Published: 6:35 AM 10/14/2013
by Merab-Michal Favorite and Drew Winchester
I’ve only seen a UFO once. I was watching the 10 o’clock news one night while living in Port Charlotte and the anchors suddenly broke from their script to announce that a UFO had been sighted above Punta Gorda and the surrounding area.
I ran outside and looked west and they were right; there was something weird in the sky, a fast moving, multicolored light that traveled east. It was joined by another similarly colored set of lights and they moved together quickly. They stopped suddenly, reversed course and again traveled west, with one of the lights breaking away and the other just sort of vanishing.
It was pretty unspectacular and it wasn't that different from the dozens of other stories that have been told. I was briefly impressed, but then went inside and just went to bed.
It was only recently that I remembered that night. And when I did a little research, I realized that Florida is a virtual hotbed of UFO activity, with recorded sightings from the panhandle to Key West that spans decades.
Maybe one of the most famous UFO incidents in Florida, if not the entire country, was the "Gulf Breeze Incident," in which a man named Ed Walters photographed a wave of UFO activity in Gulf Breeze, Fla., in 1987.
Walters, a building contractor, captured a series of stunning images of UFOs. The photos made waves in the panhandle, first with the local media like the Gulf Breeze Sentinel and the Pensacola News-Journal, but quickly took on national notoriety and attracted UFO hounds from the globe.
The small town of Gulf Breeze, with a population of 6,000, was suddenly inundated with thousands of alien seekers, as Walters' story continued to evolve. Walters would give interviews stating that he was receiving visits from four-foot creatures with large black eyes that would come to him in his sleep.
Now famous, Walters was hit with offers for books and television series as hundreds of sightings poured in to law enforcement and media in the Florida Panhandle. He was so famous he was forced to move, selling his home in favor of some renewed anonymity.
But, as Walters's fame grew, researchers began to take a closer look at his finances and found that he was suddenly flush with cash from multiple sources. Even more shocking, were the claims of a man named Robert Menzer, who purchased Walters's former home.
Menzer claimed that he was making routine repairs to the home one day and in the attic found UFO models made from foam plates and blue plastic. Walters quickly denounced the discovery, saying that it was lunacy to leave that kind of evidence behind. But it was too late, as the tide had begun to turn and the same newspapers and TV stations that lauded him as the real deal were now calling him a phony.
Witnesses started coming forward, saying they were coerced by Walters to be witnesses, that they had saw, first hand, how he manipulated the photos and used models.
Sightings in Florida go as far back as the 1800s. In 1871, a man named Josiah Wilcox wrote about a “big fire” that came down during the night and hovered over the water of Cedar Key. Wilcox said the saucer shot up into the sky after about 10 minutes.
Mosquito Lagoon, which is located near the Kennedy Space Center, is also known for amplified extraterrestrial activity. Since the 1950s, people have reported strange lights usually foregoing a shuttle launch.
In 1967, some commercial fisherman off the coast of Oak Hill said they saw “a glowing flying saucer moving slowly over the water,” according to the book Weird Florida by Charlie Carlson.
Carlson also writes that a group of Boy Scouts spotted a some lights coming for the woods during a camping trip near Belle Glade. Their scoutmaster followed the glow further into the forest armed with a machete and flashlight. After several hours, the scoutmaster came back to the campsite; he said he had seen a “disk-shaped metallic craft hovering just above the ground.”
He also reported that the craft shot a stream of hot spray that knocked him out. When he came to, the spaceship was gone.
The scoutmaster’s story was confirmed, according to Carlson, following an investigation by the Bluebook Project, an agency dedicated to exploring UFO sightings. The investigation showed that the trees and grass in the clearing had been charred, and the scoutmaster suffered burns on his arms and head.
So the next time you see strange lights in the sky, consider the fact that they might not be of this world, but instead from a land far off.