Monday, February 13, 2012

Travis Walton vs. Philip J. Klass

One of the best-known UFO abduction stories is that of Travis Walton. He claims that on Nov. 5, 1975, as he and six others were returning from a day's work cutting logs in Arizona's Sitgreaves National Forest, he was zapped by a beam of light from the UFO, and taken aboard the craft for five days. His story won $5,000 as the Best UFO Case for 1975 from the National Enquirer, has been the subject of several books, as well as the Hollywood movie Fire in the Sky (1993).

The best-known and most influential of all UFO skeptics was Philip J. Klass (1919-2005), longtime Senior Avionics editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine in Washington, DC, and one of the founding fellows of CSICOP. Klass wrote many letters and made many phone calls to people involved in the story, including Travis' family, the local Sheriff's office, polygraph examiners, etc. He found strong reasons to brand the entire story a hoax. His conclusions were written up in great detail in chapters 18-23 of his book UFOs The Public Deceived (Prometheus, 1983). Fortunately, there is a Kindle edition of this book for less than $10, and used paperback copies can also be purchased on-line. Still, the skeptic's case against the Walton abduction claim is not being widely read. For several years I have had a Travis Walton page on my website, containing some of the best anti-Walton arguments, but not nearly as much information as Klass provides.
Philip J. Klass (left), and Travis Walton

On a website promoting the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina as a UFO "hotspot," Sky Ships Over Cashiers, there is a page titled Debunker's $10,000 bribe to stop UFO truth. This claim is now making the rounds of UFO-related Forums. Someone shouts on the Outpost Forum on February 5, "BRIBE BOMBSHELL! STEVE PIERCE WHO WAS WITH TRAVIS WALTON WHEN HE WAS ABDUCTED CLAIMS THAT HE WAS OFFERED A $10,000 BRIBE FORM THE LATE DEBUNKER PHIL KLASS TO STATE THAT THE ENTIRE TRAVIS WALTON ALIEN ABDUCTION CLAIM WAS A HOAX!" 

Travis Walton himself quickly replied, "Yes, it is true. I even mentioned this in the1996 edition of my book. But all I knew then was that Deputy Click had taken Steve the message when Steve still lived in this area. I didn't know then that Klass had also flown to Texas and spent hours taking Steve out to dinner and trying get him to accept the bribe. And followed Steve to another state or two. Very curious, since in my first edition I had criticized Klass for being "an armchair investigator" who, unlike Dr J. Allen Hynek, the Lorenzens and Stanton Friedman, had never personally contacted anyone involved nor ever bothered to visit the site." If Walton thought that Klass was an "armchair investigator," then he obviously knew nothing about Klass, and had not read any of Klass' UFO books. Walton continues, "All this strongly supports the belief that Klass was a paid government disinformationist." 
Travis Walton gets 'zapped' by a UFO

This charge is, of course, absurd and unfounded, and left me amazed to see that Walton would stoop so low. I went back to Klass' 1983 account in UFOs The Public Deceived, and to my surprise found that same accusation there being discussed. In Bill Barry's 1978 book about Travis Walton, Ultimate Encounter, it says 
According to Mike Rogers, "Steve told me and Travis that he had been offered ten thousand dollars just to sign a denial. He said he was thinking about taking it." (p. 160)
However note that the accusation does not come from Pierce, but instead from Mike Rogers, Travis' best friend, and future brother-in-law. Barry does not directly accuse Klass of offering a bribe, but hints it is so.

Klass, however, notes that Rogers told Pierce "Then you'll spend the money alone, and you'll be bruised." Klass writes, "The latter suggests that Rogers was threatening Pierce with physical harm if he recanted." If you read A Profitable Nightmare of a Very Unreal Kind on my Travis Walton page, you would see that such a threat of violence should be taken seriously. Klass continues, "had Barry checked with me, I would have assured him that I never made such an offer to [Deputy] Click or to anyone seeking to 'buy off' a member of the Rogers crew." In the wake of the bribery accusation, Klass did locate and speak with Steve Pierce (but not until after the accusation had already been made!). Note that Klass did not travel to Texas or anywhere else to meet with Pierce, or take him out and entertain him - those are lies made up by the Walton crowd.

One of the most convincing arguments in favor of the Walton abduction has always been that the five woodcutters sitting in the back of the pickup truck, who did not know each other well and had only come together recently to work on Roger's contract with the Forest Service, all told compatible stories about the incident, and all passed a polygraph exam, more or less. They would have no incentive to go along with a hoax. Klass, however, insisted that they were all in collusion.

The late Karl Pflock was a pro-UFOlogist who was nonetheless skeptical of a number of major cases, including this one. One day Karl and I were discussing the Walton case, and he made what was, to me, a novel suggestion: the five woodcutters in the back of the truck knew nothing about any UFO hoax. Only three people were behind the hoax: Travis himself; Mike Rogers, who drove the truck; and a confederate in the woods, very likely Travis' brother Duane. Pflock wrote in the Jan. 15, 2000 issue of James Moseley's UFO gossip sheet Saucer Smear (Vol. 47 Nr. 1) , disagreeing with Klass:
I thought Walton and his best friend Mike Rogers could have rigged up something convincing enough to make the other five think they'd seen a hovering, hostile UFO. * Properly primed with flying saucer talk by Walton and Rogers, with clever theatrics by the duo during the sighting/zapping, with Rogers whisking the crew away after but a few seconds exposure, it wouldn't have taken a "Day the Earth Stood Still" saucer to fool them. After the fact, in the forest gloom, with Walton and the UFO mysteriously gone, their impressions easily could have been further molded by Rogers continuing his act and repeating his version of the saucer and what it had done to Walton.
Experienced investigators know eyewitness testimony frequently is unreliable, a point often made by Klass in criticizing the work of ufologists. They also know people are highly suggestible during and in the wake of dramatic unexpected events. Yet, in pooh-poohing my suggestion, Phil implicitly accepts the accuracy of the Walton witnesses' publicized descriptions of the UFO.
Phil also ignores some very important testimony he obtained from witness Steve Pierce during a June 20th, 1978, tape-recorded telephone interview (a dub of which he kindly supplied me in early 1998), testimony which to my knowledge he's never revealed in any of his writings about the case:
Klass: What did you see?
Pierce: Uh, well, I thought it was something a deer hunter, you know, rigged up. You know, 'cause it was deer season, you know, so he could see. You know? And, uh, and, but I couldn't see the bottom or a top or sides, all's I could see was the front of it, you know. You couldn't tell if it had a bottom to it or, you know, or a back to it or anything...
Hmmmmm... A "Plan Nine from Outer Space" saucer, perhaps?
* I hasten to add that, while I think a hoax is possible, I have not made up my mind about the case.    
 Klass writes that Pierce told him that, on the day of the "UFO abduction," Walton did no work at all, claiming to be ill. During the afternoon, Mike Rogers disappeared from the work site for about two hours (perhaps to prepare the UFO light show). They usually left the work site about 4:00, according to Pierce, but on that day they remained until about 6:00, thus they were uncharacteristically driving home in the dark. If they drove home in daylight, the UFO light show would not be visible.

Klass says that when he told Pierce that he believes Walton's story to be a hoax, Pierce replied, "Me too. If I could ever prove it was a hoax I'd damn sure do it." (Klass 1983, p. 221). Which suggests that Pflock's hypothesis is correct: the five woodcutters in the back of the truck were not perpetrators of a hoax, but its first five victims. It also shows the absurdity of supposing that Klass would offer such a bribe: even if Pierce did claim that the case was hoaxed, he would not be believed unless he had had proof of a hoax. Plus, he might get "bruised."

So, because of Travis Walton's slanderous new charges against Philip J. Klass, I have performed a major Document Drop of papers in my files on Travis Walton. Added to my page of historical UFO information is a 47-page PDF file of Klass' writings and related material concerning the Travis Walton UFO story. Among the contents of that file:

  • "Walton Abduction Cover-Up revealed": NICAP reveals, using Klass' research, that APRO and the National Enquirer were complicit in covering up "inconvenient facts" about Walton's claims, and lying about it.
  • A 17 page 1976 White Paper by PJK laying out the case for a hoax. 
  • Point-by-point refutation by PJK of APRO's claims.
  • Evidence of Mike Rogers misrepresenting facts about the case. Why  Mike Rogers engineered a UFO hoax to get out of an unprofitable Forest Service contract.
A second file contains contemporary news clippings, interviews, memos, and other "real-time" information about the construction of the Walton UFO hoax.

Happy Reading!


  1. Thanks for putting up the documents, especially the clippings.
    It's hard for we newbies to get original documents, just what's been processed into books and DVDs.

  2. It is a sorry state of affairs that we "all of us" are allowed to continue debating the subject of extraterrestrials and the like while there is no official confirmation from any credible agency that would clear the smoke from the air. I believe that the arguments and discussions are turning us into dreamers drifting in our own versions of space. This sort of thing is weakening us. We really have no idea what is true or false with the result being that we are left vulnerable to those who would take advantage for the sake of monetary gain. Does anyone care? Does this make for a healthy government? I don't think so.

    1. "there is no official confirmation from any credible agency"

      Of course, "credible agency" discounts any military or government departments or agencies. Scientific agencies? Unwillingly to engage with any hint of an extraterrestrial UFO hypothesis given career and reputation jeopardy, and pressure from the MIC.

  3. I interviewed Travis Walton on Strange Frequencies Radio around a year and a half ago. Leading up to the show, I did a lot of reading on the skeptical investigations into Walton's abduction account. About mid-way through the interview, Walton became a little agitated with me and seemed ready to hang up, all because my questions were too skeptical. He really didn't like hearing Phillip Klass's name at all, and seemed perturbed that I wasn't fawning over his story.

  4. There is now a follow-up posting to this story.

    Documents from the archive of Klass' papers support what Klass' account of what happened:

  5. I truly believe these malevolent beings are real, not aliens! not ET's! Fallen Angels; a.k.a. ("Demons"). Why the abductions? to create a race of evil men, consider those Fallen ones who landed on Mt. Hermon in Israel during Old Testament times, breeding with human women, and creating a race of Giants', abomination's to God's Creation, these Fallen ones were so malevolent in their actions to bind themselves in "a pact" to follow through with corrupting the Adamic blood line, God cast them into Hell and chained them. Now consider Luke 17:26 "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man, they did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage...God flooded the world due to genetic monstrosities and pollution of the human race. I do not know if Travis Walton's story is Truth along with the others who claim to have witnessed what they explain, but if it is, I would certainly say this is there agenda.

  6. This case is a classical example of overlooking the obvious. The old, "hide it in place site" scenario. One need not look any farther than Walton's own testimony. By 1983 and especially by 1993, the cat should have been out of the bag. There is, without doubt, a perspective of this case that would have ended the discussion years ago. Combing over all the other aspects is a time consuming waste of resources. Its a hoax for sure and its a hoax in time. Would love to elaborate on that!

  7. To be sure, Klass went too far in the wrong direction. He kept going to the Christians for answers about Jesus, when he should have gone to the Romans, they had no emotional stake in the legitimacy of Jesus. The Romans in Walton's case is the story within the story, once it was laid out it had no emotional agenda at its "terrestrial" fabrication was nothing extra.

  8. If you try to dissuade anyone from his convictions, he behaves like an addict. ;)

  9. First of all when you start an inquiry of a subject from the point of view of a skeptic or a debunker you are admittedly coming to the subject with a preconceived notion of the truth. As any professional investigator would tell you and I am a professional investigator that is not an inquiry at all. When one has a preconceived notion one searches for facts to support their own beliefs and discounts other facts they do not support their preconceived notion. Whether the Walton case is true or not true I do not know but there is absolutely nothing that I have seen for master class or from anybody who has commented here that debunks the account or shed any light on it at all. And the explanations that have been advanced that three lumberjacks arrange some elaborate hoax in order to fool the other two lumberjacks who weren't in on it is seemingly more fantastic then the event that was originally described. After careful investigation including listening to the testimony of Astronauts, Edgar Mitchell, Gordon Cooper, Buzz Aldrin, and NSc staff member Colonel Philip J Corso and other men who have been given positions of great responsibility, it has become clear to me that UFOs, meaning extraterrestrial agents are visiting our planet and who knows what they are doing. It is also clear that if in fact the government is aware or even complicit in these visitations that these matters would be highly classified and given the large psyops establishment in the Department of Defense, the CIA and the NSA, that there would in fact be people such as Mr Klass who are paid government agents out there simply to engage in the debunking of UFO accounts and the ridiculing of witnesses.

    1. You have some very good points. I would say that Mr. Klass was a debunker and not a skeptic. The difference is a debunker only accepts facts that support their own preconceived conclusions. If anything he was a pseudo skeptic,one who's philosophical or scientific position appears to be that of skepticism or scientific skepticism but which in reality fails to be so. His basic tactic was to go after the witnesses and not the facts.

  10. Further, here is more evidence that Mr. Klass has engaged in a campaign of debunking by relying upon evidence that did not exist. This link is the testimony of the Lt Jacobs now a professor which was corroborated by his superior, Major Mannesman, later a PhD and professor at Stanford University concerning a UFO's destruction of a missile and the cover-up that ensued at Vandenberg Air Force Base. I could take either of those two men and on their testimony alone convict anybody of anything on proof beyond a reasonable doubt such is their personal credibility. Further Mr. Klass stated that Mr. Jacobs was not in the Airforce and that the location from which he claimed he tracked the missile launch did not exists. Bothh assertions among others have been proven false.

  11. Sorry guys, this entire event was a hoax, believe me I know.

    1. Skipper,

      I agree with you that this event was a hoax. But you say that you "know" it was. How do you know this? Were you in some way close to the event and/or the persons involved?

  12. So Klass just gave that bombshell in passing and did not publish it himself?

    1. No. As the text says, Klass published this in his 1983 book, "UFOs The Public Deceived."

  13. Travis Walton is a liar and that's fact he was caught out on a quiz show he lied it was a hoax for monetary gain fact

  14. The whole idea that Mike and his unseen brother Duane could have rigged something up to look like some unknown craft and fool all the others is ridiculous. How could they do the blue light scene with Travis blown backwards. The lighting alone would be difficult for even a Hollywood Effects professional. There is no proof at all that any structure was created along with complex lighting FX. This is the problem with debunkers in that when the facts or testimony do not support their preconceived philosophy they need to create the facts and or attack the witnesses. Philip Klass was not a true skeptic he was a closed minded debunker promoting himself as the one to go to for the real truth. The only way it could have been a hoax is that they all lied. The multiple polygraph tests were a mixed bag but the majority of the tests supposedly were positive in that they were telling the truth. Again it is a very interesting case where you have to believe or not believe the testimonies of the witnesses as there is not much evidence one way or the other except the testimonies and some examinations.


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