Travis Walton UFO incident
The Travis Walton UFO incident refers to an American logger who claims he was abducted by a UFO on November 5, 1975, while working with a logging crew in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Walton reappeared after a five-day search. The Walton case received mainstream publicity and remains one of the best-known alleged alien abduction stories, although skeptics consider it a hoax.
According to Walton, on November 5, 1975 he was working with a lumbering crew in the Sitgreaves National Forest near Snowflake, Arizona. While riding in a truck with six of his coworkers, they encountered a saucer-shaped object hovering over the ground approximately 110 feet away, making a high-pitched buzz. Walton claims he left the truck and approached it, when a beam of light suddenly appeared from the craft, knocking him to the ground. The other six men were frightened and supposedly drove away. Walton claimed that he awoke in a hospital-like room, being observed by three short, bald creatures. When they left, a person entered the room wearing some sort of helmet and led Walton to another room, where three more people put a clear plastic mask over his face and he blacked out. Walton has claimed he remembers nothing else until he found himself walking along a highway, with the flying saucer departing above him.
In the days following Walton's UFO claim, The National Enquirer awarded Walton and his co-workers a $5000 prize for "best UFO case of the year" after they allegedly passed polygraph exams administered by the Enquirer and a UFO organization. Walton, his older brother, and his mother were described by the Navajo County, Arizona sheriff as "longtime students of UFOs". Some UFOlogists believe Walton was abducted by aliens. UFOlogist Jim Ledwith said, “For five days, the authorities thought he’d been murdered by his co-workers, and then he was returned. All of the co-workers who were there, who saw the spacecraft, they all took polygraph tests, and they all passed, except for one, and that one was inconclusive.”
Skeptics consider the case to be a hoax, describing it as "sensationalizing on the part of the media" and "a put-up job to make money." UFO researcher Philip J. Klass considered it a hoax perpetrated for financial gain, and discovered many "discrepancies" in the stories of Walton and his co-workers. After investigating the case, Klass reported that the lie detector tests were "poorly administered", that Walton used "polygraph countermeasures" such as holding his breath, and uncovered an earlier failed polygraph test administered by an examiner who concluded the case involved "gross deception".
Michael Shermer criticized Walton's claims, saying, "I think the polygraph is not a reliable determiner of truth. I think Travis Walton was not abducted by aliens. In both cases, the power of deception and self-deception is all we need to understand what really happened in 1975 and after."
Cognitive psychologist Susan Clancy argues that alien abduction reports began only after stories of extraterrestrials appeared in films and on TV, and that Walton was likely influenced by the NBC TV movie The UFO Incident that aired two weeks before his own claimed abduction and dramatized the alien abduction claims of Betty and Barney Hill. Clancy noted the rise in alien abduction claims following the movie and cites Klass's conclusions that "after viewing this movie, any person with a little imagination could now become an instant celebrity", concluding that "one of those instant celebrities was Travis Walton."
Media and publicity
In 1978, Walton wrote The Walton Experience about his claims, and the book became the basis for the 1993 film Fire in the Sky. Paramount Pictures decided Walton’s account was "too fuzzy and too similar to other televised close encounters" so they ordered screenwriter Tracy Tormé to write a "flashier, more provocative" abduction story. Walton has occasionally appeared at UFO conventions or on television. He sponsors his own UFO event in Arizona called the "Skyfire Summit" conference.
In 2008, Walton appeared on the game show The Moment of Truth and was asked if he in fact was abducted by a UFO on November 5, 1975 to which he replied with "Yes". The lie detector test determined it to be a lie.
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- Paul Kurtz (10 September 2013). The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. pp. 441–. ISBN 978-1-61614-828-7.
- Susan A. Clancy (1 July 2009). Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens. Harvard University Press. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-0-674-02957-6.
- Dennis Stacey (10 March 1988). A peculiar American phenomenon. New Scientist. p. 70.
- Ian Ridpath (29 September 1983). When is a UFO not a UFO?. New Scientist. pp. 945–.
- Speigel, Lee (2016). "UFO-Alien Abduction Still Haunts Travis Walton". Huffpost Weird News. huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
- Shermer, Michael. "Travis Walton's Alien Abduction". eSkeptic. The Skeptics Society. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- Templeton, David. "Sonoma UFO forum is out of this world". sonomanews.com. Sonoma Index-Tribune. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- Sheaffer, Robert. (1981). The UFO Verdict: Examining the Evidence. Prometheus Books. p. 20. ISBN 978-0879751463 "APRO and the National Enquirer had arranged an earlier secret polygraph test for Travis with John J. McCarthy, the most experienced polygraph examiner in the state of Arizona. McCarthy found Travis to be attempting "gross deception," and pronounced the abduction story a hoax."
- Baker, Robert Allen. (1992). Hidden Memories: Voices and Visions from Within. Prometheus Books. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-57392-094-0 "With regard to the Travis Walton affair, this was one of the more tawdry examples of "true-believer" chicanery, sensationalizing on the part of the media, and greedy men who tried to pull off a hoax that failed."
- Hutchinson, Mike; Hoggart, Simon. (2000). Bizarre Beliefs. Richard Cohen Books. p. 39. ISBN 978-1860660214 "To put it bluntly, there is nothing in the Travis Walton story to suggest anything more than a hoax."
- Nickell, Joe. (1992). Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, & Other Mysteries. Prometheus Books. p. 202. ISBN 0-87975-729-9 "A more rigorous investigation by Philip J. Klass (1989) discovered that the case was a hoax, that the lie detector test was flawed, and the abduction a "put- up job" to make money."
- Murphy, Ryan. "Reworking 'Fire in the Sky' -- Paramount Pictures hires writer Tracy Tormé to add excitement to Travis Walton's alien account". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- Sheaffer, Robert. "UFO Conspiracies at the UFO Congress". Skeptical Inquirer. 39 (4). p. 20.
- "(Untitled)". The Moment of Truth. Season 2. Episode 10 (Part 3). 2015-10-16. Lighthearted Entertainment/Fox Broadcasting Company.
- Travis Walton's official website
- Dunning, Brian. (2008) Fire in the Sky: A Real UFO Abduction? - Skeptoid
- Shaeffer, Robert (6 January 1979) "The Selling of the Travis Walton 'UFO Abduction' Story". The Age