It’s perhaps the most famous alien abduction case of them all.
Travis Walton was a fairly modest man. Working with a lumbering crew out of Snowflake in Arizona. A normal guy living a normal life – cutting down trees in the Sitgreaves National Forest near his home town. Yet something happened to this guy on November 5 1975. Something EXTRAORDINARY.
Whilst on the way home from a gruelling twelve hour shift felling trees in the forest – he and his coworkers encountered a UFO. A saucer shaped object hovering in a clearing next to the woodland dirt road.
They all stopped to take a look at this thing. Walton got out of the truck to take a closer look. A beam of light shot out from the bowels of the vessel – striking Walton and knocking him to the ground.
His coworkers panicked. Thinking he had been killed they sped off the escape this unearthly horror. However Mike Rogers went back to get him. Rogers was the foreman of the crew – and Walton’s brother-in-law to be.
When he got back to where Walton had been knocked down, both Walton and the ship were gone.
When the crew arrived back in Snowflake they reported the incident to the authorities – and were almost immediately under suspicion of murdering Walton and creating the outlandish story to cover up their crime. Lie detector tests however revealed that they were telling the truth. Or thought they were at least.
Astonishingly – Walton returned five days later with an unusual story to tell.
According to Walton’s account he woke up in a strange sterile looking room which at first he thought was a hospital. Only he’d soon discover it was anything but. He was terrified to see that he was being observed by three alien creatures. Big heads, big eyes, small mouths and grey skin.
Startled, Walton jumped from his bed and tried to smash a nearby test tube to turn into a weapon to threaten the creatures with. The glass would not smash. No matter how hard he hit it against the table.
The creatures left the room. Walton left the room too and began to explore the interior of the craft. He came across a room with a large screen and a chair with a lever of some kind on it. Walton sat down on the chair and played with the lever which caused a graphic of a star chart on the screen to change. Fearing he’d damage the contraption he stopped and left the room to explore the ship further.
Eventually three human looking beings found Walton. At first he was relieved to see them but on closer inspection their eye colour and blank gaze revealed them to be anything but human.
They led Walton into another room and put a mask over his face. He passed out.
When he awoke he was back home on a road near where he was abducted – the ship rocketing away above him.
Walton became a celebrity on the UFO circuit. Appearing at conventions and on TV. In 1978 he published a book about his experience. In 1993 it was adapted into the film Fire In The Sky.
The film starred D.B Sweeney as Walton, Robert Patrick as Mike Rogers, and James Garner as Lt. Frank Watters – an FBI Agent assigned to Snowflake to investigate the circumstances behind Walton’s disappearance. Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg and Henry Thomas played the other members of the crew. It was directed by Robert Lieberman.
The film was met with mixed reviews but has gone on to become a cult favourite amongst science fiction fans. It’s controversial amongst hardcore so called “UFOlogists” because the events shown upon the alien craft do not match Walton’s own account.
Allegedly Paramount Pictures found Walton’s story to be not all that interesting – so screenwriter Tracy Torme’ was instructed to make the abduction sequence flashier and more provocative. That right there is about the strangest thing in this film. It bears no resemblance to what supposedly actually happened – but it’s the film’s best scene! It’s the money shot. The film’s big moment. It utterly chills to the bone. Everything else leading up to the scene is largely forgettable – but this scene is utterly unforgettable.
When I first saw this film I was fairly young teenage boy. It was on TV late one night and I stayed up to watch it. I was aware the film was “based on a true story”. I didn’t know at the time that the alien abduction scene was embellished for dramatic purposes.
It utterly terrified the living FUCK out of me.
I had to turn the lights off and try to go to sleep after that, thinking it really happened that way and that’s what ALL alien abductions must be like.
Looking back it’s hard to say whether this is a good film or not.
The scene where the loggers first encounter the UFO is fairly eerie – and then of course there’s Walton’s terrifying recollection of his abduction – but other than that it’s a fairly straightforward American small town drama. Other than scenes involving the UFO – it’s fairly unremarkable.
As the logging crew are suspected of murder – Robert Patrick does well with his performance as Mike Rogers. In a way the film is mostly about him. The guilt he felt for abandoning Walton, and how the incident affected his livelihood and standing within a community of which he was previously seen as an upstanding member.
He gets a fine Jimmy Stewart-esque moment when he addresses a town hall meeting protesting his innocence.
James Garner also puts in a fine, laconic performance as the sceptical Lt Watters. One gets the feeling his character is supposed to represent the sceptics in the audience. At the end of the movie he still thinks the whole incident is a big hoax. That the whole thing was planned – even with the lie detector results that indicated everybody involved told the truth.
There are many out there who STILL believe this whole event was fabricated.
Travis Walton made a cameo appearance in the film and to this day still gives talks and makes appearances at conventions. He’s something of a minor celebrity. Recently he’s been saying that another movie is in the works regarding his experience and that it’ll be more true to the events that occurred.
Until then – this film is worth watching if only for the abduction scene.
In closing – in 2008 Travis Walton appeared on a gameshow called “The Moment Of Truth”. He was asked if he’d ever been abducted by aliens to which he answered “YES”. Here’s the clip –
Make of that what you will. I know what I believe. I’ll save that for the talkback.
The Man Who Saved Movies. This has been another collaboration with my buddy Dee over at The Supernaughts!
Please check out what he had to say! Right here!