Steve Pierce is one of the seven witnesses to Travis Walton’s 1975 UFO and “abduction”. I’ve been corresponding with him since July 2021. It’s been a rocky road. Over time, he’s opened up about doubts that he doesn't voice on podcasts. His thoughts have shifted.
A reflexive reaction from many experiencers is to assume skeptics are accusing them of lying. I have always told Steve I think he was duped, and he has always struck me as someone very concerned with getting the details right. He was initially angry with me for explaining the many indications this incident was a hoax, and even when we came to a friendlier understanding he has been reluctant to consider the possibility.
Even so, he did express doubts about parts of the story. He considers Travis to be a liar and “the kind of guy who went to a party and everyone else left.” He says Mike never paid him, and told lies about him that ended up in Travis's book and which Travis refuses to correct. These things may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but they're important to him.
A few days ago, Steve wrote to me: "It was a hoax."
It is not easy to accept, or even entertain the notion, that the incident that terrorized you as a teenager, put you in the hot seat for murder, made you a laughingstock around town, and ruined your life… was a prank perpetrated by your co-worker and your boss.
Steve told me he “jumped on the bandwagon” when interest in the story was renewed leading up to the Travis documentary (2015). He played along, for example admitting to Erica Lukes that he would jokingly exaggerate about Travis getting flung 20 feet through the air by a beam, when "in reality he only fell back". (6/24/22)
Years ago, Steve (with the help of his then-wife) wrote a book (unpublished) giving his perspective. (He believed the UFO was ours, not ET, and that Travis was subjected to mind control.) He has at times quoted chapters on his Facebook page, or emailed them to me. The book recounts that his two uncles and a cousin quit Mike’s crew on the Friday before the (Wednesday) incident because Mike didn’t pay them. Steve wanted to quit too, but his mom made him keep going to work. John Goulette and Dwayne Smith were new recruits to replace the men who’d quit.
Now Steve tells me the real reason his uncles quit was because they didn’t want to participate in the hoax. They were “tired of Travis” and “his alien s***… That’s all Travis ever talked about, him and Mike.”
Steve’s uncle had a theory that Gentry Tower was used as the UFO because he’d seen it lit up before. While Travis was missing and the men were under suspicion of murder, he took young Steve to show him the tower (while it was not lit up). Understandably, Steve did not want to believe that his very real terror was the result of a prank. Steve relayed this to me months ago, when he still thought the story was essentially true.
As Steve went over and over the events of that night, he remarked that things Mike told him over the years were starting to make more sense. Mike has now admitted (10/24/21) to going missing that day, claiming he was running flags to mark off the tree-thinning contract. Steve tells me the real reason was to check if the watcher in the tower had gone home at 5PM. This would set the stage for the crew leaving the worksite in the dark – perfect viewing for the UFO, if an accomplice could climb up into the tower to operate the lights...
Steve: “They were easy to break into back then.”
Skeptics of this case have long pointed out that Travis’s likely motivation was the $100,000 prize offered by the National Enquirer for Best UFO Story of the Year. Travis failed their lie-detector test and in the end was only awarded $5000 for the story, split between the crew.
Steve: “The National Enquirer magazine was in the pickup.”
Unlike Steve's uncles who refused to participate, Mike's wife (at the time) recently told me that Mike was motivated to join in as payback for some of his crew smoking weed on their breaks.
Steve is fed up with the emails he gets about this story. “I'm tired of being kicked… Tell people out there in ufology Fuck you.”
He said goodbye (not for the first time, to be honest) and wished me good luck.
Travis Walton's case is often cited as one of the "best" because of the multiple witnesses who never recanted. There is not one scrap of evidence for a flying saucer and alien abduction other than witness testimony. Travis and Mike are lying to the world and gaslighting their former coworkers, their friends, and the hosts of various podcasts and conferences. Two of the innocent witnesses are dead. Of the remaining three, Ken Peterson's status is unknown, John Goulette insists Travis has never lied to him, and Steve Pierce has realized it was all a hoax.
After I wrote Mike's ex-wife's story, Mike's response was to discredit her by ranting at me about how he got custody of their kids. That was his reaction to accusations of being a wife-beater and a scheming gaslighting hoaxer - not denials, but anger over his divorce being allegedly misrepresented. I had to prompt him to remember to deny the rest. Meanwhile, Travis is careful to only ever engage with friendly hosts and fans.
Multiple well-known personalities in ufology continue to believe, support, and platform Travis Walton. I don't understand how a man bears such a stain on his conscience. Travis may have been merely an obnoxious prankster as a young man, but as an old one he's something much, much worse.
I'm blogging about the Three-Dollar Kit.