By Linda Kor
The coming week marks 39 years since the disappearance of area resident Travis Walton was reported by six men who spun a bizarre tale of alien abduction that left law enforcement and many area residents believing that an elaborate hoax had been concocted to disguise a murder.
When Walton returned five days later claiming that he had been abducted by beings from another world, it set in motion a media frenzy with reporters from around the world descending on the towns of Holbrook and Snowflake, looking to verify, or discredit, Walton’s unbelievable story.
To commemorate the incident, Walton is hosting Skyfire Summit Friday through Sunday, Nov. 7-9, in Heber and Holbrook. The event will involve renowned ufologists from around the world, including speakers Ben Hansen, the host of SyFy Channels’s Fact or Faked, author Kathleen Marden, Emmy Award-winning journalist Linda Moulton Howe, nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman and many others.
Also included will be a visit to the site near Snowflake where Walton claims his encounter took place and where he will recount the events of the week that forever changed his life, as a visit to the Navajo County Historic Courthouse in Holbrook, which was the sheriff’s office headquarters at the time of the incident, and lectures that will take place at Bison Ranch in Heber.
When asked why this event is taking place after so many years Walton said that it mostly had to do with what he feels is a change in perception regarding the paranormal and that, with the passage of time, people who know him have seen that he’s sincere in what he saw and that he’s no different than his friends and fellow community members.
“A lot of rumors to discredit what took place have been dispelled. People used to say that we were high on drugs and hallucinating, but the police took blood and urine samples, there was no drugs. It was said that we were buddies and created this elaborate hoax, but we were a work crew, not pals. I’d only known one of the guys for a few days,” he explained. “After all these years people see how I live my life and the kind of person I am. Back then a lot of the information was way off.”
The incident that occurred so long ago has left an indelible mark on Walton and his six fellow loggers, Mike Young, John Goullette, Dwayne Smith, Kenny Peterson, Steve Pierce and Allen Davis. All but Walton have left the area, with one of the men changing his name to avoid ridicule after the course of events. Through the years none of their stories have ever changed and according to the results of numerous lie detector tests taken over the years, the men believe what they saw.
The account of what happened to Walton on Nov. 5, 1975, begins with the crew of seven contract loggers headed home after a day of cutting logs in the Sitgreaves National Forest when they spotted a light through the trees as they drove along a dirt road in the woods.
As they approached the clearing, Walton said he was opening the truck door before it even had stopped, mesmerized by a metal object hovering approximately 15 feet off of the ground. The object wasn’t large, maybe 20 feet in diameter.
“They kept yelling at me to come back to the truck, but I just kept moving forward, staring at the light,” recalled Walton. The light from the object intensified and a noise emanating from the craft became louder. Then a beam of light shot from the object and struck Walton, throwing him about 20 feet back and onto the ground.
Walton says that he recalled nothing else until he awoke to find himself lying on a raised platform, a metal plate over his chest and a light shining on him from above. “I thought I was in a hospital, because I remembered being hit by the light and thought the guys took me there,” he said.
As his eyes adjusted, he realized that the people he thought had been bustling around him were not people at all. “They were about four feet tall and not at all human. I totally flipped out. I was terrified,” he said.
Walton threw his arm forward, knocking off the plate and jumped from the table. “I grabbed the biggest thing I could find and held it out in front of me, yelling hysterically for them to get away from me,” he said. The beings didn’t speak, but suddenly turned from Walton and walked away down a passage.
As they left, Walton went a different direction down a passageway and entered a small empty room containing just a chair with buttons on the arms. He recalled sitting in the chair and pushing the buttons in an attempt to find a way to make an entrance open so that he could get out of the room he was in.
Suddenly, a man with “odd-looking eyes” entered the room with a space suit and helmet on. “I thought he was there to rescue me, to help me get out of there,” he recalled.
Instead, he led Walton to another room where three other similar looking people were and as they tried to coax him to lay down again, he began to struggle until they put what he thought was a plastic mask over his mouth and nose.
The next thing he recalls is waking up on the side of the road outside of Heber. He had a glimpse of a bright light and as he turned his head to see, the light was gone, but he saw the outline of a spacecraft fly up into the sky at an accelerated speed.
From there Walton said he gathered all his strength and ran toward the lights of the town. He found a phone booth and called his brother, Dwayne Walton, telling him where he was and to come and get him.
“He thought it was a prank call at first, I had to convince him it was really me,” said Travis.
In the meantime, the six men who had been with Walton all told the same story about what they had seen. Terrified by the sight of the craft, they yelled at Mike Young, who was driving the truck, to get away from there as soon as they saw what had happened to Walton. The vehicle raced down the dirt road as the men argued amongst themselves about what they had seen and what they should do until Young stopped the vehicle and insisted that they return and try to find Walton.
The men reported that they searched the entire area, but after finding no sign of Walton or the craft, they drove into Snowflake and called the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office.
Marlin Gillespie, who was the sheriff at the time, ordered a massive manhunt, and for five days search crews and helicopters searched the parameter of where the men claimed they saw the spacecraft, but no evidence was discovered that Walton or any sort of spacecraft had ever been there.
On the fifth day Gillespie arranged for Cy Gilson, one of the state’s top rated polygraph experts, to test the men to determine if they were in fact hiding Walton, or worse, if they had murdered him and buried his body in the woods. Each of the six men took the test and five passed, with the sixth test considered undetermined.
It was that evening that Walton contacted his brother with the news that he was in Heber. He believed that he had been gone for hours, not for five days.
With so many years to ponder the incident, Walton has come to the conclusion that his original perceptions of what took place may have been wrong, that the abduction may have really been an ambulatory rescue.
“I think they were probably trying to revive me,” stated Walton. He believes that the beings in the spacecraft had not expected them to drive up in the middle of nowhere, and certainly didn’t anticipate that he would be so eager to jump out of the vehicle and get so close.
Walton suspects that the craft was attempting to leave the area when the propulsion struck him and threw him to the ground. “If they hadn’t taken me with them, who knows what kind of shape I would have been in,” he said.
When Walton was examined following the incident the doctor could find no evidence of any injury and aside from weight loss, he showed no sign of exposure to the elements.
“I also have thought a lot about where they left me. They could’ve dumped me anywhere and I probably would have frozen to death out in the woods. If they had dropped me in Snowflake it would’ve been too visible. Heber is a smaller area, and leaving me on the side of the road meant that someone would likely find me if I couldn’t get somewhere myself,” he stated.
Although Walton knows there are still many skeptics who doubt his story, it’s not an event that he would have hoped for. “The trauma has never gone away. I was out of my mind with fear and I can honestly say I wished it never happened, but it did,” he said.
For more information on the upcoming summit visit Skyfire Summit at www.skyfiresummit.com.