Walton was an American logger who claims to have been abducted by a UFO on November 5, 1975 while working with a logging crew in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Walton went missing after the event, but reappeared after a five-day search. Walton’s case received considerable mainstream publicity and remains one of the best-known instances of alleged alien abduction. UFO historian Jerome Clark wrote that “few abduction reports have generated as much controversy” as the Walton case.
According to Walton, while riding in a truck with six of his coworkers, they encountered a saucer-shaped object hovering over the ground approximately 110 feet away and making a high-pitched buzz. Walton claims he left the truck had approached the object when a beam of light suddenly appeared and knocked him unconscious. The other six men were frightened and supposedly drove away. Walton claimed he awoke in a hospital-like room, being observed by three short, bald creatures. He fought with them until a human wearing a helmet led him to another room, where he blacked out while three other humans put a clear plastic mask over his face. Walton claimed he remembers nothing else until he found himself walking along a highway, with the flying saucer departing above him.
Skeptics have described the case as “sensationalizing on the part of the media” and “a put-up job to make money.” Philip J. Klass considered it a hoax perpetrated for financial gain and noted many “discrepancies” in the stories between Walton and his co-workers. Klass also reported the lie detector tests done on Walton were “poorly administered” and he used “polygraph countermeasures” such as holding his breath. He also uncovered an earlier failed polygraph test administered by an examiner who concluded the case involved “gross deception”.
Researcher Michael Shermer criticized Walton’s claims, saying, “I think the polygraph is not a reliable determiner of truth. I think Travis Walton was not abducted by aliens. In both cases, the power of deception and self-deception is all we need to understand what really happened in 1975 and after.”
Walton wrote The Walton Experience (1978) about his claims and the book became the basis for the film Fire in the Sky (1993). The film differs from Walton’s account significantly, as Paramount Pictures deem his story “too fuzzy and too similar to other televised close encounters” and they ordered screenwriter Tracy Tormé to write something “flashier, more provocative.”