No abduction case in history has garnered as much publicity, fascination, and controversy than the Travis Walton abduction in 1975. And it’s no wonder. Do you believe the unshaken testimony of 7 witnesses, a testimony that has not deviated even years after the witnesses parted and gone their separate ways? Does the polygraph evidence, 13 tests in all, prove the witnesses are offering us the truth and nothing but the truth? Or do you believe the nay Sayers who claim the event was a well-planned hoax, nothing more than a ‘story’ told to allow the crew to escape an inevitable failure of their government contracted project? It’s quite possible that in this case, only ‘time will tell’. But for now, we can present the full account, the facts, the evidence, and the debunker’s theories and allow you to form your own opinion. Does the Travis Walton abduction offer us the most concrete evidence that aliens do exist? Or is this case merely a ruse that will forever be regarded as one of the most well orchestrated hoaxes the world has ever seen…
Travis Walton (22) worked on a wood cutting crew led by foreman Mike Rogers. The two were close friends, both on the job and off. The other members of the crew, Ken Peterson, John Goulette, Steve Pierce (17), Allen Dalis, and Dwayne Smith, were mere acquaintances, their relationships nothing more than the typical day-to-day relationship all employed workers experience.
On November 11, 1975, the crew was located in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (15 miles south of Heber, Arizona) working on a wood clearing project contracted by the U.S. Government. The crew were behind on their contract and very near ‘defaulting’ their obligation, a situation that was not all that unusual in these types of projects. They had already filed one extension and surely felt much apprehension about filing another. But, the clearing of the 1277 acres at Turkey Springs had taken much longer than expected.
The crew were working long hours trying to complete the project on time to avoid the default. They typically worked from dawn to dusk, putting in 12 hour days before returning to their homes in nearby Snowflake, Arizona, a small Mormon town located 33 miles east of Herber, Arizona. On November 11 they quit at 6:00 and climbed in Mike Rogers truck for the long ride back to Snowflake. Rogers (the driver), Peterson, and Walton rode in the front seat, Travis sitting by the passenger side window. Goulette, Pierce, Dalis, and Smith rode in the bed of the truck. They had gone no more than 200 yards when they noticed a bright glow through the trees 100 yards ahead of them. Thinking that the glow could possible be a fire, they slowed the truck to a crawl as they drew nearer the source of the glow. When they came to a clearing in the trees, they were stunned to see that the glow was coming from a disk shaped object, hovering 15 feet above a ‘slash’ pile (a large mound of dead trees, limbs, leaves, an such).
At this point, they were 100 feet from the object and could plainly see that it was about 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall. It had panel-like etchings on the side and a thin band running around the middle of the craft. Rogers pulled the truck over at which time Travis jumped out of the passenger side door. The men in the truck shouted at Travis to ‘stay back’ – he paused briefly, then continued towards the object.
I was suddenly seized with the urgency to see the craft at close range. I was afraid the thing would fly away and I would miss the chance of a lifetime to satisfy my curiosity about it.
At a distance of only 6 feet from the craft, Travis noted the “unbelievably smooth, unblemished surface of the curving hull”. As he stood there staring at the strange craft, he at first was unaware of the beeping sounds it began emitting. The men in the truck once again shouted at Travis to get away but by the time he became aware of their screams it was too late. The craft began wobbling and producing a vibrating, rumbling sound that grew louder and louder. Walton quickly jumped behind one of the logs in the slash pile, paused briefly, then stood up in an attempt to run away from the object. Suddenly he heard a loud ‘crack’ and felt “a numbing shock… like a high voltage electrocution” – the everything went black…
The crew would later recount how a bluish-green beam of light had struck Travis, raising him a few feet in the air, before launching him backwards 10 feet where he landed flatly on his back. After seeing Travis lying motionless on the ground, the crew lost their nerve and fled the scene. Rogers, who thought the craft was following closely behind them, recklessly attempted to outdistance the craft. Finally, when attempting to negotiate a turn, the truck spun out of control and crashed into a pile of dirt on the side of the road. The men climbed out the truck, examined the damage, and began arguing about what to do next. Rogers and Peterson felt they needed to return to assist Travis while the others argued that they should continue putting distance between them and the unknown craft. Finally, after Rogers claimed to see a streak of light shoot up into the sky, they all agreed that they must return.
They arrived back at the slash pile and pulled the truck into the clearing so that the headlights could be used for illumination. After searching the nearby area for 20 minutes, and Rogers at this point uncontrollably crying, they decided something else must be done. After much debate, the crew decided that they should notify the local sheriff’s office.
At 7:30 PM, Navajo County Deputy Sheriff Chuck Ellison, received the call from the wood-cutting crew who claimed one of their crew members was missing. He met the crew at a nearby Herber shopping center and was disturbed to see the men in a highly excited state with two of the crew members crying. After hearing the bizarre story, Ellison decided to contact Sheriff Marlin Gillespie who was 40 miles north in Holbrook, Arizona.
Gillespie arrived with under sheriff Ken Coplan and listened to the men’s story. Rogers insisted that they return to the scene. Pierce, Smith, and Goulette refused and instead opted to travel on the Roger’s home in order to notify his wife of the situation.
Gillespie and the others traveled to the scene and initiated a search using flashlights and spotlights mounted on top of a four-wheel drive Jeep. Gillespie could find no physical evidence at the scene – leaves and grass appeared undisturbed, no burn marks existed, and no footprints could be found. Gillespie also worried about the safely of Travis since nighttime temperatures would drop below zero and Travis was wearing only a light jacket and jeans. The search continued throughout the night.
At 12:00 AM, Rogers and under sheriff Coplin went to Travis’s mother, Mary Kellett, to inform her of the situation. She listened intently and even asked the men to repeat the story again. Coplin became suspicious because Mary exhibited no emotion upon hearing that her son had been abducted and taken aboard a UFO. Others indicated that Mary was no prone to showing emotion. Friends later indicated that Mary was indeed extremely upset but simply held back the feelings in front of Sheriff Coplin.
At 3:00 AM, Mary Kellett called her second oldest son, Duane Walton, who lived Glendale, Arizona (a suburb near Phoenix). Duane left his home immediately for the long trip to Snowflake.
At this point, Sheriff Gillespie’s suspicions were beginning to rise. His inability to find any physical evidence just didn’t make sense to him. He began to wonder if the crew had actually murdered Travis, hidden the body, and then concocted the bizarre story in an effort to deter the police from find out the truth.
Duane arrived in Snowflake around 5:00 AM and immediately ‘took charge’ of the situation. He strongly insisted that the search continue throughout the day and that it not stop until Travis was found. The search efforts were doubled – more search crew members were obtained and the use of helicopters, horseback, and jeeps was incorporated into their efforts. Meanwhile, news of the abduction had spread and the media wasted no time in jumping in on the action.
Fred Sylvanus, a UFO researcher, arrived on the scene and managed to secure an interview with Mike Rogers and Duane Walton. Fred too became suspicious when he noted that Duane, who was very outspoken, continued to interject during Mike Roger’s interview. The fact that Duane was not even present during the incident made Sylvanus contemplate why he continued to promote the idea of UFOs. In one instance, Duane stated:
I saw a UFO almost identical to what they described, for a period of about 30 minutes, in broad daylight, about 12 years ago. Travis and I discussed this many, many time at great length… We both said that we would immediately get as directly under the object as was physically possible… The opportunity would be too great to pass up, and at any cost, except death, we were to make contact with them… Travis performed just as we said we would. and he’s received the benefits for it… He’ll be brought back, they don’t kill people.
Additionally, a comment by Rogers also struck a strange note with Sylvanus:
This contract that we have is seriously behind schedule. In fact, Monday the time is up. We haven’t done any work on it since Wednesday because of this thing; therefore, it won’t be done. I hope they take that into account, this problem.
Almost immediately, Sylvanus began to theorize that the whole incident may have been a hoax. He theorized that the crew was attempted to ‘buy more time’ for their failing government contract, a theory that would prevail during the entire Travis Walton investigation..
It was at this point that Town Marshall Sandord Sank Flake entered the investigation. Sylvanus’s concerns had already been brought up before the authorities and Flake was quick to interject his own opinion. Flake, who was known to have a long-standing grudge against the Walton family, publicly announced that he was working under the assumption that:
…the whole thing was staged by Travis and his brother Duane to make some money. I believe the other kids did see something, but they were hoaxed too. The Walton brothers had lit up a balloon and launched it at the appropriate time.
An incident between Flake and Mary Kellett seemed to strengthen his case. Flake traveled to Mary’s home in order to deliver a private message. He found it odd that Mary met him on the front porch and quickly closed the door behind her before accepting the message. Flake felt that Mary was hiding something…. or someone.
Duane Walton would later offer an explanation for the incident – Mary had been questioned in what she felt was a excessively abusive manner. In fact, he stated that Mary was almost in tears during a questioning by Sheriff Gillespie. Duane angrily demanded that Mary cease inviting authorities into the house for questionings. He felt she could hold the meetings on the porch where it would be much easier for her to terminate the conversations whenever she began feeling uncomfortable.
Authorities continued their investigation by focusing more and more on their ‘hoax’ theory and less and less on searching for Travis. Five days after the abduction, polygraph tests in a CQT question format, were given to the crew members, the results of which would turn the authorities opinions towards the belief that something truly amazing actually did occur in the forests of Apache-Sitgreaves. Questions included:
Did you cause Travis Walton any serious physical harm last Wednesday afternoon?
Do you know if Travis Walton was physically injured by some other member of your work crew last Wednesday?
Do you know if Travis Walton’s body is buried or hidden somewhere in the Turkey Springs area?
Did you tell the truth about actually seeing a UFO last Wednesday when Travis Walton disappeared?
Peterson, Goulette, Smith, Rogers, and Pierce passed the test. Results on Dalis were inclusive. From the actual polygraph results report:
These polygraph examinations prove that these five men did see some object that they believe to be a UFO, and that Travis Walton was not injured or murdered by any of these men on that Wednesday. If an actual UFO did not exist and the UFO is a man-made hoax, five of these men had no prior knowledge of a hoax. No such determination can be made of the sixth man, whose test results were inconclusive.
The inconclusive results from Dalis’s test did not surprise the authorities. Dalis, who was known to have a criminal past, seemed extremely defensive during the interviews. Flake would later remark:
I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him. Since he’s the only one who didn’t pass the lie test, I’d almost have to believe the opposite with him. not passing means he’s probably telling the truth. he saw it, the UFO.
Even Gillespie publicly admitted his belief that the men really did encounter a UFO, “There’s no doubt they’re telling the truth. I feel sure that all six of them saw a UFO”. Later that night, around 12:00 AM, the case would finally break.
Grant Neff, who was married to Travis’s sister Allison, was discussing the situation with his wife when he received the infamous phone call:
This is Travis, I’m in a phone booth at the Herber gas station, and I need help. Come and get me.
Travis, on the other end of the phone call, detected that Grant believe the call to be a prank. Grant was just about to hang up the phone when Travis shouted:
It’s me Grant. I’m hurt, and I need help badly. You come and get me!
Realizing that the caller was indeed Travis, Grant grabbed Duane and hurriedly rushed to Herber to rescue his brother in law. They found Travis huddled in the floor of a phone booth near a Herber gas station. Travis was in shock and quivering in the 18 degree weather. He still wore the same clothes he had on at the time of his disappearance. Grant noted that Travis had a 5 day old beard and appeared to have lost a considerable amount of weight.
During the drive home, bits and pieces of Travis’s ordeal were revealed. Travis told of strange creatures with large heads and eyes. Travis was stunned to hear that he had been missing for five days – to him it only seemed to have been a couple of hours.
Upon arriving at home, Travis attempted to eat. Others noted that he consumed large quantities of water, as if he had been dehydrated, but could hold no food in his stomach. Travis insisted that the police not be notified but rather that he be taken immediately to a doctor. As if turned out, the police would not need to be notified as they already knew something strange was going on at the Travis household…
Police received a call from a local telephone operator who noted that a strange call had just taken place between the Neff’s home and a phone booth in Herber. Police immediately setup road blocks in an attempt to cover all possible points between Herber and the Walton household. They would later note that Travis nor any of the other crew members passed through any of the roadblocks. Meanwhile, police dusted the phone booth (and the two surround booths) for prints – none that matched any of the Waltons were found.
Deputy Flake was dispatched to Mary Kellett’s home where he found Duane siphoning gas out of a friends pickup truck. Duane explained that it was late and the had no time to fill the gas tank before making a trip to Glendale, a large suburb near Phoenix. Duane gave no reason for the proposed trip and Flake did not think to ask. The bizarre story of Travis Walton began to grow even more bizarre…
During the previous few days, Duane had discussed the abduction with a UFO researcher named William H. Spaulding, who was a member of a group named Ground Saucer Watch or GSW. Spaulding had suggested that if Travis returned, a physical investigation should be the top priority. Spaulding even offered the services of his organization. Duane remembered the discussion and decided to give Spaulding a call. A meeting was scheduled with a Dr. Lester Steward for 9:00 PM. Travis and Duane slept at Duane’s home until the time arrived.
Travis and Duane arrived at Steward’s office shortly after 9:00. They were puzzled to find the office located in what was considered a ‘bad’ part of town. The office itself seemed bare and old – there were not medical books or equipment, and nothing else that gave any indication the Spaulding was indeed a medicinal doctor. In fact, the sign on Spaulding’s door simply read “Hypnotherapist”. Duane questioned the Doctor about his credentials. Spaulding continually evaded the questions until finally admitting that he was not licensed to practice in Arizona. He offered to call a doctor friend who would be more qualified for the examination. Duane, who heard only half of the phone conversation, noted that the ‘doctor’ Spaulding called seemed to have no clue who Spaulding was. Finally, the Waltons angrily walked out and unwittingly injected more controversy into an already bizarre case.
Spaulding continued to call the Waltons in an attempt to become more involved with their investigation. Duane finally insisted that all contact between them and Spauling cease. He requested that Spaulding not contact them again. Spaulding, angered by the snub from the Waltons, began and almost immediate attack on the Waltons. He suggested to authorities that the Waltons had been at his office for more than two hours. This statement was later argued against when the Waltons pointed out that the had arrived at the office around 9:30 PM and left around 10:15 PM, a total of 45 minutes at Spaulding’s office. These times were later validated when records showed that the Waltons had taken a call from Coral Lorenzen of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization at precisely 10:45 PM.
Lorenzen convinced the Waltons that a physical examination was in their best interest. A physical examination was scheduled for 3:30 PM the next day (November 11. 1975). Duane and Travis met with Dr. Joseph Saults, a general practitioner. and Howard Kandell a pediatrician. It was at this point that the National Enquirer purchased exclusive rights to the story for $5,000.00. From D.r Saults and Dr. Kandell’s report:
There were no bruises or evidence of trauma, except for a tow-mm red spot in the crease of this right elbow, which was suggestive of a needle puncture; however, it was not overlying any significant blood vessel. He denied being aware of its presence and did not know what it might be due to… Urinalysis – volume 560 cc; normal, with good concentration; however, there was no acetone present, which is unusual, considering that nay person who is without adequate nutrition for twenty-four to forth-eight hours will break down his own body-fat stores, which should result in ketones (acetones) being excreted into the urine. They absence of ketones in his urine, considering a 10 pound weight loss, is difficult to explain.
Debunkers quickly noted that the urine analysis sample was not valid since it had been taken beforehand and given to the doctors. The sample came from Spaulding, who had insisted that Travis produce a sample as quickly as possible. Debunkers also theorized that the needle puncture was the result of a drug injection – most likely LSD. Travis countered by noting that he had not taken any drugs in years and in fact consciously avoids even minor drugs such as alcohol and caffeine. They also noted the suspicious lack of bodily injury, particularly bruises, that they felt would have been present according to the descriptions of the abduction. Travis explained:
I’ve taken numerous hard blows in sparring matches which never left a bruise. All the guys on the crew have had limbs and small trees fall on them in the course of a workday, leaving no bruises. It can take a lot to bruise a healthy, fit young man. It’s unlikely that landing after being thrown ten feet would be sufficient to cause a mark which would last five days, especially through a work shirt and denim jacket.
It was at this point that Sheriff Gillespie discovered Travis’s whereabouts (Duane Walton had previously told him that Travis was in a Tucson hospital). He requested that Travis volunteer for a lie detector test. Travis agreed on one condition – that the tests be kept secret. Gillespie scheduled a test with Cy Gilson (who gave the earlier polygraph tests to the crew members) for the next day. Unfortunately, word of the upcoming examination leaked to the public and Duane, in a fit of anger, cancelled the tests.
During this same time, the National Enquirer, seeking to bolster the story they had already paid for, pressured Travis into taking a polygraph examination of their own. Harder and 3 other psychiatrists insisted that Travis was still too nervous from the event for the tests to have any true meaning.