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 Debunker.com 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.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.
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 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.