From time to time I’d like to cover mysteries that are a bit more…paranormal in nature here. I’ve always been interested in ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, and the generally unexplainable and I’m hoping you guys are too. It would also be nice to give myself an occasional break from all the death and destruction we normally do here.
That being said, this story is a little different. This is the tale of Travis Walton who disappeared for five days in 1975. And he sure came home with one hell of a story to tell. Travis was a 22 year old woodcutter working on a seven man team at the time of this incident. They were working to thin out trees in the Sitgreaves-Apache National Forest, near the towns of Turkey Springs and Heber in Arizona.
Travis Gets Abducted
November 5, 1975
At the end of the work day on November 5, 1975, the seven men piled back into their work truck and started heading home. It was around six in the evening and they were driving down a calm forest road when they noticed a strange object in their path ahead. One of the men would describe the object to sheriffs as being roughly 15 feet in diameter, 8-10 feet in width, and having no visible windows but what looked like partitions that glowed slightly yellow. It was said to be “saucer-shaped” like “what you would see in movies.”
So, this thing was just hanging out, hovering over the road about 15 feet in the air. The men say they stopped the truck 20ish yards away from it. Ole Travis, though, he needed a closer look so he hops out of the truck and RUNS STRAIGHT TOWARDS IT. The other six men reported that when he got close to this thing that it “zapped” him with a blueish light and Travis fell to the ground. At this point, the others backed the fuck out of there and fled for their lives. They regained their composure and headed back 15 minutes later though, to find both Travis and the UFO had vanished.
5 Days On Earth
Search and Rescue
Travis’ coworkers reported his disappearance to the sheriff’s department in Navajo County, Arizona. The area was searched by a team that included searchers on foot, horseback and in helicopters. They turned up no evidence of what happened to Travis. The sheriff assigned to the case was understandably skeptical of their version of events, but the men’s stories were all consistent with each other and they did not change details at any point. The sheriff also reported that the men seemed genuinely terrified to go back to the area Travis had disappeared from.
The men were also willing to take polygraph tests.
Now, let’s take a quick break to discuss polygraph tests, ok? They are not at all reliable in determining if a person is lying. How they work is that they take constant measures of the depth and rate of your breath, your blood pressure, and your galvanic skin response, which is how electrically conductive your skin is or how sweaty you are. They use those measurements to determine if you are feeling anxious and infer that anxious means deception.
While this information IS good at determining how nervous you are feeling it is not by any means able to determine the cause of your nervous feeling. Meaning it can’t tell if you’re nervous because you’re lying because, as you likely already know from being a human being, your state of nervousness can be largely impacted by just about any mental or physical condition you are also experiencing at that time. So, you’ve got Generalized Anxiety Disorder? – Deception, Hypoglycemia? -Deception, Little confused about why you’re here? – Deception. And so on and so forth.
And, for what it’s worth, one of the inventors of the polygraph, John Augustus Larson, eventually ended up wishing he hadn’t been involved with it because of the ways in which it was being used. He believed it to be an abusive misuse.
The men did end up taking the tests, though. The results were five passes and one inconclusive. Even though polygraph tests are not reliable for detecting lies, I do find it interesting that they were calm enough to pass them. They had such a wild and crazy story and were so scared to go back to the area it happened, I would not have expected them to remain calm long enough to pass a polygraph. I truly believe that they believed they saw what they claimed they saw.
November 10, 1975
Sometime late in the night of November 10th to early in the morning of November 11th, Travis made a phone call to his brother-in-law begging him to come pick him up and take him to the hospital. The brother-in-law and Travis’ older brother found him on the floor of a phone booth outside a gas station on the edge of Heber, Arizona. He said he had been dropped off a mile outside of Heber and had walked to the gas station. Travis’ brother recalled that he had grown a beard in this time and looked as if he had lost ten pounds. Travis complained of pain in his chest and head and wanted to be taken to a hospital to be checked and evaluated, which his brother, brother-in-law, and sister obliged and took him to a private hospital.
5 Days Onboard a Spaceship
So, what happened while Travis was in outer space, you may be asking right about now. Well, buckle up because I’m about to tell you.
According to Travis, the first thing he remembers is being in a room that kind of resembled a hospital room. He was on a bed and there were five bald humanoid beings over him who were wearing blue coveralls. He tried to talk to them and they did not respond. Then he tried to get up and they restrained him so he “took a swing” at one of them. They then left the room and left him on his own.
Exploring a UFO
Travis then left the hospital-looking room and went exploring. He eventually ended up in a room with a chair that had buttons on the arms of it. So, naturally he started pushing all the buttons as one would do. I mean, who can say they wouldn’t have pushed the buttons? At some point during all this button pushing, a moon-roof type apparatus opened up and he saw stars whizzing by above him.
While he was in this room, another being entered wearing what looked like a “fishbowl” style helmet on it’s head. They didn’t speak to him but escorted Travis to a hangar where multiple other UFOs were parked. After this, more humanoid beings, this time with long hair, put what looked like an oxygen mask on his face and he lost consciousness. He claimed the next thing he remembered was waking up in the middle of Payson-Heber Highway. Travis estimated that out of the five days he was awake for maybe two hours.
Life After Abduction
As you can probably imagine, once Travis’ story got out there were a lot of people with a lot of opinions about it. Some people emphatically believed him and some people thought he was full of it. It was definitely a big stir in his community and continent wide as well. Travis had newspapers from as far away as Montreal, Canada begging for an interview.
Ok, I’m not exactly sure how to best organize the information found from the investigation. There’s a lot of back and forth and it’s mostly based on opinion. What I’ve decided to do is just tell you what each person or organization who investigated did to gather evidence and what their professional opinion on the situation was in the moment. I didn’t dig too far past the initial investigation so if the involved parties at some point changed their minds, I apologize but there’s just too much information to go into present day. It would be pandemonium. Also, these are only the major players in the case.
Sheriff Gillespie was the main investigator on the case from day one. When Travis’ coworkers first came to him with their story, the sheriff sorta believed that they may have killed him and were trying to cover their tracks. Of course his opinion changed when Travis showed up unharmed. He never really believed that Travis’ story was real, though. To be fair, it is a hard sell to believe, without much proof, that someone had ran wildly around a UFO. It also always bothered him that no one actually saw Travis be taken into the alleged spaceship. The men ran as soon as Travis was struck unconscious and didn’t return until after he was already gone.
The sheriff’s opinion seemed to be greatly impacted by the fact that after requesting a polygraph, Travis subsequently refused to show up to take one. Travis claimed that this was because he was advised by physicians not to undergo anymore examinations or investigations until he had some time to rest because his emotional state would skew the results. The damage was done with the sheriff’s department already and sheriff Gillespie declined to organize any other polygraph appointments for Travis. He seemed to go back and forth on whether he thought it was a flat-out hoax, though. In 1997, he did tell a newspaper that he never found any evidence that the event had been purposely arranged to hoax anyone.
Aerial Phenomena Research Organization
This is the investigative group that swooped in as soon as they heard about Travis’ claims of abduction. They came with a full team of physicians, polygraph experts, psychiatrists, hypnotists, and a psychiatrist who could do hypnosis. It was at the advice of their physicians that Travis decided to not to take the polygraph that Sheriff Gillespie set up.
This group put Travis through a fairly thorough battery of tests. They did some medical testing and examinations on his physical health. They had him go through some sessions with a psychiatrist, which side note here: why a psychiatrist and not a psychologist? Is this some weird 70s thing? In the present time, psychologists are the ones you see for the talking part and psychiatrists are who you see to adjust your medications, anywaaays, just a question, back to the story. They also had him do some sessions of regressive hypnosis to try and unlock anything else that may have happened during the four days and 22 hours of missing memory he had.
I haven’t really found a source that outright states what APRO thought of their findings, but the general idea that I get is that they believed Travis’ story and were supportive of him.
Ground Saucer Watch
The GSW came to Arizona and did an investigation in the area that Travis had disappeared from. Their findings were consistent with what they claimed to be common signs that UFOs leave behind. These included something they referred to as “residual magnetism” and the smell of ozone.
However, GSW head honcho, William Spaulding would claim after interviewing Travis that the whole thing was a hoax. He would double down on this claim in the following years telling an Arizona newspaper at one point that he had “500 pages as proof” of a hoax. I couldn’t find anywhere where he actually said what his evidence of a hoax or where he had released these many pages of research, though.
J. Allen Hynek
Hynek was a respected professor of astronomy at Northwestern University during this time. He was also one of the most influential UFO researchers in the United States. He did an interview with Travis and did not find any indication that Travis was lying or intentionally trying to pull a hoax or prank. In fact, Hynek seemed to have a deep sympathy for Travis, who was trying hard to put his life back together after the UFO incident.
Lester H. Steward
This guy was the director of the Modern Hypnosis Instruction Center. He was also one of the hypnotists that wanted to do a session with Travis. He apparently did do an interview with Travis and his family, but claims that they were hesitant and a little dodgy. They allegedly wanted more physical examinations done on Travis before he underwent any mental testing. Steward claims that when he offered to pay for those exams Travis and family left in a hurry and then ghosted him from there on out.
His theory was that Travis was high on LSD or some similar drug and hallucinating his way through the forest for five days. He based this off of work he supposedly had done with patients at the Arizona State Hospital who had unfortunate experiences with LSD usage. It’s important to mention here, though, That Steward never did a hypnosis session with Travis so this is just his assumption. There was also never any evidence found of any kind of drug or alcohol abuse by Travis.
Dr. Gene Rosenbaum
Dr. Rosenbaum was a psychiatrist who did five days of psychiatric testing with Travis. Among those tests were at least one session of regressive hypnosis. Now, I couldn’t find what the results of the hypnosis session were, but I don’t think Travis ever remembered any more than what he initially told investigators he did. I never saw an update that included more bits of the story.
Dr. Rosenbaum’s conclusion was that Travis was not trying to create a hoax or pull a prank. He felt his findings supported that Travis 100% believed what he thought he had experienced on the spaceship. Buuuut, similar to Steward, the doctor thought that what had really happened was that Travis had spent the five days wandering the woods. He believed Travis’ hallucinations were due to an over abundance of stress, however, and did not support the idea that Travis had been taking drugs and tripping his balls off.
Evidence of a hoax
Klass was the editor of an aviation magazine and a noted UFO skeptic. He was firmly in the hoax camp. He based this on the fact that the first polygraph Travis took about the incident showed deception. For whatever reason, APRO allowed The National Enquirer to send a polygraph expert to test Travis on November 12th, three days after he returned. He failed this test because he was still traumatized by the events. According to Dr. Rosenbaum, Travis was like “a caged animal” while this test was in progress.
The National Enquirer never published those findings, but the examiner who did the test leaked the results to Klass. The issue with hinging their theory of hoax on this test is that Travis passed at least one subsequent polygraph test. In fact, the results from the test in question and the fact that Travis was so distraught were the reasons that APRO advised him not to go through with the test Sheriff Gilespie organized.
Motive for a Hoax
And what did Klass think was the motive for the hoax? Fame and fortune? Transferring the incident into a lucrative career and winning the respect of the UFO community? NO. He believed, with no evidence that I could find that had been put forth, that all the men were in on a hoax in order to get their foreman out of a financial trouble. Klass claimed that Mr. Foreman had bit off more than he could chew when he had taken on this tree thinning contract from the state of Arizona. He was going to drown in debt from not being able to make payroll, miss the due date to have the job done, and never be able to take another state contract again if he didn’t fulfill the contract.
Obviously Mr. Foreman denied all these claims. He even provided proof that they were, quite frankly, a little ridiculous. See, when Mr. Foreman was a little younger and less experienced, about six years previously, he had had to do exactly what Klass was accusing him of trying to avoid with a hoax in this instance. He had had to pull out of a contract with the state early because he wasn’t able to complete the job. And while it did take him quite a while to recover financially, he was fully able to take other contracts from the state of Arizona and in fact had been this whole time. So much for that theory, I guess.
Travis’ Personal Life
I’m not going to go too in-depth here because I feel like in the end Travis really just wanted his life back and I’d like to respect that. I did want to go into why this story has a happyish ending, though. For one, Travis didn’t die! Another good thing that came from this is that, after almost losing him, the woman Travis loved realized she didn’t want to live without him and they got married. He started his own family, eventually went back to working in the woods and then in a mill, and wrote a couple of books about his experience.
The negative side is that it took a very long time for the stigma to die down. The people of Snowflake, Arizona gave Travis an extremely hard time about his story. They made jokes, kids came up with mean chants, and people who had never met him talked a lot of shit about him to newspapers. He considered moving his family out of Snowflake for a bit but ultimately decided that he wasn’t going to be chased out of his home.
The important to Know
I also want to stress that Travis didn’t really make any money off of this experience. His books sold modestly. He did appear on some talk shows, game shows, and did a few lectures at UFO conferences but all he asked for those appearances was that the companies requesting his appearance pay for his travel expenses. He won a prize for providing the best proof of the year of the existence of UFOs from the National Enqirer, though. It was $2,500, which was a bit of money in the 70s. He split it with the other six guys. He was never interested in becoming a big celebrity off of this and in the end, when asked to reflect on his experiences, he said he wished he had stayed in the damn truck.
So, what do I think about it all? I’m kind of with Dr. Rosenbaum on this one. I definitely think Travis believed what he thought he experienced. I 100% don’t think he was purposefully trying to hoax or prank anyone. I just don’t know that aliens are trolling Arizona for guinea pigs, ya know? But at the same time, he has witnesses. Six other guys saw something in those woods. That flash of blue light had to come from somewhere and Travis didn’t just pass out for no reason. I don’t know, you guys. The more I think about it, the less I know what I think. I’m going to be real with you guys, I totally believe in UFOs and aliens. Like, I’m in, I’m a believer. But do they really come here?
Let’s discuss it in the comments! Do you think Travis was abducted? Do you personally believe in aliens and UFOs?
Thank you guys so much for reading! And just like always, be careful out there and don’t let each other get abducted by aliens! Or do, live your life and make your own decisions on this one.