Legends, Hoaxes and the Big Lie: Fallout Interwoven with Speculation
Abduction writer Budd Hopkins studied Mr. Ed [Walters], and determined that (you guessed it) the Florida contractor had been abducted by little aliens, who needed to learn about human emotions. Media reaction ranged from skepticism to outright laughter. Some veteran ufologists resigned from MUFON, and went back into the ranks of what Dr. Hynek had once called The Invisible College. Skeptics like Philip Klass, who had a field day with these absurd claims, were elated when it was revealed that the ‘pillar of the community,’ Mr. Ed., had several brushes with the law in years past.-
--Jacques Vallee, RevelationsThe Gulf Breeze sightings received a lot of publicity in their day, and many die-hard I-wanna-believe ufologists jumped on the story thinking that everything was as it seemed: a solid citizen who only reluctantly came forward out of concern for his community gained solid evidence of not only alien visitation but of abduction as well. This validated the experiences of other Gulf Breeze residents, for they too had seen UFOs. It also seemed to validate the mission of MUFON and other ufology groups, who for years cried to scoffing ears “SOMETHING’S OUT THERE!” Many joined the Ed Walters bandwagon early on, perhaps because of naivete, perhaps because their will to believe superceded their obligation to think.
The subsequent intrigue of the Gulf Breeze Six gives us reason to suspect that the Gulf Breeze incident represented something larger, something more sinister. In many respects, Walters’ photographs, the sightings and the curious behavior of the Army with respect to the GB6 all seem consistent with a military PSYOP designed to achieve several objectives: (1) the obfuscation of actual UFO activity; (2) the discrediting of MUFON and other UFO groups; (3) the dismantling of MUFON; and (4) establish an occult (or religiously themed) narrative for future propaganda.
Hundreds of people in Gulf Breeze, Florida really did see cigar and disc-shaped craft (which they affectionately dubbed ‘Bubba’) during this time, and continue to do so to the present day. I believe that Ed and Frances Walters saw these as well. Moreover, I’m inclined to think that some of their photographs were genuine, unfaked and unstaged, specifically the ones taken with the sealed Nimslo 3D camera given to them by Robert Reid. After all, those photographs were not spectacular, unambiguous shots of a flying saucer similar to Ed’s model, but rather the same fuzzy vague shapes that everybody else photographs. Also, after waiting several weeks, they took those in a park where many people had seen unusual aerial phenomena. That’s odd. Before they got the sealed camera, the ETs were showing up like clockwork on the Walters' porch. This leads me to believe that although he felt adept enough to double expose a photograph with any camera, Ed didn’t think that he could tamper with a sealed camera and get away with it. So he went to a place where people saw UFOs and waited until he could finally get authentic, though unspectacular, pics.
When massive and substantial evidence in the form of witness statements, photographic analysis, and such artifacts as the “smoking model” (as Charles put it) thoroughly and convincingly proved that Waters perpetrated a hoax, everything else produced by Walters appeared similarly fraudulent. Likewise, the whole rash of UFO sightings seemed bogus.
Looking back, people reported the U2 and the Stealth bombers, two weird looking aircraft, as UFOs, which alerted even the dumbest foreign agent that the US had some new war toy it wanted to play with. Thus, if the USAF wanted to run some test flights of weird-looking experimental aircraft that it knew the public would report as UFOs, then discrediting all the sightings as the hoax of a single individual would send up one helluva smokescreen.
Walt Andrus and Dr. Maccabee (who’s still defending Walters) of MUFON obviously lost a lot of credibility over the Gulf Breeze hoax, as did the organization itself, not to mention other UFO research groups. But what arguably hurt more is that the Gulf Breeze incident divided ufology. The Center for UFO Research (CUFOS) broke ranks with MUFON’s enthusiasm in a paper titled “Gulf Breeze: The Other Side of the Coin,” which indicated probable fraud. Within MUFON, Alabama investigator, Bob Boyd, disputed the veracity of the Walters photos in another paper titled “Failure of Science,” in which he expressed concern that MUFON officers were losing their objectivity. Andrus saw the article as heresy, and asked Boyd to resign, which he did. Another top MUFON investigator, Dr. Willy Smith, wrote “The Gulf Breeze Saga,” which criticized the investigation. He wound up resigning too.
Tim Printy and others who have written about this case have pointed out how MUFON really showed its behind in its dismissive treatment of Rex and Carol Salisberry. The Salisberrys did an impressive job of reviewing the model, the witness statements, the paid-for polygraph evaluation, and other evidence. They were the ones who affirmed the integrity of Nick Mock, the teenager who said he watched Walters double expose a Polaroid, and then proved it by providing the picture. It was they who found the president of the Florida Polygraph Association, Billy Rakes, who concluded the lie-detector test Walters had passed was virtually useless.
On 9 September 1990, the Salisberrys alerted Andrus that the Walters case was probably fraudulent. When the MUFON head gave them the cold shoulder, they decided to speak directly to the press. Andrus responded by issuing a press statement of his own, saying, “They [Mr. And Mrs. Salisberry] do not have grounds to arrive at that conclusion until it is submitted to us,” as if MUFON actually spoke with some kind of civic or academic authority.
For Marge Christensen, MUFON’s director of public relations, the putdown of the Salisberrys was the last straw. She resigned, stating:
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 judgement 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.The year 1990 would prove eventful for the Gulf Breeze story. Not only were its primary investigators finding it a hoax (amid national publicity that MUFON brass eagerly welcomed); not only did Walters and Dr. Maccabee have a new book out on the sightings; not only did MUFON stage its annual convention in the town; but six AWOL soldiers from military intelligence converged on the scene. Dr. Vallee, for one, did not see the conflux of these events as necessarily meaningless synchronicity, especially when you recall that the UFO hysteria began with Walters’ hoax:
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.
Is it plausible that six smart soldiers (they may have been deluded, but they clearly demonstrated that they were not stupid) would have taken such a radical step as desertion purely on the basis of telepathic impressions? Is it not more likely that the messages about Armageddon and the salvation by UFOs came to them through the same secure channel they were using in their work, a channel which, by definition, would be above suspicion of tampering? Should we conclude that US military communications channels may have been compromised by one or more cults with extreme beliefs, and with the willingness to exploit the naiveté of the ufologists to further their own goals?If you’re wondering to which goals Dr. Vallee’s referring, he offered a few potential ones. He saw a similarity between Gulf Breeze and:
...other attempts to create and manage high-demand groups based on the belief in alien abduction. If the reader follows my line of reasoning to this point, then he is led to a final question: who could have the bizarre motivation and the highly compartmented knowledge to access an encrypted network, and to target these six soldiers to send them on such an absurd mission? Was it an exercise of the same genre as...Bentwaters, a project that played games with the gullibility of believers in order to test the feasibility of deception within a vital element of the armed forces? And is the American public the target of that deception?Here, one can easily speculate a complete narrative that began with the US Air Force testing of experimental aircraft, and ended with The Gulf Breeze Prophecies, a book published by Spec. Vance Davis and Sean D. Morton. Vallee doesn’t exactly tell us what Walters’ “brushes with the law” were, and I have yet to find them, but let’s suppose what might have happened if Ed committed a serious infraction. In exchange for his continued freedom and prosperity, he cooperates with the USAF officials, who persuade Police Chief Brown to let Ed go on unspecified National Security grounds.
The USAF has had a problem with local citizenry buzzing about UFOs when they’re flying their new planes, which in itself is a national security risk should enemies of the US correctly interpret the sightings as a technological upgrade. So they enlist Walters to put on a good, but ultimately disprovable hoax.
Some, like Chief Brown, knew right away something was up because they knew Walters and didn’t trust him. A number of teenagers in Gulf Breeze already knew him as a prankster, who had already performed shenanigans in front of them. These personal connections, in conjunction with the discovery of a model and the eventual proof of photographic fakery, would ultimately provide enough information to discredit Walters.
Through the Pentagon, the Air Force might have persuaded allies in the Navy and CIA, not so much to dictate a course of action to Dr. Maccabee, but rather encourage his belief in the veracity of the Walters photos, despite evidence to the contrary. This fostered a schism within MUFON, with other UFO research organizations distancing themselves from it. Were the ufology community sufficiently splintered, then it would have a tougher time in its mission to unravel the UFO mystery, especially if that mystery had a covert military genesis.
Somewhere along the way, maybe someone thought that the Gulf Breeze okidoke (as Dave Emory likes to call it) might be useful in forming the basis for psychological operations. As I have noted earlier in this series in the Nayirah story, US intelligence already knew of Saddam Hussein’s impending strike on Kuwait by July 1990, the month that the Gulf Breeze Six vanished. So GB6's prophecy might not have come from God, Saphire or an Ouija board, but rather from the same intelligence channels that reported to Ambassador Glaspie.
Some of the other predictions are rather lame. I don’t have to be a psychic, for example, to predict earthquakes in areas prone to them.
Although most of the predictions made by the Gulf Breeze Prophecies never came to pass, it’s interesting to note the types off things they entail: riots in Los Angeles, CA in 1992; the destruction of New York by 1998; the enactment of martial law in major US cities because of epidemic race riots; an increase in terrorist activity beginning in 1995, and so on.* These are events that would have come about due to human agency. Moreover, such events would foster public support for a suspension of constitutional rights in deference to a martial police state. As we saw, in the wake of 9/11, the public, repeatedly told that it had to choose between civil liberties and security (in the form of an increased police/intelligence/military presence, direction and surveillance in their lives), often chose the latter.
Kinda makes you wonder if someone might have planned to put on one or more of these events in order to increase public anxiety and xenophobic paranoia. If so, the Gulf Breeze Prophecies, themselves created by the disappearance of the Gulf Breeze Six, could bolster support among the conservative fundamentalist Christian factions the GB6 claimed to be a part of. After all, these organizations have certainly made their presence known over the past three decades. One can neither doubt nor dismiss their political actions during that time, just as many couldn’t doubt the kind of influence they could wield over such admittedly like-minded politicians as George W. Bush. Supporting the validity of these prophecies even more was the Army’s handling of the Gulf Breeze Six case. Their dismissal of the charges, and the honors given to the Six gave the distinct impression that they acted under orders. To more reactionary segments of US society, the dismissals suggest that they actually did find and kill the anti-Christ. Why else would the Army let them go? Why else would Sen. Dole get involved?
Of course, all of that is not only speculation, but speculation off the deep end. I don’t expect the reader to believe it, for I don’t buy it either. But here’s one thing I can say about it: I would bet a couple of bucks that it’s closer to the true story of Gulf Breeze UFOs than the ones we’ve been given.
*One could construe only two of those prophecies to have come true: the 1992 Rodney King riots, and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.