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.
I'm blogging about the Three-Dollar Kit.