When I created this site, I included Travis Walton's story as a classic alien abduction story. I wasn't satisfied with Philip Klass's interpretation that all the men were lying. His 1978 interviews with Steve Pierce didn't suggest that, and if all were complicit there would've been no need to create an actual flying saucer at all. They could've simply invented their story on the job.
I preferred the explanation first proposed in 1976 by Raymond E. Fowler, that the hoax was perpetrated by two men (Travis and Mike Rogers) on the other five, using a paper balloon or similar model. After writing up this theory, producer Ryan Gordon contacted me in July 2021 and told me, unsolicited, that he was making a film or TV show in collaboration with Travis Walton who had confessed to the hoax using a fire tower. The film would expose the hoax. Because this would destroy Travis's standing in the UFO community where he made his living, he would be paid a large sum of money so he could move from Snowflake and retire. He was apparently bored with what he called his "job", with endlessly retelling the lie that had consumed his life.
In early 2021 the sniping between Travis and Mike reached new heights. Mike had gotten wind of Travis's intention to confess on film, and wanted in. Gordon told me (and later, at least one other) how his film might frame Travis's confession in the gentlest way possible. I wrote it up in this Twitter thread. In essence, the film would be a behind-the-scenes documentary about a (fake) remake of Fire in the Sky, in which Travis (as a consultant on the movie) would undergo hypnoregression and "remember" that he hoaxed the event.
I don't understand how anyone can go to their grave with such a devastating lie unconfessed. I have to think Travis saw the forthcoming exposé as a relief. In the end, the film never happened and he had to press the reset button - he claimed he barely knew Gordon and had cut him off as soon as Gentry Tower came up, despite a phone call between them suggesting otherwise and Gordon's admission to several people that he was, at the time, a family friend.
When he pulled off the prank, Travis Walton was a 22-year-old young man under the control of his domineering older brother and father-figure Duane, whom National Enquirer reporter Jeff Wells described via his colleague as ruthless and "some kind of psychopath". "The kid is scared to death of him, and so is our reporter." When Travis returned after five days, he was in shock over how the story had snowballed - the expensive manhunt that the sheriff was planning to sue him for, if he could prove a hoax, and the murder suspicions against his crewmates. Travis went along with Duane, pocketed his share of the disappointing $5000 prize from the Enquirer, and wrote a book.
But it didn't stop there. While the lives of his crewmates were devastated, Travis somehow set that aside as his fame and popularity grew over the decades. And he never set the record straight. Even now, when his brother is long-dead and he's not exactly a young man anymore.
While Travis Walton's abduction tale aboard a flying saucer is beat-for-beat almost identical to a couple of Heinlein stories, a few details seem to have been drawn from other science fiction sources of the era.
Curt Collins posted a 1967 comic on UFO UpDates with aliens and their "surgery" that bear similarities to Travis's alleged experience. Then there's Captain Kirk's command chair, Dr McCoy's medical equipment, and the 2001: A Space Odyssey cockpit screens and buttons...
Not to disparage classic science fiction, which at the time looked futuristic, but I'd be so disappointed if a real alien spaceship looked like it came from the imaginations of 1960s Hollywood writers.
Read my update with illustrations and quotes from Travis's book.
The Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization (APRO) field investigator on the scene of the Travis Walton case (Nov 5, 1975), Ray Jordan, has made a statement reflecting on his involvement. So today I'm reflecting on one deceptively tiny detail of the case that I think symbolizes a bigger problem.
Sometimes it takes 46 years for the full picture to emerge. But this particular red flag was waving in the faces of the investigators from the get-go.
Firstly, the bigger problem: when investigators think of themselves as scientists gathering evidence but act more like journalists hoping for a scoop, that's not how they're going to get closer to the truth.
Back in 1975, the different UFO investigative organizations apparently saw each other as rivals. Ray Jordan's statement unfortunately serves to emphasize this. Who has the biggest organization, who was first on the scene - these things aren't relevant to the truth. If the truth matters, then information sharing between researchers matters. Nutting out theories together matters. Welcoming skeptical viewpoints matters. This approach at least attempts to more closely mimic actual science.
For the Travis Walton case, the compass rose on a map matters. We'll get to that in a bit.
Before we look at the tiny detail that sent me on this rant, I'll address a couple of other issues Jordan raised.
Can we retire the polygraphs already?
In part, Jordan states that in interviewing witnesses and meeting them subsequently over the years, he "never saw anything that caused me to doubt the honesty of Walton or the witnesses or to think that it might be some sort of a hoax." He cites the polygraphs, like every true believer who doesn't understand why this is not evidence that supports their case.
Granting the arguable premise that polygraphs indicate truthfulness, the witnesses passed because they were telling the truth.
The polygraphs tell us that the witnesses didn't harm Travis, and did see a flying (actually hovering) object they couldn't identify. They don't tell us anything at all about whether Travis was abducted by aliens in a flying saucer.
Given the aforementioned insular information bubbles in UFO circles, it's possible Jordan never knew that only 3 months after the incident Ray Fowler (MUFON) wrote to Allen Hynek and posed the theory that two of the men hoaxed the other five with a huge flying saucer balloon. This of course explains why the witnesses were so credible - they really had seen a UFO, and they really did think Travis had vanished when they returned to search for him a few minutes later.
But it was MUFON's idea. I guess they didn't share it, or APRO didn't want to hear it.
This theory did not gain traction, overshadowed by Klass in the late 1970s who believed all seven men were lying. The two-hoaxed-five theory was revived by Karl Pflock, and now we have a ton of new supporting evidence as well, not to mention plot holes in the official story leaking like a sieve.
So, original investigators on the case who profess an opinion have a choice to make: stick with the 46-year-old story because they feel secure it was properly investigated at the time, or examine the new evidence that's since come to light (which Jordan inexplicably lumps together as "recent squabbling").
But here's the thing - in this case, there was that little red flag waving its little self at the time, and investigators ignored it.
On the case
On Saturday Nov 8th when Jordan arrived to investigate for APRO, there were (according to APRO Bulletin Nov 1975) three other organizations on the scene that same day: GSW, Center for UFO Studies, and MUFON. Four outfits were "on-site during the time that Walton was missing", and in fact Travis's book suggests GSW was first on the scene after Duane Walton called Bill Spaulding.
Regardless of who was first on the scene, and obviously I don't care, it's clear Jordan does care and I can't helping thinking this attitude is indicative of the aforementioned counterproductive rivalry.
Today Jordan wants us to know that "APRO was perhaps the largest civilian UFO investigation organization in the country (or perhaps the world)". Back in 1975, the APRO Bulletin also wanted us to know that "Ground Saucer Watch" - the name set off in derisive quote marks - was Spaulding's "own outfit". Insignificant.
While I would guess GSW's conclusions about UFOs in general were probably as silly as any other organization's, the fact is Spaulding was right in surmising this case was a hoax, although not because of the little red flag. APRO (via Jordan and then the Lorenzens) was wrong - Travis's stolen Heinlein spaceship adventure fooled 'em. Mike's emotional breakdowns fooled 'em. A complete lack of physical evidence fooled 'em.
But to get to the point of all this: while an original investigator on the case could examine new evidence so that their opinion comes across as informed, the little red flag isn't a new development. It was staring those investigators in the face on that Saturday afternoon in November as they poked around the "abduction site" looking for radiation and footprints and landing pad marks.
"Mr. Jordan interviewed each of the men and Rogers at the scene of the sighting," APRO Bulletin reported in Nov 1975. So Jordan had the piece of information in his notes. Spaulding of GSW had a similar piece of information in his notes, independently acquired. What a great idea it would've been for them to compare notes at this moment.
Let's quickly run through it: The guys were examining the "abduction site" about a quarter-mile south of the woodcutters' worksite in Turkey Springs. These locations are not mysteries. Nobody has disputed where they are. My website provides a ton of evidence to accurately locate them.
Witnesses told Jordan the UFO was seen in the northwest. Spaulding's incident report corroborates this - the truck was driving due west.
Map it out!
Maybe it's because I'm a visual person instead of a credulous UFO investigator but my first task if I went to an alleged UFO site with the witnesses would be to draw a map. To scale. With a compass rose.
Did anyone draw a map, while on the site, showing the worksite, the logging trail, the truck's approach, the UFO's position, the route of the truck's dash when Mike drove off, stopped, chased a camper trailer, and returned? There was a lot going on that night and... we've got nothing.
The investigators were working with bad information, that's true - they were misled by Mike Rogers to the wrong site - but had they actually pieced together what they'd been told, gotten over their jealousies long enough to compare notes and double-check, they would've realized their information created an impossible picture. They were told what appeared to be an obvious error or lie (though it was actually the truth, everything else was a lie) about the truck's direction of travel. Why was it allowed to stand unchallenged?
We have four UFO investigative organizations on the scene who somehow independently reconciled the impossibility that they were at the UFO site a few hundred yards south of the worksite, but that the truck was driving west and the UFO was seen ahead in the northwest to the witnesses' right.
Once we take into account the more recent admissions from Mike Rogers and John Goulette that they drove 5 to 15 minutes before seeing the UFO (not the 200 yards Jordan was either told or surmised), we can reconcile the accidentally accurate details in the APRO report. The true location of the UFO was a few miles due west along Rim Road and was indeed up a slight incline (the fire tower is at the highest point in the area). The approach is via a right-hand curve in the road, and since Travis was able to jump out of the moving truck we know Mike did slow down, no doubt to draw out the drama.
Look, I wouldn't expect an investigator to come up with the whole "fire tower 5 miles down the road" theory on the basis of a couple of incongruous compass directions. But with this red flag overlooked and buried (and it's not the only one), it boggles the mind that anyone could be patting themselves and their organization on the back for a job well done.
For the past six weeks I've been corresponding with Steve Pierce, one of the witnesses to the Travis Walton incident in 1975. At the time he was a 17-year-old "new kid" in town, whose mother made him take the job on Mike Rogers' team even though his uncles and cousin had just quit because Mike hadn't paid on time.
I've updated my Consequences page with some information Steve gave (with his permission). While he didn't believe the sighting was a hoax, he has always maintained that Travis was not abducted by aliens but that the government used mind control to get him out of the truck and take him to Area 51.
Over the course of our discussion, in which he shared some personal stories about his journey with this defining event in his life, it seems he's been able to resolve a little of his cognitive dissonance with these statements:
"I never never really believed it happened the way Travis said it happened. I don't believe we went back to the same spot where Travis was zapped."
"I always knew something wasn't right about that night the night it happened."
Steve told me he has talked to Travis about certain aspects of that night, and events leading up to it, resulting in an angry response from Travis and a refusal to correct errors in his book. Steve claims Travis blackballed him from conferences for a time (by saying he, Travis, would not appear if Steve was scheduled to appear).
This incident has manifested in toxic relationships between the men involved. Travis and Mike are stuck with each other, despite a strong mutual dislike and disrespect, locked in the lie that neither can reveal without implicating themselves in defrauding the UFO community for decades.
There is a heartwarming scene in the movie Travis where Ken Peterson gets emotional upon returning to the "site" with Travis. Knowing as I do just a small fraction of how the hoax affected the lives of the innocent witnesses in the truck that night, this scene makes me sick. Travis Walton, who should've come clean the moment he handed over those National Enquirer checks 45 years ago, makes me sick.
Will he ever grow up and be man enough to admit what he did and to withstand the backlash? He has reframed his abduction as a resurrection story. I live in hope he can reframe it as a redemption story.
Travis Walton is not the first incurious alien abductee and won't be the last.
Following his recent interview on "Theories of Everything with Curt Jaimungal" I've written two Twitter threads about what was discussed:
1. Weird stuff about a vanishing fetus (not recommended)
2. Curious stuff for an incurious man covering astronomy, geology, xenobiology (from the velour of their suits to the whites of their eyes) and so much more.
Continuing with Peter Robbins' roundtable podcast, I've responded in two more tweet storms. Here are all three:
Addressing the roundtable's devastating takedown* of the Gentry Tower theory (Travis Walton hoax)
Addressing the supposition that Charlie Wiser is a unit
Addressing Kathleen Marden, who addressed me, re. the Hills case
*You be the judge
You can’t hindsight anything. What happened happened, so why think you can do anything about it now? ... In reality there’s almost nothing that can be proven. All there really is, is evidence. - Mike Rogers, July 16th, 2021
Mike Rogers just appeared on a UFO Classified with Erica Lukes livestream on July 16th with the same ol' tale and a few bizarre tangents. Erica encouraged him to emphatically state he was not involved in any hoax:
Did you, Travis, and Duane hoax the case for money?
"No absolutely not. Travis and I didn’t hoax it. Duane apparently didn’t. I don’t know anything about Duane."
Erica entices Mike to double-down a little later (unlike Chas from 51 Areas, Erica goes for the hard questions instead of the complex questions, thus getting Mike unambiguously on the record):
You are 100% backing up the story that this happened, there was no hoax?
"Right. One hundred percent."
After Mike's appearance, Ryan Gordon called into the show. Ryan is the producer who recorded Mike's confession on April 30th, 2021, and released it on July 4th. Mike has since said he has a secret recording from May 1st of the following:
Mike has not yet released this recording that allegedly says what he claims to have said.
You can skip to 1:55:00 of the UFO Classified podcast for Ryan's portion. His main concern was a professional one - Mike had accused him of digitally manipulating the audio confession in some way, to make him appear to say something he didn't say. It is obviously not legal to manipulate someone's speech and present it as accurate.
While Mike later retracted the accusation, in my opinion it was done in a way that made it seem he did so only to avoid accusing Ryan of criminal behavior. He has not explicitly admitted the audio is authentic:
"I will say no comment but I’m going to explain why: I have one comment - it appears to be a federal law to accuse somebody of digital manipulation, so I don’t accuse him of that. Even though I did a while back, I won’t. Anybody can digitally manipulate anything digital. So that’s basically it. I have no idea what he did with that recording of me."
That's a piss-poor way to retract a serious allegation.
Ryan cleared up the matter: the call was not altered in any way.
Mike's "damage control" over this recording is to claim he was telling Ryan about a day in 1977 when he and Travis were talking about what skeptics (like Phil Klass) had said about their 1975 UFO sighting. Listening to the audio, this explanation makes no sense at all.
Mike has been claiming for two weeks, and again in this interview, that Ryan is an unknown who "did it to gain a name for himself." But Ryan stated he has been communicating with Mike for months, and Travis for even longer, regarding his documentary, and that they both knew ahead of time that the audio was going to be released. The hosts confirmed they have seen the evidence for this.
It was clear Ryan had communicated to Erica (and co-host Scott Browne) before the podcast, sending them information and communications to back up his side of things.
Ryan directed listeners to Three Dollar Kit, for which I'm grateful, as my reason for creating the site was to lay out the evidence that the Travis Walton incident was hoaxed by Travis, his brother Duane, and Mike, against the other five guys in the truck. We have spoken in the past and talked about different theories. He told me the story of how one evening he mistook lit-up Gentry Tower for a UFO until he zoomed in his phone. Some of the photos on my site were provided by him, as he'd taken B-roll footage of the area while developing his documentary.
What do I want to be remembered as? A human being, a good guy. - Mike Rogers, July 16th, 2021
When a media outlet posts a front-page story that they are later forced to retract, they don't put the retraction on page 27.
Okay, sometimes they do, but they get hell for it.
Mike posted his accusation as a big shiny Facebook square. It would nice if his retraction was a similar sized post, instead of hidden away in the comments as a reply to me, an irrelevant party.
NOTE: Times and dates on screenshots are Australian AEST.
My detailed report on the Travis Walton case is reorganized into shorter pages to make navigation easier.
This week I watched the movie Travis, in which the three surviving "innocent witnesses" talk about how this incident affected their lives. It ain't pretty.
I listened to hours of interviews and read Travis's book so you don't have to. Along with information gleaned from the web, I've pieced together a credible account of what really happened that night in 1975.
SPOILER: It was a hoax perpetrated by Travis and Mike on the other men in the truck. The UFO was a lit-up lookout tower. The innocent witnesses suffered harm and still don't know what was done to them. That's a little upsetting to me. How about you?
Who was The Walton Experience (1978) written for?
It was written for UFO enthusiasts, of course.
It was written for Travis to make a bit of money.
It was also written for the five witnesses in the truck. Or, at least, it was written with them in mind. According to Steve Pierce (2013), the book was written without consulting them. It was Travis's account, and the rest was based on Mike's account while Travis was missing.
The book came out about three years after that night. In it, the event had to be described more-or-less factually because any one of those guys might read it and point out obvious errors if they remembered things differently. As a result, the book is curiously vague in a few key places, notably the time that passes between leaving the work site and seeing the UFO. I'd go so far as to say it misdirects the reader, without contradicting the witnesses' memories, so that the takeaway message matches the official story.
To this end, I've updated the main Travis Walton page with a side-by-side comparison of the events of that night: what happened (according to the evidence I've provided) versus what Travis wants us to believe. Scroll down to the table and don't forget to bring cocoa.
Call me PB, hold the jelly. I'm blogging about the Three-Dollar Kit.