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But few critics were as vocal as Philip J. Klass, Walton's most severe doubting Thomas. Then senior editor of Aviation Week, Klass investigated the case more thoroughly than any other debunker, credibly discrediting the alleged abduction at length in his 1983 book UFOs: The Public Deceived.
Among Klass' more interesting revelations were the fact that some members of Walton's family were reportedly obsesssed with UFOs and had frequently talked of being abducted prior to Travis' experience. In fact, Travis would later admit to watching a made-for-TV movie about another UFO kidnaping less than three weeks before he himself disappeared. Furthermore, many observers were puzzled that no one in Walton's family seemed particularly upset that he'd vanished, even when Walton's older brother Duane assured everyone his younger sibling was simply lost in space.
As bizarre as the case was, Philip Klass even provided a possible motive. According to the investigator, Walton's 27-year-old boss was seriously behind schedule on his logging contract and may have hoped to use the UFO hoopla as a loophole to get out of his obligation. (Reached for comment, the former logging boss, Mike Rogers, dismisses Klass' theory as "bullshit.")
"If the incident was not a hoax, then the UFO had behaved as if it were following a script prepared by Mike Rogers and Travis Walton," concluded Klass. "There seemed to be too long a string of 'remarkable coincidences' for the UFO abduction to be true."
The National Enquirer apparently disagreed. The tabloid (which, not so coincidentally, had funded the series of polygraph tests that "proved" the logger's story) subsequently deemed Walton's experience the most authentic UFO story of the year, and rewarded him with a $5,000 prize for his astounding yarn.
Although some residents of Snowflake and surrounding towns had a hard time swallowing Walton's story 17 years ago, today many of those skeptics are having a harder time believing anyone--let alone Hollywood--is still interested in Snowflake's dubious claim to fame. (Because the real Snowflake didn't match up with the director's image of the town, the film was shot in Oregon.)
"They made a movie about that?" Sitting on a stool at Bill's Bar in downtown Show Low, one of Travis Walton's former high school classmates takes a swig of her beer and stifles a yawn. "That's old garbage."
A random sampling of other townspeople seems to echo the sentiment that Paramount has indeed made a space mountain out of a molehill.
One of those is the former Navajo County sheriff who headed the Walton investigation, a man who still contends there are holes in the abduction story. In spite of the fact that James Garner (the film's biggest "name") is playing a character loosely based on himself, Marlin Gillespie can barely contain his ennui. Now on the Navajo County Board of Supervisors and living in Holbrook, Gillespie says he seriously doubts he'll make the hour-plus drive to the nearest theatre in Pinetop to see the film when it's released.
"I guess I'm interested in seeing it," he confesses. "But I'll probably just wait until they put it on