Recently I met with Travis Walton of Snowflake, Arizona. Travis was abducted by Aliens 40 years ago. The story of that encounter led to a book, a movie, speaking positions at UFO conferences, and TV appearances (including Road Less Traveled). It also invited a lot of ridicule and skepticism.
The tale begins in the darkening hours of November 5, 1975. A logging crew is returning from work when they see a bright light up on a hill in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Their suspicion of fire is quickly dispelled as an illuminated UFO comes into view. Travis gets out of the truck and scrambles for a closer look. Suddenly a blast of energy sends him flying like a lifeless ragdoll. The loggers in the truck peel away in horror. Down the road the frantic men gather themselves and return for Travis, but both he and the UFO are gone. The police are notified and a fruitless search is conducted. The local sheriff administers a polygraph, suspecting foul play. All the men pass, save one inconclusive result. Five days later Travis makes contact from a row of phone booths in the nearby town of Heber. He has a helluva story to tell.
Last month, I met Travis on the side of the 277, where he’d run out of gas on the way to meet our crew. We drove to an empty Mexican restaurant for an informal interview and after he led us to the site of the abduction. Although I’m a natural skeptic, I approached our encounter with an open mind, reserving analysis and judgement for a later time. I found Travis to be a likable guy. A man who speaks very evenly on all topics, without much excitement or the hint of hyperbole. He kept the same level tone discussing the dangers of colliding with elk and his favorite music as he did on the subject of manhandling aliens and describing the scene at Skrillex’s birthday party in Los Angeles.
Driving away from the encounter I offered some thoughts to camera. I thought it unlikely that a group of loggers in blue collar Arizona could rapidly come up with a scheme of this magnitude and stick to it for the rest of their lives. Something must have happened in those woods. Was it an alien spacecraft? Perhaps. However, I’ve since chewed on the possibilities and considered these alternatives:
Travis was the victim of an attempted murder. The sheriff’s initial suspicions were warranted. The crew tried to kill Travis and put him in a shallow grave à la The Revenant, but, just like DiCaprio, the robust logger refused to die. Staring up at the stars as his brain flickered at the edge of oblivion, he dropped into a deep, DMT style hallucination of aliens and spacecraft. Eventually his motor function software rebooted and he staggered towards the town of Heber. The would be assassins, learning of his survival, were relieved to hear him babbling about UFOs and quickly agree with every word of the extraterrestrial story.
Travis and his crew ran into top secret aircraft. Last year the CIA openly admitted that most classic UFO sighting were, in fact, their shenanigans. Our film crew spoke with Scott Marchand, executive director of the impressive Pima Air & Space Museum. As we stood beside a jet black SR-71 Blackbird, Scott told me that the CIA and U.S. Air Force often fed disinformation to UFO enthusiasts to distract from the true nature of their military projects. According to Scott there are around two dozen clandestine aircraft in current operation about which the public knows nothing.
Travis and his crew fabricated the story. Imagine this possibility: You will take a hike this afternoon. When you return you will find your family and friends to deliver an oscar worthy performance of alien abduction. Picture the reaction of the people closest to you. What would they do? Some would laugh, others would call B.S., and some might be moved to tear-inducing concern over the trauma you must have endured. No matter what happens, you will not for one moment tip your cards. Even when your closest friend, your loving spouse, or your loyal parent speaks to you in quiet confidence you will unblinkingly lie to their face. You will internalize this story so deeply that it will eventually become part of your reality. Could you do it?
Consider the ramifications of such a ploy. If you fail to pull it off you will either be disgraced or labeled mentally unstable. However, if you do succeed in holding the line, a constant set of challenges lays ahead. You will eternally be ridiculed, slandered, and tested for incongruities. You will have to manage massive internal dissonance over the deception of loved ones. As a one-hit-wonder band is condemned to forever play that song, you will have to speak on this subject almost every day of your life.
On the other hand, you’d be the most interesting person your friends and family know. Everyone who heard the tale would engage in unique thought and conversation. You’d essentially give the gift of a remarkable story, introducing a scoop of awe and wonder into every life it touched. Moreover, money could potentially flow to you and your community. Which begs the question: If Travis Walton and his gang did make this up, as some claim they did, has he done something wrong or something wonderful?
At a roadside cafe, hours before meeting Travis, I spoke with some of the locals about the topic. The seasoned men fumbled with their coffee mugs as their eyes clouded with introspection. They were open to the idea of extraterrestrial life. With a universe so large, how could you not be? Did Travis encounter it? Well, they’re not sure. But, he’s been sticking to his story over 40 years, and there is something to be said for that.
Authors note: Travis' story definitely added a little sparkle to my scene. We got a great segment for our show and I've had a handful of engrossing extraterrestrial conversations since. Thanks to the affable folks at the Mutual UFO Network for hooking it up. If I get abducted myself one day (and I sincerely hope I do) they will be the first people I call (My friends and family would undoubtably consider it a publicity stunt or a psychedelic trip which slipped from my grasp).