Did something happen in the skies over Gulf Breeze, Florida in November of 1987? You will have to be the judge.
Ed Walters had captured his startling images of UFOs hovering in the evening skies with his trusty Polaroid (most likely a Color Pack) camera that he frequently used on his building job sites. On his initial encounter with an alien craft he claimed he was engulfed in a blue beam that emitted from the bottom of the ship—a semi-abduction?—that incapacitated him for a short period of time. Ed’s wife at the time, Frances, became an unwilling participant and fellow observer of the strangeness in the north Florida skies. The Gulf Breeze Sentinel soon jumped on board (with the help of photos provided by Walters), having local residents and UFO aficionados frothing at the mouth of the possibilities. And then MUFON stepped in….
Everything starts with an investigation…thorough, unbiased, and hopefully objective in nature; at least that is the hope. MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network) appears to have come on to the scene with its mind already made up. At the onset of the investigation they enlisted the services of Dr. Robert Nathan to inspect Walters’ photos. Nathan found it difficult to endorse the photographs, he was somewhat skeptical about the whole affair. MUFON then assigned Field Investigators Don Ware and Charles Flannigan into the initial investigation. Their opinions and speculations (all positive) seemed to influence the UFO ride throughout its entire duration in the Gulf Breeze area, even after things had veered at a turn in the road. This endorsement from their own investigators was sweet music to MUFON’s ears. Ware and Flannigan were good soldiers for the cause.
MUFON’s founding member and International Director (a self-appointed title) Walt Andrus was a kid in the candy store. This was his moment in the sun…an opportunity to show the significance and validity of an investigative agency such as MUFON! Before the investigation even began he was proclaiming to the press:
“This is one of the most amazing UFO cases that I have investigated in the past 30 years in the United States.”
One would begin to wonder about the cases that he did investigate those past 30 years. It seems that Mr. Andrus was a man on a mission…the results of that mission he had already concluded.
MUFON’s objectivity came into question when Andrus continued his endorsing support of Walters’ account, publicly declaring that the Gulf Breeze case could be…”the most significant case in UFO history.”
You go, Walt!
However, there were general rumblings throughout the MUFON staff and even UFO advocates…rumblings that would continue for the next few years. Walt Andrus, the figurehead and representative for the MUFON organization, had already pronounced the case as authentic, even before the investigation was completed. This would later come back to haunt him.
Bob Boyd, an investigator for CUFOS (the Center for UFO Studies) and an Alabama State Director and Field Investigator for MUFON, was “concerned about how the investigators on the case (Ware and Flannigan) had become personally involved and appeared to have lost their objectivity.” He publicly released a paper entitled Failure at Science in May of 1988 addressing these concerns. This was not what Walt Andrus wanted to hear, and especially not in a public forum. MUFON responded negatively to Boyd’s accusations and put on the heat; there can be no dissension in MUFON! It was not an amicable situation when Gulf Breeze was playing host to alien visitors. Walt eventually relieved Bob Boyd of his position, citing:
“My action [regarding Boyd] was due to his spreading false and grossly irresponsible information about Ed in the name of MUFON. I would never ask anyone to resign simply because they didn’t agree with me. But we have a certain standard of responsible investigation that needs to be adhered to.”
And the circus rolled on.
The onslaught of photos that were published in the Gulf Breeze Sentinel produced predictable results—an inundation of UFO sightings. It all goes back to the mob-mentality scenario and being a part of something “big.” It seemed like any light or imperfection in the sky was a UFO…just like what Ed saw and photographed! Many commented…”it was just like the pictures in the Sentinel.” We tend to see what we want to see.
A Gulf Breeze Sentinel article kept the UFO ball steadily rolling forward, stating that a local television news reporter, Mark Curtis, stated publically of how excited he was about being a part of what experts (MUFON?) stated—“was the most well documented UFO sighting of all time!”
Ed’s second encounter happened on November 20, 1987, followed by visitations on December 2nd, 4th, and 5th. It was ramping up! There was also a new twist—the sightings were accompanied now by an audible “hum” in the air, or was it a “hum” in his head to let him know they were calling? Again, no one but Ed heard this “hum.”
Quite suddenly a photo surfaced, supposedly taken in June of 1986, which appeared to validate Ed’s UFO sightings. It was sent anonymously to the Sentinel, and to this day the author has never come forward. Coincidently, according to Ed, it was a woman named “Jane” who he claimed met with him privately. Many began to suspect that Ed Walters was the author of the photo…but certainly not MUFON.
On December 17, 1987 Ed and his wife Frances were purportedly “abducted”… validating their claim on their insistence that they had “lost time’ just after a UFO sighting. This is a common thread in alien abductions, yet no one else was a witness to this shattering event. The public, and the Sentinel, hung onto every word of their devastating experience.
Alien abduction “specialist” Budd Hopkins rolled into Gulf Breeze to personally evaluate Walters’ claims of purported kidnapping by alien entities. Apparently he became a convert, later writing the introduction of Ed’s eventual book on his experiences–The Gulf Breeze Sightings.
To strengthen their case and the direction of their investigation, MUFON formed a somewhat unholy alliance with Dr. Bruce Maccabee, an optical physicist, photographer, and UFOlogist. In the beginning courtship of Ed Walters Maccabee had some doubts, but during the time he spent with Ed he reached his own conclusions based on his interactions—Ed was just “too dumb” to have concocted a hoax; he must be telling the truth! This appears to be the basis for Maccabee’s continued support for the future years…just “too dumb!” Dr. Maccabee authored a paper on the Gulf Breeze sightings, which he presented at the 1988 MUFON Symposium, clearly stating—“…could find no convincing proof of a hoax.” Walt Andrus and MUFON rubbed its hands together and did the happy dance.
MUFON and “expert” Bruce Maccabee continued to stand by their guns—there were alien craft emerging over the Florida Panhandle! Yep…no doubt about it.
As it would turn out, Ed Walters was anything but “too dumb.”
Craig Myers, a reporter for the Pensacola News Journal, was in the beginning stages of having his own doubts. It all sounded just too good to be true, and MUFON’s undying support for a story that was, frankly, “fishy’ from day one, raised some flags. He dug a little deeper. It was odd that MUFON’s investigative team (Ware and Flannigan) were never able to verify a single one of Ed’s encounters while on stakeout with him…but continued to offer their full endorsement of the oncoming photos as proof. MUFON International Director Walt Andrus was one happy Scout. It would seem that Andrus was not receptive to any negative connotations of the validity of the encounters, and most likely Ware and Flannigan were quite aware of this, and remained the good, dedicated.troopers.
Shoreline Park (South) became a prime watch site in 1988 and for the next few years, taking on the persona of a tailgate-party. Curious onlookers set up residence each evening in the parking lot and along the shores of Pensacola Bay with coolers, lawn chairs, cameras and binoculars. The circus like atmosphere that resulted from Walters’ claims generated stories of their own, and ridiculous claims, as they often do when a mass of people is gathered for one purpose. Suddenly folk’s attention was diverted skyward. When this happens there is bound to be “things” sighted: whether a star that is mistaken for a hovering mother ship or a plane on approach for a landing that is heading directly towards you.
As stated previously, one sees what they want to see.
Walt Andrus wrote in an August issue of the MUFON Journal during that period—“The overwhelming evidence is in (cheesy photos and garbled recollections!?). Gulf Breeze is indeed one of the most incredible cases in modern UFO history.”
There continued to be dissension in the MUFON ranks. Marge Christensen, then Public Relations Director for MUFON, started on her own path of self destruction when she stated—“Walt seems bound and determined to make this case a cause célèbre….” Her days became numbered.
Edward Grey, the mayor of Gulf Breeze, soon grew tired of the carnival that had engulfed his formerly peaceful town, stating bluntly—“Ed is a heck of a nice guy, very charming, but it is totally consistent with his personality to pull off a stunt like this.”
Dr. Willy Smith and Richard Hall noted in their MUFON Journal article that a shift of focus had occurred: from the Gulf Breeze sightings, to MUFON becoming the center of attention:
“Until independent photo analysis work is completed and reported, the supposedly supporting evidence systematically analyzed, and the central questions answered, skepticism about Gulf Breeze is entirely justified. Unfortunately, Ed and his wife now are publishing a book. They are receiving the help and cooperation of Donald Ware, Budd Hopkins, and Bruce Maccabe, whose minds appear to be made up. Although they are close to the case and may be right in their judgment, this approach departs drastically from long-established scientific procedure (including published MUFON procedure). It is all the more reason for careful, continued outside investigation and analysis of the key aspects of the case, including the integrity and motivation of the main witness.”
Ed Walters was not feeling the love, and concerned over the mounting flak of his UFO reports, chose to participate in a self-sponsored polygraph (lie detector) test, but… with an examiner of his own choosing. The examiner, it turns out, was not a member of any professional polygraph association and the questions were found to be worded in such a fashion to preclude any failure. He passed, and that was good enough for Ed! He never submitted to an independent polygraph from an accredited organization.
Walters claimed the public attention combined with the constant media hounding was getting a little too much. As a building contractor it was his practice to build a home, live in it for a short time, and then move on to the next. In the fall of 1988, feeling the pressure of the intrusion to his privacy, he put the home on Silverthorn Road…the home on the street where he had had his first initial UFO experience…up for sale. The Walters moved on. The home was bought in 1989 by Robert and Sarah Menzer, who were apparently oblivious to what had happened there. One would guess that would end Ed’s involvement with the home; but it didn’t. In 1990 reporter Craig Myers would discover startling revelations in the former Walters’ homestead that would create a proverbial twist in the road for the Gulf Breeze sightings.
MUFON Public Relations Director Marge Christensen went on a “leave of absence” in late 1988. She was trying to hang in there, but it was a rocky road. After the publication of the Smith and Hall article in the MUFON Journal she had become vocal:
“At that time, I voiced similar objections to both Walt Andrus and Don Ware (one of the two investigators on Walters’ case) to no avail. Both of them responded that they felt that these sightings were proof of extraterrestrial visitation. They accused me of being too conservative, and Walt Andrus then announced the appointment of a new Director of Public Relations to replace me.”
In 1990 Christensen excepted the inevitable and officially removed herself from the MUFON organization, explaining:
“In my opinion, it is bad enough that trained investigators, including a respected optical physicist and photoanalysis expert, and a former USAF Col. were totally deceived by a con-man such as Ed Walters. However, it is worse yet that these same trained investigators rushed to judgment and made such rash claims not only publicly, but in print. Moreover, these statements were made by these persons not merely as individuals, but as MUFON officers and investigators. Is this serious, scientific investigative methodology? Hardly. Furthermore, making these statements as MUFON representatives is a direct violation of the MUFON public information policy guidelines.
In short, the party’s over and it’s time for the charade to end. Let’s face the facts. MUFON is not a serious, scientific research organization. Rather it has become nothing but a pop club for people with the mutual interest in reading good stories about UFO cases. In my opinion, it will not be possible for MUFON to be in reality a serious, scientific research organization unless there is new leadership of the organization. Since that appears to be extremely unlikely, I see no alternative but to resign from the MUFON Board of Directors and to resign the post of Director of Public Education at this time.”
Ouch…but you go girl! Christensen was right in everything she said, but particularly about the leadership at the topmost level, and Walt Andrus was going nowhere anytime soon!. He must have wiped the perspiration from his brow, straightened his tie, and went forth to rally the troops. There was no option of diverting from his path…only to strengthen it and move forward.
Going forward proved to be a rocky road!
Next: It’s not easy being Ed…his downward spiral & model found; tug of war between the skeptics & MUFON; the “Bubba” enigma; questions, questions, and more questions; MUFON moonwalks like Michael Jackson.
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