Prominent UFOlogist Dr. Willy Smith began to doubt the Walters story (Photo from the Miami UFO center)
Sightings wane, doubts rise: March to May 1988
Ó Tim Printy October 2008
Realizing that there seemed to be a growing opinion that the photographs were possible double exposures, Ed felt it was time to buy a new camera. Instead of buying a 35mm, where his images could be scrutinized by a photo lab and the potential for double exposure still possible, Ed decided to go for something simple. He purchased a Polaroid that ejected the picture right away and thus, preventing double exposures. Unfortunately for Ed, it is still possible for this type of camera to double expose. All one has to do is prevent the film from ejecting. While this is difficult, it is not impossible. Armed with his new camera, Ed waited for the UFOs to reappear to prove he was not doing double exposures.
The day after he purchased the camera, Ed had another sighting and photographed the UFO with the new camera. The shot, like the photo shot the night he was out with Duane Cook, showed streaks indicating rapid motion. Ed was ecstatic and called Maccabee about the results but was reluctant to publish the images in the paper. Maccabee suggested he get a second camera to take stereo images of the UFO. Ed was able to obtain a second camera from Duane Cook and went to work generating a stereo camera system. The next time a UFO appeared, Ed was going to try out the new arrangement, which could accurately determine the size of and distance to the UFO.
On March 12th, Ed got a call from a witness he called "Jane". Jane's photographs had appeared in the Gulf Breeze paper early in December with the explanation that it was taken back in 1986. She made several remarks to Ed but did not want to come forward. "Jane" also stated she had thrown away the negatives and did not want her family to find out about her involvement. Ed consoled her and was very understanding to her plight. "Jane" never called back and her actual identity still remains a mystery.
Ed had already been going out with his stereo camera in order to photograph the UFO for several days with no luck. On the evening of the 17th, he received an invitation from the Cook's to go UFO watching with them. Shortly after hanging up the phone, Ed felt another "signal" in his head and knew this was going to be a good night to get out and attempt to photograph the UFO. Ed arrived at the park before the Cooks and began setting up the camera. In order to shield the winds, he placed several pieces of plywood around his camera. When the Cooks and others arrived, Ed wanted to make sure that everyone knew he wasn't using a loaded pack of film. He opened up two new packs of film and exposed the first photograph for all the witnesses to see. For sometime, everyone waited for the UFO to appear but there was no UFO. By 10 PM, the temperature was dropping and everyone was getting tired. It was decided by the group to leave Ed and Frances alone so the UFO might appear. As soon as everyone left, Ed felt another "buzz" inside his head. Ed explains what happened next,
... About four minutes later I glanced southwest and saw the UFO wink in. I jumped for the camera and turned the tripod control handle. My heart was pounding and my legs felt suddenly weak. I kept saying, "There it is! There it is!" I fumbled for the shutter buttons and shot the photographs (photos 36L and 36R). The double flashes lit up the trees in front of the camera. When I looked up, the UFO was still there for a few more seconds, then it winked out. The time was 10:10PM. The whole sighting had lasted only about ten seconds ... I dashed down the path between the trees to the parking lot to use my truck headlights to view the photographs. As I emerged from the trees, I saw Duane and Dari in their car and waved at them to come over ... I hurried to the front of the truck to hold the pictures in the beam from the headlights. The UFO was still developing on the film as we all huddled around in silence. Then, in a burst of exhilaration, there were people I didn't know running around us saying, "Oh no, I can't believe I missed it ..." (Walters 236).
The photographs are considered good evidence in Ed's favor but it is often forgotten that he was left alone (with the exception of Frances) for 5-10 minutes. Also important to note is that none of the witnesses in the park saw anything unusual because, amazingly, the place where the camera was setup was the only area the UFO could be viewed from inside the park. The only person to see anything was Brenda Pollack who was driving towards the park at the time. She reported seeing a UFO as she drove home from Pensacola. This UFO then proceeded to the southwest over Gulf Breeze. Did she see the same UFO? Considering that Ed stated it "winked in and out" in a matter of 10 seconds, it is not likely. He also stated it came from out of the southwest, while Brenda's UFO was traveling from northeast to southwest over town. Ed's proponents feel this sighting was a confirmation of one of Ed's photographs but, upon closer examination, this appears to not be the case. Dr. Maccabee would later analyze Ed's stereo images with the following conclusions:
Using the same method that I used on the test photos and assuming that the divergence of the lens axes was still about six tenths of a degree on March 17th, I found that the distance to the object was over 3,000 feet. Unfortunately, the cameras were not rigidly mounted to the supporting board, so they could have twisted slightly when Ed carried the camera to Shoreline Park., and this would have changed the divergence slightly. A calculation based on the unlikely assumption that the lens axes were exactly parallel yielded a distance of 180 feet. Assuming that handling made only slight changes in the camera orientations, the divergence was probably between 0 and 0.6 degrees on March 17th, and therefore the distance would have been between 180 and 3000 feet. I could not be sure exactly how far away the object was, but the distance was sizable ... The width of the image on the film (0.024 radians) corresponds to an object width of about 4.8 feet at 200 feet and to a proportionally greater width at a greater distance (e.g., 7.2 feet at 300 feet). (Walters 290-1)
Note the problems with the board and cameras being unstable. Although Dr. Maccabee felt these pictures were significant, it seems there is a large room for error in the calculations and he has to make a lot of assumptions. The photographs, at best, suggest an object far away. However, due to the problems with the arrangement, the calculations were not that accurate. Ed would need to get a better stereo shot with a more stable setup to obtain accurate data.
Ed did not have to wait long for his next stereo attempt. On March 20, Ed received a UFO message to "Zeehaas" while brushing his teeth. His camera was setup in his backyard and he promptly went outside. The same UFO that showed up on the 17th appeared again. Ed took his pictures but did not record both images simultaneously. The UFO left only a few seconds later. Ed wrote, "I can only conclude that the beings aboard the craft knew the importance of the photos and wanted the investigators to have the best photographic proof they could" (Walters 242). If this were the case, wouldn't they show up when others were present so everyone could take a picture? Ed's second stereo attempt also had some anomalies associated with it. Because of Ed's slow response on the second shutter, the divergence was very small. Dr. Maccabee realized he had a problem. Based on his calculations, "The angular width of the UFO image is only about 0.022 radians, corresponding to about 3 inches at 10 feet, about 6 inches at 20 feet, about 9 inches at 30 feet, 7.5 feet at 300 feet, and so on. Therefore I had to consider the possibility that these photos were of a model" (Walters 293). Dr. Maccabee noted that the left-hand image had some branches from a bush in front of the power ring. These branches were some twenty-two feet away from the camera. He also concluded that the pine tree some sixty feet away also was obscuring the UFO and dimming it. From these pieces of information, Maccabee states the UFO must have been 300 feet away, therefore making the UFO 7.5 feet diameter. It appears that the good doctor is working backwards in his calculations. He assumes the UFO had a certain diameter and then made his distance computation. Bruce never gives a good reason that the UFO was not closer. If it had been only 60 feet away, the dimension of the UFO would have been a meager 18 inches making it likely that this was a model. Again the stereo images were not adequate proof because of the problems with the camera setup.
As Ed continued to try and get the perfect stereo image, critics began to voice their concerns about Ed's photographs and various aspects of the investigation. Bob Boyd, an investigator for the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) had become vocal about problems he saw with the images. Boyd, who was also a MUFON investigator for the nearby state of Alabama, was becoming concerned about how the investigators on the case had become personally involved and appeared to have lost their objectivity. Additionally, CUFOS was becoming very concerned about this case being revealed by skeptics to be a hoax. They had learned from an English event in 1970, where UFO groups presented images as "authentic" that were hoaxed by skeptics. They were quick to point out that in all of UFO history prior to this event, the only witnesses able to get multiple photographs on different dates were usually found out to be hoaxes or were highly suspect as hoaxers. Boyd's observations added that the UFOs looked too "hokey". Another investigator, Ray Stanford, an experienced investigator of UFO reports including the Zamora UFO case in New Mexico, also began to find anomalies in the photographs that could not be readily explained. Faced with this information and concerns, CUFOS released a special bulletin titled, Gulf Breeze: The Other Side of the Coin, which stated the case was a probable hoax. The Walters were livid about the paper and Ed referred to the group as a bunch of "debunkers". This is somewhat ironic since CUFOS had often reserved such "name calling" to skeptics like Phil Klass. MUFON also responded negatively to CUFOS and there was a lot of bickering between the two organizations. Meanwhile back in Gulf Breeze, more bad news surfaced which cast a negative light on the case.
On March 20th, a teenage witness, named Nick Mock, surfaced stating that Ed had on at least one occasion produced a "ghost" photograph at a party that appeared to be a double exposure. This is something Ed had denied he knew how to do. Nick also declared that Ed had been discussing the conduct of the "ultimate prank". Bob Boyd had heard about Nick through one of his sources and convinced Nick to come forward for an interview with investigators. During the interview, Nick gave Don Ware a list of teens that attended the parties so Ware could follow-up on the matter. Instead of interviewing the local teenagers, Ware went to Ed and asked about the situation. Ed denied that he took any double exposures again and made the statement that he often took photographs of the kids out of focus to produce "ghost-like" images. Both he and Frances stated that the "ghost" photograph in question was an accident that had mysteriously appeared in a photograph sometime in 1985. Ed added, "...this boy had been banished from our home and parties because of undesirable behavior, which he refused to change..." (Walters 244). Later, Ed would add the charge that Nick had been vandalizing his son's car and Walt Andrus implied that he had a criminal record. This would be denied by Mock and later investigators would discover that "... he has no criminal record and there is no proof that he did any of the things he was accused of during the course of the investigation: damaging Danny's car; writing hate mail, using drugs, being a bad influence" (Randle 70). Instead of addressing the issues raised by Nick Mock, Ed went out of his way to smear him and used his close relationship with the investigators to diminish the importance of this evidence.
In addition to the CUFOS report and Nick Mock revelations, others began to voice concerns within MUFON's objectivity in this case. It would not be long before Walt Andrus would declare the Gulf Breeze case could be "the most significant case in UFO history" (Speiser). Meanwhile, personnel inside of MUFON besides Bob Boyd began to express the same concerns as CUFOS. Dr. Willy Smith had begun to look skeptically at the photographs and the entire story,
My initial hopes that the Gulf Breeze sightings could be the case solving the UFO phenomenon were short-lived. When I visited Mr. Ed's house (March 19, 1988) I started to notice discrepancies that puzzled me. As an example, Mr. Ed had claimed to have heard involved conversations in Spanish inside his head during some of his experiences; yet it was evidence that his knowledge of that language was at best rudimentary, and in fact he was unable to reproduce for the me the alleged dialogue. (Hall and Smith)
Ed's response to the Spanish language problem was, "I speak "countryside" or "street" Spanish, which I picked up during the approximately four and a half years I lived in Costa Rica" (Walters 318). This response seems weak at best but it was not only the Spanish problem that had piqued Dr. Smith's skepticism. The overstating of the case by Andrus began to send rumblings through the MUFON staff and prominent UFOlogists. After all, the investigation had not been completed and Andrus was pronouncing the case authentic. UFOlogists began to wonder if they weren't involved in an organization that was more interested in "Tabloid" headlines than scientific investigation.
Answering the skeptics/debunkers took a lot out of Ed and Frances during the month of April and they experienced no new sightings or "buzzing" during most of the month. Bruce Maccabee had noted the rate of sightings being reported had begun to fall off. It appeared that the UFOs would finally leave Ed alone. However, late in April, Ed was able to see one of the Nimslo-type UFOs flying about. Apparently, the UFOs had not left completely. After Budd Hopkins had made a brief visit to Gulf Breeze, Ed and Frances began to go out to the park again. By the end of the month, Ed was going out every night in an effort to see and photograph the UFO.
Ed finally got his wish on May 1st, 1988, when he had his final close encounter. Thanks to Dr. Maccabee's advice, Ed had improved the stereo camera and had set it up in the park. Initially, the UFO did not appear and Ed began to get frustrated. He yelled for the UFO to end the whole affair. As if on cue, the UFO appeared:
My attention was mostly toward the right, to the area in the southwest where the UFO had winked in on March 17th., but as I turned my head to the left, there it was. The glow from the bottom was intense, and the small top light was again clear. The midsection was much darker, but I could still see several small lights around the middle ... I took a quick breath to steady myself and swung the tripod around to aim the SRS camera toward the UFO ... I fired the shutter buttons and took photos 38L and 38R When I looked back up, the craft was still there, but off to the right and a little bit higher was another array of lights. It looked very similar to the object I had photographed with the MUFON camera ... In a fraction of a section my eyes caught the glow of the UFO about thirty-five feet above me. I flinched, and my right hand squeezed the shutter button, resulting in photo 39. Then, with the UFO just above the small oak tree, my eyes went completely white, just as if a flashcube had gone off in my brain ... The next instant I was lifting my face and chest up off the sand at the edge of the water. My head pounded, and as I tried to stand, I stumbled in dizziness ... I checked my watch and couldn't believe the time. It was 2:25 AM. What had happened to the hour and fifteen minutes between taking the photographs and finding myself on the beach? (Walters 263)
Ed had another set of photographs to show Dr. Maccabee but, more importantly, Ed was abducted again. This time, the device that put the "buzz" in Ed's head apparently was removed. With the removal of the "device" and departure of the UFO, the experiences that Ed had for the last half-year was over.
Dr. Maccabee was ecstatic of photos 38L and 38R because, this time, Ed apparently got everything right. Not only did he record the UFO but he also recorded the small probe. Dr. Maccabee wrote:
I calculated that the object with the bottom ring was about 475 feet away and about 150 feet above the water of Santa Rosa Sound. The height of the UFO from the bottom ring to the top light was about 15 feet. The diameter of the bottom ring was also about 15 feet...The other, "Nimslo type" UFO was only about 132 feet away at an altitude of about 120 feet. Its maximum length from the vertical "tail" at the left to the right end of the horizontal line of light was only about 2.5 feet. (Walters 300)
These images became one of the cornerstones of the "Ed defense" as the years passed.
Now that the sighting wave was officially over for Ed, the analysis of what had happened would become the focus of UFO groups/investigators for a long time. UFOs would reappear in the coming years and he would still photograph and videotape them but not at the rate he had done during the past seven months. MUFON's desire to find a case that would prove UFOs were actually alien spaceships would blind them into accepting anything that was said or found to support Ed Walters claims.
Hall, Richard and Willy Smith. "Balancing the Scale: Unanswered Questions About Gulf Breeze". MUFON UFO Journal. September 1988 3-7.
Randle, Kevin. The Randle Report: UFOs in the 90s. New York: M. Evans and Company inc., 1997
Speiser, Jim. "Gulf Breeze Feud Heats Up" Inside UFOlogy. Paranet online newsletter May 6, 1988.
Walters, Ed and Frances. The Gulf Breeze Sightings. New York: William Morrow and Company, inc. 1990.
Charges and countercharges: June 1988 to January 1990
The Ed Walters case directory
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