Article 34327 of sci.skeptic: inac!!wupost!decwrl!netcomsv!!sheaffer Subj

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Article 34327 of sci.skeptic: Newsgroups: alt.paranormal,alt.alien.visitors,sci.skeptic Path: bilver!tous!tarpit!fang!att!att!l inac!!wupost!decwrl!netcomsv!!sheaffer From: (Robert Sheaffer) Subject: Re: The Selling of the Travis Walton "UFO Abduction" Message-ID: <> Organization: Netcom - Online Communication Services (408 241-9760 guest) Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1993 02:21:35 GMT Lines: 321 The Selling of the Travis Walton "Abduction" Story: Some Background Information Robert Sheaffer P.O. Box 10441 San Jose, CA 95157 USA March 4, 1993 Australian newspaperman Jeff Wells was a member of the National Enquirer team that "packaged" the Travis Walton abduction story for publication. Walton's story is now the subject of a major motion picture from Paramount, "Fire in the Sky." Wells is one of seven authors of the National Enquirer story "Arizona Man Captured by UFO" published Dec. 16, 1975. Upon his return to Australia, Wells wrote up this insiders' view of the sordid goings-on for his newspaper column, the identities of the participants only thinly disguised. "The kid" is obviously Travis Walton. "The cowboy" is his brother, Duane Walton. "The professor" is Dr. James Harder of Berkeley, at that time a leading figure in APRO, the now-defunct Aerial Phenomena Research Organization, and still a prominent "abductionist." The polygraph examiner is John J. McCarthy, the senior polygraph operator in the state of Arizona. This story was reprinted in the _Skeptical Inquirer_, Vol. 5 Nr. 4 (Summer, 1981), pp. 47-52. "Profitable Nightmare of a Very Unreal Kind" by Jeff Wells (from _The Age_, Melbourne, Australia, 6 January 1979) caption in photo box: "JEFF WELLS recalls his dealings with a pathetic kid whose dream never quite got off the ground." The characters in this UFO story are real even if they appear more like the inventions of a Hollywood hack. A haunted young man, a ruthless cowboy, a strange professor, a hard-drinking psychiatrist, a bunch of reporters and a beautiful girl. All were thrown together in the desert heat by a close encounter of the third kind and maybe they did contribute to some Hollywood thinking. I was there and I can vouch for the motley human cast - but you will have to make up your own mind about the extra-terrestrials with fishbowl heads. Some of the characters are still growing fat repeating their version of the story in the seemingly limitless American market for the bizarre. The so-called facts, the carefully-woven tapersry that has become the "official story" can now be counted as UFO lore, pablum for those who turn their heads to the sky in search of meaning for their lives. I will never get rich on my version and I only tell it because of the UFO madness the papers tell me is sweeping this part of the world. The UFO phenomenon is really rolling here, as it has rolled for many years, and snowballed into juggernaut proportions in other countries where it is very big business. The stronger it gets here the closer the attention that will be paid to so-called classic cases of UFO encounters. You may recognize elements of this story among them. If so, you will realise that my story is a warning that in such cases, even the most celebrated and supposedly well-documented, there is nothing so pragmatic as proof. This incident happened a few years ago and made world headlines. I was working in San Francisco as a bureau man for a national weekly which has grown rich and powerful in catering to the middle-class craving for cancer-cures, Jackie Onassis, Hollywood gossip, psychic predictions, and like ingredients of the crumbling cake that is the American mind. It was naturally a matter of interest that a 22-year-old forestry worker was missing and that six witnesses had passed lie detector tests in saying that he had last been seen running towards a huge UFO. My paper had offered tens of thousands of dollars to anybody who could positively prove that aliens had visited our planet - in the knowledge that exclusive rights could be worth millions. When, five days later, the young man we came to call "the kid" stumbled into a small western town, phoned his brother and claimed he had been kidnapped by the crew of an alien spacecraft we were ready. Within an hour I was on a plane to rendezvous in a desert city with a team of reporters and photographers flying in from Los Angelesand the East Coast. At the desert airport I bumped into one of them, a dapper young Englishman from the L.A. bureau, who briefed me. One reporter was at the cowboy's home talking money; the kid was inside in a state of shock. The office was wiring $1000 to help east the kid's discomfort and a celebrated UFOlogist, a California professor, was being flown in, all expenses paid, to lend a hand. Our immediate task was to bribe the brother with the thousand to shack up with us in a luxury motel on the outskirts of town, no names registered, where the rest of Press who were about to descend and the sheriff, who was calling the whole thing a hoax and demanding that the kid take a lie-detector test, would not bother them. "It isn't going to be easy," said the Englishman as we pocketed our credit cards and headed for our rented Pontiacs. "The brother has taken charge and the brother is some kind of psychopath. The kid is scared to death of him and so is our reporter." The cowboy was no disappointment. He was one of the meanest and toughest-looking men I've ever seen - in his late twenties, a rodeo professional and amateur light-heavyweight fighter, a total abstainer, broad-shouldered, T-shirt packed with muscle, chiselled-down hips, bow legged, eyes full of nails, tense, unpredictable. He leaned against a pick-up truck with a gun rack in the cabin and raked us with beams of cunning and hatred as strong as the flash from the spacecraft that had pole-axed his brother as the witnesses fled in terror. "Nobody is going to laugh at my brother," he said. Nobody wanted to laugh at his brother, we said. We only wanted give his brother a chance to tell his story to somebody who would understand. To prove our bona fides, and to keep away all those other jackals of the press, who would embarrass the kid with foolish questions, we would hide them away and pay the kid a grand to tell his story. If we liked the story, and it could be properly documented, and the kid could pass our lie-detector test, we would open up our cheque books all the way and start talking in five figures. To our relief the cowboy agreed - but not, he said, because of the money, because his brother had a true story to tell which would enlighten the world. Our first sight of the kid was at dinner in the hotel diningroom that night. It was a shock. He sat there mute, pale, twitching like a cornered animal. He was either a brilliant actor or he was in serious funk about something. But the arrival of the professor saved the day. He was as smooth as butter and he soon had the kid eating out of his hand. "You are not alone," he crooned. "There are many people, more than you would think, who have been chosen to meet them." Them? I began to wonder about the professor. The cowboy was so impressed he began to talk about his own UFO experience when he had been chased by a flying saucer through the woods as a child. Within a couple of hours the professor had talked the brothers out of taking the sheriff's polygraph test and into an hypnosis session in his room immediately. It looked as if things were going smoothly enough, with no hint that we were faced with four days of chaos. The next day the office announced that the whole story was to be filmed by a crew from the top-rating CBS muckraker TV show _60 Minutes_. We were to be on guard because CBS was out to shaft us, my editor warned. We were to present a bold front for good footage of dedicated reporters sparing no expense to bring the public the true story of one of the most amazing incidents in recorded history. The kid's fantastic story had been coming out under hypnosis but the brothers had become very conspiratorial with the professor and would speak only to him. [1] The professor seemed to have his own future on the lecture circuit and the paperback bookstands very much in mind and we didn't trust him. So we taped everything and had the CBS crew film the kid's story given under hypnosis. It was a tale of little men with heads like fishbowls and skin like mushrooms. But suddenly the strain began to tell on the kid and he lapsed into sobbing bouts. He was falling apart and so was his story. It necessitated flying in a husband-and-wife team of psychiatrists from Colorado to tranquilize the kid and keep the cowboy from exploding. The kid was a wreck and it was all the psychiatrist could do to get him ready for the lie-detector expert we had lined up. The test lasted an hour and I was in the next room fending off the TV crew when I heard the cowboy scream: "I'll kill the sonofabitch!" The kid had failed the test miserably. The polygraph man said it was the plainest case of lying he'd seen in 20 years but the office was yelling for another expert and a different result [2]. To head that off we had the psychiatrist put the cowboy and the kid through a long session of analysis. Their methods were unique. The next day the four of them disappeared into a room and soon a waiter was headed there with two bottles of cognac. At the end of it the psychiatrists were rolling drunk but they had their story and the brothers were crestfallen. It seemed that the kid's father, who had deserted them as a child, had been a spaceship fanatic and all his life the kid had wanted to ride in a spacecraft. He had seen something out there in the woods, some kind of an eerie light which had triggered a powerful hallucination which might recur at any time. There was no question of any kidnap by any mushroom men. The kid needed medical help and the cowboy swore he would shield him from further harassment. Reports began to filter in that the witnesses' lie detector tests were not much help either - they supported the story that they had all seen the strange light but not that the strange light was identifiable as a spaceship. The CBS crew had left in disgust and I sat down to detail everything that had happened in a 16-page memorandum designed to kill the story. It was all over. I paid the $2000 hotel bill - including a mammoth bar tab to which the psychiatrists had contributed nobly - for the five days and we all scattered to the airport. It had been a lunatic experience from beginning to end, made more disturbing by the fact that on several occasions, with coaxings from the professor, I had almost believed that the story was real. As I drove to the airport I was never so glad to be leaving a city and to this day the whole experience there remains in my memory as some kind of nightmare. As I neared the airport I switched on the car radio and heard familiar voices - the kid, the cowboy, and the professor giving an interview about the kid's shatteing experience on board a flying saucer. A few weeks later I picked up the paper I worked for and found that with the help of the professor it had turned my memorandum into a sensational front-page story. The professor was calling me up demanding tapes for his lectures and the kid was signing contracts for books and TV documentaries. And so another UFO hero was made. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - "Ground Saucer Watch" Memo on the Walton Incident: Conclusions (undated: probably December, 1975) "Ground Saucer Watch," a pro-UFO organization, was the very first UFO organization on the scene. In cooperation with Dr. J. Allen Hynek of CUFOS, Dr. Lester Stewart of GSW began to interview the Walton family while Travis was still "missing." They immediately smelled a hoax. These are their conclusions, without any changes - RS. 1. Walton never boarded the UFO. This fact is supported by the six witnesses and the polygraph test results. [3] 2. The entire Walton family has had a continual UFO history. The Walton boys have reported observing 10 to 15 separate UFO sightings (very high). 3. When Duane was questioned about his brother's disappearance, he stated that "Travis will be found, that UFO's are friendly." GSW countered, "How do you know Travis will be found?" Duane said "I have a feeling, a strong feeling." GSW asked "If the UFO 'captors' are going to return Travis, will you have a camera to record this great occurrence?" Duane, "No, if I have a camera 'they' will not return." 4. The Walton's mother showed no outward emotion over the 'loss' of Travis. She said that UFO's will not harm her son, he will be returned and that UFO's have been seen by her family many times. 5. The Walton's refused any outside scientific help or anyone who logically doubted the abduction portion of the story. 6. The media and GSW was fair to the witnesses. However, when the story started to 'fall apart' the Waltons would only talk to people who did not doubt the abduction story. 7. APRO became involved and criticized both GSW and Dr. Hynek for taking a negative position on the encounter. 8. The Waltons 'sold' their story to the National Enquirer and the story was completely twisted from the truth. RS NOTES: 1. In other words, James Harder was using hypnosis to lead Travis Walton into "remembering" a proper UFO abduction story. UFOlogists cite the apparent consistencies of these stories as proof that they are supposedly authentic! But here we glimpse the real reason behind the apparent similarities. 2. The very existence of this polygraph session with John J. McCarthy was kept secret by the National Enquirer and by APRO, with McCarthy ordered never to speak about it. The cover-up was revealed by Philip J. Klass in June, 1976. The details of the Walton hoax, and its associated cover-up, can be found in chapters 18-23 of Klass' book _UFOs The Public Deceived_ (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1983). 3. Apparently GSW thought that in order to have a "genuine" UFO abduction, the UFO would have to land, and pick up its passenger. -- Robert Sheaffer - Scepticus Maximus - Past Chairman, The Bay Area Skeptics - for whom I speak only when authorized! "Truth is the summit of being: justice is the application of it to affairs. All individual natures stand in a scale, according to the purity of this element in them. The will of the pure runs down from them into other natures, as water runs down from a higher into a lower vessel. This natural force is no more to be withstood, than any other natural force." - Emerson: Essay, "Character" (1844) ** End of file **


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