Legendary UFO Sightings Earn Gulf Coast Towns “Historic” Recognition
UFOs at the historical society? Why not? As my cousin Susan Pierce pointed out, UFOs are part of the legend of a community. I had discounted including the books written about the Pascagoula UFO abductions in my upcoming book until she sent me a recent article from Country Roads Magazine. Reading it altered my perspective, but her remark about UFO events being part of the legend of a community intrigued me.
My manuscript includes the books written about the UFO sightings in Gulf Breeze, Florida, where I now live. Was I trying to protect the reputation of my hometown, Pascagoula, by leaving out its UFO books? Had I purposely ignored one sighting while accepting the other?
I went to the Gulf Breeze Area Historical Society meeting on October 21, 2021, searching for answers. The program topic: “The Gulf Breeze UFO Story.” In 1987, hundreds and thousands of news media and UFO aficionados came to Gulf Breeze after the Gulf Breeze Sentinel published Ed Walters’ Polaroid photos of his UFO sighting.
Speaker Art Hufford, a retired technology supervisor for Monsanto and a Pensacola native with two college degrees, also saw the UFO in 1987 while driving on Bayou Blvd. in Pensacola. He then extensively researched the phenomenon, participating with Skywatch groups, photographing unidentified flying objects, and being on hand when television and international film crews came to Pensacola. In his research, he interviewed both abductees and witnesses of sightings. Ironically, his presentation to the historical society was limited by technology – but the images on the wide-screen laptop were still effective.
Hufford’s talk opened with a photo from the Hubbell Space Telescope and a speculation on the number of galaxies in the universe, leading to the question: Are We Alone?
I came away from his talk convinced of two things: 1) debunkers had sabotaged Ed Walters’ accounts of the Gulf Breeze sightings and 2) believers live amongst us. One of them wore beads in her hair and held up a registered photo she’d taken of UFOs. Another left early, after telling the crowd that 17 years ago she moved to Gulf Breeze to see the UFOs. She proclaimed his presentation wasn’t providing the answers to her questions.
When it came to debunking Walters, the speaker cited, first, that the local newspaper editor ran the photographs of the UFO after the editor’s parents said they, too, had seen the object. The biggest debunk attempt, though, came with discrediting a UFO model. People claimed Walters had used a model to stage the photos. According to Hufford, the model was found a year after Walters moved out of his Gulf Breeze residence (where it was found in the attic). Hufford explained the model was constructed from house plans that Walters didn’t even create until 1989, making it impossible for it to be a model filmed in 1987.
The program continued with rich details explaining how Gulf Breeze became an international hot spot for UFOS with at least 177 sightings by Skywatchers, coverage in Life magazine, a segment on TV’s Unsolved Mysteries and as many as 150 people gathering for sky-watching events. Watch events waned and after five-months with no sightings, sky-watch gatherings dwindled. Visible UFO activity ceased around 1993.
The closing question-and-answer session elicited some lively remarks, personal experiences from audience members, and a tidbit that caused me to travel to Pensacola Beach after the meeting. The Ed Walters “hoax UFO model” is on display at UFOs Miniature Golf on the beach, on loan from University of West Florida Historic Trust.
Learning that a university historic trust owned the model answered my historic legitimacy question. That plus the fact Pascagoula has erected a historic marker on the site where Calvin Parker and Charles Hickson saw their UFO in 1973. The books on Pascagoula’s UFO sighting will be included in A Literary Traveler’s Guide to the Gulf South.
For the recent Holden Hartman documentary, “Revisiting The Gulf Breeze UFO Sightings: A You Tube Documentary” on Gulf Breeze sightings, visit https://youtu.be/pJzLKIqp-3w