The ghost demon photogrraph (Overall figure 2)
Ghosts, lies, and videotape: December 1988 - September 1989
Ó Tim Printy October 2008
1989 opened with a new member to the MUFON casualty list. Marge Christensen, originally placed on a leave of absence in late 1988, was forced to resign from her position. According to Marge this happened sometime after the publication of the Smith and Hall article,
At that time, I voiced similar objections to both Walt Andrus and Don Ware 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... (Christensen)
If MUFON were truly a scientific organization, they would not have complained about her conservatism. Marge would continue to be with MUFON and serve in other capacities but her influence on this matter would be significantly reduced.
In another interesting twist to the Gulf Breeze case, Dr. Willy Smith was provided with photographs of a Gulf Breeze type UFO near the Chrysler Building in NY City. This sparked a controversy between the photographer and Willy Smith. According to Manuel Fernandez, the photographer who took this experimental picture, Willy Smith sent him some pictures of the Walters yard and asked Fernandez to try and produce more hoax images. Manuel did so and then sent the images back to Smith, who, in turn, sent them to Robert Reid stating they were sent anonymously. This ended up in Antonio Huneeus exposing Dr. Smith as a hoaxer. It also came to light that Dr. Smith's resume seemed tainted. According to letter signed by Walters, Hunneeus, and Fernandez, Smith did not have a PhD in physics and did not have a master's degree in Astronomy from the University of Michigan. Dr. Smith apparently had a PhD in engineering but taught Physics in various colleges (including the University of Michigan, Lycoming College). Either there was a miscommunication on the subject in writing his resume or Smith padded his PhD. I could not resolve what really happened on this matter but it seems that, despite the accusations of Walters, Dr. Smith continued to be highly regarded in the UFO community.
Doctor Smith continued his attack on the sightings and photographs despite this apparent mistake on his part. In May of 1989, he wrote the article, "The decline and fall of American UFOlogy." Here, Smith discussed the history of CUFOS and MUFON and then specifically attacked problems with MUFON's investigation. Again, he made the point that Andrus and the local investigators were suppressing all negative evidence and giving Ed inside information so he could alter some of the particulars in his story. An example was the stories told by Nick Mock being suppressed via a smear campaign by Ed and the investigators. Again, Dr. Smith pointed out the problems that continued to plague the photographs. No independent analysis had been allowed:
Since the basic tenet of scientific investigation is duplication by independent parties, if we are to invoke science the ORIGINAL photographs have to be made available. This has not been the case, and probably will never be. Having detected many shortcomings using photographs many generations removed from the Polaroid originals, I seriously wonder what is in them that MUFON and the proponents do not want others to see. (Smith)
Dr. Smith's words about the probability that the original images would never be independently analyzed were remarkably prescient. The photographs continue to be guarded from close examination by analysts over a decade after the events described.
Meanwhile, Ed's champion, Dr. Bruce Maccabee started his defense of the Gulf Breeze case. Bruce had felt early on that Ed was just incapable of producing a hoax and his writings in the MUFON journal began to reflect his convictions on this point. Maccabee's had many reasons for Ed being incapable of pulling off a hoax. Among these were:
... I have found no evidence that Ed had either the capability or the time...The story of the sightings as told by Ed and Frances is rich in details. The story and photos make a coherent whole, which would tax the capabilities of a Hollywood scriptwriter. The complexity makes a hoax less likely than if the story were simple and therefore easy to remember (memorize)...Ed has cooperated with the investigators ... (Walters 307-8)
Probably the most important point that Maccabee wanted to emphasize was that Ed was just not bright enough to do it. In 1989, Dr. Maccabee would solidify his support for Ed. Ed had already offered Dr. Maccabee a tidy sum ($20,000) to write a chapter in the book. While one can not say that the money motivated Bruce it does appear to be a conflict of interest for a scientific investigation.
Dr. Maccabee wrote an extremely long article in the MUFON Journal answering the points raised by Hall and Smith. While Smith and Hall had a brief article of only 5 pages in length, Dr. Maccabee was given practically an entire issue of the Journal (18 pages) to express his opinion and argument. According to Willy Smith, this article was written "... skillfully dodging the fundamental issues, and containing so many errors of fact that they make a suitable response difficult, if not impossible, within the editorial constraints" (Smith). Bruce also attacked the "ghost demon" photographs, which had suddenly popped up again at the end of 1988. Dr. Maccabee mirrored the Walters claims that Nick Mock was totally unreliable. It was now obvious that his public authentication of the case now was prejudicing anything he wrote.
Despite Maccabee's and Walters' attack on his credibility, Nick Mock had decided to take matters into his own hands. Since March, he had been mostly ignored as the investigators continued to fall over each other trying to cover loose ends in Ed's story. Nick had obtained the original "ghost demon" photograph from the girl in the picture and presented it to some television investigators from Miami who were producing an expose' on the case. Hearing of the pending use of the photograph, Ed Walters threatened legal action to stop its use. Since he did not "own" the photograph (it was actually the girl's photograph since Ed had given it to her), the image was used in the program demonstrating that Walter's did know how to double expose photographs long before his initial sightings. At this point it seemed that "damage control" needed to be administered to the case. Ed quickly published a flyer only a few days later with the photograph as its evidence. The image was a poor copy taken from a television set, which showed some blobs of light next to the girl in the picture. Ed wrote in the circular:
They [the debunkers] spread a rumor that I created a double exposure of a 'ghost-demon' at a party .... Out of dozens of parties at my house and hundreds of party photographs, I'm not surprised that the 17-year-old Polaroid might have produced a flaw. It is (as explained by Maccabee) quite easy to inadvertently press the shutter and produce a double exposure or the 4 wall mirrors and sliding glass door in the room could also be responsible for a flash bounce. (Overall 3)
From this point of view it did seem to be that the image was an accident but Nick Mock was telling a different story.
The Ghost Demon image story began to "snowball" when more details started to emerge. Originally Ed and Frances implied the image had occurred in 1985. They were wrong about the date by a year. This, in itself does not mean much but it seems that they were trying to make it sound like this had happened long ago. They also seemed to imply the images were not very distinct. This was based on the poor quality of the image that was presented on the television program. Dr. Maccabee wrote in the MUFON Journal, "When I saw the actual photo (on TV) I had to laugh. It shows that Ed's recollection was correct. The 'ghost image' is just a number of bright blobs of light in a random arrangement at the left of the image of the girl. There is no definite image" (Overall 18). Despite the claims of the image as being a "foggy blur" or "blobs of light", the image was not that indistinct. According to UFOlogist Zan Overall, "On a trip to Washington, D.C., in May 1989, the author showed Maccabee a good color slide enlargement of the GD image. I don't recall him laughing at that time" (Overall 18). Overall had become interested in these images early on when the rumor of it's existence had begun to appear. When it became know he was researching the matter, he was bombarded with more negative information about Nick Mock. He was told by Walt Andrus, "Nick Mott [sic] stole this photo from the home of the girl pictured and gave it to the TV station in Miami, Fl" (Overall 42). This was not the case and the girl had given Nick the photograph when he had asked for it. Exactly, what caused Andrus to write this is unknown but it seemed that Mock continued to be a target of the "inner circle" in order to protect Ed. Luckily, the photograph had now been transferred to Bob Boyd's safekeeping away from the hands of the local investigators and Ed Walters. The Ghost Demon image was no longer a mere annoyance for Ed but a serious problem that had to be addressed.
Ed's flyer produced in December gave many possible explanations. It had been proposed by Ed's "inner circle" that the "ghostly images" he took were pictures that had been made out of focus. This fell flat when one saw the image of the Ghost Demon was in focus. What is interesting about this claim was that it showed that Ed was experimenting with his camera at one time by trying to take trick shots of people out of focus. With such an inventive individual, it is SIMPLY AMAZING that he never heard or thought of double exposure photography. Since the "out of focus" theory was blown by the image, another idea was proposed by Bruce Maccabee. Dr. Maccabee's argument was that the image was produced by a reflection off of the sliding glass door leading into the recreation room where the photograph was taken. He requested that Ed take several experimental images to prove his point. Ed took these test images with everyone having the sliding glass door behind them. Using balloons and light, Ed was able to produce blobs of light to the upper left of his subjects. Dr. Maccabee used these photographs to provide an argument, later dubbed "The North Wall Theory", that the image was an accident of lighting and not a double exposure.
Events surrounding the "ghost demon" photograph again reached a new level as summer approached. Ed was now challenged by Overall to produce the same reflections he had photographed earlier by facing the south wall of the recreation room. Ed did take the pictures but produced no reflections. In his reply, Ed did not seem to realize what Overall's intentions were. Walters proudly declared, "Surely you will not close your mind to this clear photo evidence disproving the south wall double-exposure theory. NOTHING IN THESE SOUTH WALL PHOTOS EVEN COMES CLOSE TO WHAT IS SEEN IN THE SO-CALLED 'GHOST/DEMON' PHOTOS" (Overall 21). Overall had come to the conclusion that the photographs were shown facing the south wall and not the north wall of the recreation room as proposed by Maccabee. Ed had unwittingly proven that any photographs taken towards the south wall would not produce a chance reflection. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Maccabee released a video showing his north wall theory. Dr. Maccabee's theory was based on the statements by Ed and Frances Walters who proclaimed that the Science Fair Project, which was the backdrop for the photographs, was always in the living room and not the recreation room. As a result, the photographer, who was in the recreation room, would have to photograph through the sliding glass door, resulting in the reflections needed to explain the "Ghost Demon" image. Maccabee, always the staunch defender of Ed's claims, then stated:
If there has been a fraud perpetrated at all in this affair it has been by the skeptics themselves who have created this ghost image story to cast a shadow of doubt upon Ed's character, i.e., indicating that he could be lying about being able to take double exposure photographs. And it has been proven that their argument is wrong. They should have released ... the original ghost photograph for analysis, rather than hanging on to it and making all sorts of wild claims about it. Because they did not ... it is only at this late date that we are able to prove that the ghost photo ... did not prove that Ed knew how to do double exposures and cannot be used as evidence that Ed was lying. (Overall 23)
It is interesting to note how Dr. Maccabee complains about having access to images while he jealously hid originals or quality copies of Ed's photographs from direct scrutiny. Now Maccabee/Walters had thrown down the gauntlet with their experiments and seemed to indicate that the Ghost Demon image was an accident of light and the skeptics were, as always, going out of their way to discredit this case. Overall was unconvinced and now decided to talk to the teens involved to resolve the issue. In a series of interviews that summer, Overall learned much about the parties thrown by the Walters and circumstances surrounding the photographs. He discovered that the parties were often ritualistic, had seances, and highlighted Ed's ability as a storyteller and trickster. The kids recounted numerous stories that Ed had told. Many of these tales seemed to have been made up on the spot! Frances, demonstrating that she tended to be involved with Ed's pranks, also played a part. It seemed that these parties were far from what Ed and Frances tried to present. On the night in question, Ed had predicted that one of the girls would become "chosen" and a ghost would appear in one of the images. This is completely in contradiction to the story he told where the ghost image was simply an accident. Even more devastating is that all the kids stated that the science fair project was in the recreation room and Ed was taking their picture facing the south wall of the recreation room with his back to the sliding glass door! All of these revelations not only indicated that Ed knew about double exposures but was lying about what had happened.
The theory that the photographs were taken facing the south wall became a fact when Dr. Willy Smith analyzed all the images. Using a map of the house, photographs taken by Ed, and other photographs taken of the girls that night, Dr. Smith showed that the photographs were taken facing the south and not the north wall! Additionally, the teens placed Ed in front of the sliding glass door facing towards them, meaning the glass was not even involved in the photograph. The reason for the science fair project being on a small table behind them became clear when one realized the dark background of the project would highlight the "ghostly" image. According to those involved, Ed had tried this stunt on another occasion and was unsuccessful. The reason appeared to be the background the kids were in front of hid the image. Ed then told the teens that a subsequent photograph had worked and scared the girl in question. So, not only was this an example of Ed taking pictures using double exposure, but it also showed he was improving his proficiency at the art of trick photography almost a year before the first UFO photographs were taken! Since the south wall was being photographed, the sliding glass door was not involved and this was the end of the infamous "north wall" theory proposed by Bruce Maccabee.
Zan Overall rebutted each of the arguments presented by Ed and Dr. Maccabee in his research titled Gulf Breeze Double Exposed. His arguments were sound and deserve to be mentioned (at least in part).
"The GD image is light reflected from a glass surface located behind the female subject and in front of the science fair project."
This is the essence of the "North Wall Theory" propounded by Ed and Maccabee. The evidence presented earlier showing that the camera was pointed away from the SGD destroys this theory. No such glass existed between Carol and the SFP behind her. It does not show up in the picture and would have been noted by the kids trying to figure out how Ed was doing the trick.
"The GD image was accidentally produced in some unknown or unknowable way."
The best counter to this "explanation" is to cite the evidence that the GD image was predicted by Ed; namely, the consistent testimony of the teenagers. The appropriate nature of the predicted image should be noted: a "ghost" was predicted, and this spooky figure appeared. All this is in keeping with Ed's avowed and admitted activities designed to entertain, amuse and mystify his teenage guests. "Many, many other party photos were taken, some intentionally out of focus to produce a spooky effect that delighted the teens."
"The GD image is a 'flaw' produced by the 17-year-old camera."
...If it were a flaw, it would be a serious one and should have ruined more than one picture among "hundreds"... If it were a flaw, Ed should be able to produce as evidence similar flaws on photos taken in the past under non-seance circumstances. He has not...Smith writes: "Light leaks would result mostly in white blobs, and not in the polychromatic image we have here."
"The image is an inadvertent double exposure."
Ed almost makes the author's argument here, admitting that the image could be a double exposure and quibbling only about its accidental nature.
"The image was produced by a 'flash bounce' from the four wall mirrors and sliding glass door in the room."
...Ed and Maccabee have made frequent reference to those glass surfaces in their attempts to explain away the GD photo, speaking always in non-specific terms. Now that we know the locations of the camera, subject, SFP background and the image itself, to within inches, their task becomes extremely difficult if not impossible. They must show how this "flash bounce" could occur, describing and diagramming a specific light path....In the absence of such an optical path, which the author, in all good faith, cannot devise, the "flash bounce" theory fails to establish itself
"The image is a flash bounce or some accidental trick of light projected on the science fair project."
The SFP case is wooden, probably plywood, painted black, undoubtedly creating a matte surface with very low reflectivity incapable of producing the distinct, polychromatic image we are dealing with. (Overall 31-3)
All the evidence pointed to Ed producing the Ghost Demon image through double exposure and it was not an accident of light as described by Maccabee.
With not a leg to stand on in any of their arguments, the best that Maccabee and Ed could imply was the image was an accident and the image does not appear to be a "ghost" at all. As Dr. Maccabee put it in a reply to Barbara Becker in 1997:
No one has provided a completely satisfactory explanation of that photo, although anomalous reflections from a glass wall the girl was standing next to have been suggested, as well as other photo artifacts. However, the amorphous blobs ... I hesitate to say "image"..... are NOT what one would expect from a SDE in which first a person in a mask (the ghost) is photograped in a dark room (first exposure) and then the "victim" of the ghost (the girl) is photographed (second exposure). Under these typical SDE conditions one would expect a faint but definitely identifiable image of the mask. In this case the collection of faint blobs has no definite image and is very unconvincing as a "ghost." In fact, to get a "ghost" image or any image out of these blobs is really a "Rohrshach" test for the person looking at the photo. (Maccabee)
This is Dr. Maccabee trying to the best spin possible on a bad situation. His favored "north wall" theory is now only suggested as an explanation and is no longer stated as a matter of fact. He then assumes the image is of one person in a mask but the image could be anything. It is possible that his first attempts employed somebody in a mask. However, this may not have been the case in this photograph. Recall that Ed Walters enjoyed movies and I am sure he had watched several with ghosts/demons in it where the effects showed something more impressive than someone in a mask. Ed was probably going for something a lot more effective and the image is much more fitting for something that might have appeared in the closing sequence for Raiders of the lost ark. He may have even taken the first image "out of focus" in order to increase the ghostly effect. It is clear from Dr. Maccabee's writings on this matter that everything was used to help clear Ed Walters. He apparently never talked to the teens like Overall and it seems that his only source on the matter was Ed and Frances. Dr. Maccabee's partisanship and credulity had begun to inhibit his ability as a scientist to look at this case objectively.
With the summer drawing to a close, Ed was still left with the stigma of double-exposure being the source of his photographs. With Dr. Maccabee and MUFON willfully accepting his stories and explanations, Ed still had plenty of support. Others now felt the evidence was inadequate and very suspect. Both sides of the case were dismissive of the other's point of view. No progress in resolving the issues would be made without independent analysis, which Ed's supporters seemed to be against. Meanwhile, the aliens were no longer in pursuit of Ed but a new UFO phenomenon was about to surface in Gulf Breeze. This new wave would produce more sightings, videotapes, and photographs and help reinforce the case that Gulf Breeze was a UFO hotbed.
Christensen, Marge. MUFON, 1990 - An Organization At Risk. On line posting. Available WWW: http://www.skiesare.demon.co.uk/gb+mufon.html
Maccabee, Bruce. "Commentary on Barbara Becker's 1990 paper entitled "thoughtful opinion" on gulf breeze." On line posting. Available WWW: http://www.skiesare.demon.co.uk/cbbeckeroned.html
Overall, Zan. Gulf Breeze Double Exposed: The Ghost Demon Photo Controversy. Chicago: J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies. 1990.
Smith, Willy. "The Decline and Fall of American UFOlogy". Online posting. Available WWW: http://www.skiesare.demon.co.uk/smith.html
Walters, Ed and Frances. The Gulf Breeze Sightings. New York: William Morrow and Company, inc. 1990.
The red UFOs surface: September 1989 to June 1990
The Ed Walters case directory
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