloon andrepeatedly interjected with comments of his own. launched it at the apprupdate time. Flakes wife "These comments would come back to haunt him and dissented. "Your idea is just as farfetched as Duaneto take a permanent place in the controversy sur­ Waltons." Marshal Flake had a longstanding griev·rounding the case. Duane claimed ro have. se.e.n a ance against the Walton family stemming from aUFO "almost identical to what they described, for a dispute with Travis some years earlier, and he had no 30 minutes, in broad daylight, aboutperiod of about specific evidence to support his charge, though he12 years ago." He went on to assert, "Travis an d I was poking around the Bear Springs ranch where hediscussed this many, many times at great length.... sus pectt:U Travis was hiding. On one occasion heWe both said that we would immediately get as brought a London television c:r ew with him to thedirectly under the object as was physically possi· site, presumably so that it could film the live capture.ble. . . . The opportunity would be too great to passup, and at any cost, except death, we were to make Flake was not the only officer hoping to crack the casecontact with them .... [Travis] performed just as we by breaking down one of the supposed conspirators,said we would ... and hes receiv�U tht: benefits for who so far were sticking resolutely to their story.it." Not nearly so sure, Rogers said, "You hope he Some officers made repet�te.d visirs to Kelletts househas." Duane said he was sure his brother would be to interrogate her at length. Finally one evening 548
    • High Strangeness Walton Abduction CaseDuane arrived from the sheriffs office at Holbrook, to question #4. The test results were conclusivewhere he had sat in on yet another inteniew of the six on Goulette, Smith, Peterson, Rogers, andwitnesses. His mother was crying as an oblivious Pierce. The test results on Dalis were incondusive.deputy kept plying her with questions. Furious, Duane Based on the polygraph chart tracing, it is thetook him to the porch and told him not to retum opinion of this examiner that Goulette, Smith,unless or until he really had something to talk about. Peterson, Rogers, and Pierce were being truth­Then Duane told his mother that from now on she ful when they answered these relevant questions.should not allow investigators into the house; sheshould talk with them on the porch, which would These polygraph examinations prove that theseallow her to end the discussion any time she wanted five men did see some object that they believe toto. be a UFO, and that Travis Walton was notThe next morning Man�hal Flake showed up to deliv­ injured or murdered by any of these men oner a message. Because Kellett had no phone, all that Wednesday. If an actual UFO did not existcommunications between her and the authorities and the UFO is a man-made hoax, five of thesehad to he c:anierl out in p�non_ Kellett stepped out to men hid no prior knowledge of a hoax. No suchthe porch, closed the door behind her, took the determination can be made of the sixth man,message, and went back inside. Flake and other skep­ whose test results were inconclusive.tics would later conclude that she was hiding some­ Even Flake did not make much of Daliss test results.thing. Or someone. Dalis, after all, was a man with much to hide: aOn Monday morning Ragen and the crew met in criminal past and (as we shall see) a criminal future.Holbrook to undergo polygr,ph testing "t the sher­ He had behaved with hostility all through the poly­iffs office. The examiner, Cy Gilson, worked for the graph process, as if fearing secrets he had everyArizona Department of Public Safety and had been reason not to wish revealed would accidentally comebrought up from Phoenix for the occasion. While to light. Flake remarked, "I wouldnt trust him as farreporters milled around outside, each of the witness­ as I could throw him. Since hes the only one whoes undenvent four 20-m.inute tests which consisted of didnt pass the lie test, Id almost have to believe thevariously phrased versions of four basic questions: opposite with him. Not passing means hes probably telling the truth. He saw it, the UFO." After the test (I) Did you cause Tra,is Walton any serious Sheritl Gillespie pronounced himself satisfied. physical harm last Wednesday afternoon? ""There"s no doubt theyre telling the truth-right (2) Do you know if Travis Walton was physically down the line;· he said. "I feel sure that all six of them injured by some other member of your work Si:t.W Cl UFO... crew last Wednesday? Close to midnight a phone rang in Taylor, a small (3) Do you know if Travis Waltons body is town two or three miles south of Snowflake and 30 buried or hidden somewhere in the Turkey miles east of Heber. When Grant Neff took the call, Springs area? he heard a faint, confused-sounding voice mutter, (4) Did you tell the truth about actually seeing a "This is Travis. Im in a phone booth at the Heber gas UFO last Wednesday when Travis Walton station, and I need help. Come and get me." disappeared? Neff, who was married to Traviss sister Allison, toldOne of the variants of this last question was, Do you the caller he had the wrong number. From his pointbelieve that Travis Walton was actually taken aboard of view, Neff had no reason to take the messagea UFO last Wednesday? seriously. The voice did not sound like Traviss, for one thing. For another, the Waltons and their rela­In his official report Gilson wrote: tives already had been subjected to too many prank Each of the six men answered "No" to ques­ and crank calls. But just as he was preparing to hang tions#!, 2 and3 and they each answered "Yes" , up, Neff heard the voice screaming. The hysteria 549
    • Walton Abduction Casesounded genuine. "Its me, Grant," the caller said."Im hun, and I need help badly.You come and getme."It was Travis, all right. Neff promised to get Duaneand to be in Heber as soon as possible.The reappearance. Neff drove to Snowflake and pickedup Duane, who had not left the sheriffs office until10 that evening. From there Duane had gone toSnowflake and to his mothers house. The two weretalking when a white-faced Neff walked in and brokethe news.Grant Neff and Duane Walton found Travis hunchedover in the second of three phone booths at a servicestation on Hebers outskirts. Th ough conscious, heseemed to be in shock. He had five days worth ofbeard on his face, and he looked thinner than he hadbeen when last seen.(Later, members of the familywould claim that he had weighed 165; weighed notlong after his return, he was 154.) Clothed in the levishirt and jeans and cotton shirt he had been wearingat the time of his disappearance, he was shivering inthe 18-degree cold.On the way back to Snowflake, Travis spoke vaguely Travis Waltons five-day disappearance and alleged UFOof encountering creatures with eyes that had terrified abduction in November 1975 generated two bo oks, a mo­him. He was still frightened.He was startled to hear tion picture, and two decades of controversy.that five days had passed; he thought it had been onlya couple of hours. When he heard that, he shook his who went to the station and began to dust for prints.head and ceased speaking a ltogether. There were no prints at all on the phone in the third booth, perhaps because no one had used it since theAt his mothers house he took a bath and drank serviceman had emptied the till and wiped the instru·quantities of water. When he tried to eat cottage ment clean. The other two had prints, but so far ascheese and pecan cookies, he threw up. Ellison and Romo could determine in the cold andDuane decided that someone in his brothers fragile dark, none was Waltons.condition needed to be shielded, at least for now, Meanwhile officers on duty in the early-morningfrom harassment by police officers, journalists, and ho urs were looking for cars owned by Walton familybusy·bodies.Travis himself was saying over and overagain, almost as if reciting something from memory, members.Deputy Glen Flake (Sanford Flakes broth­"Dont let the police know Im here.... Ive got to er), who had been positioned in Snowflake at thehave a doctor.... Dont let the police know ....Get junction of Highways 77 and 277 so that he could seeme some medical help." Walton vehicles heading to or from Taylor (on 77) or Heber (on 277), saw nothing. In due course theBut the police already knew, or at least suspected, sheriff told him to drive over to Mary Kelletts house.that something was up.At 2:30A.M. Gillespie got a tipfrom a phone company informant that someone had Travis was there, but Deputy Flake would not knowcalled the Neffs from the Heber gas·station booth. that till later. When he pulled up, he observed lightsGillespie alerted Deputy Ellison and Lt.E.M. Romo, on inside the house. Duane was in the front yard 550
    • Iligh StrangeneJS Walton Abduction Casesiphoning gas from a friends truck. He explained was no air-conditioning, and the d�afening roar ofthat he had driven from Holbrook too late to refill his landing and departing jets blew through the opentank for the trip back to Glendale. He did not add windows. Worse, the room was devoid of medicalthat Travis would be accompanying him there, and equipment and textbooks.Even more ominously, theFlake asked no further questions. Not long after he sign on the door identified Steward simply asleft, Duane left with Travis. By the time they got to Hypnotherapist.Phoenix, the Walton abduction case would be in Duane immediately wanted to know if Steward was adanger of collapsing into farce. medical doctor. At first he insisted he was, then Travails and lesfs. Among the ufologists whom Duane eventually admitted that he was not licensed to prac·Walton met prior to his brothers return was a Phoe· tice in Arizona. (A subsequent inquiry determinednix man named William H. Spaulding, head of Ground that Stewards rlegrPe was from a California-basedSaucer Watch (GSW). A frequent lecturer at UFO correspondence school without academic accredita­conventions, Spaulding specializfrl in photoanalysis; tion.) He said he would call a doctor friend andhe claimed to have developed a computer-enhance­ arrange for a full physical examination, but hisment technique by which he could distinguish phony "friend" -so Duane and Travis judged from hearingand authentic UFO photographs with something ap­ Stewards side of the conversation--<iid not appearproaching certainty. In speeches and articles in popu­ to know who he was.lar UFO magazines, he spoke and wrote in a sort of The Waltons walked out soon afterwards.The amountpseudotechnical jargon which puzzled (and there­ of time they spent in Stewards office itselfbecame a fore usually impressed) the technically untrained part of the controversy. Steward and Spaulding wouldeven as it entertained the technically sophisticated, assert that the brothers had been there for two hours,who found idle amusement in the enumeration of the during which Steward questioned them thoroughly.malapropisms that habitually permeated Spauldings This is certainly false. The Waltons showed up half andiscourse. hour late for their appointment; afterv.rards they went During Traviss absence Spaulding had introduced out to eat in a nearby restaurant before driving on tohimself to Duane, and the two had spoken at length. Glendale. At 10:45 Duane took a call from anotherSpaulding boated that a a scif"ntific org aniza tion ufologist, Coral Lorenzen of the Tucson-based Aeri­GSW had access to all kinds of professionals, includ­ al Phenomena Research Organization (APRO). Thusing physicians. The Waltons, who had the good for­ the time with Steward probably did not exceed 45tune of being healthy and the bad luck ofbeing poor, minutes.had no family doctor. But Duane knew that Travis By the time they got back to Duanes, the two learnedwould require medical attention on his return (as­ that the world now knew about Traviss return-tillsuming he did return). Spaulding assured him that then a secret known only to the family, Spaulding,GSW had a local physician who could take care of and Steward. In their absence Duanes girl friend Travis and perform "all the scientific testing hell Carol had been fielding phone ralls from reporters.need." On their return both Spaulding and Steward called, but Duane bluntly informed them that they should On his arrival in Phoenix, Duane called Spaulding, bother them no more. This action, as the Waltonswho directed him to GSWs medical consultant, Dr. soon found out, made Spaulding-who till now hadLester Steward. He and Duane would meet him at his been telling the press of his confidence in the case-aoffice at 9 A.M. Duane and Travis then went to sleep at sworn enemy and the source of a great deal of futurethefanners Glendale residence, awakeningjust after trouble. Other inquirers were told that Travis had9. They hurried to Stewards office, which they were gone to a private hospital in Tucson and could not bedisconcerted to learn wali located in a rundown hotel reached.not far from the airport. Nothing about the officeitself inspired confidence either. lt.lookerl as seedy as Nonetheless Mrs. Lorenzen managed to get throughits surroundings. The curtains were yellowed; there when she phoned. She spoke with Duane and man- 551
    • Walton Abduction Case High Strangenessaged to persuade him that she could arrange for an Travis would speculate that the red spot was probablyexamination by local physicians-real ones. So at something he had picked up in the course of his3:3 0 that afternoon Duane and Travis met two Phoe­ work, probably from a thorny bush. On the othernix APRO members, Drs. Joseph Saults (a general hand, as we shall soon see, some critics would chargepractitioner) and Howard Kandell (a pediatrician), at that the mark was evidence that Travis had injectedDuanes home. drugs, probably LSD, into his right elbow.While this latter theory is hardly plausible, Traviss defendersThis was well and good-the first step toward a real would never be able to offer an explanation for theinvestigation-but between Lorenzens call and the curious absence of bruises, which one would expectphysicians examination another party would enter, in the wake of Traviss alleged beam-driven collisionand hugely complicate, the story. At noon Lorenzen with the ground.heard from the Natinnal F.nquirer. In exchange forAPROs cooperation and access to the Waltons, the Meanwhile Duane was maintaining the pretense thattabloid offered to pay all expenses. To start with, it his brother was hospitalized in Tucson. He told thiswould pay for a hotel room in which the brothers untruth-<>r, as he thought of it, cover story-notcould be sequestered; it would also dispatch a team of only to press inquirers but to Sheriff Gillespie, whoreporters to the scene.Since APRO could not match had learned of Traviss return only through mediathe Enquirers financial resources, Lorenzen agreed. accounts. On Tuesday, however, he found out that Travis was staying with Duane near Phoenix. HeTraviss examination went well. Saults and Kandell drove to Glendale and confronted Duane and Travisfound that he was in good health. There were only near midnight.two out-of-the-ordinary physiological symptoms.AsKandell, who wrote the medical report, would note : Gillespie listened as an exhausted Travis related what little he remembered of what happened after he There were no bruises or evidence of trauma, awoke in a hospital-like setting inside what he as­ except for a two-mm red spot in the crease of sumed was an alien spacecraft.After hearing him out, his right elbow, which was suggestive of a nee­ the sheriff wondered aloud if Travis had not been hit dle puncture; however, it was not overlying any with a club or baseball bat, then drugged and taken to signifcant blood vessel. He denied being aware i an earthly hospital. Travis disagreed, pointing out of its presence and did not know what it might that the physical tests he had just undergone had be due to . . . . detected no trace of drugs or bumps on his head.The incident had occurred just as he said it had, and he Urinalysis-volume 560 cc; normal, with good would take a lie-detector test to prove it. Duane concentration [SpG 1. 032]; however, there was added that Travis would take any kind of test, not just no acetone present, which is unusual, consider­ polygraph but truth serum, voice stress analysis, or ing that any person who is without adequate hypnosis, to prove that he was telling the truth. nutrition for twenty-four to forty-eight hours Gillespie said a polygraph test would do. will break down his own body-fat stores, which should result in ketones [acetones] being ex­ By the next day, Wednesday, November 1 2, Spaulding creted into the urine.The absence of ketones in was being quoted in the press as saying that he and his his urine, considering a ten-pound weight loss, group had found unspecified "holes in this story." is difficult to explain. Spaulding, who had directed the Waltons to "Dr. " Steward, also stressed that the investigation requiredDuane had given the doctors a bottle of urine-the more than anything "competent scientific personnelproduct of Traviss first post-return micturition; conducting scientific tests. " Later that day he toldearly on Spaulding had urged Duane to make sure reporters, "Were going to blow this story out today."such a sample was presened.Of course there was noway to prove this was Traviss specimen. The physi­ On Thursday, Travis and Duane slipped away tocians had to take the brothers word for it. nearby Scottsdale, where the National Enquirer had a 552
    • High Strangeness Walton Abduction Caseroom at the Sheraton Hotel waiting for them. There Steward said Duane Walton called him Tuesday they met APRO scientific consultant james A. Hard­ about regressive hypnosis (not true] . ... Theer, a professor of engineering at the University of hypuusis never came off [it was never askedCalifornia at Berkeley. Harder, who had a particular for], Steward said, and he believes the reason isinterest in hypnotizing UFO witnesses, soon regressed that the Waltons fear exposure.Travis, who proceeded to tell for the first time all that Steward challenged the alleged infallibility ofhad happened, or supposedly happened, aboard the the lie-detector tests. . ..Five reportedly passed, UFO. Heretofore he had been reluctant to discuss it but Steward said he would be unconvinced thatand had given it out piecemeal even to his brother. they were telling the truth unless they went Unlike many other abductees, however, Waltons through regressive hypnosis [as, in fact, Travisconscious recall and unconscious "memory " were Walton already had].the same, and he could account for only a maximumof two hours, and perhaps even less, of his missing "The polygraph is only a machine, and I think . five days. (The onboard experience will be discussed they go t tug� titer and beat it, . he said. "Butlater.) they cant beat hypnosis. If they did go into hypnosis, they can lie, but I can show they areSherif f Gillespie had arranged for polygraph exami­ lying, and they cant control it. [ Nothing in thenations for Travis and Duane, to be administered by professional literature of hypnosis substanti­Cy Gilson, the same man who had tested the logging ates these claims. Lies told under hypnosis areteam earlier in the week.All concerned agreed that it indistinguishable from truths. ]must be done in secrecy, to eliminate the media "Theyre afraid of the tests," he added [withoutcircus that had affiicted the previous polygraph epi­ evidence].sode. Unfortunately someone leaked news of theintended examination. On Friday morning, as the He said that Travis appeared upset at first, butshe:rifflf"ft his office, he saw clear signs that reporters he was completely calm when Lh� Lwo brotherswere following him. Around that time a reporter left, and Steward described that reaction asphoned Duanes house and wanted to know when symptomatic of drug use (Lowe, 1975].Duane and Travis planned to go to Holbrook for the These were extraordinarily irresponsible charges.Totest. When Duane heard about the call, he exploded. start with, no evidence whatever existed to supportHe cancelled the test and accused the sheriff-who the allegation that Travis was under the influence ofwas in fact as innocent as the Waltons themselves­ drugs at any time. According to all available testimo­of bad faith. ny, not just Traviss but other peoples, Travis soAt this stage everybodys nerves were on edge. The opposeddrug use that he did not consume alcohol orWaltons also were angry and upset at the many even coffee.True, he had taken drugs in the past, inrumors and accusations in circulation.Some of these common with many other young people of the peri­saw print. The next day, Saturday the fifteenth, the od, but he had stopped doing so two years previously.Phoenix GazetU ran an uncritical piece on "Dr. Lester Whatever one makes of the UFO claim, the drugH. Steward, director of the Modern Hypnosis In­ accusation was and remains a c:anarrl, though would­struction Center. " After spending "two hours with be debunkers would keep it alive for years to come.Walton and his brother Duane," the article reported, The National Enquirer wanted Travis to take a poly­Steward stated, "He [Travis] was out hallucinating on graph examination as soon as possible, while it stillsome drug, probably LSD." He further claimed that had him available and before another publication wasthe Waltons had come on like a couple of freeloaders able to scoop it. Harder thought Travis wo:�s still toowho wanted a physical examination without having to nervous and distraught to take a test which, strictlypay for it; yet when he arranged for just such an exam, speaking, measured stress, not lies. Travis might orthe two young men fled his office. The article went on might not be lying {though Harder was convinced ofto recite other false and dubious allegations: his truthfulness), but there could be no question that 553
    • Walton Abduction Case High Strangenesshe was exhibiting plenty of stress. Three psychiatrists in collusion with this friend of yours to burglarize thewho had been brought into the case concurred, office, steal the checks, and forge them, right?"insisting that any results would have no meaning. A few minutes later McCarthy announced, "Travis,One psychiatrist,Jean Rosenbaum, spoke with par­ your responses are deceptive," and declared that heticular authority here; he was a court-accepted expert had failed the polygraph test. Flabbergasted, Travison polygraph use. protested, "There must be some mistake." He asked for another test.McCarthy refused."Theres no needBut the Enquirer persisted. A positive polygraph re­ to go any further," he said. "Ive got my answers. "sult would bolster the impact of its stoi)·; besides,reporter Paul jenkins argued, the results would not He concluded his official report thus:be released without Traviss permission.Travis finally His reactions on the control test were normal.consented, and APRO director jim Lorenzen (Cor­ He appeared to be lucid,and prior to testing heals husband) contactedjohn].McCarthy,director of stated that he understood each of the questionsthe Phoenix-based Arizona Polygraph Laboratory. to be asked and that he would answer each withMcCarthy said he would be willing to administer the a "Yes " or "No." It was obvious during thetest.When Harder expressed concern about Traviss examination that he was deliberately attempt­emotional state, McCarthy assured him that he would ing to distort his respiration pattern.take it into account. Based on his reactions on all charts, it is theUnfortunately,when they met in the Waltons;s room opinion of this examiner that Walton, in con­at the Sheraton, McCarthy did nothing to reassure cert with others, is attempting to perpetrate aTravis. Instead, in the pre-trial interview McCarthy UFO hoax, and that he has not been on anygot Travis to admit to two episodes about which he spacecraft.was deeply ashamed: his past drug use and a 1971 Duane expressed his enormous displeasure with thescrape with the: la.w. In the latter instance he and results to McCarthy.The psychiatrists reiterated theirCharles Rogers (Mike Rogerss younger brother) had conviction that under the circumstances the resultspled guilty to the theft of blank payroll checks which meant nothing. Dr. Rosenbaum spoke for his col­they had cashed using a forged signature. Appre­ leagues in a formal statement:hended almost immediately, they were given twoyears probation and ordered to repay the stolen [O]ur conclusion, which was absolute, is thatmoney. That was the beginning and end of Traviss this young man is not lying, that there is nocriminal history. Not even Sank Flake, who did not collusion involved. The full test results showlike Travis and openly accused him of hoaxing the that he really believes these things,that he is notUFO story, deemed this anything other than a youth­ lying. He really believes that he was abducted byful mistake,but it was deeply embarrassing to have to a UFO.admit to it, and Travis talked about it only on the Rosenbaum then went on to offer his own distinctiveunderstanding that the matter would be kept con­ interpretation of the episode:fidential. But my evaluation of the boys story is that,Yet McCarthy,whose occasionally sarcastic and some­ although he believes this is what happened, ittimes abrasive remarks betrayed his skepticism, went was all in his own mind. I feel that he sufferedout of his way to remind Travis of the incident a few from a combination of imagination and amne­minutes later. After McCarthy had used the word sia, a transitory psychosis-that he did not go"collusion " and Travis admitted that he did not know on a UFO, but simply was wandering aroundthe word,McCanhy snapped, "That means acting in during the period of his disappearance.But Imconcert with somebody else, one or more people to unable to account for five witnesses having theperpetrate a hoax,acting in collusion with somebody same basic story and passing lie-detector testselse, you know, to set this thing up.Just like you acted about it. 554
    • High Strangeness Walton Abduction CaseNor would Rosenbaums hypothesis explain how would almost certainly know of the hoax; some specu­Travis could have maintained relative good health,or lated that he had hidden in her Bear Springs cabin.Soeven stayed alive, over five nights of well-below­ Pfeifer asked her if she had participated in a hoax, iffreezing temperatures---<especially considering that she had concealed Travis, and if she knew wherethe clothes he was wearing were manifestly not suited Travis was between November 5 and 10. She an­to such bitter cold. Moreover, formal psychological swered no to these questions. Pfeifer also wanted totesting of Travis by APRO-affiliated psychologists know if she believed Travis was telling the truth.SheHarold Cahn and R. Leo Sprinkle would uncover no said yes. Pfeifer wrote:evidence of emotional abnormality. After a very careful analysis of the polygraphsIn any event, it was apparent to just about everybody produced and comparing the polygraph trac­except McCarthy that the polygraph test had been a ings with the Known Lie pattern, it is the opin­bad idea. Then the Waltons, Natumal Enquirer, Mc­ ion of this examiner that Mrs. Mary Kellett hasCarthy, and APRO signed on to another bad idea: answered all the questions truthfully accordingthey agreed to keep the test and its results confiden­ to the best of her knowledge and beliefs.tiaL Hardly anyone else would hear of the incident The controversy. Even in the absence of clear evidenceuntil eight months later,when the Walton cases most of a hoax-as well as in ignorance of the suppressedintense and persistent critic exposed it to the world. McCarthy test-Spaulding continued his assault onOn February 7, 1976, Duane took a polygraph test the case, telling journalists and ufologists that theadministered by George Pfeifer of Tom Ezell and Waltons were lying. Persons knowledgeable aboutAssociates. Travis hoped to be there as well, but the case sometimes found his logic hard to follow.HeAPRO had not made an appointment for him be­ wrote, for example, "Walton never boarded the UFO.cause he was having car trouble and it was by no This fact is supported by the six witnesses and themeans certain that he would be able to negotiate the [Gilson] polygraph test results." Spaulding did not160 miles between Snowflake and Phoenix. But as it elaborate on this curious contention.happened,Travis made it.He asked if he could take Nonetheless other UFO groups were willing to takethe test after Duane was through. Drs. Harold Cahn Spaulding at his word. The National Investigationsand R.Leo Sprinkle and APRO directorJim Lorenzen Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) inaccu­drew up a list of questions, and later Travis added rately characterized the incident as a "contactee case,"some others. Travis wanted the test to cover other complained about the "undue excitement and inter­accusations that had been leveled at him. est " it had generated, and remarked that "either aPfeifer concluded as follows: hoax has been committed or ... a psychological phenomena [sic] is involved." It cited as authority its [I]t is the opinion of this examiner that Duane "investigator," an Arizona university professor.Later Walton has answered all questions truthfully the "investigator " acknowledged that he had not according to what he believes to be the truth done any actual investigating ("Alleged Arizona Ab­ regarding this incident,and he has not attempt­ duction," 1976). The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) ed to be deceptive in any area. ... also treated the case cautiously, citing both sides of After a careful analysis of the polygrams pro­ the dispute without taking sides ("APRO, NICAP, duced,there are no areas left unresolved,and it GSW," 1976). APROs treatment, the most compre­ is the opinion of this examiner that Travis hensive, was the wholly positive one ("The Travis Walton has answered all questions in a manner Walton Case," 1975; Lorenzen and Lorenzen, 1975); that he himself is firmly convinced to be truth though it made much of the Pfeifer tests,it failed to regarding the incident commencing 11 -5-75. mention the failed examination with McCarthy.Pfeifer also conducted a polygraph examination on So did the National Enquirer in its December 16, 1975,Mary Kellett.Those who thought Traviss disappear­ issue, even though its reporters had privately voicedance had been staged suspected that his mother their disenchantment with the case to the Lorenzens 555
    • Walton Abduction Case High Strangenessa day after the McCarthy examination. One of them, lined sentences (and sometimes combinations there­Jeff Wells, prepared a H>·page memorandum urging of), Klass told a complex tale of deceit, conspiracy,that the story be killed. Unlike McCarthy, the report­ and incompetence. He portrayed the Waltons asers did not believe Travis had perpetrated a hoax; UFO buffs who seemed oddly unconcerned by Travissthey were persuaded by Dr. Rosenbaum that he had disappearance. To get around the positive polygraphhad a psychological experience.As Wells recalled in results, Klass argued that McCarthys experience and1981, "He had seen something out there in the qualifications were greater than Gilsons and PCeifers;woods, some kind of an [sic) eerie light that had moreover, Travis had "dictated" the questions Pfeifertriggered a powerful hallucination that might recur at had asked him.any time " (Wells, 1981). The November l O Gilson examination of the crewA far more formidable and serious attack on the case members proved nothing, according to Klass, exceptwas launched by Philip]. Klass in June 1976 Klass, by . that the loggers had not murdered Travis. The oneprofession an editor of the Washington weekly Avia­ UFO-related question, Klass wrote, went, "Did yoution Week and Space Technolog;y, issued 17 pages worth tell the truth about actually seeing a UFO last Wed­of accusations against virtually everyone-investiga­ nesday when Travis Walton disappeared? " Klass not­tor, polygraph examiner, and alleged witness-who ed,"The question did not ask whether they saw Travisin one way or another supported the case. A fero­ being zapped by a UFO, nor whether they reallycious UFO debunker who seldom hesitated to hurl believed that Travis had been abducted by a UFO."hoax charges against witnesses ordinarily deemed He then made this rather strange observation:reliable (including police officers and members of Celestial bodies are sometimes mistaken forthe clergy), Klass approached the Walton episode less UFOs. At the time of the Walton incident, theas an investigator than as a prosecutor. planet jupiter was very bright in the early eve­His most damaging revelation concerned the McCar­ ning sky and would have been visible at 6:15 P.M.thy examination and APROs role in covering it up. This is not to suggest that Rogers and his crewJim Lorenzen would subsequently defend his organi­ honestly imagined that Travis had been "zapped"zation·s actions, saying that the results were meaning­ by Jupiter. But if they were all partners in aless-probably true, but hardly the point. Klass got prearranged hoax, all might be able to answerthe story from McCarthy, who had decided to speak "yes" to this one UFO-related question without displaying overt signs of telling a significantout because of the continuing attention Waltons falsehood.claims were receiving. (In July Travis and the sixwitnesses would split a $5000 award from the Nation· Such strained conjecture did little to advance Klasssal Enquirer after its Blue Ribbon Panel on Unidenti­ argument.It was, moreover,unfair to conflate Travissfied Flying Objects judged the case the most impor­ youthful troubles into evidence of a continuing pat­tant UFO event of 197 5.) He also learned from tern of criminal behali.or, including substance abuse.McCarthy of Traviss past drug use and run-in with Of this charge Lorenzen said, "The arresting officerthe law. Klass used these, along with the claims of [in the forgery episode] will write Travis a letter ofLester Steward (charitably referred to as a "psycholo­ recommendation and the people that he robbed willgist and hypnotist whose Ph. is from a small private D. do the same" (Clark, 197 7 ). No area law..:nforce­school in Southern California"),to charge that Travis ment people, even those who did not especially likewas befuddled with drugs,possibly from "LSD inject­ him, considered Travis a criminal (Barry, 1978).ed into the spot where the puncture mark was found." It was not true that Travis had "dictated " the poly­Readers of Klasss paper could only conclude that graph questions to Pfeifer, Lorenzen would argue.Travis was both a substance abuser and a criminal. Pfeifer himself would characterize the verb as lessDrawing liberally on speculation,the darkest possible than accurate; "suggest " would be closer to the truth.interpretation of every remark and action, and regu­ In any event, as Klass neglected to mention, thelar use of capital letters, bold type, italics,and under- questions Travis wanted asked were potentially dam- 5 56
    • High Strangeness Walton Abduction Caseaging ones if he was trying to perpetrate a hoax. In the Forest Service to explain that he could not com­suggesting them, Travis was trying to address the plete his contract because the UFO incident ..causedaccusations made against him, never imagining that me to lose my crew and [made] it difficult to get anyhis action would be turned into yet another accusa­ of them back on the job site."tion against him. This claim, seemingly plausible, was repeated in sub­No one denied that the Waltons had discussed UFOs sequent Klass white papers and in two books hein the past. In common with a number of area would write years later. It would be accepted as aresidents, including Sheriff Gillespie, both Duane reasonable explanation even by some UFO propo­and his mother claimed to have seen them in the past nents. It is, however, almost certainly false.(Duane reporting a dose encounter, Kellett distant To start with, the seven crew members were unlikelylights). By Duanes own testimony he and his brother conspirators in a scheme to commit what amountedhad talked about the prospect of entering a UFO. It is to fraud against the federal government. Rogerssnot unreasonable to incorporate these elements into men wereall temporary employees, picked up for thea hypothesis which sees the Waltons therefore as specific job and paid by the hour. Only Travis andlogical suspects in a flying-saucer hoax. To call them Mike Rogers were personally close. Dwayne SmithUFO buffs, however, is to overstate the case. They barely knew the other crew members; the incidentwere not consumers of UFO literature, and Travis took place on his third day on the job. Later, whenhad never heard of J. Allen Hynek, Northwestern Allen Dalis, by all accounts the least-liked member ofUniversity astronomer, former Project Blue Book the crew (and thus arguably the one most likely toconsultant, and then the worlds most famous UFO inform on his fellows), fell afoul of the law, he con­investigator. Travis learned of him only when Hynek fessed to crimes with which the authorities had notproposed a meeting. Travis refused, thinking that thought to link him; yet he resolutely insisted that theHynek was someone associated with Spauldings UFO story was true. One individual, never publiclygroup. identified, offered money-$ 1 0,000, according toDuane maintained that his repeated talk of Traviss one account-to crew member Steve Pierce if hereturn, including his insistence that his brother was would admit that the incident was a hoax. He refused.safe with the UFO people, was done to reassure his In the early 1990s the Walton story was back in themother and himself. Here, of course, we have to take news because a feature film had been made about it;his word for it, and Klass was not the only critic to if any of the presumed conspirators had wanted towonder. sell an expose to a tabloid newspaper, he certainly could have done so-and no doubt laid claim to aIn Klasss rendering of the incident, the witnesses had sizeable check. None did so.a strong financial motive for perpetrating a hoax.Mike Rogers was far behind on the timber-trimming Moreover, as the A.P.R.O. Bulletin observed:operation for which he had contracted with the For­ The facts are that Rogers was behind on theest Service. The completion date on the original contract in question since he had been workingcontract, awardedjune 26 1974, was for the summer , on three other contracts simultaneously. Heof 1975. Rogers managed to get an 84-day extension, had collected on the other contracts and there­and the new deadline was November 10, 1975. But as fore was not in financial trouble.that date neared, he realized that he was still nowherenear completion. The Forest Service withheld 10 Also, it was to his advantage and to the advan­percent of its payment on the contract until the job tage of the crew to work as long as possible onwas finished. As Klass had it, Rogers knew that he was the contract. Rogers knew from experience thatrisking that penalty, which he could ill afford, and so a small time overrun would be tolerated provid­he decided to make use of the "Act of God" clause in ed they were making good progress. In addi­the contract. Thus the "UFO abduction" came at a tion, a contract could be defaulted withoutconvenient time for him. On November 18 he wrote serious penalty or prejudice without going to all 557
    • Walton Abduction Case High Stmngeness the trouble of creating an excuse.Rogers knew Forest Service contracting practices would be this because he had defaulted a contract a few necessary for anyone to evaluate Klass argu­ years earlier. mentation(,] and that it would be a simple matter for Klass to exploit this complexity, know­ Rogers had requested an inspection from the ing full well that the casual reader would be Forest Service to take place on November 7th, hard put to distinguish what passes for in-depth which would enable him to collect for the past research from what is really half-knowledge­ three weeks work. The UFO incident prevent­ able sophistry. Indeed, Klass behavior is not ed the inspection and held up monies already unlike [that of] a shrewd prosecutor, familiar earned ("The Walton-Klass Affair, " 1976]. with all aspects of the case, but sifting throughAPRO pointed out that Rogers had not mentioned the clues for the elements that would present the defendant-Rogers-in the worst lightUFOs as the reason for his not being able to complete [Speiser, 1993].the contract on time. Rogerss failure to finish thejobin the required period caused no serious difficulty Aboard. Nearly lost in the complicated human sagawith the Forest Service; not long afternrards Rogers that the Walton episode quickly became was Travisswas awarded another contract with it. This time, account of what he claimed happened to him duringhowever,he used a two-man machine and no longer his disappearance. Real or imagined, the story isneeded a six-man crew.After a while Rogers rehired relatively sedate and simple compared to some otherTravis Walton. The other five who had comprised the abduction claims of the period (see,for example, theoriginal crew were left out in the proverbial cold. Andreasson Abduction Case). If no t for the circum­"Are we to believe," APRO asked, "that (the] men stance that initiated the episode, if not for the unde­who perpetrated a hoax for Rogerss benefit are now niable fact of Traviss mysterious absence for fivegoing to remain silent while Rogers collects the best days-if, in other words, like most other abductionacreage rate he has ever received without them? " reports it was simply an anecdote told by one person and unrelated to anything verifiable--it would notNo one connected with the contract took Klasss be nearly so well known as it is. As folklorist Thomastheory seriously. Maurice Marchbanks and Junior E. Bullard, a scholar of the abduction phenomenon,Williams, the Forest Service officers who contracted puts it, "As abduction stories go,the Walton case waswith Rogers, rejected the idea as absurd. So did neither lengthy nor complex, but the literature ofSheriff Gillespie. So did journalist Bill Barry, who charges, countercharges and explanations arising outextensively investigated all aspects of the Walton of the investigation has outgrown the literature de­story as he gathered material for a popular magazine scribing the incident itsetr (Bullard, 1987).article and then a book (Barry, 1977, 1978). Yet Klasspersisted,and the notion that the Walton case was a Yet Traviss story is interesting in its own right. Part ofhoax cooked up to excuse an overdue contract en­ that interest lies, for all its simplicity, in its eerie andtered the folklore of ufology. otherworldly quality.More important, it anticipates aspects of the abduction phenomenon,just begin­In 1993 Arizona ufologist jim Speiser, at that point ning to come into prominence in the mid-1970s,no partisan of either side in the debate,conducted his which were then obscure or unknown altogether.own inquiries.Arter examining contract documents, As the story he would relate consistently over thehe discovered that Rogers had not drawn on the "Act years went, he returned to consciousness in a hospi­of God " clause to get out of the contract."The words tal-like room. His whole body ached, his vision wasAct of God were never mentioned by him, by blurred, and he felt weak and thirsty. A metallic tasteMarchbanks, or by anyone in connection with the filled his mouth. Above him a luminous rectangle,default of his contract, " Speiser wrote. He observed: three feet by one and a half and composed of seam­ Throughout my conversations with Rogers it less metal, gave offa soft white glow.A plastic, rocker­ became clear that an in-depth knowledge of shaped device extended from his armpits to his rib 558
    • High Strangeness Walton Abduction Case eyes. Oh, man, those eyes, they just stared through me. Their mouths and ears and noses seemed real small, maybe just because their eyes were so huge [Barry, op. cit. ]. Their hands had five fingers. T h e beings looked frail, with soft marshmallowy skin. Travis staggered to his feet and shouted at the beings. He struck out and pushed one of them into another. From the ease with which he was able to knock them back, he deduced that they weighed relatively little. Then he grabbed a cylindrical tube off a shelf which jutted from the wall. Assuming from its appearance that the tube was made or glass, he tried to break the top off so that he could threaten the beings with its jagged edges. But the object proved unbreakable. Nonetheless Travis waved it threateningly in their Uireuiun. Keeping their distance, they Just stopped and kind of thrust their hands out, like they meant no, or stop, or I dont know what." After a short1 tense standoff, the beings turned around and exited quickly out the door immedia te ly behind them. Shortly thereafter Travis himself ran out of the room and headed left into a curving corridor three feetWhile allegedly on board a UFO, Travis Walton encoun­ wide. In short order he came to an open room on histered two types of alien beings, including shorl figurfs who,Walton said, "h:X>ked like fetuses." This sketch was drawn right. It was round, domed, and apparently empty ofby Mike Rogers based on Wahons description. anything except a high·backed metal chair in the middle. The chair was supported by a single centercage. The air was wet and heavy, and he had some leg. Since its back was to him, Tra,is could not be sureuifficulty breathing it. Still, his first impression was that someone was not sitting in it, but he decided tothat he was in a conventional earthly hospital, even if take a chance. Moving slowly and quietly with hishe could not understand why the nurses had not back pressed up against the wall, he positioned him·removed his clothing. self so that he could glimpse the chairs occupant, ifTravis saw three figures dressed in loose-fitting there was one. There wasnt.orange one-piece suits standing near him, one to his When he <tepped toward the chair, the light began toright, the other two to his left. As his vision cleared, fade. He stepped back, and the light returned. Hehe recoiled in shock and horror as he realized these stepped forward again and surlrl�nly was surroundedwere not human beings. He would describe them this by stars. He could not tell whether the walls, ceiling,way: and floor had become transparen r , re:vPaling the They were short, shorter than five feet, and they deep space through which the craft presumably was had very large, bald heads. no hair. Their heads moving. or starlike points of light had been project· were domed, very large. They looked like fetus· ed, planetarium·fashion, on all surrounding sur· es. They had no eyebrows, no eyelashes. They faces. Except for the fact that the walls were still had very large eyes--<:normous eyes-almost vaguely visible, "the effect was like sitting in a chair in all brown, without much white in them. The the middle of space," Travis would write (Wal ton, creepiest thing about them were [sic] those 1978). 559
    • Walton Abduction Case High Strang=There was a panel of buttons on the right armrest, they came to a closed door to their right. It openedalong with a screen with vertical black lines. The left into a tiny "metal cubicle" of a room which the twoarmrest held a lever. Travis pushed a couple of the entered as the door closed again behind them. Travisbuttons, but nothing happened. Then he sat on the asked where they were going, but his companionchair and pushed the lever forward. The black lines again ignored the question.on the screen moved, and the stars started rotating, They then entered an enormous room which Travisthough keeping their relative positions all the while. thought of as an airlock or a hangar. Inside it the airFrightened and disoriented, Travis pulled his handoff the lever, which then returned to its original was fresh and cool with gently flowing breezes, aJ. most as if they were outside, and the light was asposition on its own. The stars stopped rotating and bright as sunlight. Travis descended a short, steepwere frozen into their new positions. ramp and looked around him. He would recall:Soon he was fooling with the lever again, and now The ceiling was sectioned into alternating rec­more radically, pushing it in all directions, hoping tangles of dark metal and those that gave offthat he could open one of the doors whose thinrectangular outlines he thought he could see on the light like the sun shining through a translucent panel. The alternation of the light and darkwall in front of him. The stars again whirled around.Travis let go once more, fearing that if h� k�pt panels reminded me of a checkerboard. Theplaying with the instruments, he might cause some ceiling itself curved down to form one of thereal damage. larger walls in the room. The room was shaped like one quarter of a cylinder laid on its sideHe got to his feet and walked over to the wall. The [ibid.].stars faded away, and the room lighted up. Travis ranhis lingers along the outline of what he thought The craft Travis and the strange man had just leftmight be a closed door, then walked back to the chair. looked like the one he had seen in the woods exceptAs he was standing beside it, he heard sounds and that it was considerably larger, perhaps 60 feet inlooked to the open doorway behind the chair. There diameter and 16 feet high. To his left were two similarhe was startled to see a human figure wearing a but smaller vehicles ( 40 to 45 feet in diameter) parkedtransparent bubble helmet over his head. Shock fol· close to the wall. A silver reflection nearby looked aslowed relief as Travis reflected that he was among his if it could have come from a third craft, but he was notown kind. sure because irs source was mostly obscured by the large ship.The man looked like a deeply tanned, muscularCaucasian, about six feet two inches tall, perhaps 200 The two walked across a floor of springy greenpounds. He had sandy blond hair long enough to rubberlike material to a door in the hangar room. Itcover his ears, and he was dressed in a tight-fitting, opened from the middle and brought them into abright blue coverall suit with a black band or belt hallway six feet wide and eight feet high. They walkedacross the middle. He wore black boots. In his excite· some 80 feet past a number of closed double doors.ment Travis failed to appreciate just how odd the "When do we get to go home?" Travis wanted tomans eyes looked. A "strange bright golden hazel," know. "Where are we going now?" Af. usual histhey were not really the eyes of a human being. companion acted as if he had not heard him.The figure motioned to Travis, who approached with They finally came to another pair of doors at the enda series of frantic questions to which the only re­ of the hallway. As they slid silently open, Travis sawsponse was a "tolerant grin. Travis thought the man two men and a woman sitting in the room. They werehad said nothing because his helmet blocked out his dressed like his companion and even bore a familyhearing; maybe they were going some place where sort of resemblance to him. Like him, they werethe man would remove the helmet and then they good-looking and perfectly featured. The woman,could talk. Led by the arm, Travis was taken into the who appeared to be wearing no makeup, wore hercurving, narrow hallway, the man in the lead, until hair longer tliall Lht: mt:n did. 560
    • High Strangeness Walton Abduction CaseThe three were not wearing helmets, which gave selling book. At the time of the Walton disappear­Travis false encouragement."Would somebody please ance, John G.Fullers The Interruptedjourney was thetell me where I am?" he asked desperately. The only full-length treatment of an abduction episode.beings only looked at him with pleasant expressions The next, Coral and Jim Lorenzens Abducted!, wouldon their faces,and the helmeted man sat him down in not be published until 1977.a chair before leaving through another door, enter· On October 20, 1975, NBC television broadcast aing a corridor, and departing to the right. docudrama,The UFO Incident, on the Hill case.KlassA.s Travis continued to talk, the woman and one of and other critics would make much of this. Travisthe men stepped over to him, one on each side, and insisted neither he nor any other witness had seen thetook him by his anns to a nearby table. Though show. In any event, there is not much similarityinitially cooperative, Travis grew less so when he between the Hillss story and Waltons. There is,realized that they were not going to tell him anything. moreover, not a great deal of similarity betweenHe shouted at them, but they continued to look on Waltons and any other abduction narrative thathim with the same silent, kindly look, which amount­ would have been known to him from the UFO litera­ed to a small, toothless grin.Even as he struggled, the ture as of November 1975.beings managed to force him on his back. Once he What Jim and Coral Lorenzen found particularlywas down, he noticed that the woman had in her fascinating, however,was the curious fact that at thehand something that "looked like one of those clear, time the Walton story broke, they were working onsoft-plastic oxygen masks, only there were no tubes an abduction investigation Walton could have knownconnected to it. The only thing attached to it was a nothing about. The claimant, Air Force Sgt. Charlessmall, black, golfball-sized sphere." She placed it Moody, reported a close encounter on August 13,over his mouth and nose, and as Travis prepared to 1975, in the New Mexico desert (see Moody Abduc­rip it off his face, he lost consciousness. tion Case). APROs investigation began the followingThe next thing he knew, Travis was lying on his back month and continued for some months. In a letteron the highwayjust outside Heber, 10 miles from the Moody wrote the Lorenzens early in November, heplace where he had seen the light in the woods. In the described the UFOs occupants in this way:darkness he saw The beings were about five feel tall and very one of those round craft hovering about four much like us except their heads were larger and feet over the highway.It was hovering there for hairless,their ears very small, eyes a little larger just a second. I looked up just as a light went than ours, nose small[,] and the mouth had very out, like a hatch closing, orjust a light going out. thin lips [Lorenzen and Lorenzen, 1977]. A white light just went off on the bottom of it. Moodys entities were to all intents and purposes The craft was dark, and it wasnt giving off any identical to the ones Walton allegedly encountered in light at all [Barry, op.cit.]. the period just after he recovered consciousness.Travis ran to the gas station and tried the first of three Unlike Walton, Moody described communicationsphones. It didnt work, and he panicked.Maybe all of (via telepathy) between himself and the beings.Moodythem were out of order. But he got through on the was told that the ship he had boarded "was not theirsecond, and his brother-in-law Grant Neff answered. main craft, but only one used for observing ... their main craft was about four hundred of our milesWalton and lhe ahd:ut:tion pherumumun. By 1975 urologists above the earth." Furthermore,these beings workedhad collected and investigated a small number of in cooperation with other extraterrestrial races­abduction reports. The first case to come to their though Moody, unlike Walton, reported encounter­atlention was the Hill abduction case, a 196 I close ing no representatives of these.encounter whose abduction aspect, subsequently re­covered through hypnosis, first saw print in 1965 and Entities like these were unknown to ufologists priorthe following year became the subject of a best- to the Moody and Walton reports, but as abduction 561
    • Walton Abduction Case High Strangenesscases proliferar�rl in the years ahead, they would choice but to insist that a heretofore-undetectedbecome staples of dose-encounter lore. So would hoax scheme underlies the claim.reports of onboard encounters with humanlike or Nearly all of the available circumstantial evidencenear-human beings associated with smaller entities would lead one to the conclusion that Walton, his(Bullard, op. cit.). family, and the logging crew are not hoaxers. If thereContinuing controvmy.The Walton case was the sub­ is compelling evidence to the contrary, it has yet toject of two paperback books published in 1978. In emerge-which is not to say, of course, that it couldUltimate Encounterajournalists investigation into the neveremerge. In the end Klasss case rests on a singletangled affair, author Bill Ban� found Klasss and dubious polygraph result and a mass of lurid butother critics charges to be without merit, and he apparently baseless speculations. Should the Waltonconcluded that to all appearances Travis and Lhc: tpisude turn out to be a hoax, we may be confidentothers were telling the truth as they saw it. Traviss that it will not be the kind of hoax Klass says it was. Inown book, The Walton Experience, told the story from the end Klasss reckless and emotional au.acks havehis perspective and defended himself against the only done damage to the skeptical case. As long as itwould-be debunkers. It is worth mentioning th:ilt remains the skeptical case, there is no skeptical case.Travis, not a ghostwriter, was indeed the author. To be sustained, the critics argument needs to beThough not college-educated, Travis was and is rebuilt from the ground up. It would start with threeintelligent and articulate. small details, or at least two of them. The least ofThe witnesses went their own ways . Travis remained them is the absence of Traviss fingerprints on any ofin Snowflake and married Mike Rogerss sister Dana, the phones at the Heber gas station. This absencewith whom he had four children. He kept a low may be explainable as an oversight by country cops asprofile. His UFO story did not expand in the telling; they fumbled about in the early-morning cold andhe claimed no further memories of what happened to dark; in any event, nobody disputes that someonehim during those five days. He reemerged into pub1ic called the Neffs around midnight on November 10view in March 1993, when Fire in the Sky, a feature from a Heber phone booth, and nobody has pro­lilm based on his book, appeared in the theaters, to posed a candidate other than Travis.modest success, mixed .-eviews, am.l ufulugislS com­ More difficult to rationalize, however, is the absenceplaints about its inaccuracies (Drasin, 1993;Johnson, of any bruises on Traviss body even when the beam1993). The film starred D . B. Sweeney as Travis ami slammed his right shoulder into a collision with, as heRobert Patrick as Mike Rogers; Robert Lieberman writes in his book, "the hard, rocky earth of thedirected from a script by Tracy Torme. To promote ridgetop." If there is anything suspicious to be foundthe film, Walton and Rogers made the rounds of the in the story, one finds it here-as well as in thetalk shows. On March 12, the day the movie was coincidence of Duane and Traviss having talkedreleased, the two appeared on CNNs Larry King Show about boarding a UFO prior to the latters "actually"in a fierce debate with Klass, who at one point lost his doing so.temper and called Rogers a "goddamned liar." Against this anthill of small but disturbing details, ofTwo decades later, what are we to make ofthe Walton course, stands a mountain of circumstantial evidencecase? which so far even the most committed debunkersIn the end how one views the Walton controversy have been unable to topple. In its five decades ufologydepends on how one feels about UFOs in general and has seen its share of hoaxers, and Travis Walton, toalien-abduction claims in particular. If one believes it every appearance a modest and decent man, aclS likeis possible that UFOs exist as piloted extraterrestrial none of them. If his story is a fabrication, it is amongvehicles, one can accept that Travis Walton boarded a the most skillfully and intricately executed in UFOspacecraft and interacted with its occupants. Tf nne history. If it is not, then its implications-for all ofbelieves such things are not possible, one has little us-are extraordinary indeed. 562