It was just past 6 o'clock as Travis Walton and his six fellow log cutters finished off a long day of thinning undergrowth in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The sun had set and darkness was falling quickly, as it tends to do among the tall pines along the Mogollon Rim. With it, an increasing November chill was coming over the men and they anxiously piled into their truck to head for home.
It would be at least an hour before they reached Heber to the north, so the men settled into their seats as best they could for the jarring drive up the forest's uneven dirt roads. The smokers in the group hastily lit the first cigarettes they'd had in hours. Walton, one of the only two nonsmokers on the crew, sat up front in the passenger's seat enjoying the fresh, cool air and watching the pines pass by.
Heading up toward Mogollon Rim Road, Walton soon noticed something shining among the branches off to the right. The others saw it, too, and the chatter from the back seat fell quiet. The spaces between the trees flashed by too quickly to make out what the object was, but a clearing up ahead revealed a yellowish glow that washed across the road in front of them. The driver sped up to get a closer look.
When they reached the clearing, the men were astonished by what they saw. Less than a hundred feet from the edge of the road, a glowing disk hung in the air, floating motionless between the trees, only 15 feet off the ground. The truck slammed to a halt and Walton opened his door to get a better look. There was no sound, save for a startled cry from one of the cutters: "My God! It's a flying saucer!"
As he recounts in his book Fire in the Sky, Travis Walton then stepped out of the cab and walked toward the object. The others begged him to get back in the truck, but he felt compelled to get a close-up look. He approached the craft cautiously, glancing back to the truck now and then as his friends continued to plead with him. Coming within six feet of the craft, Walton stopped and stared up at its glowing underside.
Suddenly, the silence along that dark, isolated road gave way to what Walton would later describe as the thunderous swell of a turbine engine. That's when a narrow beam of light fired from the bottom of the disc and struck Walton in the chest. It lifted him up, then knocked him to the ground like a thunderbolt. In a panic, the rest of the crew sped away toward the main road, terrified.
When the men regained their senses, they returned to the clearing to rescue their friend. Unfortunately, the craft was gone and so was Walton. Despite a thorough search of the area, they could find no trace of him and were forced to drive home, one crewmember short. When they reported what happened, the authorities discounted the men's tale as a ridiculous attempt to cover up a murder and launched an extensive search for Walton's body. They searched for several days and found nothing. Walton reappeared outside Heber five days later and corroborated their story, with the addition of what happened aboard the spacecraft.
Walton's story, considered the best documented, or at least the most publicized, close encounter ever recorded, details the bizarre events that took place following his abduction on November 5, 1975,
including a frightening brush with large-eyed, pale-skinned creatures and his attempted escape inside the alien spacecraft. It’s a story that's debated even today, despite the unusual number of eyewitnesses to the initial events and the fact that those witnesses have never strayed from their accounts in more than 30 years.
The precise location of the abduction is known to very few, but details from Fire in the Sky lead to a fairly accurate position. South of Heber, the crew followed Mogollon Rim Road about a mile east of Forest Road 87, where they turned north to an area known as Turkey Springs. It was somewhere along this road that the crew allegedly encountered the UFO.