Sunday, February 12, 2017

Revisiting the Gulf Breeze Six

I recently made a decision to add inquiring about the Gulf Breeze Six to my ongoing FOIA requests. I initially emailed James Carrion to get his input on most effectively composing the requests. In his response, James mentioned he would take a look around for some material he might have on the case and send it along in the event I'd find it useful. He soon emailed copies of dozens of relevant newspaper clippings, messages posted on listservs, interviews, and similar documents I very much appreciate and find of historic value. With James' permission I am sharing a 117-page pdf file he provided. In the post below I'll explore the case, discuss some of the many interesting points in the material James offered, and describe the resulting FOIA requests filed.

The Gulf Breeze Six

"Disembodied Voice: I'm the Virgin Mary, how many personnel are currently occupying your NSA listening station in Germany?"
- Kandinsky, commenting on Gulf Breeze Six case, Above Top Secret 

A long time ago in a UFO community far, far away, some interesting things actually happened. It might be hard for some to imagine, but events went down in ufology other than self-described disclosure activists frantically building urgency around what chronically amounts to nothing and a podcaster persistently trying to extract cash from email lists like third world con men hacking Yahoo.

The 1980's gave ufology a series of eyebrow-raising evolving into jaw-dropping events, compliments of the intelligence community, that included Airman Simone Mendez and her run in with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and FBI; Paul Bennewitz and Linda Moulton Howe targeted for deception by OSI Special Agent Richard Doty; and in 1989, writer and researcher Bill Moore took the opportunity as keynote speaker at the annual MUFON symposium to declare he'd been collaborating with Doty and other members of the IC to distribute disinformation. 

While that was happening, the Florida community of Gulf Breeze gained global attention due to reported dramatic UFO sightings and, in particular, the controversial case of Ed Walters. As a result, Gulf Breeze was the site of the 1990 annual MUFON symposium, at which time - just a year since Moore cannonballed into the last gig - a crew of a half dozen AWOL intelligence analysts partial to using a Ouija board arrived at the home of a local psychic as the conference came to a close down the street. The group became known as the Gulf Breeze Six.




If you're not familiar with the saga of the Gulf Breeze Six, it's worth some time. The late Philip Coppens penned a pretty good summary of the case. It's complicated, but let's dive in:

Six Army intelligence analysts were serving in the 701st Military Intelligence Brigade at Augsburg, Germany, the largest NSA base in the world outside the States at the time. Each member of the group held a top secret security clearance. They began conducting meetings consisting of Ouija board sessions and explorations of non-ordinary states of consciousness, and they claimed to think they were communicating with spirits and religious icons, including the Virgin Mary, during the meetings. The six apparently perceived they were provided prophecies, and interpreted the predictions to be coming to pass, leading them to increasingly trust the means of communication and alleged entities.

Members of the group had lifelong interests in paranormal subject matter, including one, Spc. Vance A. Davis, who as a teenager took a course in "Silva Mind Control," and another, Spc. Kenneth G. Beason, who dabbled in hypnosis and reportedly was interested in UFOs. The six also included Sgt. Annette Eccleston, Pfc. Michael J. Hueckstaedt, Pfc. Kris P. Perlock, and Pfc. William N. Setterberg. They reportedly went over the proverbial wall in early July, 1990, after giving away some belongings and ceremoniously burning their records and books. 

Another key figure was a Gulf Breeze self-described psychic, Anna Foster, who Perlock met while in cryptology training in Pensacola prior to shipping off to Europe. Foster apparently also befriended Beason when he was stationed in Pensacola. All but Eccleston, the lone female of the six soldiers, were reportedly staying at Foster's apartment while Absent Without Official Leave. Eccleston was apprehended at a campsite at nearby Fort Pickens, for whatever reasons.
      
Former home of the 701st Military Intelligence Brigade
at the US Intelligence Field Station, Augsburg, Germany
The group's beliefs and motives for going AWOL were somewhat unclear, but were at least partially represented to include a desire to deliver information as provided by the mysterious entities to the U.S. president. I'm not sure if they expected Mr. President to be at Anna Foster's place, but anyway... They were also reportedly interested in speaking with an author of UFO books and related conspiracies, quite possibly Bill Cooper, and that would make a little more sense about going to Gulf Breeze before moving on to laying low in the western woods as they claimed was on the itinerary, or I guess it would make more sense. Sorta. Anyhow, it should not be completely surprising that some of the confusion was due to the content of statements originating from the Pentagon and spokespersons after the detention of the six, later retracted through official channels or denied altogether by the former soldiers. 

Also adding to the confusion were statements by members of the Gulf Breeze Six, which at times seemed to be unclear if not lacking logic. What's more, some of their acquaintances were quoted in the media as saddling them with remarks and beliefs they later denied. Ideologies attributed to the group included a forthcoming Rapture, alien spaceships frequenting Gulf Breeze, a UFO cover-up conducted by the government, a plot to thwart the Antichrist, significant malevolent forces operating covertly within the U.S. government, and similar mindsets arguably being found with increasing frequency among members of the UFO community and related genres. Some of the beliefs were later defended by Vance Davis and his peers, while some were dismissed as rumors. 

Any way we look at it, the six were a pretty paranormal-friendly bunch, or at least claimed to be, and landed in Gulf Breeze about the same time a MUFON convention wrapped up on July 8. The six were apparently in Tennessee a few days earlier, where they bought a van and drove it to Florida, arriving July 9, according to Gulf Breeze police, but I strongly suspect that date was established from statements obtained. If not, it would be reasonable to question how police actually knew when the entourage hit town. At any rate, Hueckstaedt soon crossed paths with local law enforcement when he was pulled over in the van for driving with faulty taillights, and the entire group was eventually detained July 13-14. The six were transferred to the custody of intelligence agencies and taken to Fort Benning, GA, and Fort Knox, KY, for interrogation. 

They were soon issued general discharges and released with minimal consequences. Three of the six, Beason, Eccleston, and Hueckstaedt, returned to Gulf Breeze, remarkably arriving back in town within three weeks of first having been taken into custody. Beason said he returned to the area because of friendships he developed, according to an August 4, 1990, newspaper article titled, Three discharged soldiers return to Gulf Breeze, friends


Article explaining Beason, Eccleston, and Hueckstaedt returned to Gulf Breeze following their discharges,
found on page 67 of pdf file provided by James Carrion


Drilling Down

The above summary leaves many of us with more questions than answers. A sticking point, for instance, has long been understanding how the six navigated international airports without being detained. A partial explanation might include information contained in a July 19, 1990, New York Times article (see p 98 of the pdf file):

The Pentagon said that two of the soldiers went on authorized leave from their unit, the 701st Military Intelligence Brigade at Augsburg, West Germany, about two weeks ago, and never returned. At the same time, two other soldiers from the unit vanished, and officials suspected that two more who were on leave would not return.
Military authorities issued a worldwide alert for the six soldiers on July 9.
July, 1990
That might account for how they managed to get stateside, combined with circumstances reported in an article from the Northwest Florida Daily News (p 64 of the pdf), which suggested the group used forged leave papers. Before the worldwide alert was issued Monday the 9th, Beason and Hueckstaedt could feasibly have made it to Tennessee by Friday, July 6, as reported was the case by the Pensacola News Journal (p 91 of pdf). The two reportedly planned to soon meet the other four (p 69 of pdf, Marin Independent Journal, U.S. soldiers go AWOL to find 'Jesus in a spaceship'). Some, however, including Davis (as cited by Coppens), would later speculate intelligence officials knew of the group's plan all along and were monitoring the journey.  

A piece in the July 19, 1990, edition of the Pensacola News Journal (pp 90-91 of pdf, 6 soldiers here to kill Antichrist) indicated Robert Hall, an Army spokesman, stated authorities didn't know how the six got to the United States. The author of the article also obtained comments from Stan Johnson, a contact of Beason's in Tennessee, who apparently picked up Beason and Hueckstaedt at the Knoxville airport on July 6 and helped them buy the van. 

"He did mention... about going to Pensacola for a UFO convention," Johnson was interestingly quoted as recalling about Beason. 

Oh, and the European Stars and Stripes was quoted in the same article (pp 90-91) as reporting the crew of six went to Gulf Breeze to kill the Antichrist, but we'll come back to that in a minute. First, the article indicated the MUFON conference was held in Pensacola July 6-8, and reported MUFON officials "could not say whether Beason or Hueckstaedt attended any of the symposium sessions," but get this: Anna Foster, the psychic who opened her home to the group, apparently did.

In what appears to be the next day's edition of the same paper, the July 20, 1990, Pensacola News Journal, a story was published titled, Soldiers were to expose UFO scam, sister says (pp 92-93 of pdf). The article highlights Beason's sister and her husband, Carolyn and Charles Reed, explaining how Beason "said they were going to expose a government cover-up of reports that aliens have visited Earth," although the couple did not seem to take him particularly seriously. The article continued, "The Reeds said Beason also told them that Foster had introduced him to a UFO group that believed the government was covering up alien visits to Earth."

"If anybody should be arrested, it should be that lady," Charles Reed told the News Journal about Anna Foster, for what it may or may not be worth. 

The article interestingly concluded:
The Mutual UFO Network held a symposium on UFOs two weeks ago July 6-8, but the group did not endorse any position on a government cover-up, said Don Ware, a Fort Walton Beach representative of the group.
Although Ware said Foster had attended the symposium, Foster refused comment again Tuesday night.

The Stand

Among the more dramatic of the many dramatic story lines to emerge from the saga involved the Antichrist. The previously referenced July 19 article published in the News Journal (pp 90-91 of pdf) reported members of the six were being held at Fort Benning, and that Maj. Joe Padilla, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said he didn't know why they left Germany or anything about their religious beliefs. Gulf Breeze Police Chief Jerry Brown was similarly asked for comment. The article explained:
When he was told of the Stars and Stripes report Wednesday, Brown said, "I don't believe that. Who is the Antichrist?"
If the cult had talked about destroying the Antichrist, that person should have a name, he said. 
  
According to a Georgia MUFON State Section Director, who described a Fort Benning doctor as his source, at least some of the Gulf Breeze Six claimed to believe the Antichrist indeed had a name, and it was Ed Walters. In an August 4, 1990, letter to MUFON International Director Walt Andrus, the Section Director wrote (p 77 of pdf):
In regards to your request that I try to meet with the soldiers here at Fort Benning, Georgia who were involved in the recent "End of the World" deal at Gulf Breeze, Florida, the following negative report is submitted.
I was unable to meet with the soldiers who were being held in the stockade and my fraternity brother, who is a doctor at the base hospital, couldn't get me in to see the two men who were on the psychiatric ward. All I could get from the doctor was relatively the same as that which was out on the media wires. The soldiers had originally met while stationed together in Germany and they believed that the UFOs are works of the 'devil.' They also supposedly claim that Ed Walters is the anti-Christ and that is why the UFO activity has been so heavy in the Florida panhandle. I'm sorry I wasn't able to get anything better on this but the people at the Provost Marshall's office weren't very receptive to the idea of a UFO investigator. 

How Bizarre, How Bizarre

Other points of interest include Vance Davis describing his mastery of "self-hypnosis through active imagination" as taught in "Silva Mind Control courses that were held in Alex Merklinger's school in New York." Davis purported to interact with entities through such techniques (p 5 of pdf).

Davis stated GB6 colleague Kenneth Beason was practicing hypnosis techniques in an interview published in the January/February, 1995, edition of a Northern California MUFON periodical titled, Case Briefs: Explorations and Review. The item was reprinted with the permission of The Phoenix Newsletter. A passage I find interesting is pictured right and described below.

"Did you receive information from sources other than the Ouija Board?" the interviewer asked.

Vance Davis replied, "The UFO documents came from a woman (with Ashtar Command) in Germany. (That was the Cooper Report, and other documents.) We didn't really get anything from work, (but) we started seeing things differently. The first thing that really got us moving, and they didn't put this in the statements, (was) the Iran earthquake that year (1990), because we were told about it thirty days before it occurred. We were also doing hypnosis."

"Was Beason hypnotizing you?"

"Yeah. It was a relaxed state; like Edgar Cayce used to do. We were doing a lot of parapsychology research. A whole lot of it. We did Tarot cards, and all that kind of stuff. We were trying to disprove all of this stuff, until the Ouija Board happened and some hypnosis stuff."

In his book, Unbroken Promises: A True Story of Courage and Belief, Davis further described the group's sessions, as well as the woman in Germany (p 29 of pdf):
This third session ended up giving us the name of a woman in Munich that would have some information for us on the alien and UFO situation. The woman's name was Gabriel. We did, indeed, find that woman in Munich and she gave us some information and documents that were interesting, to say the least. That paperwork was taken by the officer that arrested Mike [Hueckstaedt] in Pensacola. We never saw it again.

The sessions included perceived interactions with Biblical icons Mark and Mother Mary, the latter of which curiously seemed to have arrived via the Ouija board to answer questions for Annette Eccleston, who "grew up a Catholic, but was no longer a practicing Catholic." (p 30 of pdf) Much more can be learned about the sessions and how the group members were influenced in the pdf file. Oddly enough, such activity in the vicinity of the base and interest in the subject matter may very well not have been limited to the wayward six. There may have been others involved.

Beason's sister and brother-in-law, the Reeds, told the Pensacola News Journal the man claimed to believe the Rapture was imminent and his group of twelve, not six, was prepping. The News Journal reported, "He also told the couple that before the second coming of Christ the group - which Beason said numbers 12 - would emerge and try to convert people to believe in Christ, the Reeds said." (p 92 of pdf)

For what it's worth, the Northwest Florida Daily News piled on, citing Stars and Stripes as reporting there were indeed more interested parties (p 79 of pdf):
A member of their unit told the newspaper Stars and Stripes the six were out to find and destroy Antichrist, the figure the Bible says will challenge Christ. He spoke on the condition his name would not be disclosed. 
Padilla, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, Wednesday retracted an earlier statement that the six were members of a group known as "The End of the World."
But Stars and Stripes quoted the soldier from the Augsburg unit as saying the cult has additional members in the area.
"There are others who are upset they didn't get invited" to go along on the search for the Antichrist, the newspaper quoted the soldier as saying. 

The cherry on top the bizarro milkshake may have been delivered in the form of "an unsigned typewritten note presumably sent to the US Army and all the major TV networks and wire services demanding the release of 'The Gulf Breeze Six,'" as reported August 16, 1990, in the Gulf Breeze Sentinel (read the transcript). The message in question was also reported by Jacques Vallee via Revelations, among other sources, and related discussion may be viewed on page one of the pdf file provided by James Carrion and referenced throughout this blog post.

The Sentinel article stated, "Mark Curtis at WEAR Channel 3 first shared this intriguing note with The Sentinel two days before the announcement that the Gulf Breeze Six were discharged from the Army and released."

The message contained in the note, which was reported to have been typed in all caps and accompanied by images, stated in full:
ABC, NBC, CBS, AP, UPI
U.S. Army:
Free the Gulf Breeze Six.
We have the missing plans, the box of 500+ photos and the plans you want back.
Here is proof with close-ups cut out.
Next we send the closeups and then everything unless they are released.
Answer code AUGSBB3CM  

Possibilities 

I suppose reasonable conclusions about the chain of events would have to include what many might argue is most obvious: The Gulf Breeze Six were young, impressionable, and open-minded to a fault. That might be an explanation, pending further information allowing more conspiratorial conclusions be drawn. Maybe the rest is just history, or at least what's known about it. Such happens. A lot, around ufology. 

Another perspective was offered by Coppens. Reasonable and interesting, I'd say:
"Logic" – which does not really come into this story, but somehow needs to be applied to keep a reasonable level of sanity, I would suggest – suggests that something else was going; that this group was singled out and became the victim of an experiment, which their pre-joining interests made them predisposed towards, and which "someone" carefully remoulded to see to test out a hypothesis. If this is true, then the scenario was successful, and when the test was concluded, they were rounded up, brought in… and allowed to tell their story, so that the public disclosure of their story would serve part of the exercise as well.

There are researchers, including George P. Hansen, who suspect individuals who become ensnared in the twilight where the IC meets ufology may land on the radar of intelligence agencies because of their interests in UFOs and paranormal subject matter, not in spite of it. From Hansen's The Trickster and the Paranormal, page 232: 
[Richard] Doty was apparently involved with the dubious Ellsworth UFO case before he entered AFOSI. Why then was he made a Special Agent? Given the sensitive nature of that agency's work, an extensive background check must have been done, and his caper at Ellsworth must have come to light. It is plausible that Doty was recruited by AFOSI precisely because of that. His personal interest in UFOs may have been useful to AFOSI, and his unreliability could have been an asset because he could be easily discredited if he was caught in something that might embarrass the agency.
The plausibility of this scenario is strengthened by the case of Simone Mendez. Her story appeared in Just Cause in 1991, after documentation supporting her report became available via the FOIA. It leaves many questions unanswered, but it implicates the AFOSI.

Liner Notes

Related matters of interest include:

- Former MUFON Eastern Regional Director Donald Ware, who the Pensacola News Journal attributed with stating Anna Foster attended the MUFON 1990 International UFO Symposium, in 1992 guided Leah Haley on a now infamous hike across Eglin Air Force Base. They were in search of an alien spacecraft suspected to be downed by the U.S. military with Haley aboard. The unsubstantiated tale resulted from hypnosis sessions conducted on Haley by John Carpenter, another former MUFON director, who became entangled in the Carpenter Affair. In 1993 Ware was removed from the board in what then-International Director Walt Andrus called an unprecedented election in the July, 1993, MUFON UFO Journal. In his "Director's Message," Andrus explained to Journal readers:
This action stemmed from continued advisory statements by members of the Executive Committee to Don that he refrain from mailing books to Board members and Eastern Regional State Directors espousing "channeling" philosophies and techniques over a two year period.
As a result of Mr. Ware's fascination with channeling as a means of communicating with aliens or entities, he invited Dr. Norma Milanovich, a professed channeler, to attend the closed MUFON "Face-to-Face" meeting in Albuquerque, NM in July 1992 and allowed her to read her channeled answers to the questions posed for discussion by the participants. Much to the shock and dismay of MUFON officers attending, Dr. Milanovich read the answers from a computer print-out which she claims was obtained from "Master Kuthumi" during a 33-minute period the previous night.  
Ware went on to direct the International UFO Congress from 1993-2010.

- The former home of the Gulf Breeze Six and the 701st Military Intelligence Brigade, the US Intelligence Field Station of Augsburg, was the old stomping grounds of Maj. Gen. Bert Stubblebine and Sgt. Lyn Buchanan as portrayed in Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare at Goats. A few years before the Gulf Breeze Six arrived, career intelligence officer Stubblebine was deeply involved in unconventional avenues of research. He was credited with creating Remote Viewing and went on to become what could reasonably be described as an irrational conspiracy theorist. Buchanan, who worked with Stubblebine and was involved in the Remote Viewing initiative, considers himself an alien abductee, as explored in an interview he generously provided me.

- Rima Laibow, MD, was a speaker at the MUFON 1990 International UFO Symposium in Pensacola. Her pro-hypnosis platform and promotion of alleged alien abduction were viewed favorably by MUFON, as was the case with her fellow speaker, Budd Hopkins. Dr. Laibow went on to marry Maj. Gen. Stubblebine.    

- In 1991 the 701st MI Brigade was awarded the prestigious Director of the National Security Agency's Travis Trophy. The award was granted for having made the nation's most significant contribution in signals intelligence.

- In 1989 Anna Foster published her book, Song of my soul

FOIA

I recently submitted four FOIA requests on the Gulf Breeze Six. One was to the NSA, asking they conduct a Mandatory Declassification Review, or MDR, of the file referenced by Coppens. He stated 1400 of its 1600 pages were withheld, so perhaps more of that will be released. I also requested NSA provide records pertaining to investigations of the individuals and their activities, as suggested in newspaper clippings. 

I similarly requested the Army conduct an MDR of the file referenced by Coppens, as well as related records on the group. Newspaper clippings, establishing the existence of such Army investigations of the six, were offered in support.

The CIA and FBI were also queried, with files requested on interactions with and investigations of the Gulf Breeze Six. Offered in support was a July 19, 1990, article (p 81 of pdf) which stated, "Gulf Breeze Police Chief Jerry Brown said that no arrests were made, and [the six] were turned over to the CIA and FBI before going to Fort Benning." Also cited was a July 17, 1990, clipping (pp 86-87) which attributed Police Chief Brown with stating the FBI, CIA and NSA called the Gulf Breeze Police Department following the soldiers' detention.



3 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for doing some new legwork on what is, to my mind, one of the most credible--and incredible--UAP incidents in my lifetime. I now wonder if Ed Walters ducked out of the scene because his life was on the line with that whole anti-christ delusion. That makes more sense than he was just sick of the run-of-the-mill craziness associated with ufology, because he wrote 2 books and stuck around a while after. I'd think after writing the one and doing the TV and conference circuit, he'd have learned all too well what kind of a poopfest he was knee deep in.

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    1. Thanks, Jeremy, I'm glad you find it interesting. My FOIA request to the FBI already hit a stumbling block, and I'll appeal, but I wouldn't bet against the house. The thing that most disappoints me is in at least some circumstances files could be released that would add to public understandings and decrease speculation and conspiracy mongering, but the FOIA process often seems by its very nature to be counterproductive to clarification.

      Opportunities are there to actually inform the public, yet, for whatever reasons, the info void remains. It's little wonder conspiracies thrive and our culture has such little trust for its government.

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  2. Ashtar Command lol why couldn't they use a well established respectable cult like COS or sometin' :)

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