Could this have been the source of the Red UFOs? (International UFO Reporter cover Mar/Apr 1992)
The red UFOs surface: September 1989 to June 1990
©Tim Printy October 2008
In mid-September 1989, Ed decided to attend a MUFON meeting in Pensacola when he suddenly noticed something unusual in the sky:
... I turned around and caught sight of a glowing, red object approaching rapidly from the east. I was suddenly staring at a boiling, glowing object that I had seen so often sixteen months before ... I opened my truck door and reached into the glove compartment for the small 110 Instamatic camera that I carry ... Still a block or so away, the object remained steady in its course ... I caught Gary Watson's attention with a wave of my hand and with an anxious look I motioned him to follow me outside ... Ascending rapidly, the UFO was now smaller but still very clear. Gary fixed his gaze on the glow and said, "Hurry, go get Don Ware." Almost as a reflex, I responded ... After a moment of study Don sent me to ask all those in the meeting hall to come outside ... The next morning the newspaper headline said, "35 Witnesses spot UFO over Pensacola." ... The article quoted Gary Watson as saying, "Something was there and we all saw it. I saw the object for the entire seven minutes. It was bright and hovered very still before it began to move up. Most of the other witnesses saw it before and as it began to enter the cloud cover. I am an experienced MUFON investigator, in fact, I instruct the training course and test the Field Inspector applicants. I saw a true UFO along with the other witnesses and those photos show what I saw." (Walters 185-7)
The term "red UFOs" was coined because of the characteristic bright red light these UFOs emitted. This event would not be the last UFO sighting of this type and it signaled the beginning of a new UFO phenomenon in Gulf Breeze.
Ed made the next red UFO sighting on January 8, 1990. While out taking a stroll with his wife, Ed spotted a red UFO hovering over a local church. Ed promptly called several local UFOlogists, Duanne Cook and Brenda Pollack. No effort was made to call television camera crews or independent reporters in Pensacola. While the UFOlogists were not at home, the Cooks and Pollacks were quick to accept the invite to see a "true" UFO:
"Oh no, look there." I pointed to our right, off to the south, where a red, boiling light glowed from beneath the black disk (see drawing H). We stood on the sidewalk, arms locked together, and watched a UFO's silent presence display itself with a pattern of rapid zigzags across the sky ... My new 35-mm camera with its 222-mm lens awaited ... I opted to leave the camera on automatic. With tripod and camera in hand I ran back outside ... Duane pulled up with his wife, Dari, and her son, Chip ... Hovering for a moment, the UFO would dash out of focus before I could lock down the tripod handle and snap the shutter. Its movement was almost impossible to follow...Finally the object paused, motionless, in my field of view, its intense glow clear and still. I hit the shutter button. After another series of dizzying movements, the UFO was still again. I shot a photo, but this time the UFO flashed off to the right while the shutter was still open ... I continued my efforts to locate and hold the UFO in the viewfinder long enough for another photo. Suddenly a ring of small lights surrounding the large red circle under the disk. I took a photo and with the ring of small lights still visible. Chip Holston also managed to take a photograph. During this time Brenda and Buddy Pollack arrived and instantly filled the air with exclamations as they watched the red glow ... Approximately fifteen to twenty minutes had passed when suddenly I could no longer see the red glow. The black disk remained ... A few moments later the black disk, highlighted against the moonlit clouds, which were at thirteen-hundred-foot elevation, vanished into the cloud clover ... (Walters 193-6)
The motion of the UFO is a point of contention since Brenda declared that it was moving about the same way Ed stated. Yet, Duane Cook described the UFO's motion as not significant, "There was a lot of excited chatter about whether it was moving or not. I could not say for sure because each time I blinked, I lost it for a few seconds and had to relocate it against the fuzzy background of the clouds ..." (Maccabee). Even with a lot of moving about in the camera viewfinders, it is still amazing that only five photographs were obtained during the nearly 20 minutes of viewing. Capturing such an event on film would have been a top priority but Ed managed only to get the bare minimum of photographs. Ed's red UFO could have been a balloon but you would never hear him or Bruce Maccabee admit it.
Analysis by Dr. Maccabee revealed many things from the photographs. The most important point is that based on the photograph, which showed the UFO "flashing" off to the right, Dr. Maccabee could calculate the size of the light. It was only 1.2 feet across! Dr. Maccabee declares that this is a lower limit and is much larger than a bulb or flare yet this seems awful small for a UFO. Of course, Dr. Maccabee assumes the light was at 1300 feet at the time. If it were at 1000 feet, the size of the light would shrink to less than a foot. One can't be absolutely certain but it seems the 1.2-foot size is not a lower limit but an upper one! The ring of lights around the red light was very close, making the size of the UFO not much larger than this. If this were a Gulf Breeze type UFO as the type visiting in 1987-8, it was a very compact version. Based on the witness drawings, it seems to be no larger than three feet across. Dr. Maccabee also made a lot of calculations for the UFO based on the streak of light captured on film. If one assumes the streak is due to UFO motion, it was taking 4gs of acceleration. This makes the huge assumption that Ed did not move the camera during the exposure. With a 222-mm lens any motion of the tripod or swiveling of the camera could have produced the streak with or without Ed knowing about it. Dr. Maccabee wrote in his summary:
On January 8, 1990 more than half a dozen witnesses watched a dark circular object (disc) with a bright center portion darting about in the cloudy sky over Gulf Breeze. The total duration of the sighting was about 22 minutes. During that time 5 photos were taken. No noise was heard associated with the object. One picture supports the witness' claim that the object could move rapidly from one location to another. The estimated acceleration was quite high (4 "g's"). The same photo shows that the color could remain constant as the object moved. On the other hand, another photo shows that the light from the object could change colors rapidly, at least as fast as 25 times per second. Two other photos show a rather large ovoid image which structure around the edges. The structure is pale greenish blue. In the central portion there appears to be red overlain by white. Size estimates based on the photos suggest that the lighted portion of the object was somewhat over a foot wide during the first part of the sighting and perhaps five times greater later on when the 'portholes' appeared. An estimate of the brightness of the object during the first part of the sighting suggests that it was putting out about as much light as a 200 watt bulb. During the time that 'portholes' were visible it may have put out as much as 25 times more light. (Maccabee)
All of these calculations are based on several assumptions that may or may not be correct. If any of these assumptions were wrong, the values obtained by Dr. Maccabee would be worthless.
After the UFO disappeared, helicopters appeared in the area with floodlights searching for something. When Ed and Vicki Lyons investigated this activity,
A Navy spokesman said there was "unusual activity over Gulf Breeze requiring deployment of search and rescue helicopters." When Vicki asked what our military was searching for she was told, "... given the nature of things that are going on over Gulf Breeze, take your best guess." (Walters 196)
This implies that the "unusual activity" was UFO related. However, if the military was responding to a balloon with unusual lighting, including a flare, this could also have triggered a response.
Dr. Maccabee added a lot of information that supposedly downplayed the hoax balloon idea for this sighting. He points out that the winds were moving at 4 mph that evening and that a tether would have caused some problems. What he fails to mention is that the 4-mph value may not have been the wind speed at the location in question. If there had been some wind, a tether could have produced the erratic motions as the balloon tugged at the line from occasional wind speed changes. His 4g calculation is his main argument against a tethered balloon but, as I pointed out, this calculation is based on the idea that camera motion was not the cause of the streak! He also dismisses the possibility because there is no evidence of the accomplice needed to pull off a stunt. The good doctor forgets that Frances was not located at the scene and would have been an obvious candidate since she had been involved with writing the book and the sightings. Just by chance, the book was to be released the following month. Despite Maccabee's protests to the contrary, there was good reason to suspect that a hoax balloon was being used as a publicity stunt to revive interest in his upcoming book.
The red UFOs did not disappear and more showed up in April and started to appear at a regular time in Gulf Breeze (around 9PM). Phil Klass writes about some other interesting characteristics about these sightings:
... on the night of April 11, shortly after 9 p.m., a red light was spotted by Ed and others which hovered briefly then moved north to south--the same direction as the prevailing wind at that hour, according to data obtained from U.S. Weather Service office in Pensacola. On the night of Friday, Apr. 13, shortly after 9 p.m., a red glowing object was seen moving from the southeast in a northwesterly direction. Prevailing wind at the time was out of the southeast at 6kt. On Tuesday, April 17, a red light was spotted headed in an easterly direction. Prevailing wind at the time was out of the southwest at 7kt. (Klass UFO Returns 1)
More importantly, is that two people called the Pensacola TV station and reported the UFO appeared to be a balloon with a red flare attached.
The characteristics of these red UFOs were consistent. Ed Walters commented on this:
In almost every sighting, the UFO departed in the same way. The red glow would fade and be replaced by a sudden flash of white, then nothing; it would be gone. But other times the brilliant red would return after the white flash. Many, many times white, yellow, or red balls of light would shoot out the UFO. (Walters 207)
The specific characteristics Ed had described did not sound like a UFO but did sound like some hoax balloons used in previous incidents in UFO history. However, these potential hoax balloons took on a unique twist in that they could be seen from far distances. The use of a road flare was suggested and many investigators began to look into this possibility. Phil Klass recorded the finding of a Florida skeptic (code named Dolphin) who burned several road flares to determine the characteristics of these flares:
... when the road flare is first ignited, it "burns with a white light for about 20 seconds, then changes to red for about 10 minutes. At that point it returns to white for the remainder of the burn." A second flare tested "returned briefly to red just before burning out." When the flare is burned upside down, Dolphin reports some blue and green emissions, possibly from burning of chemicals in the flare casing. (Klass Maccabee admits 1)
Zan Overall noted that another experimenter produced similar results:
A retired research and test director, who to avoid harassment does not want his name revealed, has conducted experiments involving burning, photographing, and recording the spectra of highway flares. He finds that the igniter at one end burns a brilliant white for a short period. A t the end of a normal burn the red light dims and turns white. Luminescent slag falls from the flare occasionally, providing the downward moving light effect. The experimenter has further demonstrated that a flare can be modified to achieve various effects. When he added the chemicals from Fourth-of July sparklers, he recreated the brilliant bursts of lights. Flares could be reduced in length for shorter burns. The use of sections of two flares would produce a white-red-white red combinations. (Overall 16)
With such characteristics evident, it seems that most, if not all, of these red UFOs were flares of some sort attached to balloons.
Dr. Maccabee states there is one red UFO that could not have been a flare on April 18, 1990. The basis for this claim is based on photographs of the UFO and direction of travel during the time. According to Dr. Maccabee, sighting lines based on a visual observation from one location and photographs from another pinpointed the direction and distance of travel. This red UFO traveled on a rough bearing of WSW at roughly 30-40 mph! This with the winds being at 6mph and coming from the NE. However, his precise calculations are somewhat flawed when he introduces the human element of the one sighting line. Mark Curtis, of WEAR-TV was driving on Shoreline drive when he saw the UFO in front of him. However, this sighting line may not be exactly in line with the road as Bruce suggests. If the line were off 10 degrees in azimuth (i.e. 65 degrees vice 75) for the initial sighting, then the UFO would suddenly be closer to the photographers, move slower, and line up more with the wind direction. Dr. Maccabee mentions problems with the measurements but is dismissive of the consequences:
These speed calculations are not exact since the exact measurements of directions, distances, and times are not available. However, they suggest that the UFO was traveling between 35 and 45 mph ...The wind was from the north-northeast at about 6mph, nearly transverse to the path of the UFO and certainly was not fast enough to account for its speed. Thus it must have been moving under its own power. (Walters and Maccabee 171)
The path of the wind for his calculated flight path is not that far off. The difference being about 50 degrees and this does not include potential inaccuracies previously mentioned. The wind speeds and direction are not measured speeds and directions taken during the sighting but data obtained at a different location (presumably from the Pensacola airport weather station). This direction and speed can shift a few degrees or mph from these values. Again, the inherent errors associated with some of his assumptions bring into question Maccabee's calculations and therefore his conclusion. According to Bruce another interesting aspect of the sighting was that, "The sound recording on the videotape confirmed that the witnesses were seeing a red light until, a few seconds before it disappeared, the light faded and turned white" (Walters and Maccabee 171). Considering the potential for error in the observations ruining the speed/direction calculations of Dr. Maccabee and the similar characteristics of the red UFO with road flares, there is no good reason to discard the hoax hypothesis for this specific event.
Throughout the spring, Ed had been making the rounds on the talk show circuit to promote his book. Ed did not want any controversy that had plagued him over the past year to appear in any of these publicity events. In several instances, skeptic/debunker Phil Klass was to appear on a television or radio show with him. When Ed bowed out of these appearances, Phil inquired as to why to Bruce Maccabee. Bruce stated that Ed did not mind appearing with skeptics but added, "Ed told me some time ago that he had told the publicity person that he didn't want to be on a show with you" (Klass For the Record 7). Ed Walters' refusal to publicly confront criticism made one wonder about how confident he was in telling his story.
Meanwhile, things in Gulf Breeze were beginning to change. The Walters' dog was dead and the Veterinarian was concerned about poisoning. Additionally, one of Ed's photo albums with high quality copies of the originals could not be found. Frances began to wonder about these events, "The album had disappeared sometime in a two-week period, most likely after Crystal had died. Was it a coincidence? As much as I wanted to think so, I couldn't" (Walters 211). Ed and Frances implied that the persons responsible for such events were "debunkers" trying to discredit the book.
With the red UFOs "sparking" interest in the book and Ed being able to dodge hard questions by Klass, it seemed all was going well for Ed. The "debunkers" had not been through with Ed and the summer would be a long hot one for Walters. New problems were about to be revealed that would shed unfavorable lighting on Ed's tale of encounters and abduction.
International UFO Reporter (Cover) . Vol 17 No. 2 (March/April 1992). 14-18.
Klass, Philip. "UFO Returns to Gulf Breeze--Under wind power." Skeptic's UFO Newsletter, May 1990.
- "For the Record." Skeptic's UFO Newsletter, May 1990
- "Maccabee admits that "Couple" of Gulf Breeze "Red-light UFOs" were balloon-borne road flares but insists that others were TRUFOS." Skeptic's UFO Newsletter, November 1991.
Maccabee, Bruce. "Not just another evening stroll". On line posting. Available WWW: http://brumac.8k.com/GulfBreeze/Jan81990.html
Overall, Zan. "The Gulf Breeze RUFOs". International UFO Reporter. Vol 17 No. 2 (March/April 1992). 14-18.
Walters, Ed and Frances. UFO Abductions in Gulf Breeze. New York: Avon Books. 1994.
Walters, Ed and Bruce Maccabee UFOs are real: Here's the proof. New York: Avon Books 1997.
Startling revelations: June-July 1990
The Ed Walters case directory
Back to My skeptical opinion about UFOs