"Fire in the Sky" is the feature film adaptation of Latter-day Saint lumberjack Travis Walton's non-fiction book The Walton Experience, his first-hand account of being abducted by aliens.
Like the book, the movie is set in the Latter-day Saint town of Snowflake, Arizona where the events portrayed actually took place. There are some overt references to Latter-day Saints in the movie, but the religious background of the town and many of the story's main characters is in no way a focus of this story.
Travis Walton and his wife Dana are baptized Latter-day Saints, as were the majority of people in Snowflake at the time the film's events took place. Travis Walton and his wife were adhering to many Church practices, but were not active churchgoers at the time. According to Walton's book, most people in the town did not even know that he was a member of the Church, although his non-Latter-day Saint co-workers assumed he was a Latter-day Saint because of his strong opposition to smoking and drinking alcohol.
In his autobiographical book Fire in the Sky, Walton states that after his abduction experience he once again began attending church meetings regularly, for a while.
by Tracy Torme, Screenwriter/Producer, Fire in the Sky
It was November 5, 1985, and the significance of the date hadn't escaped me. As the jetliner descended toward the Valley of the Sun, my mind reeled back, ten years to the day.
I'd been sitting in the library at Beverly Hills High (in the days before its zip code became a household word), listening to the radio on headphones, pretending to study. A five-minute newsbreak interrupted the rock and roll, and the last item caught my distracted attention. . . ,
An Arizona man named Travis Walton was missing -- and his coworkers came up with the craziest excuse for his disappearance: He had been blasted by a ray of light and taken away by a flying saucer, they said. It was clear from the tone of the report that no one believed them. Murder was already being mentioned. The local newsmen threw in the standard line about "little green men" . . . then the Stones returned with a song about tumbling dice. But I wasn't listening. I was thinking about Travis Walton.
Now, ten years later, I was touching down in Phoenix, on my way to Snowflake, Arizona, and a face-to-face meeting with Travis. As I hurried to catch a commuter flight, I ran into the pilot, who informed me that his plane was grounded. There was a storm over the White Mountains, and I was out of luck. I offered to double the money. No go.
Storm? What storm? I looked up at the cool blue sky in frustration. My time was limited; I had to be back in L.A. in three days, and I was determined to reach Snowflake.
So I rented a car -- a very special car according to Hertz -- a brand-new four-wheel-drive Peugeot -- and I was off to Snowflake. For two hours I headed east across the desert, enjoying the sunshine and scenery in a way only a city boy can.
And then it started to snow -- in a big way.
As ice, sleet, and snow pelted my little French car I made an interesting discovery: The windshield wipers didn't work. I drove on in exasperation, sticking my head out the window and trying my best to follow the highway, then glancing back through the mist for the racing flatbed that was sure to run me down at any moment.
Near the old mining town of Superior, I pulled off the road and waited for the storm to abate. I thought ofTravis and the first time we'd spoken, a few days earlier. I'd gotten his number from Snowflake Information; I later discovered it had been unlisted for ten years -- he'd just put it back in the phone book a day or two before I called. I took that as a good omen. The call had been spurred by a discussion I'd had with producer Robert Strauss a week previous. The Walton case was so interesting, so spectacular, why hadn't anyone made a movie about it? In my preliminary talks with Travis, the answer became clear.
The Travis Walton I knew only by voice seemed extremely suspicious of anyone from Hollywood. In fact, he seemed suspicious of anyone, period. So I was journeying to Snowflake for two major reasons: to convince him that I was sincere in my pledge to make a film that told his story truthfully, and to see for myself if the case was a hoax. In my mind, the latter wasn't a deal breaker. If the Walton incident was an elaborate ruse, I still felt that made for a great story that could be translated to the screen.
The storm never ended; I arrived in Snowflake three hours later, half amazed still to be in one piece. Over the course of the next few days and several more trips to the area, I interviewed Travis and Dana Walton, Mike Rogers, Kenny Paterson, John Goulette, Alien Dalis, Glen Flake, Marlin Gillespie, etc. I spoke with believers and disbelievers, well-wishers and scornmongers. In the end there was only one conclusion I could possibly reach.
The woodsmen had been telling the truth.
Something built by nonhuman hands really did appear on the mountain that night. A piece of unreality had become all too real and had changed seven young men's lives forever. I was amazed by the skeptics' lack of a reasonable alternative, and I was impressed by the amount of suffering the incident had caused the woodsmen.
Six and a half long years later, Fire in the Sky went into production. Why did it take so long? In the film business, things that should take a week take a month. And every time we said, "Could we please have twenty million dollars to make this movie?" . . . someone with twenty million dollars said no.
It was my sad duty to report to Travis all the roadblocks and false alarms we experienced during those years. I encouraged him to maintain the hope and expectation that our film would eventually be made. Travis hung in there with us until we finally hit pay dirt. As the film was produced, shot, and edited, I could sense his growing excitement, as well as the satisfaction he felt at finally having the opportunity to have a large, nationwide audience vicariously relive his experience. I know this book will enlighten and amaze the reader, just as the story of the Walton Seven first captivated me, half my lifetime ago.
Travis Walton has changed since the time I first met him. His qualities of quiet truthfulness and deep introspective thinking are still the same, but the chip on his shoulder has evaporated. He holds his head high now, confronts his critics directly and readily accepts the fact that there are some who will always disbelieve. He is a family man of quality, at peace with himself and his experience. I'm proud to call him my friend.
It was many years ago that I got out of a crew truck in the national forest and ran toward a large glowing object hovering in the darkening Arizona sky. But when I made that fateful choice to leave the truck, I was leaving behind more than just my six fellow workmen. I was leaving behind forever all semblance of a normal life, running headlong toward an experience so overwhelmingly mind-rending in its effects, so devastating in its aftermath, that my life would never -- could never -- be the same again.
Nothing in this naive country boy's life up to that moment could have prepared me for what followed. But what I didn't know then, I think I know now. It's been a real education! And with this new book I try to share those insights. When I first wrote The Walton Experience (Berkley Books, 1978), the book which Paramount Pictures' movie, Fire in the Sky, is based on, I stated my desire that the book put the reader where we were when it happened. My hope was that if people could vicariously live it -- somehow actually experience it as if they were there in my stead -- perhaps they could take a more open-minded and objective approach to their evaluation of it all.
However, nothing approaches the goal of allowing people to live someone else's experience nearly so well as a movie. I think most people knew better than to expect a documentary, and although some dramatic license was exercised, I believe that the movie succeeded in conveying the emotional essence of what we went through. Public response to the film fulfilled all reasonable expectations of its makers. And it satisfied my goal of imparting my experience on the gut level, so I feel free now in this updating to emphasize other areas. I provide an accurate, undramatized chronicle of events, and I account for the main departures that the film took from what actually happened. I try to satisfy the interest which so many people have expressed concerning why, after all this time, I finally consented to a movie being made, and what the process of its creation was like.
One of the most neglected areas in the earlier book was the controversy surrounding the whole episode, the attacks by people who for various reasons felt compelled to try to deny that it had ever really happened. Many of those attacks were so ridiculously baseless that I naively believed a cursory rebuttal would be sufficient. I thought those inclined to doubt could easily be pointed in a direction that would lead them to discover there was no truth in the alleged scenarios which had me or my coworkers hallucinating on drugs, creating a hoax, suddenly becoming psychotic, etc. I wrote as if all these claims could be as easily refuted as the charge that the report was a cover story for a gory chainsaw murder.
I could not have been more mistaken. The onslaught not only did not go away, it grew. Refuted claims were continuously resurrected and, like a child's game of gossip, became more embellished with each telling.
Therefore I devote my greatest efforts here to critical analysis of the myriad attempts to explain away what was otherwise recognized as the most spectacular, best-documented UFO incident ever.
Another emphasis in this book is the context in which this incredible event occurred. People need to know more about the prior lives of the people involved and the community in which it happened in order to understand its impact and aftermath. And the years of the aftermath are a story unto themselves, a story so excruciating that my memories of what I have lived through because of some people's reaction to what happened are a hell which nearly overshadows the experience itself.
Take a sleepy little Western town steeped in conservative, traditional values. Drop into its midst an event so shocking, so anomalous, that by its very nature it challenged conventional beliefs and attitudes, at the same time being impossible to dismiss, demanding to be confronted. That, pardner, was the makings of some serious turmoil.
The UFO incident caused me to come in contact, directly or indirectly, with many people from all over the world whom I otherwise would never have known anything about. It so happened that most of them came from the larger cities. In many of those people I detected the attitude that it was good that this event occurred in such a place. If anything could make a bunch of hicks wake up and smell the coffee, make them realize "there are more things in heaven and earth" than allowed for in their pantheon of dear illusions, it was this sort of event; it was just what these close-minded rubes needed to shake up their smug orthodoxy, to pull their blinders off so they might also begin to see a little more of the modern world outside their little corn-row rut.
Perhaps. But I believe their attitude is metrocentric, their own dear illusion that small towns are backward and cities are populated solely with hip, sophisticated, open-minded people with a much more accurate picture of "the real world."
I have news for them. I've seen both sides and I can tell you that rural communities have no corner on tunnel vision. Admittedly, these mountain communities are somewhat more homogeneous in their views, but there is far more diversity here than metrophiles assume. They seem to forget we're plugged into the same national media they are, not sitting here watching reruns of local news from the 1950s. Granted, people here can be very certain of their truths, but no more so than elsewhere. Living among people with a greater variety of viewpoints doesn't necessarily impart an openness to consider those viewpoints. Tolerance doesn't translate into open-mindedness. A diversity of self-certitudes is still self-certitude.
The more I discover of the world, the more I see how fundamentally alike people everywhere actually are. In a broad sense we all share the same basic strengths and failings, although to varying degrees. And it is this array of traits which some realists regard as being the cause of what is referred to as "the human condition."
I've come to realize that the biggest problem anywhere in the world is that people's perceptions of reality are compulsively filtered through the screening mesh of what they want, and do not want, to be true. People see what they expect to see. Preconceptions seem to predetermine judgment of everything. It's not solely because this human failing played such a big part iff the experiences I recount here that I consider it so important in the overall scheme of things. If you look, you'll find this human proclivity at the root of every single personal problem or social ill humanity has ever endured. These mountain communities are more a microcosm of the world than some would expect.
Snowflake, Arizona. To some people from out of state, these two words sound like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Many times I've had to persuade those on the other end of long-distance phone lines that I was not joking. They just "know" that it never snows here in the Desert State, and ^ besides, who would really name a town Snowflake? Well, it does snow, quite enough, thanks. Not as much as some places in Arizona, but then, that isn't where the name comes from anyway. When I tell them the town was named for two of the founding families -- the Snows and the Flakes -- and that the Snows have all drifted away but there are still plenty of Flakes here, they become certain I'm kidding.
But Snowflake, ever since its founding in 1878, has been a town that people have been forced to take seriously. Rugged Mormon pioneers came into this area when it was virtually wilderness and founded a number of towns here on the mountain. They hunted game, fought off wolves, bears, and lions, dammed streams, cut timber, quarried rock, and built homes for their families. They farmed the land and herded sheep, cattle, and horses over large tracts of the surrounding area. They tamed their piece of the American West at a cost of great hardship and loss of life.
My wife Dana's great-grandparents, Smith D. Rogers and Eliza Snow Smith, were among the earliest settlers. Her grandfather Wilford was born in a log cabin here in 1888. Snow blew through cracks in the cabin onto the bed where he came into this world, as the seventh of fifteen children, four of whom died before reaching adulthood. He led a robust life full of hard work in the outdoors, but made time for music and theater. He survived being buffeted by the elements, sickened by diptheria, rolled over by a horse, and run over by a bus. The grand old man passed away a while back at the age of ninety-eight, able to outwork most younger men nearly until the end of his life. Only the strongest survived.
Snowflake has always held a disproportionate influence over larger towns in the region. A high percentage of Snowflake residents are descended from the original settlers. There have been times when Flakes and other Snowflake founding-family names have filled nearly every position of power and status in the county. There was once talk of moving the county seat to Snowflake.
For a very long time Snowflake Union High School was the only one, attended from nearly a dozen of the surrounding towns, some more than thirty miles away. One by one the other towns are building their own high schools, but the SHS Lobos continue to win a larger portion of sports competitions, including the wolfs share of state championships. SHS has also had great success in orchestra, choir, marching-band competitions, spelling bees, and debate competitions. The school places in the top three every time the academic decathlon team competes.
When the UFO incident happened in 1975, the town's population was around 2,500, less than half its present size. Main Street is still basically about twelve blocks long; one whole block for the LDS (Mormon) church, one bank, a post office, a few small businesses. Most of the buildings are single-story; a few lots on Main Street still haven't been built on. All but one of the four service stations have been supplanted by quick-stop minimarts. Snowflake has yet to get its first stoplight.
The years have seen a slow waning of the old lines of power. Outside influences continue to come in and take hold, some for the better, others not. The percentage of non-Mormon residents has continued to grow. Many of the traditional ways remain, however. When I first moved here, two lawmen -- a resident county deputy and one town marshal -- were all the law enforcement the whole area had. Now there's a police force often and a number of resident county sheriffs officers. Even in a town where the smallest incidents are reported (unlike cities where people are so jaded they often don't even bother to report being the victims of major crimes), Snowflake still has an astonishingly low crime rate. A rash of broken windows can make the local newspaper. Although drug abuse used to be virtually nonexistent here, we still have the lowest incidence in the state. Some of the kids may complain that "nothing ever happens here," but their parents say, "Thank heavens for that."
The train is gone now. The Santa Fe Railroad pulled up the tracks through town a while ago. Ranching isn't nearly what it once was. Now the total output raising pigs is more than double that of cattle; the nation's largest pig farm is located here. But forest product-related jobs have dominated the area's economy for a long time. This way of life may be in for an abrupt change here, along what's been called "America's last frontier," because of timber cutbacks due to environmental concerns.
The old joke about rolling up and putting away the sidewalks at nine o'clock still applies, except on Saturday dance nights. Journalists and movie people often call this a "Last Picture Show" kind of town. Western-style dress, though still popular and in current revival, no longer completely dominates the fashion scene. But the annual Sweet Corn Festival, Pioneer Days Celebration, and the Fourth ofJuly Rodeo are still the biggest events of the year. The Homecoming Game Parade gets almost as big a turnout, since highschool football is taken very seriously here. The year of the UFO incident, Snowflake defeated nearby Round Valley during future gridiron star Mark Gastineau's last year of high-school play there. A number of athletes have left here for the pros.
I think it was Robert Service who said that big spaces seem to produce big men. Arizona has always been a place of big spaces and probably always will be, since only a tiny percentage of the state is privately owned. The rest is Indian reservations, state and federal land, and national forest.
Arizona has been called a land of contrasts, and many of the borders of those contrasts seem to fall in the area around Snowflake. The region, called the White Mountain/Mogollon [moe gee on) Rim area, extends from the center of Arizona where the Rim begins and runs eastward into the White Mountains near the New Mexico border. It ranges south from the high desert near the lower boundaries of the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, and the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations, continuing south to the still higher elevations of the wetter, alpine-forested Sunrise Ski Area up near the timberline on the Apache Indian Reservation.
Snowflake lies midway, in the scrub cedar and rolling prairie at the northern edge of the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. In ages past, Snowflake's valley was a vast lake, drained by a huge crack that opened up from Snowflake to the Little Colorado River back about the time a space visitor of another sort impacted, sixty-some miles to the northwest, forming the world-famous Meteor Crater. (Some speculate that the crack, as well as the big sinkholesjust northwest of town, happened because of the meteor.)
There aren't many such places, where you can snow-ski in the morning and water-ski in the heat of a desert lake the afternoon of the same day. Turkey Springs, where the incredible series of events begins, is so high up on the Mogollon Rim that it's often inaccessible to workers or film crews for three or four months of the year. The 7,500-foot-high ridge of the forested Mogollon Rim, twenty miles southwest of Snowflake, forms a long natural barrier to the prevailing winds. This shields the town and the surrounding area from the brunt of storms, which makes for the milder, if dryer, high desert climate.
These open vistas and windswept sagebrush grasslands have been called lonely. Remote, yes. But loneliness is a subjective experience. A man working by himself in the forest, miles from anything human, can feel more at one with the world and far less lonely than another man sitting in his house in the middle of a community from which he feels set apart. What is to one man a rich, expansive refuge of peaceful, reflective solitude, is to another man a bleak empty prison of drab isolated boredom. Some men live in both. Pity the man of either perspective who is blind to the other.
It's inevitable that we find ourselves on one side of the lock or the other. Whether you think of yourself, or those on the other side, as locked in or locked out, may be only a matter of perspective, with the one who seems to control the key being a minor irrelevance. The satisfied see themselves as either sheltered or liberated. The dissatisfied see themselves as either inmates or exiles. To each his own.
...[I moved to Snowflake, Arizona in] 1968 from Payson, Arizona, where I'd been known as a goody-goody, sensitive, an egghead nerd! I was called "Einstein," "mad scientist," and nicknamed "the Professor." So I came here determined to leave that pigeonhole behind. But I only succeeded in getting myself into another, equally ill-fitting pigeonhole as a rebel. Nevertheless I privately continued my intellectual inquiries into a wide variety of subjects such as philosophy, religion, art, languages, music, science, and literature (including the works of Ayn Rand, beginning with Atlas Shrugged, but especially her nonfiction).
I recall that for my twelfth Christmas I received a copy of Isaac Asimov's Intelligent Man's Guide to Science, the first brand-new book I'd ever owned; it's still in my personal library, now grown to well over a thousand volumes. Though much of that edition is still relevant, it's interesting to read how dated some of science has become, what hadn't yet been discovered, and amusing to read how humanity was "aiming firmly for the moon." I've never read any of Asimov's fiction, but I've accumulated quite a few of his hundreds of other works.
It would be hard to characterize the particular subjects that intrigued me, because I don't subscribe to the usual limits. There is nothing that shouldn't be examined. Many people avoid reading the works of those with whom they disagree, but I find these to be some of the most stimulating.
I have some Cherokee in my immediate ancestry on my mother's side, so I delved into the language and history of the Cherokee nation. The Cherokee's status as one of the so-called "Five Civilized Tribes" didn't prevent President Andrew Jackson from ordering in the 1830s the forced foot march of the tribe from their homelands on the East Coast to reservations half a continent away in Oklahoma. There was tremendous suffering and death among those herded along by soldiers, on what became known as the Trail of Tears. My great-grandfather was a chief who escaped the procession and settled in Tennessee before later rejoining his people in Oklahoma.
I became a state-certified EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). I worked at the nearby Show Low airport to pay for my private-pilot ground school and flying lessons. I worked on a number of inventions I came up with for automotive applications. When midwives I knew told me they had been taking the college licensing preparation course and studying for the state midwife licensing examination, I borrowed their textbooks a few days before the test and read them. Since the statute permitted persons who had not taken the college classes to take the test, I took the exam with dozens of midwives from around Arizona, some of whom were registered nurses who had already been practicing midwifery for years under physicians' supervision. I received the second-highest score out of the entire group, just behind a lady who had actually taken the college course.
I was a person who seemed to be from two worlds. People from both worlds didn't know quite how to take me, each probably believing I was of the other. Adding to some of the friction between me and one or two guys on the crew was my attitude toward smoking and drinking. They seemed to miss the distinction between refusing to drink with them and simply refusing to drink.
Snowflake residents, I think, viewed me as an outsider. My moving to town from elsewhere and my church inactivity contributed greatly to that impression. I never told anyone, but my Mormon roots were as deep as anyone's. They didn't know it but, going way back, I'm actually related to some of them. My great-great-grandfather, Joseph Walton, was among the pioneer families to settle the Utah Valley with Brigham Young. Joseph Walton helped build, and lived in, Wordsworth Fort in Alpine, Utah. He served under Captain Carlisle and Sergeant John Langston as a soldier in the Fifth Tenn, a Mormon militia company, and later as a police officer. He saw a lot of trouble with Indian raids, including the Walker War and the Black Hawk War, and endured the same hardships as the other pioneers in taming the Utah Valley. His son, my great-grandfather, John James Walton, worked in Brigham Young's household to pay his way in becoming one of a small number in the very first graduating class of the Brigham Young Academy, later known as Brigham Young University.
I've gone through major changes. Now that I bring these things out, some of which I'd like to deny, I'm put in the position of counseling my kids to do as I do, not as I did. The UFO incident was a sharp turning point for me. There were other reasons, too, though ... an accumulation of smaller lessons, general maturity, and the realization that such a background, smokescreen or not, can be the kind of thing that can put the lady of your dreams beyond reach.
I admit it wasn't easy for people to understand the complexities and apparent contradictions of my personality. How could the shy person they met one time be the same grandstanding guy they would see at another time? Now that I no longer have a reckless side, it's a little easier for people to understand me, or to think they do.
I still love and enjoy the outdoors, although I haven't been hunting in ages. I used to kill rattlesnakes whenever I came across them, just like everyone else. Now I just let them go their way and I go mine. I still try to stay fit and live healthy. I'm not so quick to anger or to try and resort to physical solutions to confrontations. First I'll exhaust every possible rational, logical solution, because the truth is, I've found that there usually is one. The thing to remember is that if you're living as right as you know how, if someone has a problem with you, chances are, the problem is their own, which should obviate emotional reactions born ofdefensiveness. In other words, you don't have to take it personally.
What happens in the wake of events as extraordinary and profound as those of November 1975? After such an intense period of nonstop assault on the sensibilities, can life ever be as it was before?
At first, I was in perpetual doubt as to whether or not I was even going to get through it. I lived each day, each hour, from minute to minute. It was burden enough to cope with that by itself, without looking beyond.
One sunny fall day I was a young, single, devil-may-care guy full of plans, relishing the prospect of tomorrow. The next thing I knew, everything was in doubt: my future, prior relationships, people I'd thought I could count on, institutions I'd taken for granted, my place in society, and, right at the beginning, even the reality of my own perceptions.
Day and night I was wired tight. Adrenaline surged constantly. The images of those recent traumatic events were constantly in my mind's eye, waking and sleeping. When I could sleep, vivid but chaotic dreams woke me nightly. I had a tremendous amount of inner processing, sorting, confronting, accepting, and adjusting to do. To do that, one needs enough time and peace, enough space and sleep.
And I wasn't getting it. The spectrum of reactions to what happened -- good, bad, or indifferent -- kept me constantly on 'balance. There was a constant torrent of things to deal with. I had so much coming at me so fast, that coping with this overwhelming cacophony took everything I had. It seemed as if almost everyone wanted a piece of me -- sometimes literally.
I was afraid of what I couldn't remember. And I was afraid it would happen again. Or maybe government agents would come and take me and subject me to mental, maybe even physical, dissection. What if I came down -. with some bizarre infection unknown to human medical science? What if I began suffering weird effects from breathing that strange atmosphere? What if I started exhibiting symptoms of severe radiation damage? What if
I just couldn't cope with all of this?
I can laugh at such fears now. But at the time, that natural faith we carry,
that the familiar and conventional will naturally be there the next time we look, had for me been severely shaken. Fortunately, years of thinking and living in a more normal world have restored that confidence to me.
Adding to the pressures on me was my strategy of trying to present the outward appearance of being in control. Going on as if nothing was wrong did have a steadying effect, but it also led many people who might have been more helpful to assume I was already on my way to recovery.
In spite of the fact that it all seemed to be nearly too much for me, I went it alone. I navigated that whole period without professional help or counseling of any kind. Why? Partly because my family are a pretty self-reliant bunch. Partly because I didn't believe there was anyone in the counseling or psychiatric field who had anything in the standard framework of their training or experience that would remotely equip them to handle something so extraordinary. An example illustrating this was Dr. Jean Rosenbaum's conclusions. He was more disposed to perceive the matter as fitting into a standard category with which he was familiar, than to try to apply his experience and knowledge to something outside his paradigm. There was nowhere to turn. So, internally, I was on my own.
However, I can't say there was no help at all around me. My family stood by me. And so did some of my friends, but most of all there was my sweet Dana. She didn't have any answers to the profound questions, she didn't have any special psychological insight. I'm sure she often felt at a loss to know what to say and do. Perhaps at times she even felt pushed into the background by the incident, from the way some people approached us. But she was there for me, with her loving understanding, centeredness, and warm support. Her grandmother's simple, earthy, caring, small-town ways had their echo in her. So she became my anchor, my one rock in that sea of chaos.
I went back to church for a while. But rather than finding spiritual answers there, I encountered a microcosm of my situation within the wider community. So again I was on my own. As vast and mysterious as the cosmos is, ultimate religious truth lies far above any of this -- or the world in which it happened. I am not saying the event lies outside of religious considerations, but that it's just one more element within the grand scheme of things. That which encompasses and supersedes everything, must naturally do so to truly everything. People too often make exclusively religious interpretations of things of this nature. I suppose this has a lot to do with their previous orientation to life in general. I did a lot of very deep searching in the religious area, but my earlier outlook had emphasized more of a scientific or philosophical approach. So that's the kind of sense I tried to make of this experience to a great extent.
Popular wisdom has it that denial is not a good coping strategy; but as a temporary measure it worked for me. I pushed the experience and its aftermath into (he background. I boxed it up, put it aside and went on with my life. As time went on, I pulled things out of that box one at a time, dealing with them at my own pace. Eventually I worked up to returning to work in the woods. I spent a lot of time alone, laboring under the sun with ax or chainsaw in hand. The work itself didn't demand a lot of concentration, so my mind was free to ponder and reflect, accept and adjust.
There were no stages or definite turning points for me, except the initial hypnosis session. My recovery was a long, gradual process -- so evenly evolving and natural that I realize it most resembles the changes which come with life, simply living, the personal growth of maturity. And like that sort of growth, it continues to this day.
In my earlier account I tried to pass off, to minimize the negative reaction I was experiencing; I was still in the middle of it and I hoped to avoid making worse what was already bad enough. During the peak of the feeding frenzy, the press had gone for the kill. Once the tone was set it became a free-for-all. It's a familiar aspect of human nature that such a pattern determines the fate of certain unfortunates in school and work situations. I didn't want to create an atmosphere in which the dimmer minds among those around me would be incited to such a mob mentality.
One of the strategies I use most to get a handle on complex matters is to step outside myself and the situation mentally, then try to take an objective overview. When I do this concerning everything involving the UFO incident, I continually think I have arrived, that I can finally see it for itself without distortion by personal referents. I do this only to find I need to step back again. And again. Each time seeing more, realizing a wider perspective, but each time coming to sense the existence of a larger frame of reference.
Also, when the beam hit me, it was much more dramatic. The film makes it look like the beam came on and stayed on, holding me in its grip before tossing me back. What really happened was that it hit me with a brief, powerful blast much more blindingly brilliant than in the movie, and I was instantly blown backward; which was, I think, far more visually stunning than the way they did it.
Some details were fictionalized to emphasize the friendship between Mike and me -- for the "buddy film" aspect of the script. My firstborn son wasn't named after Mike, but again, film better shows than tells. Rather than simply saying, "They were close friends," ways are sought to make people actually feel it. In reality Ken Peterson was the one to call in the report to the deputy. In the movie Mike was shown making the call, in keeping with his status as lead character in my character's absence. His doing so provided an artistic counterpoint to the phone call he receives from me on that stormy night later in the movie. That call, too, used dramatic license. The real-life call went to my brother-in-law, because neither my mother nor Mike had a telephone at that time.
There wasn't any rainstorm the evening of my return. However, odd atmospheric conditions that night did cause the smoke from the prescribed control-burn of forest debris to the north to drift along within a few feet of the earth, in the low areas between Heber and Snowflake. The wild ride out and back to rescue me gained an added dimension of weirdness, because the smoke resembled ground fog. Here is an example of truth being stranger than fiction -- too much stranger. Representing conditions as they actually were would have been mistaken by audiences for a clumsy attempt to add horror by resorting to cliched monster-movie effects. So instead in the movie, it rained. But again, this understated reality rather than embellished it.
Even a few nonresidents of Snowflake remarked on the way townsfolk seem portrayed as a bunch of clods and hayseeds. No, this wasn't my revenge on Snowflake for not reacting more sympathetically to our report. Nothing in the script told me how locals would look and act. And keep in mind they were depicting people from seventeen years before.
I was as surprised as anyone, but I shouldn't have been. Recall my remarks in this book's preface regarding metrocentrism. Such may explain the "hick" take on local residents, but also, the language of film relies on simplifying many things into readily identifiable concepts. Which is a nice way of saying everything gets stereotyped.
Accepted polygraph-testing methodology was not followed in the room. Instead of "boring" people with the strict yes-or-no of proper polygraphy... livened things up with "phrase" answers. In real life, only one such goof-up would ruin a test.
As far as I know, no buried dog was discovered by searchers. They did ,, through piles and checked into spots of disturbed earth on the contract, Inoking for my body. Anyway, the suspense of digging up something dead nd finding out it wasn't me was effective, even though it was in the direction of increasing suspicion of my crewmates.
It's really amazing that the movie increased people's acceptance of the reality of our experience, because nearly every single departure from reality with any bearing on support for the story came down against it! Many, many pieces of positive evidence were omitted, many false clues against it were added. Earlier versions of the script played up even more the murder-mystery angle from the investigator's (and the audience's) point of view.
There never was a copy of a tabloid newspaper in the crew truck. I didn't even know what a tabloid was then, and I don't know if back then there was even enough of a local market for tabloids to be sold in Snowflake. (There was a time when no alcohol was sold here and, even more recently, when no "men's magazines" were sold.)
In reality all the men returned to the site, instead of Mike going in alone as in the movie. In reality, the sheriff and his men did search the site the same night they received the report. In reality Alien Dalis didn't yet have his serious record of armed robbery. In reality there was no suspicious cut on Alien's hand, with the crew trying to cover up how he got it. Dalis' and my fight didn't happen that day, although the tree-felling incident did. There was no quarrel that day between Mike and me over my relationship with Dana. There were no conspiratorial "Let's stick by our story" remarks among the crew. The film exaggerated the confusion in finding the exact spot of the sighting and abduction. (The men quickly resolved that question right after they returned the first time that night, by finding my heelprints from where I'd exited the truck.)
PJK's ties to military/aerospace sources -- as editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology; his Washington, D.C., address; his prosecutorial, muckraker approach; and his extensive use of propagandist techniques have led people in the UFO community for many years to speculate that he is a paid operative of some covert agency interested in promulgating disinformation about UFOs. As one would expect, whether it's true or not, he's always denied it.
Having heard the theory often, what do I think of it? It's plausible, but so far I see no conclusive proof for or against it. If it is true, conclusive proof probably would be unobtainable. If it is false, what evidence could possibly convince a dyed-in-the-wool, post-Watergate conspiracy buff?
If some high-level agency were going to choose someone for such a purpose, it would seem they would pick someone more able. On the other hand, government officials aren't known for choosing the most able -- sometimes other qualities, such as blind loyalty, are of greater worth to them. Fooling most of the people most of the time is good enough for their purposes. Personally I think a more likely explanation for PJK's obsession is suggested by PJK's CSICOP affiliation.
GSICOP's founder, Paul Kurtz, is also founder and head of another organization, CODESH, the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism. CODESH is a humanist organization that publishes material attacking religion and belief in God. CODESH and CSICOP have considerable overlap in membership and leadership. They are housed in the same building -- the Center for Inquiry -- where they share facilities including audiovisual equipment and an extensive library.
(Since CODESH is so much less compatible with mainstream views than CSICOP, it was once treated a little like an ugly stepsister kept in the cellar lest she stigmatize her sibling. However, they've abandoned their careful public segregation and begun to bring her out -- to the point of sponsoring joint Institute for Inquiry seminars by "two nonprofit educational organizations dedicated to the advancement of science and critical thinking.")
CSICOP's journal, the Skeptical Inquirer, has begun straying into the religious area, with articles about satanic cults, the shroud of Turin, creationism, angels, and the Rapture, but CSICOP's leadership claims to be resisting the trend: "The issues we address must have some scientific content -- or pretend to it -- or benefit from an understanding of human psychology. Many readers want us to critique religion as such or skewer some ideology they disfavor. That's not our interest and it's not our intention." Such were CSICOP's words concerning their "statement of mission" in a past issue.
It's no coincidence that Paul Kurtz's publishing house, Prometheus, publishes PJK's books. An examination of the title index in Prometheus' trade catalog provides some interesting insights. Forty-some anti-paranormal titles; another forty-odd titles dealing almost exclusively with issues relating to: paraphilia, sadomasochism, bisexuality, transvestites, child sex abuse porn actors, prostitution, adultery, and asphyxiophilia.
There are other peculiar titles, such as Infanticide and the Value of Life, Qaddafi's Green Book, Prescription -- Medicide: The Goodness of Planned Death (by Dr. Jack Kevorkian), Tin Star Tyrants: America's Crooked Sheriffs, In Pursuit of Satan, and The Lotus Lovers: The Complete History of the Curious Erotic Custom of Footbinding in China.
The biggest category, however, is composed of books concerning secular humanism and atheism, with well over a hundred titles extolling humanist values or attacking religion, a number specifically devoted to anti-Mormonism. This humanist/atheist category includes titles such as Atheism: The Case Against God, The Darker Side of Virtue: Corruption, Scandal and the Mormon Empire, Some Mistakes of Moses, Funerals Without God, Did Jesus Exist?, and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth. There were over fifteen books by Kurtz himself, primarily on humanism, including A Secular Humanist Declaration and Humanist Manifestos I & II.
The pertinent titles in the list are those linking the GODESH and GSIGOP agendas of anti-religion and anti-paranormal: Science Versus Religion, A Second Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism, and The Supernatural, the Occult, and the Bible. PJK's friend and fellow "debunker" Robert Sheaffer (who writes for both organizations' periodicals) authors both The UFO Verdict and The Making of the Messiah.
Paul Kurtz's The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal is the clearest link between the two organizations he founded, between GSICOP's anti-paranormal aims and the anti-religion stance of CODESH. Kurtz's book sums up belief in ESP, UFOs, ghosts, "fringe" science, and belief in religion as manifestations of the same irrational human flaw. Little distinction is made between psychic phenomena and religious visions, between the ghosts of the paranormal and the spirits of religion.
If those humanists don't believe in religion, why don't they simply turn away from it and focus on what they do believe? Why do they devote so much of their periodicals to harping obsessively on disbelief, to personal attacks on advocates and believers, instead of promoting their approach to life affirmatively? They give lip service to that goal, but don't appear to actually pursue it in their publication.
It should be noted that GODESH does not speak for all humanists, and that GSICOP does not represent the views of other skeptics who consider that organization extremist (in fact, they don't even represent the views of everyone within the organizations).
Rather than confining their efforts to verbal opposition solely on the merits of the issue, CSICOP has been accused of attempts to pressure conference sponsors and media people into censoring views CSICOP opposes. CSICOP has billed itself in its promotional and fund-raising literature as "the lone voice defending rationality." Talk about arrogance--psych-cop, thought police, indeed.
Journalist Jerome Clark wrote: "For CSICOP it is not enough to say that those with whom it disagrees are wrong. It must also depict them as loathsome human beings. In the eyes of this Shiite-skeptic sect, proponents of anomalies and the paranormal are agents of the Great Satan of irrationality, defined as any view, however arrived at, whatever the supporting evidence, that differs from CSICOP's."