Balancing the Scale: Unanswered Questions About Gulf Breeze

aHall, R. H. & Smith, W. 1We wish to acknowledge contributed materials, suggestions, and commentaries particularly from Bob Boyd, and also Zan Overall, Wait Webb, Ray Stanford, Richard F. Haines and Murge Christensen.b: MUFON UFO Journal n° 248, décembre 1988

Richard Hall, former Journal editor and presently MUFON’s director of publications, is the author of the recently released UFO Study, Uninvited Guests (Aurora Press). Dr. Willy Smith maintains UNICAT, a computerized catalog of UFO reports.

Authors' Notes

My initial reaction to Gulf Breeze was one of extreme skepticism (not of the "Psycop" variety, but genuine doubts based on a lot of experience). After reviewing reams of information on the events, including documentation generously supplied by Bruce Maccabee and Bob Oechsler, my skepticism was tempered somewhat but not removed. I am an agnostic about Gulf Breeze. Many things about the case do not make sense to me. Yet, some of the supporting evidence — at this point not fully reported by MUFON — is difficult to account for in terms of a hoax hypothesis.

My criticism is largely directed at process and procedure. As I hope we have demonstrated in this article, many loose ends remain. It is anything but the case represented by proponents. Both Bruce Maccabee and Bob Oechsler have told me about ongoing, in-depth analysis work presently underway on the photographs and videotapes, not yet close to completion, much less reporting. Until the full results of all investigations and analysis are shared, peer reviewed, and - in some cases - replicated by impartial parties, there is no excuse for a rush to final judgment about Gulf Breeze. Science cannot be forced to fit the timetable of TV programs or books.

In a case of this complexity and controversy, and with such profound implications for our understanding of UFO phenomena, caution and careful science are essential. The stakes are extremely high. analysis must be allowed to run its course at its own pace, whatever it takes to ensure that the most thorough and objective study humanly possible has been done; the pro’s and con’s must be thoroughly before we commit ourselves to any one interpretation. It is my hope that this article will give pause to those who think they know all the answers to Gulf Breeze beyond the shadow of doubt. — Richard H. Hall

My initial hopes that the Gulf Breeze sightings could be the case solving the UFO phenomenon were short­lived. 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 evident that his knowledge of that language was at best rudimentary, and in fact he was unable to reproduce for me the alleged dialogue.

I have issued three challenges to the proponents of the case, none of which has been accepted and/or rebutted. To wit:

  1. On August 31, 1988, to Dr. Maccabee, requesting some of the photos for independent computer analysis in agreement with the canons of science. This request, to be financed by the UNICAT Project, did not even receive the courtesy of a reply.
  2. On September 23, 1988, to Robert Oechsler, Dr. Maccabee’s associate, following his offer of assistance. The request: a high-quality glossy print of Photo No. 6; a list of the 135 names of the alleged witnesses in order to organize and finance an investigative team. Again, no reply.
  3. On October 7, 1988, to Don Ware et al., disclosing a remarkable anachronism existing in the ogy of the blue beam which, if not resolved, casts serious doubts on the seriousness and depth of the initial investigation. Once again, no reply.

All of the above has made me extremely skeptical about the validity of the case. I trust this article wilì emphasize weak points so far ignored which need further analysis. — Dr. Willy Smith

The Gulf Breeze, Fla. sightings and photographs between November 1987 and May 1988 have become highly controversial in the UFO research community. Passions have Hated, claims and countemzlaims and allegations have been made, and a "rush to judgment" has been engaged in by both sides those who have prematurely declared Gulf Breeze authentic and "...one of the most significant cases in UFO history" (which it may, indeed, be whether ultimately authentic or fraudulent), and those who have flatly declared the case (Ed’s multiple photographs and related reports) to be a hoax (i.e., that Ed and his wife have engaged in a long-term hoax of considerable magnitude and complexity).

The "positive" evidence has been reported in great detail, but the "negative" evidence, including legitimate skeptical questions and issues, has received far less attention. In this article, we hope to balance the picture by presenting a skeptical view, focusing on gnanswered questions and investigation that remains to be done before a hoax hypothesis can be ruled out. We are not here arguing that the case is a hoax; only that a final judgment is premature and much remaíns to be investigated and explained. If Ed and Frances are telling the truth, they deserve strong moral support and encouragement. And if they are lying, they deserve strong condemnation for the harm done to the serious qúest for truth. In any case, a thorough examination of the hoax hypothesis is imperative; honesty cannot merely be assumed in a scientific investigation.

General Basis for Skepticism

To begin with, MUFON has never published the answers to many of the most basic questions:

How much did Ed know about UFOs before Nov. 11, 1987? What books had he read? Specifically, had he read or heard about Communion (which came out in the months preceding the ñrst photographs), since several features of his reports match circumstances reported by Whitley Strieber and no one else (especially the unusual features of an amrnonìafcinnamon smell and the box-like “shields” worn by the aliens).

What is Ed’s background and character, including his reputation, as revealed by field investigations? (We have only been told that he is a “pillar of the community,” whereas potentially derogatory information not reported by MUFON has become an open secret.)

Little indication has been given of a rigorous study of Ed and his evidence from a skeptical standpoint. Indeed, serious investigators who attempted to raise skeptical questions reportedly found themselves ostracized for doing. so, and their leads apparently were ignored. Angry words were exchanged between MUFON and CUFOS personnel. AII of this has been extremely divisive and destructive. The stage of shouting and finger­pointing, we hope, is Over, and it is time for some answers.

In case of this complexity and controversy, and with such profound implications for our understanding of UFO phenomena, .caution and careful science are essential. The stakes are extremely high.

Another Serious question is: How thorough and objective has the MUFON investigation been? Bruce Maccabee’s chronicle and analysis for the MUFON Symposium cMaccabee, B. S.: "A History of the Gulf Breeze, Florida Sighting Events", MUFON 1988 International UFO Symposium Proceedings. is admirable. Yet, in a case of this complexity and potential significance, additional analysis and replication is essential. Also, works by Willy Smith and Bob Boyd dSmith, Willy. “The Gulf Breeze Saga.” Paper presented Sept. 17, 1983 at National UFO Conference, Cleveland, Ohio. (Available from Robert D. Boyd, P.O. Box 66404, Mobile, AL 36606, $5.00 including postage) eBoyd, Robert D.: Failure at Science (1988). (Available from R. Boyd, P.O. Box 66404, Mobile, 'AL 36606, $10 including postage.) have taken issue with certain aspects of Maccabee’s work and must be address» ed in the traditional scientific manner. They also raise important unanswered questions, many of which will be incorporated in this article; some have to do with the thoroughness and objectivity of the MUFON field investigators involved.

Even more fundamental than the quality of investigation is this issue: How do the Gulf Breeze incidents fît in with UFO history? Basically, they don’t fit very well. As CUFOS has stated editorially, if the Gulf Breeze events are genuine, then the entire character of the UFO phenomenon has suddenly changed. (Not impossible, but if so, we should begin seeing other conŕìrrnatory signs elsewhere in the country and around the world.) No precedent exists in the literature for a 6-month siege of one individual by UFOs, or the taking of dozens of photographs - almost at will f- by one individual (other than Billy Meier, whom MUFON rates as a hoaxer).

Numerous veteran UFOIogists have commented from the ootset that the photographs look “hokey.” This is not a trivial remark, and cannot be answered as lightly as Maccabee has tried to do by observing that we clon’t really know what alien craft are supposed to look like. In fact, we thought we did know, based on a very long record of UFO sightings, including sketches and photographs. To the best of our knowledge, there is no precedent for the UFO type (or roughly similar types) said to be haunting Gulf Breeze.

Many UFOlogists (including Hall) have handled and participated in analyzing hundreds of UFO photographs in the past, including many dozens of Polaroid pictures and all sorts of double exposures, lens flares, and hoax attempts. Most “hokey” pictures in fact did prove to be hoaxes, or very probably so. Obviously, intuitive impressions of UFO photographs do not, alone, constitute science; objective analysis must be done. Nevertheless, experience does count for something, and the established record of photographic UFO images generally considered to be valid records of UFOs does not contain support for the Gulf Breeze UFO(s).

ln addition to “hokey,” intuition suggests that several of the pictures appear “stagey.” Especially Nos. 2123 (taken in January and early February, 1988) showing the UFO above the truck cab while Ed is being videotaped by newspaper editor Duane Cook; the UFO with a family dog in foreground image clarity and shadow patterns consistent with an externally lighted model); and Ed draped in a towel angrily shaking his fists at the hovering UFO. (Rather dark prints of Nos. 22 and 23 appear in the May 1988 Journal, p. 15.)

The Photographs

MUFON member Zan Overall, who has experience as an architectural photographer, in the question and answer period following Maccabee’s symposium presentation suggested that the object in photos No. 22 and 23 seems to be by the flash from the camera and would therefore be small and nearby. Asked whether he had analy_2ed the photos on this basis, Maccabee replied that he had considered doing so but decided not to because the object might have been internally illuminated (and therefore of indeterminate size). lf the question of how the object was illuminated was an open one; the assumption most favorable to Ecl was not objectively justìñable 2Recently, Dr. Maccabee has discovered what he considers evidence of self-illurnination in another of Ed's photos, extrapolating this to Nos. 22 and 23.. Overall also told the authors the picture itself contains convincing evidence to him that the object was tlashlit and moclel­sized, but that he would like to have the opinion of outside, independent analysts.

Ed may be “marching to the beat of a different drummer,” but if he ís, we need to know him in considerably more detail than we now do.

Smith argues that the photos show a model because of its sharp definition, while the shadows indicate an external source of illumination (hence, a hoax) from below and to the left of the object.

Space limitations prevent discussion of all the internal evidence that might suggest a hoax. Some of the prime candidates which we feel should be subjected to computer analysis or replication of Maccabee’s analysis are examined here. (For more detailed technical discussions of intemal photographic evidence possibly suggestive of a hoax, see 2. fSmith, Willy. “The Gulf Breeze Saga.” Paper presented Sept. 17, 1983 at National UFO Conference, Cleveland, Ohio. (Available from Robert D. Boyd, P.O. Box 66404, Mobile, AL 36606, $5.00 including postage.) and 3). The earliest sets of photographs, Nos. 1-5 and Nos. 6-9 (all taken in November 1987*), are of special interest as the initial attempts to photograph (or hoax) a UFO in a series that would continue for six months. In fact, we find several problems with the early photographs. Nos. 1 and 7 show UFO images closely adjacent to and possibly overlapping a foreground tree. An overlapping image would suggest a double exposure. Claims by the analysts that double exposures have been ruled out for these photographs have not yet been backed up by analysis reports and peer review.

Photos No. 1-3 show a surprisingly invariant background for allegedly having been taken -hurriedly with a Polaroid camera by Someone who had to lower and raise the camera between exposures. Contrary to the witness’s story, this suggests the use of a tripod or other stabilizing Surface gSmith, Willy. “The Gulf Breeze Saga.” Paper presented Sept. 17, 1983 at National UFO Conference, Cleveland, Ohio. (Available from Robert D. Boyd, P.O. Box 66404, Mobile, AL 36606, $5.00 including postage.) , p. 10-11.. In addition, the early photos contain vertical line-like markings suggestive of supports for a UFO model. Again, analysts say this has been disproved but no analysis reports have been published for independent verification 3At the Oct. 59 UFO conference in North Haven, Conn., Maccabee showed Hall a computer enhanced version of Photo No. 5 clearly Showing that the “line” which might have been evidence of a support crossed the lace oí the object, and apparently is due to a flaw in the development process.

Perhaps most importantly, the UFO (implicitly an alien spacecraft from an advanced technology) has “portholes” or apertures irregularly (r|on-geometri cally) placed around the prìmeter and the supposed interstellar spacecraft is lopsìded and asymmetric around a vertical axis. These data easily could be interpreted as evidence of a distorted image due to photographic trickery or a crude model that was later refined. Furtherrnore, these asymmetries disappear from later photographs of the craft! Does this suggest changes of the craft by the aliens or changes in UFO models for hoax purposes?

Photos No. 1-5 were published in the Gulf Breeze Sentinel on Nov. 19, 1987. Photos No. 6-9, coincidentally, allegedly were taken the next day. Photo No. 6 is a prime target for maximum computer analysis and invesligation. Bob Boyd noted that it contains “... strong evidence of double exposure.” Bruce Maocabee also states hMaccabee, B. S.: "A History of the Gulf Breeze, Florida Sighting Events", MUFON 1988 International UFO Symposium Proceedings, p. 12 that "Photo 6 appears to provide pictorial evidence that argues for such a hoax.” Maccabee goes on to suggest possible alternative explanations short of a hoax,' but basically assumes Ecl’s honesty at this point.

The “Road Shot”

A very critical event, both from the standpoint of photographic evidence and human testimony, is the so-called “road shot”; Photo No. 19, allegedly taken Jan. 12, 1988. Ed claims that, while driving to a worksite about 5:25 p.m., he was suddenly partially paralyzed by a white illumination from overhead, a UFO swooped down and hovered low over the road, and Ecl Swerved onto the shoulder, unable to control the truck. Ed ñrst reached for his shotgun behind the seat, then changed his mind and took the photograph through the windshield showing the low-hovering UFO illuminating the road surface. (See MUFON UFO Journal, Mar. 1988.)

When the UFO was seen to be moving toward him, Ecl took his shotgun and his camera (!), slid out of the cab and rolled under the truck. MUTUAL UFO Network Journal, Number 248, December 1988 Before he could crawl underneath, he said, the white light struck his legs and they became numb. Under the truck, he again tried to take a photo« graph but managed only to get a picture of the tire. (Maccabee: “He said that the photo showed only a tire." Apparently investigators have not seen the actual photograph) But apparently Ed was able to see from underneath the truck, since he clescribes next seeing the UFO begin to rotate and a blue beam flash out of it five times in succession. Each Hash, he said, deposited an apparently alien creature on the road. Each of the creatures wore a “shield” and carried a glowing rod. As the creatures began moving toward him, Ed clarnbered back into the truck cab, did a quick reverse tum, and headed back to the main highway “... as fast as he could go.”

It had been raining prior to the event, and the environment was dripping with moisture. Yet, there apparently is no reflection of light visible in the photograph from nearby vegetation, from the truck hood, or -from raìndrops. Nor is there any mention by Ed or the investigators of the mud and wetness he must have encountered and its effects on his shotgun and camera in his remarkable juggling act while crawling under the truck, with numb legs. Still, he was able to beat these (presumably) technologically advanced aliens to the draw and to make his escape.

As noted by Willy Smith iSmith, Willy. “The Gulf Breeze Saga.” Paper presented Sept. 17, 1983 at National UFO Conference, Cleveland, Ohio. (Available from Robert D. Boyd, P.O. Box 66404, Mobile, AL 36606, $5.00 including postage., the “road shot” photo is "...one of the few taken at a location remote from Ed’s home, and has allowed accurate determinations of the distance between the camera and the object I haven’t found any reference in Dr. Maccabee’s paper to this inconsistency (about the lack of environmental reflections) which must be explained before the photo is accepted as real.”

Ed’s behavior, after being semiparalyzed by a manifestly alien apparition that trapped and menaced him on an isolated road, is not what you would typically expect. Instead of turning the truck around and (as a first option) or grabbing the shotgun and blasting away (as a second option), he casually sat in the truck cab and took a Polaroid photograph of his tormentor. However, we are mindful of the Phil Klass fallacy of automatically assuming that a witness who does not behave as he (Klass) thinks he would under the circumstances, rnust be lying. Ed may be “marching to the beat of a different drummer,” but if he is, we need to know him in considerably more detail than we now do. Instead, we are asked to accept on faith that Ed is beyond reproach.

The Nimslo sealed camera) photographs and the attempted selfreferencing stereo (SRS) photographs (taken between February and May 1988), and the videotape of an alleged UFO moving back and forth all require extensive analysis and the full application of the “checks and balances” of scientific method. It is important to note that Maccabee’s analysis showed one of the SRS photo pairs to be of an object that was relatively small and (about 21,5 to 4 feet in length and 40-70 feet distant). A supposed alien spacecraft of that size could only accommodate very tiny beings!

Other Considerations

Despite the fact that hordes of investigators, newsmen, and townspeople were staked out in Gulf Breeze at the height of Ed’s reported encounters, not one ever witnessed Ed taking a photograph or separately witnessed a UFO that coincided with one of Ed’s reports, while he took some 40 pictures over a six­rnonth period. Only a few independent witnesses to UFO activity in Gulf Breeze report anything like Ed claims to have observed. The more than 130 other cases claimed are - as of this writing - either weak and not supportive of Ed’s sightings or not yet even investigated.

Another questionable fact about the photographs is that, with perhaps one or two exceptions, the object shown displays exactly the same orientation toward the camera. The brightly illuminated bottom is tilted slightly toward the camera. In the two photographs showing illumination of the ground (Nos. 14 and 19), Smith has calculated the tilt to be about 13 degrees from the vertical axis. What this means is not clear-. As in so many other ambiguous features of the photographs, it could have an “alien” explanation or a more mundane explanatìon having to do with hoax photographs of a model.

The clear implications of Ed’s photographs and story are, if we accept them as valid, that he was singled out for some reason, alerted to “their” presence by humming sounds in his head, allowed or encouraged to photograph them (as Don Ware has stated), while strong, independent verification of the photographs apparently was deliberately avoided.

The Character Issue

Who is "Ed" and why should we believe him? Although his true identity and background are known to both the authors and rnany other MUFON and CUFOS personnel, he insists on remaining anonymous. Why he should insist on this in light of the alleged fact that numerous other Gulf Breeze witnesses have seen similar things and believe he is telling the truth is 'not clear. Regardless, we must examine character issues as best we can. From the outset of the Gulf Breeze saga, Ed began a practice of deception by claiming that he was presenting to the Gulf Breeze Sentinel a series of UFO photographs taken by someone else (Mr. “X”). In so doing, he falsified the facts and cìrcmnstances of the photographs. (“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”) When investigators began to look into the reports, Ed privately admitted he was the photographer and - seemingly - cooperated fully with the MUFON investigators. At the same time, it was learned that Ed uses two different last names. When Bob Boyd and Willy Smith began raising skeptical questions about certain aspects of the case, these issues were not independently investigated by Don Ware and his local investigators, but instead referred to Ed for comment. Chief arnong these issues are the reports that Ed had both produced deliberate double exposure photographs of “ghosts” for party purposes and had bragged to local teenagers that he was going to pull the “ultimate prank” which they would recognize when they saw it.

Despite the fact that Don Ware and the other primary investigators of Gulf Breeze claim that this is a false issue attributable to a teenager who has a grievance against the “Ed” family, the objective facts suggest otherwise. According to Ecl, in a privately circulated “To whom it may concern" 4letter Copy of “To whom it may concem” statement provided to Hall by Maccabee. , the stories are cious innuendos” based solely on rumors and distortions of fact. That the teenager "...in an early effort to discredit rne, started a story about a ghost picture All of this took place more than 3 years ago The boy was a prime suspect in the repeated acts of vandalism against my son’s car. Police reports were filed."

Ed implies there was only one “ghost picture” taken by accident, which showed a “foggy blur” image of unknown origin, and later tests were attempted to reproduce such an image in his house. The whole story has become quite confused in the telling and retelling.

Bob Boyd jSmith, Willy. “The Gulf Breeze Saga.” Paper presented Sept. 17, 1983 at National UFO Conference, Cleveland, Ohio. (Available from Robert D. Boyd, P.O. Box 66404, Mobile, AL 36606, $5.00 including postage., p. 10-13 reports on his efforts to get local investigators to objectively investigate leads to allegedly negative as well as positive information. Instead, a rift developed between Boyd and Smith on the one hand, and Ware and the local investigators on the other hand. Don Ware has insisted the “ghost picture” and “ultimate prank” stories are “irrelevant” to the case. The fact is, their relevance should be obvious. If Ed was taking double exposures to produce ghostly images to impress his teenage friends (and the story is it was not just once but “on more than one occasion", then he has lied to MUFON investigators about his knowledge of how to take double exposures with his Polaroìd camera. And if he actually did say in advance that he was going to pull off the “ultimate prank”, clearly this would tend to discredit most everything that has been reported since. The issue cornes down to his personal integrity.

In addition, ParaNet on Sept. 14 reported an interview with Mayor Edward Grey of Gulf Breeze, an old friend of Ed’s, in which he was quoted as saying: “Ed is a heck of a nice guy, very charming, but it is totally consistent with his personality to pull off a stunt like this.” This would seem to strongly imply that Ed’s reputation asa prankster is not without prior foundation. MUFON investigators have made derogatory comments about Grey, but- except for Don Ware have not been specific about their criticisms.

Thus, it all comes down to how carefully and objectively. the MUFON investigators checked into Ecl’s claims and background. In a phone Call during October 1988, Ware asked Hall if he had any further questions about the case (Ware had previously supplied answers to a list of questions). Hall then asked whether Ware and his group had interviewed the 8-10 teenagers whose names and phone numbers had been provided as witnesses to the allegations against Ed in support of the teenager who had been involved in disagreements with Ed’s son and as sources of “ghost photos” for analysis kSmith, Willy. “The Gulf Breeze Saga.” Paper presented Sept. 17, 1983 at National UFO Conference, Cleveland, Ohio. (Available from Robert D. Boyd, P.O. Box 66404, Mobile, AL 36606, $5.00 including postage, p. 13..

The short answer was “no.” The long answer was that _they were “only” (?) the names of high school band members, and that they (Ware and his colleagues) had chosen to “go a different route” in their investigation of Ed and his background. This ferent route” was not elaborated upon, and until we know in detail what it was we can only wonder about the “ultimate prank” and “ghost photos” stories about which MUFON apparently has accepted Ed’s word without independent investigation.

In the same telephone conversa tion, Ware told Hall that Mayor Grey had his own axe to grind in his protectiveness of Gulf Breeze's reputation and described a financial motive for Grey’s position about the sightings.

Summary and Conclusions

Obviously there is a lag between investigations and reporting of the results in the MUFON UFO Journal, and some of our questions eventually may prove to have reasonable answers. Nevertheless, we are troubled by the way the investigation and reporting have been handled, with claims far outstepping the evidence and analysis to back them up. Other than Bruce Maccabee’s chronicle of events and experiments to test various ways in which. the photographs might have been faked lMaccabee, B. S.: "A History of the Gulf Breeze, Florida Sighting Events", MUFON 1988 International UFO Symposium Proceedings., virtually no other photoanalysìs results have been reported by MUFON or the proponents of the case. The alleged sightings bg independent parties in Gulf Breeze have not been systematically investigated and reported; the claim of 135 or more “supporting” cases (investigated and found to agree in time, location, and detail with significant features of Ed’s reports) appears to be totally unfounded.

Until independent photoanalysis work is completed and reported, the supposedly supporting evidence systematically analyzed, and the central questions answered, skepticism about Gulf Breeze is entirely justìñed. Unfortunately, Ed and his wife now are publishing a book. They are receiving the help and cooperation of Donald Ware, Budd Hopkins, and Bruce Maccabee, whose minds appear to be made up. Although they are close to the case and may be right in their judgment, this approach departs drastically from long-established scientìñc procedure (including published MUFON procedure). lt is all the more reason for careful, continued outside investigation and analysis of the key aspects oí the case, including the integrity and motivation of the main witness.