Saturday, March 03, 2012

Philip Klass, Travis Walton and Steve Pierce, Part Two

Once again Philip Klass has stirred controversy and he didn’t even have to do anything himself. All of this started, for me, with a column by Billy Cox in which he mentioned the story that Klass had offered Steve Pierce, one of the witnesses of the Travis Walton abduction, ten thousand dollars to say the case was a hoax.

Some have been angry at me for accepting the story. As I mentioned then, my first reaction was to reject it, but then I remembered some of the other things that Klass (seen here with his fans) had done in his efforts to debunk everything UFOlogical (yes, it is hyperbole, but what the heck, it’s not the first time that one side or the other has engaged in hyperbole).

I took a stroll over to “Bad UFOs: Skepticism, UFOs, and the Universe” hosted by Robert Sheaffer so that I might read the other side’s take on this (though saying the other side here is something of a misnomer since I’m not a big fan of tales of alien abduction).

First, (well not first in his article but first in this piece) Sheaffer seemed so outraged that he wrote, “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...”

Slanderous new charges...?

More hyperbole. I just wanted to point out that both sides often engage in hyperbole and we, who are more or less outside of the particular debate, must be aware of this.

But then we do get to the meat of Sheaffer’s response. He points out that 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.”

Sheaffer continued, writing, “Someone shouts on the Outpost Forum on February 5 [2012], “BRIBE BOMBSHELL! STEVE PIERCE WHO WAS WITH TRAVIS WALTON WHEN HE WAS ABDUCTED CLAIMS THAT HE WAS OFFERED A $10,000 BRIBE FORM (sic) THE LATE DEBUNKER PHIL KLASS TO STATE THE ENTIRE TRAVIS WALTON ALIEN ABUCTION CLAIM WAS A HOAX!”

Walton then replied, according to Sheaffer, “Yes, it is true. I even mentioned this in the 1996 edition of my book. But all I knew then was that Deputy Click had taken Steve the message when Steve still lived in the area. I didn’t know that Klass had also flown to Texas and spent hours taking Steve out to dinner and trying to get him to accept the bribe. And followed Steve to another state or two. Very curious... All this strongly supports the belief that Klass was a paid government disinformationist.”

Well, nearly everyone in the UFO field gets branded with that label regardless of what side you come down on. I have been accused of working with Hector Quintanilla and Project Blue Book, though I was in high school when Blue Book neared its end and was in the Army in Vietnam in the few weeks before it was finally closed. I have been accused of being a CIA agent and even a member of MJ-12. Stan Friedman suggested that I was a government agent attempting to divert attention from the crash on the Plains of San Agustin, so Walton’s allegation doesn’t really mean much in the greater scheme of things. You might say its just par for the course and an indication you have arrived in UFOlogy.

In fact, Klass often said he was a government agent. Oh, I know his tongue was firmly planted in his cheek and his claimed ten million dollar a year salary suggested that he was much richer than his lifestyle showed... and no, I don’t believe any of that, but the point is that Klass made the claim himself. I doubt he would worry about the allegation today, if he was alive to comment on it.

Sheaffer wrote, “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 of taking it.’” (p. 160)

Sheaffer noted, as do I, that the accusation did not originate with Pierce, but was made by Mike Rogers, who Sheaffer described as “Travis’ best friend” (and I have no reason to doubt that... I have seen them traveling together) “and future brother-in-law.”

Sheaffer then wrote that Klass wrote, “...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.”

And while this piece is meant, mostly, to show the other side’s opinion on the Steve Pierce suggestion, I will note that Klass didn’t take his own advice. From his SUN Newsletter of November 1993, page 3, Klass wrote, “Kevin Randle has contracted to author a new book which will be a compendium of crashed-saucer tales dating back to the ‘Mysterious Airships’ of the 1890s and also include the 1908 Tunguska incident in Siberia. Publication in soft-cover is expected in the fall of 1984 [sic]. Randle recently told a friend that he received ‘a great deal of money’ from the publisher.”

Had Klass checked with me, he would have learned that I didn’t receive a great deal of money from the publisher... though I wish I had. I suppose Phil was suggesting a financial reason for writing the book, and a financial incentive for filling it with tales of crashed saucers with little interpretation or investigation. The point here is that Phil repeated the tale without checking with me, which is what he suggested Barry should have done with him.

Sheaffer then launches into the reasons he thinks the Walton abduction story is a hoax and I have no problem with his analysis or his conclusions. There are problems with the Walton abduction and like so much else in the world of UFOs, there really is no consensus. Hardcore UFO believers think the case is a hoax and Karl Pflock, something of a skeptic on much in UFOlogy, after a short analysis of the case, wrote, “I hasten to add that, while I think a hoax is possible, I have not yet made up my mind.”

As for the idea that Klass hounded Pierce, that too is a tough call, given Klass’ attacks on both James McDonald and Robert Jacobs (see Phil Klass and his Letter Writing Campaigns published here on September 11, 2011).

Klass apparently called Pierce on July 20, 1978, which can hardly be called hounding. According to the tape of that conversation, Pierce told Klass, “Uh, well, I thought it was something a deer hunter, you know, rigged up. You know, ‘cause it was deer season, you know, so you could see. You know? And, uh, but I couldn’t see the bottom or a top or sides, all’s I could see was a front of it, you know. You couldn’t tell if it had a bottom to ir or, you know, or a back to it or anything...”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the UFO, given by one of the witnesses to the abduction. This doesn’t read like the experiences of someone who was there making observations, but someone who is confused by what he saw and not sure what to make of everything that went on around him that night. It leaves the door wide open for various interpretations.

Sheaffer wrote, “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 a hoax I’d damn sure do it.’”

So, the Pierce story of the attempted bribe is not as black and white as it has been made out to be by many of us. I will say here again, I don’t believe it beyond Klass to attempt something like this, given what he had done in the past... but, I will also say that the evidence that he did is extremely weak. Given all that, we’d have to conclude the tale is not true, unless and until we could find something stronger.

Over at his blog, Bad UFOs: Skepticism, UFOs, and The Universe, found at:


you can find a link that will take you to some of the documents that Sheaffer believes should be reviewed before anyone makes up his or her mind about all this.

As I say, this is, sort of, the other side of this debate. I will note that Klass’ personal attitude has influenced this debate. Some of his activities were highly questionable (such as writing letter to the employers of UFO witnesses as noted in that earlier blog posting), which means that many of us see the idea of his attempting to bribe Pierce as a reasonable extension of these other activities.

But, as I said, the evidence to prove it seems weak and the various tales told about it are contradictory. Yes, I believe Klass might have tried something like this but I don’t think we have any proof that he actually did it.

24 comments:

Lance said...

Kudos Kevin for at least considering the other side!

Lance

Ross said...

Phil Klass must be smiling in his grave, happy that he can still provoke so much controversy and polarization. Kudos to you, old fart.

Ross said...

Um, I was addressing Phil Klass as "old fart," not you, Kevin Randle.

Dennis Toth said...

In the broad scheme of things, we are all agents of disinformation. But let's be honest, who really think that Klass ever had $10,000 bucks to slap around. Most likely this tale is somehow mixed up with the boys from the National Enquirer who did have money to pass around. As for Klass as a government agent....Gee, his FBI file suggests that he was more of a government pain-in-the-rear.

Personally, I have always side stepped the Walton case because the details got so confusing so fast that it makes my head hurt.

Christopher Knowles said...
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Christopher Knowles said...

If Klass said he was a government agent I'll take him at his word. Most of the major "skeptics" are directly beholden to the military industrial complex in some way, whether it's through being paid by the universities, a job with a MIC firm, a media job or a NGO/foundation. If anyone takes the time to dig you'll see they are all bought and paid for in some fashion. Many people who knew Sagan would say what he said in public and in private were often totally opposite. I've heard the same about at least one of the other major "skeptics."

And like I always say, the "skeptics" should be running around telling us how fascinating the digestive functions of naked mole rats are and spreading the wonders of studying gas emissions on distant cosmic objects, not talking about flying saucers or ghosts. They should be sharing how fascinating their compartmentalized busywork is in their cubicles at Big Pharma or Dow or Raytheon.

Lance said...

Thank goodness you don't have to prove your claims (or cite references or offer names). It must be so much easier using that standard of "truth".

Lance

Paul Kimball said...

Phil Klass may have been a lot of things, but a government agent is not one of them. There's absolutely no evidence for it... and there is evidence against it, something I wrote about a couple of years ago. It seems even the FBI considered him to be a pain.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/28133856/Philip-J-Klass-A-Spy-for-the-FBI

Best,
Paul

Christopher Knowles said...

There are plenty of agencies that aren't the FBI and inter-agency rivalry-- and ignorance of what each other are up to-- is pretty well documented.

Paul Kimball said...

What can I say, other than the burden is on someone asserting that Klass was an agent of some intelligence agency to show proof of that claim, and not the other way around. Unless you have any that you can present, I'll stick with my conclusion that Klass was a pain-in-the-ass (who was also right more often than his detractors would like to admit) all by himself, as a private citizen.

PK

Christopher Knowles said...

I think the fact that Klass worked for GE, was a founder of CSiCOP and got his ugly mug on TV whenever anyone anywhere had a UFO story AND was a editor for a magazine owned by McGraw Hill should tell anyone who has studied parapolitics even for a millisecond all they need to know.

Paul Kimball said...

Oh my. If that's what constitutes evidence in your world, then there's not much else to discuss.

Lance said...

I think I'm following the logic here...

So probably Bilderberg, Illuminati, Bohemian Grove instead of a Mason, Gnomes of Zurich, Protocols of Zion type thing?

Lance

Christopher Knowles said...

Ha ha.

Paul Kimball said...
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Paul Kimball said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher Knowles said...

That's nice. Thanks for sharing.

Paul Kimball said...
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Paul Kimball said...

Always happy to put things in perspective for crazy conspiracist types.

PK

Robert Sheaffer said...

I wonder if Pierce has any actual evidence to substantiate his "bribe" claim? Can he prove that Klass ever visited him in Texas? Can he show a letter from Klass saying "I'm coming?" Can he show a photo of him and Klass together? And when, exactly, did this occur? On what date was Klass supposedly in Texas? Wasn't he supposed to be there a week or something?

Then there's the claim that Klass supposedly stalked Pierce across 2 or 3 states. Which states? What dates? Does he have any letters? Any photos, or other evidence?

I didn't think so.

don said...

Could Klass possibly have been making a joke? No matter what they may think, subtle humor is a rare feature in the skeptic's repertoire.

Regards,

Don

cda said...

If you look through past issues of SUN (skeptics UFO newsletter) there are plenty of examples of Klass's humor.

don said...

CDA, I don't know much about Klass, and I wonder whether his sense of humor was broad or subtle.

Would he say something like 'I'll give you 10$ if you stop that', and expect or hope for the response 'Make it twenty and you've got a deal'

Maybe, if it happened, the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

"If you look through past issues of SUN..."

Oh, someday, I'm sure.

Regards,

Don

carddown said...

I just came across an old article by Jim Oberg in Omni magazine Oct. 1978, where he mentions that Klass had a $10,000 offer to those who could prove the existence of ETs. The Wikipedia page on Klass has a description of the offer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_J._Klass

I'm guessing that the "bribe is just a twisted retelling of this challenge."