HEBER/OVERGAARD — “They forced me down on the table, but I lost consciousness, and the next thing I remember is waking up on a highway,” recalled Travis Walton on the 40th anniversary of his abduction by an unidentified flying object.
To mark the occasion, Walton hosted a Skyfire Summit UFO conference in Overgaard last weekend.
“I didn’t know how much time had gone by but later found out it was five days and six hours. I was badly injured and could feel the cold of the pavement, but my clothes were warm. I saw the disc shoot off into the sky and then saw the lights of Heber/Overgaard.”
On Nov. 5, 1975, Walton was part of a seven-man logging crew working in the Sitgreaves National Forest near Heber. As they were leaving that night, they all saw a bright light off to their right. When they got closer, they saw a bright saucer-shaped UFO hovering about 20 feet over a clearing.
Walton was the only one who got out of the truck to investigate.
“I was awestruck and entranced by the beauty of the thing. I thought it would take off, but it didn’t and I didn’t appreciate the danger I was in,” said Walton during a panel discussion at the conference with two of his former crew members.
At the discussion with Walton were Mike Rogers, the driver of the truck, and John Goulette. It was the first time the three of them had been all together in 40 years.
Conference attendees asked the men questions about what they saw and how they felt. Rogers and Goulette recounted how after Travis was knocked to the ground by a bright, blue-green beam of light, they drove away in blind panic. Rogers stopped the truck about a quarter mile away, and after seeing the spaceship leave, they went back, but Walton was gone.
Asked how he felt when he heard they left him, Walton responded: “I didn’t fault them. What Mike and the crew did was understandable and they showed common sense. For them to come back that soon unarmed was heroic.”
Rogers said they shouldn’t have left and he didn’t think it was heroic.
Asked how long it took them to get back to “normal,” Walton replied that some of them never did get back to normal but it was an ongoing process they have accepted.
“It affected my life for about two weeks,” Goulette said. “But I went somewhere no one knew me or talked about the event. Four out of five people in town let us know they didn’t believe us. It’s the opposite now. I realized about three years ago that a lot of people here have had their own experiences.”
Rogers said he didn’t like all the media attention and wouldn’t talk about it for many years.
“I was nicknamed the reluctant celebrity,” Walton said. “I never liked it or the attention, but along with the burden comes a certain amount of responsibility. Lots of people are afraid to speak about what happened to them. This helps them to be vindicated.”
Walton has continued to live in the area.
Rogers said this was the first time he’s been to one of the events or conferences and only went this time because Walton asked him to.
“It took him an hour to answer me,” Walton noted.
“I want to spend more time with them,” Rogers said. “We shared an experience that should have bonded us, but we spread out. Steve (Pierce) changed his name and hid out for 30 years. I’ve learned a lot about people from this.”
The conference started on Nov. 5 and ran four days to Nov. 8. Hundreds of people came from around the country to attend the conference, which also featured experts on UFOs and some of the law enforcement officers who investigated the event 40 years ago.
On Thursday, Nov. 5, some attendees planned to take a trip to the site of Walton’s abduction, but the rain and snow a few days earlier made the trip impossible.
A second trip was held that Sunday and over a hundred people journeyed to the site on four school buses or in their own vehicles.
Ben Hansen, a former host of the TV show “Fact or Faked: The Paranormal Files” traveled on one of the buses. He is a good friend of Walton’s and helped organize the event. He is also the co-director of a new documentary called “Travis.”
During the trip, Hansen recounted the site surveys done, the fact that there were a group of hunters in the area who years later told Walton they saw the lights of the space craft and that he has been to the site seven times.
“I came alone once at night,” Hansen said. “It was spooky.”
The area of the event 40 years ago was burned in the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2002, and the old logging road they had been on has been decommissioned by the Forest Service.
Two of the four school buses got bogged down in mud, and everyone had to walk over snow, mud, rocks and debris for almost a half mile to get to the site. There was nothing to see, just an overgrown clearing on the Mogollon Rim.
Walton showed everyone where everything happened, where the truck was and approximately where he was knocked to the ground.
A book about the event called “Fire in the Sky was published in 1979. A movie with the same name came out in 1995, though Walton said it isn’t accurate in many of the details.
The other members of the crew are Allen Dalis, Dwayne Smith and Kenneth Peterson. All the men are now in their mid- to late-60s.
Walton spends his time these days writing, going to conferences and events and sharing his story.
The UFO community of scientists, researchers and media are all still interested in his story and continue to investigate the UFO phenomenon.
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