A model flying saucer that looks like the UFOs in photographs taken by a Gulf Breeze man has been found in the attic of a house where he lived when the pictures were taken, a newspaper reported Sunday. Photos taken by Ed Walters and published three years ago in the Gulf Breeze Sentinel, a weekly newspaper, attracted national media attention and set off a controversy among UFO investigators over whether they were authentic or a hoax.
The model, made from four plastic foam plates and drafting paper, was found by a man now living in Walters' former home in this suburb of Pensacola, the Pensacola News Journal reported Sunday.
The new resident, who didn't want his name disclosed, turned the model over to the newspaper, which used it to make photographs similar to the ones shown by Walters.
Walters denied any knowledge of the model.
"If I were trying to pull a hoax, and I'm not, then it would have been stupid to leave it there," Walters said.
He argued that it was probably planted by the new resident or others, possibly government agents, to debunk his sightings.
A building contractor, Walters served 18 months in prison during the late 1960s on convictions of forgery in Jacksonville and auto theft in Gainesville. Gov. Bob Martinez pardoned him earlier this year.
Walters reported 20 UFO sightings between Nov. 11, 1987, and May 21, 1988, in Gulf Breeze. He initially refused to reveal his identity until after several similar observations were reported in town.
Eventually, Walters published a book, The Gulf Breeze Sightings, receiving a $200,000 advance from his publisher, William Morrow & Co. He claims he has been offered $450,000 by ABC for a proposed television miniseries based on the sightings.
Don Ware, a former Air Force pilot in nearby Fort Walton Beach, who is eastern regional director for the Mutual UFO Network, agreed with Walters' explanation of the model.
"Debunkers would go to great lengths to discredit Ed . . . but the evidence is far too overwhelming for this thing to be a hoax," said Ware, who has investigated 35 sightings in the Gulf Breeze area.
Five people have told Ware they have seen objects similar to those in Walters' photographs.
The reported sightings have created so much interest that the UFO network has scheduled its annual symposium in Pensacola for July 6 to 8.
One of Walters' doubters, Phillip Klass of Washington, D.C., a former editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology Magazine, bristled at the suggestion that debunkers had planted the model.
Another critic, Robert Boyd of Mobile, Ala., said the model confirms what he had reported after his investigations. Boyd was Alabama director of the UFO network but was forced out when he said Walters' photos probably were fakes.
"It is my opinion that full refunds should be made to all purchasers of Ed's book and a public apology be issued," said Boyd.