of the many accounts of UFO sightings, photographs, and videos, the sensational reports that originated in Gulf Breeze, Florida are some of the most controversial. Gulf Breeze was a small city of approximately 6,000 at the time of the wave of sightings that began in the winter of 1987.
News of UFO photos par excellence spread rapidly and far, becoming a world-wide sensation, and the subject of a plethora of newspaper and magazine articles, television talk shows, and feature programs.
Though many sighted the elusive flying craft and snapped photographs of the glowing lights, the majority of attention was on one Edward Walters, a local building contractor. According to Walters, the sightings began on November 11, 1987. He was working late that night when his attention was drawn to a light coming from his yard.
As he went to the window to get a better vantage point, he saw a glowing object partially obscured by a 30 foot tall pine tree in his front yard. Racing outside to get a clearer view of the object, he was taken back by the sight before him. He was staring at an object with the shape of a top.
It had a row of dark squares which were separated with portals between them. The craft seemed to hover just above the road, showing a glowing ring around its bottom. Ed ran into his house, and grabbed his Polaroid camera. He snapped off several photos of the craft before deciding to get even closer. He headed into the road.
As he paused in the street to take more photos of the strange object, it began to hover almost directly over his head. Walters was then hit by a bright bluish beam which shot from the object. He was literally lifted from the ground by its force. It was then that he heard a voice say, “Don’t worry, we will not harm you.” Images began to enter his mind.
Ed stated the images were revealed to him “as if they were turning the pages of a book” The next thing Walters remembered was waking up. The glowing UFO was nowhere to be seen.
Only a few days later, on November 17, Walters took his photographs and story to the local Gulf Breeze Sentinel newspaper. Ed discussed the photographs with the paper’s Editor, and began to relate to him the details of the sighting.
At this time, for obvious reasons, Ed told the newspaper that he was given the photos and story by a Mr. X. Part of this initial account was as follows:
“Bang! Something hit me. All over my body, I tried to lift my arms, I couldn’t move them. They were blue, I was blue, everything was blue. I was in a blue light beam. I was trying to breathe but my chest wouldn’t expand. My feet lifted off the floor, a voice groaned in my head, “We will not harm you.” I screamed, the voice said “Calm down.” I screamed “Put me down!” No control, just a piercing smell, a little scent of ammonia mixed with heavy cinnamon that scorched, then stuck to, the back of my throat. A hum filled my head. Wham! I hit the ground, the blue light was gone. The hum was still in my head but quickly decreased and was gone.”
Walters also gave the newspaper a letter from the Mr. X., but his anonymity would be short-lived. The UFO account would grow like a Texas wild fire, as Ed began to claim more visitations, and produce more and more graphic photographs of unusual flying objects over the vicinity of Gulf Breeze.
Ed’s credibility came under fire, but all who knew him described him as a trustworthy, honest man. His wife Frances was his most loyal and unwavering partner.
On November 20, Ed could hear a hum and voices as if communications were being made between individuals, and he was on the outside hearing part of it. Going outside, his attention was drawn to a small dot of light which was falling from the sky. It pulled up, and began to hover. Ed took a photo of it. This contact hum seemed to indicate to Ed that there was a UFO near him.
Ed received another visit on December 2. Ed was awakened at about 3:30 am by the sound of his dog barking . He proceeded to his French doors and opened the blinds. He was looking at a creature about 4 foot in height with large black eyes.
Ed was overcome with fear and fell down from the shock. He asserts that the alien being stared at him for just a moment, and then began to walk away. He also said that:
“I gave chase. As my feet left the shelter of the back porch I was hit by the blue beam and held immobile while the creature fled into the vacant field at the back of my house. As soon as I could move I retrieived my camera and took a picture of the UFO shooting the blue beam into the field. I believe that it was picking up the creature I had seen.”
In the early morning hours of December 5th, a UFO hovered above the trees near the high school not far from Ed’s house. The UFO descended to hover just above the ground or land. Ed photographed the object and the landing spot. This particular incident would provide valuable support to Ed at a later date. He recalls:
“The UFO moved towards me, I heard the voice say ‘Do not resist… Zehaas.'”
Ed would receive support from the UFO organization MUFON. They heard of Ed’s account, and launched an investigation into the Gulf Breeze Sightings. After an initial look into Ed’s evidence, MUFON was convinced that he was telling the truth, and his photos were genuine. Walter Andrus, state director for the Mutual UFO Network, studied the case for three years. His conclusions were:
“The overwhelming evidence is in. Gulf Breeze is indeed one of the most incredible cases in modern UFO history.”
Not everyone agreed with MUFON. The Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) did not believe the Walters story, and other members of the UFO community at large believed the photographs to be staged.
The National Enquirer was initially interested in the Walters account, but before committing to purchase the photos, it sent them to NASA’s Dr. Robert Nathan for analysis. Nathan was unable to certify them as genuine, and the Enquirer passed on the option.
William Morrow & Co., publisher of Whitley Strieber’s “Communion” and “Transformation” showed a unique interest in the Gulf Breeze mystery. Morrow reportedly advanced Walters $200,000 for a book, originally to be titled “UFOs: Proof Positive.”
When Morrow had the photos analyzed, he received a similar report to the Enquirer, and changed the title to “The Gulf Breeze Sightings: The Most Astounding Multiple Sightings of UFOs in U.S. History,” which was published in March 1990. They did not, however, change the category of the effort, leaving it with a “non-fiction” stamp.
Walters reportedly paid 10% of his advance to Dr. Bruce Maccabee, a Navy physicist and long-time pro-UFO researcher, to write a chapter authenticating the photographs. ABC-TV reportedly paid Walters $400,000 for the miniseries rights. The miniseries was never produced.
MUFON stuck to their guns and provided Walters with special photographic equipment in the hope of ruling out any type of camera trickery. One of the items was a camera with four lens, which was sealed with wax to eliminate film tampering. Also a stereo Polaroid was provided which would provide investigators with a distance of the object from the camera.
He was also given a video camera. The equipment would soon bring results as Walters brought forth even more dramatic images.
Location of last UFO sighting in Gulf Breeze on Soundside Drive.
Photos courtesy of Gulf Breeze Real Estate..
Many, however, remained unconvinced, and this attitude was contagious. On February 18, and 23, 1988, Ed was given two polygraph tests by Harvey W. McLaughlin Jr. Walters passed the two polygraphs.
He also underwent psychological testing by Dan Overlade. These tests indicated that Ed had no personality problems. Ed Walters was not alone in his UFO reports as others began reporting the unidentified objects flying over Gulf Breeze. More than 30 residents of the community had come forward with sighting reports in a matter of weeks, some accompanied by photographs.
The media was also putting their reputation on the line, and the pressure was on to take one side or the other. The frenzied reports kept coming in, the geographical area of the sightings was expanding, and battle lines were being drawn.
The Associate Editor of the News Journal, Jackie Brooks, released this statement in the press, and became a controversial figure herself:
“The accounts of what people say they have seen in the skies… have some of us jeering, some cheering and some peering – hoping to catch a glimpse of an unidentified flying object. But for those who have seen the objects, the question isn’t one of belief in UFOs or whether the sightings are real. They saw UFOs. The question is: What did they see?”
Two prominent residents of the area joined the UFO believers. One was Arthur Hufford, a long time employee with Monsanto. Brooks responded thusly:
“Hufford is quiet, sober, involved, intelligent, not given to improbable visions, Hufford is a man you would trust to tell the truth. He certainly isn’t anyone you would expect to make up a story simply to impress someone or to get on the ‘bandwagon’ of UFO sighters. And his wife shared his sighting – in Pensacola, not Gulf Breeze.”
Brooks also validated a sighting by local physician Dr. Fenner McConnell:
“He is a well-known pathologist, a mature, well-respected man in the community, a physical fitness advocate and frequent runner, a devoted family man and a quiet-spoken scientist not known for extreme views or exotic notions…in other words not a person to immediately doubt when he says he saw something unexplainable in the sky. His wife also saw it.”
What were the people of Gulf Breeze and the surrounding communities seeing?
Brooks believed that she had the answer:
“For me the conclusion is that there is something out there. We can speculate on what it is, but beliefs and hypotheticals and maybes have little to do with the reality of the phenomenon. The reality is that something observed, but so far unexplained, is going on in our skies… In the midst of all the speculations and investigation, debunking and debate, we have reputable reports of UFO sightings in our area.”
The reports of UFOs continued to grow, with the numbers reaching into the hundreds. Despite this fact, a large contingency of disbelievers expressed their contempt, stating that the whole affair was a hoax and a money scam. The first crack in Walters’ reputation came with the compliments of Zan Overall, who had discovered that Walters did possess knowledge of double exposure techniques, which could account for the sensational photographs.
Though the debunkers continued their onslaught, Walters’ public mystique did not lose any of its magic. He had quickly become a local celebrity, and expanded his notoriety to the national and global scene. He made welcome appearances on such well know television programs as “Unsolved Mysteries,” and “Hard Copy.”
Because his residence at Silverthorn Road was constantly manned by members of the media, and curiosity seekers, Ed escaped by buying a new home. His previous residence was vacant just under a year before being bought by Robert Menzer. Ed, it seems, had left a few things behind in his old home, one of which was a model of a UFO! which was found by the new residents.
This information was quickly made the subject of a breaking news story by the Pensacola News Journal on June 10, 1990. In the newspaper account, Menzer was quoted as stating:
“I was going to install an icemaker, and I needed to turn off the water. I was fooling around in the attic, and I was moving insulation aside when I saw it. I never would have found it if I hadn’t been looking for the pipe.”
“The model was 9 inches long across the top and 5 inches deep. Made of “two nine-inch foam plates attached to two six-inch foam plates; a six inch square blue-color gel (plastic film) and on six inch round orange paper ring, a 3.5 inch long tube, and a 2 inch wide paper ring between the 2 nine-inch plates. There were windows drawn on the model which was covered with drafting paper. “
The material that accompanied the UFO model was easily identified as being Walters’. He was contacted about the find, and when confronted with the story, rebuked the evidence.
“Only a fool would leave behind such a piece of evidence.”
Walters further slammed the story by stating that the evidence was “planted” at his old home by one of the jealous skeptics who wished to discredit and embarrass him publicly. The plans surrounding the model were his, but were from a house deal which had fallen through two years after the first UFO photos were taken.
Walters went as far as to implicate Menzer in the conspiracy, pointing out that Menzer had not shown the model until three months after finding it. Only when a reporter had visited the residence to see Walters, (not knowing he had moved) did Menzer tell the story of the model.
Walters also claimed that he had thwarted several attempts at rummaging through his garbage, and felt that the plans themselves could have been stolen and wrapped around the model. Walters had managed to momentarily avoid a total collapse of his UFO story with these statements. This would not be the end, however, of damaging testimony.
Only a week after the Pensacola News Journal article, they followed up their first damaging story with another. One Tom Smith Jr., a teenager came forward and claimed that he could destroy Walters completely. Smith had found his way to Mayor Ed Gray and Police Chief Jerry Brown and disclosed his story. Gray and Brown were hard-core skeptics of the Walters UFO story.
Smith claimed that he had helped Walters in 1987 with the placing of a UFO model, and faking photographs. He said that Walters had taken photographs of the model and then double exposed them with pictures of the sky and background landscape shots, taking both pictures with the same frame.
Smith was also urged to take the photos to local newspapers in hope of getting them published. This would ultimately give more credence to Walters’ photos which he would then come forward with.
Smith was quoted as saying:
“He wanted me as another witness. I had about a day to think about it, and I talked it over with Ed, and I just said it was a fraud, it wasn’t real smart. I do understand a practical joke, but when I realized that he was going to go all the way through with it, I just didn’t want to hurt my father’s reputation, and I didn’t want to get in the middle of a court case.”
As Smith’s credibility was questioned, he was backed up by his father and mother who stated that they were privy to the fraudulent attempt from its inception. They had urged their son to go to the authorities with the truth, and were proud when he finally did. Another point of interest was how he described Walters’ photos of the UFO landing.
He claimed that Walters turned a trampoline upside down, and jumped on it, thus creating a hardened, depressed area. To be fair, it must be pointed out that Smith’s father was a lawyer and was running against Ed Walters for city council at the time.
This was not however, the end of the story, nor the collapse of Walters’ credibility.
The believers in Walters’ story claimed that Smith himself was trying to gain notoriety by discrediting Walters. They pointed out that the landing area had physical trace effects. The grass at the site had not shown any growth for 18 months. A soil analysis was done which showed no natural reason for the lack of lawn growth.
Smith also claimed that Walters had created the blue beam effect by peeling back the photo paper and exposing a small streak to light. Photographic experts disputed this claim by stating that it was impossible to produce such a fine line utilizing the method described by Smith. The same experts had also tried, without success, to double expose a shot using an identical camera to Walters’, a Sun 600 Polaroid.
Smith countered these attacks by bringing forth his own photographs. He then said that Walters had taken the UFO photos with Smith’s camera, and not his own. These photos were the ones that Walters had urged Smith to take to the press, and when Smith declined, Walters allowed him to keep the photos.
In a strange turn of events, photo experts examined Smith’s UFO pictures, and ironically, could find no evidence of double exposure methods. By their own standards, this would prove that Smith’s UFOs were also genuine, yet by his own admission they were faked.
The bulk of the heated discussions continued to center on the photographs. Although deemed genuine by some so-called experts, others found fault in them. After Walters released a self-published book with many of his photos included, other experts joined the parade of discredit.
One photo was the object of much of the controversy. In this photograph, the hovering object casts a reflection on the road below. (See photo at top of page)
One physicist claimed that the reflections were many times taller than they should have been. This would indicate that the reflections were suspended in the air, and not coming from the road itself. He also stated that the reflection was an incorrect one considering the shape of the bottom of the craft.
Additionally, there was too much light on the surface of the road. It should be pointed out that this conclusion depends entirely on the object being perfectly perpendicular to the road itself, and not tilted to any degree.
For several years, the MUFON group had stood behind Walters along with Navy physicist Dr. Bruce Maccabee. The large amount of criticism and controversy finally broke the resolve of MUFON, and they withdrew their support in 1990. MUFON investigators Rex and Carol Salisberry released this statement:
“We believe that UFOs exist. We entered this investigation with a natural and favorable bias toward the Walters case, but our investigation and analysis lend to the conclusion that several, if not all of the photos are probable hoaxes.”
Although Ed Walters was the hub of the Gulf Breeze sightings, he was not alone by any means. It is estimated that over 200 other citizens came forward with sightings and / or photographs during a three year period. Were they simply caught in the frenzy of the Walters photos, or were they acting independently?
We will never know the answer to this question, but each case should be independently judged. Below find other photos taken during this UFO sighting wave.
(1) (2) (3)
(1) – Art Hufford (MUFON) caught this image on film in 1991, witnessed by dozens of people.
(2) – This photograph was taken by Bland Pugh in 1993. The photo has been enhanced.
(3) – Bland Pugh took this photo in 1996 – the ring of light is very similar to Walters’ UFO
In an effort to find the answer to the controversy of the Gulf Breeze UFO mysteries, a group of locals banded together in 1990. Within the first month of operation, the group had already reported a sighting of a glowing UFO with red lights, moving in an erratic fashion through the skies until it finally disappeared.
The group would also report other UFOs in the months to come. Although the still images of Ed Walters were the highlight of the UFO wave of 1987-1990, there was also video film taken of unknown objects, and not all of these came from Walters.
The Gulf Breeze sightings are still discussed today, though most investigators view the Walters’ photos as hoaxes. This does not, however, explain all the photographs, videos, and sightings. This area in Florida is still considered a hot spot for UFO activity today, as the controversy continues.
“I was visited by officials from the Air Force, from a department which they later denied existed. There will always be people who choose not to believe, whatever the evidence suggests. Some simply refuse to accept that UFOs exist, so ultimately they brand me as a hoaxer.” (Ed Walters)
account written by B J Booth
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