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Get your smirks out now, if you must. Now, let’s be serious.
Thirty years ago this fall, sleepy Gulf Breeze was gripped by a UFO phenomenon that became national and international news. The “Gulf Breeze Sightings,” as they came to be known, became some of the best-known UFO sightings in history, and the lore from that frantic fall of 1987 is still debated today.
The Gulf Breeze Sightings were referenced on “The X-Files,” studied by The History Channel and other cable programs, and dissected and argued on Internet sites galore.
Most dismiss the UFO photos at the center of the Gulf Breeze Sightings as a hoax — most, but not all — yet so many others at the time also claimed to see unexplained flying craft in the Gulf Breeze area — so close to both Pensacola Naval Air Station and Eglin Air Force Base, of course.
Here’s what happened in a very small nutshell. (It’s a convoluted case.):
Ed Walters, a Gulf Breeze building contractor, began producing photos of UFOs he claims he took in his front yard on the evening of Nov. 11, 1987. The photos show a well-defined craft shooting a blue beam toward him. Walters claims to have seen and photographed UFOs on various occasions during the 1987 fall and winter.
It became big news. Soon, dozens of people were claiming to see UFOs over Gulf Breeze, including a few local Gulf Breeze politicians, and dozens more would flock to Shoreline Park in Gulf Breeze and other nearby locales to hunt the skies for UFOs.
Walters’ photos were considered by some at the time to be some of the best photographic evidence of UFOs ever. But right from the beginning, many were skeptical and various inconsistencies emerged with Walters’ story, including claims of alien contact.
Under scrutiny heavy, Walters moved and in 1990, the owner of his old house found a model of a “flying saucer” wrapped in old drafting paper in the attic. The model was made out of foam pie plates, cardboard, paper and tinted plastic gel. Walters claimed the model was planted, but most thought — and still think — Walters’ photos were a hoax. (There were witnesses who alleged knowledge of the staged UFO.) News Journal photographers used the model to stage their own UFO models that seemed identical to the ones taken by Walters.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but “hoax” seems to be the predominant opinion, even among many UFO enthusiasts and researchers.
“I really don’t have a good opinion on whether they’re faked or not,” said George Williams, state section director of the Florida Mutual UFO Network in Tallahassee, and field investigator who has investigated the Gulf Breeze sightings extensively. “There was so much controversy about it and MUFON went back and forth about it for years. … But he made a model and buried it in the installation? That just doesn’t sound right, but I don’t know.”
Williams said he is considering scheduling a local discussion later in the fall about the Gulf Breeze Sightings — though many on the Internet use “Gulf Breeze ‘Sighting'” or “Gulf Breeze UFO Hoax” to describe the events of fall 1987.
But no matter the Walters photos, Williams said Gulf Breeze and Pensacola remain a “UFO hotspot.”
“We still get reports of interesting stuff in the area,” he said. “And in 1987, you had hundreds of people besides Walters reporting sightings. it’s always been an interesting area.”
If you have memories of UFO chasing or watching or believe you saw a UFO during the fall of 1987 — or really, any time, because we’re interested in those stories, too — send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have photographs, all the better.