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As a boy, Tom Welch remembered watching his father circle tough FBI cases, some of them involving attempted Communist infiltration of unions in Chicago and Tucson. His father had probed and thought, gathered his information, and assessed it. Welch's fascination with his father's work influenced his own curiosity about how things are, as opposed to how they seem to be. "My interests have always run along the lines of investigation," said Welch, "of digging behind mysteries. Even when I was young, I remember distinctly a number of cases of my dad's where things so elaborately obvious turned out to be so different in reality. And how that was dug up just fascinated me."
Ten years younger than Lee Elders, Welch was six feet tall and thin, with a narrow brown beard and mustache outlining his jaw and upper lip. A Roman Catholic, Welch had been educated by priests of the Jesuit Order, which perhaps explained his demeanor. Whereas Elders visibly simmered, quick to exude charm or release a formidable temper, the soft-spoken and articulate Welch remained detached, composed, and analytical. The two men greatly complemented one another.
Welch was the only one in the group who had yet to visit the Meier farm, to speak with Meier and the witnesses, to observe at least the countryside where Meier had taken his photographs and shot his movie footage. Welch knew Lee Elders well, and through him had spent time with Wendelle Stevens. He respected their opinions, but until he experienced for himself the feel of the place, the demeanor of the people, and had the opportunity to test some of his own hypotheses, he reserved judgment on the case.
The Honeywell Symposium in Phoenix had been an international conference attended by representatives of government agencies, the banking industry, and the military of various countries; and Honeywell had presented Tom Welch as an expert in electronics communications protection. Already, another international client had called from outside London, requesting the services of Intercep. Elders and Welch continued to sweep corporate offices and search for leaks in corporate telecommunications systems. But their curiosity over Meier and his story was growing, and as it did, Intercep slowly received less and less attention. Welch ceased making his frequent speeches at service club luncheons, and the firm no longer solicited business through private contacts.
"We were still doing a lot of work for Intercep," said Elders. "Steve was working on Meier. But we reached a point where we finally had to just put Intercep on the shelf because we didn't have time for it."
At the end of July, a large financial institution, eighty miles outside London, contacted Intercept through the Honeywell Corporation. Fearing that a competitor had tapped into their telephone system, the directors of the company wanted an immediate sweep of the entire office building. Elders and Welch blocked out a full two weeks on their slowly shrinking Intercep schedule and told Stevens to meet them in Switzerland after they had concluded their work in London. Now warm and dry in the hills southeast of Zurich, they finally could walk and measure the sites where Meier had taken his photographs.
Elders and Welch flew to London and, after several long days of work, solved their client's problem. Then, they boarded the train for Zurich where Stevens was to pick them up in a rental car and drive them to the farm. With better than a week to investigate Meier, the people, and the sites, and to pursue the theories they had formulated back in Phoenix, Welch figured they would leave Switzerland with answers. But by now, Elders had seen and heard much with his own eyes and ears, and he was beginning to sense the difficulty of Meier having fabricated the entire story and all of the evidence. No education, no accomplices, no resources. It was becoming easier to believe that perhaps part of Meier's story was true.
Still, some things seemed not to fit, others simply were too outlandish to believe, and nothing definitive had yet been done with the photographs. It even appeared that the metal sample was anything but extraordinary. Though Elders admitted confusion, Meier's evidence had to pass several more tests before he would concede there might be some degree of truth in what the man claimed.
As planned, Stevens met them at the train station in Zurich and drove through Winterthur to the small village of Dussnang, over the hills and about fifteen minutes by car east of the farm. They checked in at the Gasthaus Brückenwaage, where the Elders had stayed the previous spring, a three-story guesthouse with green shutters bordering many windows, each still now bursting with bright red geraniums.
Though they had had little sleep on the night train to Zurich, it was a sunny morning in Switzerland, and Elders and Welch wanted to get to the farm as soon as possible. After they had unloaded the car and carried their things up to the room, the three of them drove over the hills, through the farms and pear orchards, to Schmidruti. Welch sat in the backseat, observing the countryside and thinking about the information he wanted to collect at the sites, from the configuration of the forests surrounding the landing track sites to the distances between objects in the photos. But he kept reminding himself not to overlook the less obvious.
"I wanted to get a feeling as much as I wanted to get facts," he said. "I wanted to get an insight into the people there as much as I wanted to get measurements and other things that we had scheduled out."
As when Stevens had arrived at the farm late the previous fall, and again when the Elders had been there in early spring, young people from all over Europe had come on motorcycles and by foot to Hinterschmidruti, and pitched their tents in various places around the farm, some in the large grassy field below the duck pond. As it was midsummer, the weather had turned mild and warm, and the number of those camped there had greatly increased. Others, many of them older, had driven there, and of these many slept in the tiny, simple rooms at the Freihof along the cobblestone row in Schmidruti. Verena Furrer, the Freihof's cherub-faced proprietress, said that in summer the people who came to see Meier accounted for 25 percent of her business. "A few French," she explained, "but most are German, some are Austrian, Americans, a lot of Swedes, some Dutch."
Meier was waiting for them in front of the farmhouse when they arrived. He now had a full beard, reddish in spots and beginning to curl. As they shook hands, Welch looked into his eyes as Elders had done before, but he saw and felt nothing familiar, no magnetism, and no déjà vu. Welch saw only an "earthly man wishing for a simpler life."
"He looked to be in the middle of something not under his control," said Welch, "something he was learning from."
Welch noted immediately that Meier was not an "eager" man. Although he acted cordially toward Welch, he seemed at the same time almost indifferent to his presence. Welch soon discovered this indifference pervaded the farm.
"I expected either to have a story laid on me - in other words, people making an effort to explain things out of enthusiasm or some ulterior motive - or the reverse, people trying to hide something. Instead, it was as though we weren't even there. They would answer any questions that we had, and they related to us one-to-one, but they had no reaction one way or the other to what we were doing."
Though Welch had many questions for Meier, he had already decided that little of substance could be learned from the man himself; the story lay in the eyes of the witnesses and the terrain of the contact sites. Meier served only as a focus for the story; not someone to question, but someone to question others about. Welch was more interested in walking the sites and talking to the Swiss weather bureau than in chatting with Meier.
The procedure they had devised for assessing the contact sites was to take each 3 X 5 print in the series photographed at the site, locate the exact point from which the photographs had to be taken, and begin measuring. "Measure distances, measure heights, measure the width of trees, even the height of blades of grass," said Welch. "Looking for that kind of detail is the way we walked onto each site."
Beginning that afternoon and continuing for the next several days, they visited four of the alleged contact sites, accompanied by Meier. Just driving to the sites, Welch perceived problems with the theories they had formulated back in Phoenix: some of the sites were up steep grades, passable in summer, but a strain for the car to climb. Yet Meier had taken many of his photos on these sites in late winter or very early spring, when snow covered the paths or melted and turned them to mud.
Welch remembered, "That's where the theories started disappearing."
They had been at the first site only briefly when Welch noticed another similar problem, one of many experiences he soon labeled "gross consistencies." A gross consistency was usually a simple observation that in some small way corroborated Meier's story. Singly, each added little weight; collectively, they made a curious story seem even more mysterious.
What Welch noted at the first site and every one thereafter was that from the time they got out of the car, looked over the site, and began taking measurements, no more than twenty minutes would pass before someone came up and asked them who they were, or what they were doing, or why they were there. Or, they would simply stand and watch. Once, Welch walked onto a site, expecting it to be secluded, only to find a farmhouse not more than a hundred yards from where Meier had taken his photographs.
Driving to the site near that farmhouse along a side road, Elders, Welch, and Stevens had encountered another car traveling in the opposite direction. Moments later, when Meier directed Stevens to pull off onto a narrow path leading to the site, the other car had turned around, followed them, and parked. Then, the occupants had watched them walk around the area measuring trees and distances for most of the time they were on the site.
"Essentially, we thought we were dealing with remote sites," Welch said later, "where you could fairly well do anything you wanted unseen and uninterrupted for a lengthy period of time. And that you could get to that site without being observed. This was another factor just blown out the window."
Welch obtained weather reports, thinking he could use them to confirm or invalidate the background of the pictures taken at each site. For example, he offered, August 8, 1975. Was that actually a cloudy day? "Wouldn't it be funny," he said, "to learn that the shot here with the deep ruffled clouds in the background, storm clouds, could not have been shot in 1975 in August?" Although he found no inconsistencies, Welch discovered that often the weather reports themselves could be misleading. The sites lay mostly in the foothills where the weather could change in minutes. And having experienced these radical changes at the sites, Welch could then listen to the nearest weather source reporting mild temperatures and consistent skies during that same period.
"The weather impressed me to no end," said Welch. "Particularly Hasenbol. You can stand there for an hour, and in some cases, nothing will happen; it'll be a beautiful sunny day. At other times, you'll go from beautiful sunny to deep clouds and a little mist and rain and fog to what seems like it's definitely going to snow and get cool and then hefty breezes pop up all of a sudden. It was like standing in one place and going to three or four different climates and not moving an inch. And that presented another angle we hadn't thought about - the further difficulty of faking anything on those sites because of the weather. And you can't just visit those sites for five minutes to learn this; you have to spend some time at them."
One thing Welch had starred in his notes was to view the drop behind the tree in the Hasenbol photos. He had formulated various theories on how Meier could have rigged these photos of a beamship that appears to be almost in the branches of the tall leafless tree. Late on a sunny afternoon, they climbed the steep, rutted path to the site, where Welch found a grassy bluff facing into the setting sun and in the distance a succession of jagged peaks as far as he could see. When he walked to the tree at the edge of the bluff and saw the land drop sharply away, roll down and down across a wide valley, his theories simply "dissipated in the wind."
The tree was fifty-two yards from where Meier had taken the picture. By measuring the trunk of the tree as it stood, and as it appeared in the photo, basic triangulation gave him the size of the beamship.
"That's often a simple mistake people make when they're hoaxing," explained Welch. "The ship they film just couldn't be the size they say it is when compared to the other known objects in the photograph."
According to their measurements, the beamship at the edge of the tree over Hasenbol had to be approximately twenty-one feet in diameter, as Meier had always said.
"We had developed some possible theories by that time that we wanted to apply to the circumstances," said Welch, "taking a real strong look at the sites and doing some measuring. But you go to one of those sites, and you compare the photographs right there, and you see the perspective for yourself. Just eyeballing it, you know you're not dealing with something that is easily rigged by amateurs because of the nature of the terrain, the topography, the wind, and even the laws and regulations of Switzerland. The country is so small, and jets run down those valleys sometimes no higher than two, three hundred feet, and you'll see them doing barrel rolls, loops, and dogfights at that height. So there were a lot of little technical things that kind of blew out the perception of this being an easily explained circumstance.
"Now... here's the conditions under which these photographs were taken at Hasenbol. You have severe cold, you have high winds, you have a good amount of snow on the ground. We were there in summer, and you could barely get up the hill because it was too muddy and slippery. What we're talking about here is passing that farmer's house on a very wintry late afternoon. Anybody out in that kind of weather is a little unusual and the people there are nosy as hell. Now, here comes a man on a moped, all right, and he's going to go up through this farmer's land, up this bluff, in this weather... and it's not snowplowed up there... he's going to go up there in the wind and the weather, and he's going to deal with all the technical factors in the midst of all that."
Always present, yet far more subtle than the difficult terrain or the curiosity of stranger, one thing that would have made the hoaxing of the photographs virtually impossible occurred to Welch only slowly as he stood at site after site. Finally, he focused on what he had been feeling in the air - moisture - heavy, constantly changing, and invisible, except to a camera lens. For all its beauty, perhaps largely responsible for that beauty, Switzerland is a damp country. A large object posing independently could be photographed several times in a matter of seconds, and the atmosphere would remain constant throughout the series. A model of any size would require setting up and repositioning, a procedure that could consume an hour or more. In that time, the background might change.
"You have weather so inconsistent," remembered Welch, "that in fifteen minutes you can go from literally zip, clear sharp air to very thick air, actual mist. That alone would drive a technician crazy trying to fake photos. It would cause too much bluing.
"Also," said Welch, "you need time. Because if it's a model, you've got to throw it five times before you get your shot, or hang it and run it and play with it a bit. This would drive you crazy with the wind, the moisture; there are probably a dozen factors. If you're going to fake this, you need time. The one thing you can see that Meier did not have a lot of at any of these sites, whether he's faking them or taking them, is time."
By the mid 1950s, a coterie of men claimed not only to have seen remarkable spacecraft, but to have flown in them and to have talked at length with the occupants. They were known as contactees, and their stories so captured the public imagination that they completely thwarted Air Force efforts to downplay flying saucers. They also undermined the work of private UFO organizations searching seriously for answers.
The contactees, most notably George Adamski, Truman Bethurum, Orfeo Angelucci, Daniel Fry, and Howard Menger, each claimed to have been contacted by "space brothers" who gave him a "mission" to save the world from greed, corruption, and the atomic bomb. The space brothers took them aboard a Venusian, Saturnian, Jupiterian, or Martian spaceship, where they saw beautiful women and received further instruction from Orthon, Aura, A-lan, or Neptune, and heard of idyllic conditions on their home planets, a situation to which the people of Earth could aspire. National interest in the contactees was so great that over a hundred fifty flying saucer clubs sprang up dedicated just to them. In 1954, contactee George Van Tassel sponsored the first Giant Rock Convention in Yucca Valley, California, a carnival affair with contactees giving lectures on their experiences and selling souvenirs from booths. Over five thousand people came.
In the fall of 1956, the thirty-four-year-old Menger, a pipe-smoking sign painter with black wavy hair and a long thin neck, appeared with his story on the Tonight show with Steve Allen. Journalist Jules B. St. Germain described the scene in the November 1957 Argosy: "The audience's original reaction, which ranged from snickering to outright laughter when it learned that Menger claimed to have ridden on a 'flying saucer,' changed to a mood of perplexed wonderment and keen interest shortly after he started speaking. Amusement soon became interested silence." Menger told the audience that earlier that year, the space beings had taught him to communicate through telepathy and had flown him to Venus where he saw "beautiful domed buildings."
"I rode through space in a Venusian scout ship," he said. "It is a difficult feeling to describe, a feeling of no motion, of suspension in space. I was shown, through some means of tele-projection, a view of life in a city on Venus. It was not too different from ours. More orderly, quiet, much more beautiful.
He also had traveled to the Moon, where he could breathe the air with little difficulty.
"Most of the people who have contacted me," he said, "have been from the planet Venus, although I have seen others from Mars and Saturn. Some live on our Earth among us."
After Menger's radio and television appearances, so many thousands of people came to his home in Highgate, New Jersey, that at one point, the police had to be called in to unravel a traffic jam in front of the house. St. Germain, visiting in late fall 1956, found three hundred people there on a single afternoon.
The public demanded little proof, seemingly content with a contactee's "sincerity." As evidence of his contacts, the father of contacteeism, Adamski, showed skeptics eighteen photographs, some of spots and shadows, and some of a murky, bell-shaped object with what appeared to be wheels on the bottom. He also had one Venusian footprint cast in plaster of paris and containing a coded message. Other contactees had less to show. Bethurum offered a note written in French. A contactee named Buck Nelson sold $5 packets of hair from a Venusian St. Bernard he said weighed 385 pounds. Angelucci and Fry had only their word.
Like Adamski, Menger had photographs, five of them, one of a black mummy shape standing before a glaring rounded object - a Venusian in front of his scout ship, said Menger. Menger also cut a commercial record called "The Song from Saturn," "actual music that came from another planet." He once wrote to one of the UFO organizations, "We are tired of mysteries, hearsay, and ugly rumors circulating about saucer researchers and contactees. Incidentally," he added, "we have a scientist who is working on the qualitative analysis of the vegetables brought back from the Moon."
In January 1957, Major Donald Keyhoe, a graduate of Annapolis, retired Marine Corps pilot, and former aide to Charles Lindbergh, became head of a privately organized group called the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. Formed only several months earlier, NICAP eventually boasted a membership of 12,000, including many politicians, scientists, and high-ranking military officers. Keyhoe established NICAP headquarters in Washington, D.C., and appointed prominent people to its board of governors, one of whom was Vice Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, a Naval Academy classmate of Keyhoe's and the first director of the CIA in 1947. Intent on pushing UFOs into the political arena, Keyhoe and other NICAP members appeared on television and radio nine hundred times from 1957 to 1966.
Because of close and reliable contacts within the military, Keyhoe had been privy to much of the early (and secret) information concerning the Air Force's confusion over flying saucers. He knew that many sightings had been made by impeccable witnesses who had reported fantastic things and that lacking feasible alternatives, many intelligence analysts had leaned toward "interplanetary" as an explanation. Based on this information, Keyhoe had written many of the early articles and books on the subject. In 1950, he had concluded that the Air Force knew the origin of these splendid and mysterious craft and that official statements, "contradictory as they appear," were simply "part of an intricate program to prepare America - and the world - for the secret of the disks." Seven years later, if the Air Force had a secret, they still were keeping it.
As head of NICAP, Keyhoe opened war on two fronts: one with the Air Force for keeping UFOs classified, and the other with the "lunatic fringe" for tainting the study of UFOs by legitimate investigators. Too many people constantly confused NICAP with the crazies who had flown to Venus and eaten "space potatoes." Though he was convinced UFOs were of extraterrestrial origin, he refused membership to anyone who claimed contact with the occupants.
One of many letters he wrote to contactees went to Howard Menger. "We have been informed," he said, "that during your lectures and upon other occasions, you have stated that this Committee endorses your claims and views, including your claims to have met and talked with space people and to have visited the moon. This is to inform you that this Committee does not in any way endorse such claims by you or anyone else."
While battling to avoid the stigma of the contactees, Keyhoe also fought the military on Capitol Hill by pushing for congressional hearings on UFOs. He wrote letters, made speeches, and provided current information to congressmen, impressing many with the quality and quantity of the facts he presented. But each time his lobbying efforts persuaded a House or Senate subcommittee to consider an open hearing on UFOs, the Air Force would somehow convince one or two of the members that the whole matter of UFOs perpetuated itself only because the public had an insatiable appetite for the fantastic. Congressional hearings, they said, "would merely give dignity to the subject out of all proportion to which it is entitled." Whatever they were, said the Air Force, UFOs were harmless, at the most, perhaps, curious. The country was safe.
Keyhoe, however, felt he had abundant proof that something, indeed, was happening and that the Air Force not only had been inept in its efforts to solve the problem but had made "contradictory, misleading, and untrue statements" to congressmen and the public. So strongly did Keyhoe believe the Air Force was concealing what his editor had called "the biggest story since the birth of Christ" that he proposed a showdown: before the House Subcommittee on Space Problems and Life Sciences, NICAP and the Air Force would present evidence on the existence of "superior" craft piloted, or otherwise controlled, by extraterrestrial beings. Then, NICAP would answer Air Force questions, and the Air Force would answer NICAP questions. If the subcommittee agreed with NICAP, Keyhoe wanted an end to the secrecy. If Keyhoe's proof failed to convince the subcommittee, he would dismantle the entire NICAP organization.
But before the scheduled pre-hearing, one member of the subcommittee spoke with Blue Book personnel privately and concluded there was no need even to consider the hearings. The head of the subcommittee then attacked Keyhoe for his "malicious intent toward a great branch of the military." He called Keyhoe's proposal "a cheap scheme to discredit the Air Force."
But the Air Force's own special advisor to Project Blue Book, Dr. Allen Hynek, had secretly and consistently suggested that the Air Force delve deeper into the UFO phenomenon. Although he could explain most of the 15,000 sightings that had come to his attention, he wrote in The Saturday Evening Post in 1966 that "several hundred are puzzling, and some of the puzzling incidents, perhaps one in 25, are bewildering."
As Keyhoe waged his war in the halls of Congress during the late fifties and early sixties, the public sighted fewer and fewer mysterious objects flying in the sky. Constituents lessened the pressure on congressmen for answers, and reports coming into Blue Book decreased so markedly that Hynek himself thought the phenomenon might go away. Then, one night in March 1966, eighty-seven coeds at Hillsdale College in Michigan watched a glow of red, yellow, and green lights rise from a swamp only a few hundred yards from their dormitory.
Roughly "football-shaped," the glow seemed suddenly to fly at the dormitory. Then, it stopped. Then, it flew back to the swamp where it hovered. The county civil defense director watched the glowing object through binoculars for three hours. The following night, sixty-three miles away, a dozen people in Dexter, Michigan, several of them police officers, watched another glowing object rise from a marshy area on a farm. At about a thousand feet, the object stopped, hovered for a few minutes, and then flew away. A farmer and his son had approached to within five hundred yards of the object and heard it take off with the sound of a ricocheting bullet.
The two sightings sent reporters into a frenzy, and the Air Force dispatched Hynek to investigate. But when he arrived at the Hillsdale campus, he could hardly get to the witnesses. Journalists looking for answers had swarmed the campus and the farm, and emotions ran so high that even the police now saw flying saucers everywhere. The head of Blue Book called Hynek in Michigan and told him to stand up before a crowd of reporters in this near hysterical community and issue a statement on the cause of the sightings. But Hynek had nothing to say. He had no idea what could have caused the lights.
"Searching for a justifiable explanation of the sightings," he wrote in the 1966 Saturday Evening Post article, "I remembered a phone call from a botanist at the University of Michigan, who called to my attention the phenomenon of burning 'swamp gas.'"
Three days after he began his investigation, in the midst of being pulled in one direction by TV cameramen and in another by news reporters at the largest press conference in the history of the Detroit Press Club, Hynek uttered the words "swamp gas." He had only meant to say that this rare gas, known to burst into tiny flames that sometimes floated above the ground, was a "possible" cause of the sightings, but no sooner had the words slipped out of his mouth than the press conference erupted in a clamor of reporters rushing to the phone.
The Air Force and Hynek both looked foolish. Not one of the hundred-plus people who had witnessed the lights accepted the explanation. The civil defense director said that the pulsating lights he had watched through binoculars for three hours that night unquestionably came "from some kind of vehicle."
House minority leader Gerald R. Ford castigated the Air Force for their "flippant answer," to the Michigan sightings and called for a "full-blown" congressional investigation into UFOs. Two and a half weeks later, for the first time in the nineteen-year history of the phenomenon, the House Armed Services Committee held open hearings on UFOs.
"At that point," said Hynek in an OMNI magazine interview in 1985, "I had to ask myself when I would become scientifically honest and say that I just didn't know what the sightings were and that they deserved further investigation."
During the congressional hearings of April 5, 1966, Secretary of the Air Force Harold D. Brown revealed that an ad hoc group of scientists called the O'Brien Panel had secretly convened only six months earlier to review the UFO problem. The panel had concluded that UFO sightings had potential scientific value and recommended that the Air Force supplement Blue Book with science teams from selected universities who could mobilize quickly, gather data while fresh, and evaluate that data thoroughly. But with few sightings being reported and public interest on the wane, the Air Force had felt no pressure to implement the panel's recommendations so it had done nothing. Now, with press coverage of the recent Michigan sightings firing public interest and Congress pressuring the Air Force to find answers, Secretary Brown told the House Armed Services Committee that the Air Force would immediately begin a search outside the military for teams of scientists to study the UFO problem. The subject embodied so much misunderstanding and sensation, however, that several universities, including Harvard, MIT, University of North Carolina, and University of California, refused to participate. After months of searching, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research finally offered a $313,000 grant to Dr. Edward Uhler Condon at the University of Colorado to conduct the entire study with the help of special consultants and a staff of twelve, half of whom were scientists or psychologists. What became known as the Condon Committee remains the most controversial episode in forty years of UFO history.
Condon, sixty-four, a noted physicist and former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, had once served as deputy director of the highly secret Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, where he provided several pieces to the A-bomb puzzle. He also had been instrumental in the development of radar. His stature as a scientist satisfied both the Air Force and the science community, and his reputation for bucking governmental authority (he was one of the few to checkmate young Richard Nixon and the House Un-American Activities Committee) seemed to assure that UFOs would receive a fair hearing.
But in September 1966, two weeks prior to the first meeting of the committee, Hynek had dinner with Condon. Later, in the OMNI interview, Hynek recalled that the renowned scientist was "quite clearly negative" toward the subject of UFOs. When Hynek then visited the project offices, he found the project coordinator, Bob Low, already writing on a blackboard the chapter headings and conclusions for a report that as yet had not been researched and would not be complete for another two years. Hynek's early experiences with the two men running the project would prove prophetic.
Though the Air Force, at the behest of Congress, had established the Condon Committee to settle the UFO controversy, within months the committee itself was adding to the confusion. In January 1967, Condon addressed an honorary scientific fraternity, telling them, "It is my inclination right now to recommend that the Government get out of this business. My attitude right now is that there's nothing to it." Then, according to the Star-Gazette in Elmira, New York, he smiled and added, "But I'm not supposed to reach a conclusion for another year."
A mesmerizing storyteller, Condon loved to spin a good yarn and kept many audiences in near hysterics with material provided him by the lunatic fringe with which he came in contact during his tenure as head of the committee. For instance, a well-dressed gentleman in his fifties arrived at committee headquarters one day in a chauffeured Cadillac, announced himself as "Sir Salvador," agent of the Third Universe (the Second Universe was populated by bears), and demanded three billion dollars to build a spaceport to accommodate ships from the Third Universe trying to land on earth. According to UFOs? YES!, a book published in 1969 by Condon Committee psychologist Dr. David Saunders, Condon actually researched the "case" and found that Sir Salvador had recently been released from a mental institution. Nevertheless, Condon soberly reported his findings to Washington. When an Ontario, California man gave a specific date and time for an imminent on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Condon notified the Governor of Utah and dispatched an investigator who waited for two hours in vain next to members of the Utah Highway Patrol and a brass band. In September 1967, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver quoted Condon as saying, "The 21st century may die laughing when it looks back on many things we have done. This [the UFO study] may be one."
Condon himself investigated few, if any, of the truly perplexing cases and rarely discussed the progress of serious research with his staff. In fact, his staff saw little of him. And Low, who ran the project in Condon's absence, refused to investigate potentially important cases suggested by the staff; at the same time, he occupied himself with what other members considered irrelevant research. On one trip to Europe, ostensibly to research UFOs, Low spent much of his time in Scotland studying the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. According to Saunders's book, Low "explained later that this was relevant to UFOs because neither one exists and it was important to see how they were studying something that does not exist."
Because of his own experiences as a scientist, Hynek anticipated that the committee would find UFOs "of importance to the national interest," and that the committee would recommend that Congress establish a commission for studying "the many truly scientifically challenging cases." In a letter to Condon in January 1967, he wrote, "There are so many scientists who have now expressed a 'subterranean' interest in UFOs that I am moved to organize, as loosely as possible, an 'Invisible College of Interested Scientists.'"
But as months passed, Hynek and others who addressed the committee noticed both Condon's and Low's disturbing preoccupation with the obviously explainable reports. Condon continued to make jokes in public about contactees, giving the impression that such stories formed the bulk of UFO facts. And Low was too quick to point out how easily most cases proved to be some sort of astronomical phenomena or a misidentification of a known object. UFO researchers had known this for years; they wanted an explanation for the difficult cases.
Then, in the summer of 1967, one of the scientists on the staff discovered a memorandum written by Low in August 1966, just before the university signed the contract with the Air Force. Low had titled the memo "Some Thoughts on the UFO Project," and addressed it to university officials. In the memo, he noted that several of the scientists at the university wanted to avoid the project because the study would have to be objective, and that meant admitting the possibility that UFOs exist. Low capsulized their feelings by saying, "It is not respectable to give serious consideration to such a possibility." But Low had an answer. He wrote, "The trick would be, I think, to describe the project so that, to the public, it would appear a totally objective study but, to the scientific community, would present the image of a group of nonbelievers trying their best to be objective but having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer." One way to achieve this, he suggested, would be to stress the investigation of the psychological makeup of people who claimed to see UFOs and to downplay the physical evidence.
Low's memo so offended Saunders and Dr. Norman Levine, an electrical engineer on the staff, that they sent it to Donald Keyhoe, who tuned it over to a prominent scientist outside the committee. Condon countered by firing Saunders and Levine for "incompetence." Two weeks later, February 15, 1968, Mary Louise Armstrong, Low's administrative assistant, resigned, stating in her letter of resignation that there was "an almost unanimous lack of confidence" in Low and that Low "had indicated little interest in talking to those who carried out the investigations or in reading their reports." She could not understand how most of the scientists had "arrived at such radically different conclusions" from Low's and noted there was "a fairly good consensus among the team members that there is enough data in the UFO question to warrant further study....
"To say in our final report," she continued, "as I believe Bob would like to, that although we can't prove 'ETI' does not exist, we can say that there isn't much evidence to suggest it does, would not be correct. I do not understand how he can make such a statement when those who have done the work of digging into the sighting information do not think this is true... I do not think it is an unfair conclusion on our part to say that Bob is misrepresenting us."
Other staff members quit, too, and an article in Look, May 14, 1968, publicly exposed the problems within the Condon Committee, promoting a new congressional investigation. On July 29, 1968, as the Condon Committee began winding down its operation and writing its final report, Hynek, Dr. Carl Sagan, and four other scientists, including Dr. James McDonald, testified before the House Committee on Space and Astronautics.
In only a few years, Jim McDonald had become the most articulate proponent of UFO study. Tall, lean, dynamic, and with a photographic memory, he was far more vocal than Hynek. David Michael Jacobs, in The Controversy over Unidentified Flying Objects in America, reported that at the first meeting between McDonald and Hynek in 1967, McDonald had walked into Hynek's office, pounded on his desk, and exclaimed, "How could you sit on this information for so many years without alerting the scientific community!"
Holder of a master's degree from MIT and a doctor of philosophy from Iowa State University, McDonald headed the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona. Highly respected, he had done extensive research on cloud seeding, hurricane reduction, and ozone problems caused by SST emissions. Though he had discovered UFOs much later than Hynek, he called the study of UFOs "the most important scientific problem of our time." Adding that "we do not know what they are because we have laughed them out of court."
"My own present opinion, based on two years of careful study," he told the House Committee on Space and Aeronautics, "is that UFOs are probably extraterrestrial devices engaged in something that might be very tentatively termed 'surveillance.' Indeed," he added, "I have to state, for the record, that I believe no other problem within your jurisdiction is of comparable scientific and national importance. These are strong words, and I intend them to be."
Hynek told the committee that only two things kept scientists away from UFOs: One was lack of hard data (the Air Force, interested only in national security, had failed to collect sufficient scientific data); the other was the sensationalizing of UFOs by contactees and pulp magazines. Between the two, said Hynek, the science community's misconception of UFO information was "powerful and all-encompassing."
Each of the experts to testify before the committee recommended the subject be given further scientific study. Then, the committee adjourned and everyone awaited the Condon Committee's final report.
On November 15, 1968, the Condon Committee released a document 1,485 pages long. The committee had examined ninety-one cases, each listed in one of five categories: astronaut sightings, optical and radar sightings, old cases, new cases, and photographic evidence.
Astronomer and professor of astrogeophysics, Dr. Franklin Roach, wrote the chapter entitled "Visual Observations Made by U.S. Astronauts." A consultant to NASA, Roach had briefed and debriefed the astronauts on their experiences in space aboard Mercury and Gemini flights. After examining ten of the more intriguing sightings, Roach could explain only seven of them. He wrote that, "The three unexplained sightings, which have been gleaned from a great mass of reports, are a challenge to the analyst. Especially puzzling is the first one of the list, the daytime sighting of an object showing details such as arms (antennas?) protruding from a body having a noticeable angular extension. If the NORAD listing of objects near the GT-4 spacecraft at the time of the sighting is complete as it presumably is, we shall have to find a rational explanation or, alternatively, keep it on our list of unidentifieds."
Physicist Gordon Thayer wrote the chapter "Optical and Radar Sightings" and concluded that one case, which occurred in Lakenheath, England in August 1965, was "the most puzzling and unusual case in the radar-visual files. The apparently rational, intelligent behavior of the UFO suggests a mechanical device of unknown origin as the most probable explanation of this sighting."
One of the photographic cases examined by astronomer and photo analyst, Dr. William K. Hartmann, involved two photographs taken by a farmer in McMinnville, Oregon in 1950. Hartmann and his staff not only analyzed the original negatives but found and interviewed the farmer. Hartmann concluded: "This is one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated ... appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses.
"It cannot be said that the evidence positively rules out a fabrication," he added, "although there are some physical factors such as the accuracy of certain photometric measures of the original negatives which argue against a fabrication."
Hartmann noted that about two percent of cases involving photographic evidence "appear to represent well recorded but unidentified or unidentifiable objects that are airborne - ie. UFOs." This, wrote Hartmann, "is not inconsistent with the hypothesis that unknown and extraordinary aircraft have penetrated the airspace of the Unites States."
Many of the case reports contained conclusions like this: "If the report is accurate [it was made by six Air Force officers and confirmed by ground and airborne radar] it describes an unusual, intriguing, and puzzling phenomenon which, in the absence of additional information, must be listed as unidentified." And this: "Taking into consideration the high credibility of information and the cohesiveness and continuity of accounts, combined with a high degree of 'strangeness,' it is also certainly one of the most disturbing UFO incidents known today." Or: "In conclusion, although conventional or natural explanations certainly cannot be ruled out, the probability of such seems low in this case and the probability that at least one genuine UFO was involved appears to be fairly high."
Condon, who investigated few if any of the cases and talked rarely with his staff about their research, wrote the conclusion for the report.
"No direct evidence whatever of a convincing nature now exists for the claim that any UFOs represent spacecraft visiting Earth from another civilization," he claimed. Furthermore, "nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the last twenty years that has added to scientific knowledge." And finally, "Careful consideration of the record, as it is available to us, leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby."
In the OMNI interview eighteen years later, Hynek said, "It almost seemed to me as if Dr. Condon had not read his own report. The report itself presented real mysteries."
An eleven-member panel from the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the Condon Report and approved its conclusions. "On the basis of present knowledge," noted the panel, "the least likely explanation of UFOs is the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitations by intelligent beings." They agreed with Condon: UFOs did not warrant further scientific study.
In a press conference, January 11, 1969, Keyhoe complained that the committee had examined only fifty cases from 1947 to 1967, and those were hardly typical of the "reliable, unexplained" reports. NICAP had ten to fifteen thousand such cases in its files.
Hynek wrote in his review that he would never have wasted his time on nearly two-thirds of the cases studied by the committee. The Air Force consultant also noted that members of the committee sometimes stretched so far to explain a sighting they came up with solutions like this: "This unusual sighting should therefore be assigned to the category of some almost certainly natural phenomenon which is so rare that it apparently has never been reported before or since."
Dr. Peter Sturrock, professor of astrophysics and space science at Stanford, wrote a lengthy evaluation of the Condon Report for the Institute of Plasma Research. Sturrock concluded, "It is my opinion that the substance of the Condon Report presents a persuasive case for the view that there is some phenomenological fire hidden behind the smoke of UFO reports and that the Report, therefore, supports the proposition that further scientific study of UFOs is in order."
On May 16, 1969, Roach, who had been responsible for the section on astronaut sightings, wrote to Hynek that he had attended a recent Condon lecture entitled "UFOs I Have Loved and Lost." "He was amusing, hilarious at times, but did not touch on the serious part of the investigation," said Roach. "The listeners must have gone away with the erroneous impression that his encounters with psychopaths or retardeds represented the essence of the investigation rather than a peripheral aspect of the matter." Roach referred to "all the errors and comedies of the investigation," and ended with, "The fallibility of scientists has been revealed which is important, and the public may now enter a new era of confusion."
Two years after the Condon Report, in November of 1970, a subcommittee on UFOs sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics found that many of Condon's conclusions were his own, not based on research in the report. Nor was there "a basis in the report for his prediction that nothing of scientific value will come of further studies." The subcommittee recommended increased study, finding it "difficult to ignore the small residue of well-documented but unexplainable cases which form the hard core of the UFO controversy."
"Nevertheless," Hynek recalled, "when the Condon Report came out in 1968, it was the kiss of death."
The Condon Report recommended that the Air Force's efforts at Project Blue Book be discontinued. One year later, December 17, 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force announced that the Air Force's twenty-two-year study of UFOs would be terminated. The Air Force "got out of the UFO business," folded Project Blue Book, and declassified all files: forty-two cubic feet of paper, over 80,000 pages. In twenty-two years, the Air Force had investigated 12,618 reported sightings, only 701 of which remained unsolved. The rest, the Air Force attributed to balloons, satellites, aircraft, lighting, reflections, stars, planets, the sun, the moon, weather conditions, or outright fabrications. Using the figures provided by the Air Force, once every eleven days for twenty-two years, someone in the United States sighted a flying object that no one could explain.
But many people in the field had felt for some time that the Air Force and its Project Blue Book served only as a publicity front, that in fact, the real investigation had been conducted by another agency or agencies. Bill Spaulding of Ground Saucer Watch examined the newly declassified Air Force files in the early seventies and came away feeling something was missing.
"It's always been our contention," said Spaulding, "that there was another agency or entity involved. In other words, the Air Force is not the bad guy. If you look at it logically, you'll see that the Air Force projects consisted of about five people, including some secretaries, very miniscule, who did nothing. The Air Force went around and gathered information. But after reviewing all the Project Blue Book files, we came across none of the cases that people had given to us. Where were they? What we found out was that another agency was involved, so we said, 'To heck with this. Let's go after the CIA.'"
In 1975, under the newly revised Freedom of Information Act, Ground Saucer Watch filed a request with the CIA for one copy of the 1953 Robertson Panel Report. Responding to the request, the CIA declassified the controversial report but stated that the CIA's only involvement with UFOs was the Robertson Panel.
"At no time prior to the formation of the Robertson Panel and subsequent to the issuance of the panel's report," read the reply, "has the CIA engaged in the study of the UFO phenomenon. The Robertson Panel Report is summation of the Agency's interest and involvement in this matter."
Three and a half years later, after extended litigation, the CIA was forced to admit to Ground Saucer Watch that it not only investigated the phenomenon before and long after the convening of the Robertson Panel but that it possessed 412 UFO-related documents that had originated within the CIA and another 199 documents that had originated with other government agencies. The CIA relinquished 900 pages of UFO sightings and internal policy on UFOs.
While the litigation between GSW and the CIA progressed through the legal system, an independent UFO researcher filed another Freedom of Information request, this one with the super-secret National Security Agency. He received this reply: "Regarding your inquiry about UFOs, please be advised that NSA does not have any interest in UFOs in any manner [emphasis in original]." But during it suit against the CIA, GSW learned that some of the CIA documents they sought had originated with NSA. After a new and again protracted legal battle, NSA released only two of its admitted 239 documents relating to UFOs, a decision upheld by the courts for reasons of national security.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, UFO groups and independent researchers, utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, prompted the release of 3,000 pages of previously classified material concerning UFOs-reports, correspondence, minutes, and memoranda-all pieces of a historical puzzle that, when put together, revealed over thirty years of interest in UFOs by the State Department, Army, Navy, Air Force, FBI, CIA, NSA, and Defense Intelligence Agency.
Among the thousands of pages of UFO-related documents, researchers found many old and revealing memoranda such as this one concealed in CIA files since 1950. On November 21 of that year, an engineer named Wilbert B. Smith in the Canadian Department of Transport wrote a proposal for a study of the earth's magnetic field as a possible energy source. In the secret memo, he stated, "I made discreet enquiries through the Canadian Embassy staff in Washington who were able to obtain for me the following information:
a. The matter is the most highly classified subject in the United States Government, rating higher even than the H-bomb. b. Flying saucers exist. c. Their modus operandi is unknown but concentrated effort is being made by a small group headed by Doctor Vannevar Bush. d. The entire matter is considered by the United States authorities to be of tremendous significance."
Since no one had ever uncovered a photo lab or darkroom where Eduard Meier might have developed and possibly fabricated his photographs, Elders and Welch wanted to know who processed his film. Perhaps that person could offer clues or even answers, making the testing of the photographs unnecessary. They discovered that Meier had all of his film developed at a small photography and video shop in Wetzikon called Bär Photo, part of a downtown shopping strip about thirty or forty minutes from the farm. Bär Photo was owned by a couple in their mid-thirties, Beatrice and Willy Bär, each of whom during the interview appeared to be bright and well-traveled, far more cosmopolitan than most of the people they had met at the farm. Each spoke English well.
When Meier had first brought in rolls of black-and-white film to be developed, Bär himself had done much of the processing.
"I never saw anything suspicious in the black-and-white film I developed," said Bär, "nor was I ever told to manipulate anything. A lot of people have suspected I did that but no. When someone brings you pictures like this, your first reaction automatically is, 'This is a lot of crap.' But he aroused my curiosity."
Meier had even invited Bär several times to accompany him on a contact to photograph the beamships if he desired, but Bär had declined. At the time, he did not believe strongly in Meier's story, nor did he have time to drive and walk with Meier through the Swiss countryside late at night. He had been curious but not curious enough.
When Meier had first brought his exposed film to Bär, the shop owner had studied the photographs closely with a magnifying glass. He was certain he would be able to recognize a double exposure because the portion exposed twice always appears "stronger." But he never saw any evidence that Meier had tinkered with the photographs.
Bär said, "My personal opinion was always, 'I don't know about UFOs, but the pictures are real.' You could drag me before a court of law and I would say the same thing I have told you."
During the interview, Bär said he had always sold Meier equipment he could handle with one hand. That was the major selling point. Meier would come into the store and experiment for hours with every model until he found one that would be the easiest for him to use. Bär had once sold Meier an old 8mm camera made by Alcom that had been sitting around his shop for years; nobody wanted to buy it, but it was by far the easiest movie camera to use with one hand.
"If he had an accomplice," Bär pointed out, "he would not have to try out all the models to see what could be used with one hand."
Beatrice Bär also knew Meier and often had spoken with him in the shop. Unknown to Meier she, too, had studied his photos.
"I don't believe in the same thing he does," she said. "But I always wondered just how he could do that because the pictures looked real; they didn't look faked. As a rule, if you have a double exposure or any reproduction, you can see the outline, but with his pictures, you could see nothing."
She and her husband often had talked about Meier, but neither understood how the man could create such authentic-looking photography. Beatrice herself had decided that Meier fabricated everything, but she couldn't see how he was doing it. Nor could she understand, with so many people traveling to the farm to visit Meier, and now so many actually living with the Meiers, how some of them could not know or even be involved in the hoax. She wondered how Meier could keep all of them quiet, especially the children.
"Children always talk," she said.
Both Willy and Beatrice Bär had learned nearly everything they knew about photography and developing from a younger man who, several years before, had been employed at the shop when it had a different owner and who had encouraged the Bärs to buy the shop when it came up for sale in 1970. Fritz Kindliman, who recently turned thirty-one, had now worked there for ten years. He knew Meier better than anyone in the store, had handled and inspected hundreds of his photographs, and often had talked with him since Meier began bringing his film to Bär for processing in 1973.
Kindliman had been taking pictures since he was a small boy. When he turned sixteen and, under the Swiss educational system, had to select a profession for study and apprenticeship, he chose video and television. Whenever new equipment came out on the market, he bought it so he could study how it worked. He now owned and could dismantle and reassemble many cameras, video, and 35mm.
Quiet, somewhat disheveled, with hair sticking up in the back, and appearing almost lost when out of the lab or not behind a camera, Kindliman met one morning with Elders and Welch in a small pastry shop a few doors down from Bär Photo. At first, the conversation was of congenial things - Kindliman's interest in cameras, his years of experience at the Bär shop. Then, speaking through an interpreter, Elders asked Kindliman, "Did Mr. Meier ever ask you about darkroom techniques or film developing?"
Kindliman shook his head.
"Never?" said Elders.
Kindliman turned to the interpreter and said that Meier never asked any questions about such things. "Of course I must admit," he added, "in the beginning, I was very critical when he came in with these pictures. But he kept bringing them in. Today, I am convinced this is the real thing."
The photographer seemed equally positive that Meier had no color photo lab of his own hidden away somewhere. The processing and equipment were far too expensive and complex to be owned and operated by a single individual. Bär Photo itself had no such sophisticated laboratory. Every roll of film Meier brought to the shop, and often there were as many as four or five a week, Bär sent to one of three places: slides to Lausanne Kodak, Ektachrome to Studio 13 in Zurich, prints to Wädenswil Labor Pro-Cine.
Since Meier used both print and slide film, his negatives had to be sent to all three Swiss laboratories. Kindliman's job included scanning random pictures when they came back from the developing labs, checking through the packets to ensure the quality of the photos and slides they returned to their customers. He had examined many of Meier's photographs before Meier himself had seen them. And, he was certain there had never been any of what he called "manipulation" of the photos.
Welch asked him why. "Warum?"
On the table in front of them lay a picture of Meier's they had brought to the interview: two beamships close up, one below the crest of a hill and one just above. Kindliman picked it up and immediately began to talk.
"If you wanted to superimpose those two UFOs on the landscape, you would have to practice for a long time to get the upper one without any shadows on it. You must understand when you bring in a whole strip of film there are many pictures on that strip. If this shot had been manipulated, you would assume that on that strip of film you would have several shots of the same scene but of different quality because he's experimenting with that scene.
"Now if Herr Meier had come into the store just to order one picture and, on the strip to the left and to the right there were the same scene with different lighting techniques, then I would have immediately noticed these pictures had been manipulated. But I never had the slightest suspicion the pictures had been manipulated. I exclude such a possibility. Whenever he brought in negatives to have prints made, the negatives were always in strips, not cut up."
Welch asked Kindliman if there was any way Meier could have manipulated some of these pictures without his being able to detect it. Kindliman became indignant.
"I can't imagine that," he said. "Absolutely not!"
Kindliman also said they had told Meier again and again to take better care of his negatives because he would bring them in scratched and smudged.
Elders and Welch had surmised that when they got to Bär Photo, they would discover that Meier frequently had been in, asking about darkroom techniques. But according to the man in the shop who had spent the greatest amount of time with him, he never asked such questions. Kindliman told them that most of Meier's film was in slides and that if Meier had wanted to fake pictures of that size, he would have needed specialized macro equipment, but Meier didn't have any.
"Had he ever asked me questions about macro technique or how to light macro shots, then I would have become suspicious," said Kindliman. "Had he asked me pointed questions, I might have studied those photos more carefully, but he never gave me reason to disbelieve him."
Perhaps the single thing that impressed Kindliman was Meier's 8mm films of the beamships - Meier's footage of the beamship that appears to cut in front of a tall pine causing it to sway, of the ship coming to a stop over Hasenbol, and of the craft that begins to dematerialize above a hillside and seems to be reappearing down below in the same frame.
Video and movie film had become Kindliman's specialty. He told Elders and Welch, "When I saw these shots they looked real to me."
Even on warm summer evenings, the large Meier kitchen with its many chairs continued to be the place for everyone to gather. After a dinner of boiled potatoes from the garden, with perhaps some cheese and a loaf of bread out of the oven, most everyone simply remained at the table, especially if there were guests. Chairs got rearranged, people tilted back or leaned on the table, and the conversation went on until the evening light showing through the kitchen windows first had softened to gray, and then finally turned black.
"We had many such evenings," recalled Welch. "On one that I'll always remember, we talked about the Pleiadians, what Meier had been told, their knowledge of their past, tracing it from Lyra, how they for the first time came in contact with Earth. I think we sat there spellbound for about two hours. And the way it came out of him was more than interesting. He found it interesting, and so he would highlight points that were interesting to him or somehow had surprised him, as a couple of things had.
"I looked at all of it in a dual sense: The question whether it was too far out to believe, I felt we'd find the answer to later so that wasn't important to me. At that time, I was more interested in experiencing, watching, and hearing all of it, and I enjoyed the experience. And what was impressing me to no end was that a lot of what was coming out of Meier... was not Meier. It was alien to the man and to his style of describing things. He was explaining something he'd been told by somebody else. Whoever was the source of all this description was very, very intelligent, very, very good at communicating a fact or an event. And very philosophical at times in an alien way or highly, technically accurate in a way that Meier didn't even seem to be aware of."
"We are the Pleiadians," Meier was explaining to the people at the table. "We came from a cross between the Pleiadians and the human beings from the earth."
"Why don't we live as long as they do?" asked Welch.
"We have to build up our age," said Meier, "like they had to do on their planets some millions or billion years ago. The age of a living form, especially of a human being, will evolve very slowly, like his wisdom and knowledge, and his technology. You can see here in Europe, some twenty-five years ago, we had an average age for the European people of seventy-two years. And now, it's up to seventy-five years."
"What does Erra look like?" asked Elders.
Meier said he had never traveled there. "But it looks nearly like earth," he explained. "It's a little bit smaller than earth, and the buildings there are round. The vehicles have no wheels, they hover, and the work is done by robots and androids. The androids are half mechanical and half organic, and they are able to think by themselves, but humans oversee everything that's done. Each family is not more than five persons, the parents and a maximum of three children."
Meier told them that about three thousand ships from other star systems in the galaxy visit the earth each year.
"There's eight different human races that have stations here on earth," he claimed. "They are here exploring, they are here studying, they are here watching."
"Are any of them here to try to destroy us?" asked Elders.
"No," said Meier. "If a human race can cross a very, very great distance, maybe light years of space, they will not be coming here to make trouble or start a war. The earth human is a fighting creature - his whole life is based on fighting - so he thinks if there is a human race on another planet, those creatures will be exactly the same as he is. But, that isn't true.
If they so desired, the Pleiadians could destroy the earth in a mater of minutes, said Meier; they could have enslaved all earthlings thousands of years ago. Meier admitted that some of the other ships had picked up humans against their will, but he compared the situation to earth scientists and anthropologists who, upon discovering a primitive people still on earth, dispatch teams to study them and return them to the lab.
"Humans are humans," said Meier.
If the Pleiadians or other entities abducted earth humans, it served only to satisfy their legitimate curiosity. Occasionally, a mistake might be made, and an abducted human would die, much as earth doctors made mistakes causing people to die. But, human life was never taken purposely.
Meier was certain that World War III would take place.
"That will be for sure," he said.
"When will it happen?" asked Welch.
"That's a good question," said Meier.
"It's not so far," replied Meier. "They know the exact dates, but it's not so good to know them."
"Won't the Pleiadians try to stop it?" asked Welch.
"It is impossible," said Meier. He told the people at the table that the Pleiadians are not allowed to interfere with the development of earth. "It is absolutely impossible to stop all these things. Some two thousand years ago, World War III was called by several prophets. Nobody heard them for two thousand years. And now it's really too late."
Such a holocaust could be prevented only by change, and change could be effected in only two ways: One was by teaching, by showing earth humans how to advance spiritually from within, which the Pleiadians desired to do; the other was to use force, which the Pleiadians forbid. They would not step in to prevent war unless our earth war threatened civilizations elsewhere. Though they possessed the power to stop the ultimate conflagration, they would stand idly by and watch us destroy ourselves if we chose to do so, even if a crazy man reached for the button. The Pleiadians attempted only to effect small changes in people of clear head and heart, by teaching and allowing the person to grow from the inside.
"If you travel into space," said Meier, "you will find humans wherever you go. And when they start to think, they need a teacher. If they have never seen a flower before, never heard anything about a flower, the one who knows the flower can teach them. And this is the way over the whole universe. The photographs are only to make people think, to show them something; people shall come for these pictures, but they shall study the teachings, and they shall come to know."
Meier told Welch of many things that had been explained to him by the Pleiadians, one of the most intriguing and controversial being perhaps the most fundamental to the Pleiadian presence on Earth.
With the Pleiades nearly five hundred light years from Earth, conventional Earth physics dictated that traveling at the greatest speed conceivable, the speed of light, a trip from the Pleiades to Earth and back again would require one thousand years. Yet, Meier maintained that the Pleiadian propulsion system was capable of speeds many millions of times faster than light and that Semjase frequently traveled back and forth between her home planet Erra and Earth. The Pleiadians, said Meier, made the trip in seven hours.
During the fourth contact and again in the eighth, Semjase had explained to Meier aspects of the propulsion system that enabled the Pleiadian beamships to transcend distance and the passage of time.
"For traveling through cosmic space," she said, "a drive is necessary which surpasses the speed of light many times over. But this propulsion can come into action only when the speed of light is already attained. This means, then, that a beamship needs at least two drives - a normal drive which provides acceleration up to the speed of light and a second hyper-drive, as you would call it. With this, we are able to paralyze time and space simultaneously," explained Semjase. "They collapse into null time and null space. And only when time and space have ceased to exist are we capable of traveling through distances of light years in a tiny particle of a second. This is done so quickly that living forms are not aware of it.
"The reason we need seven hours to reach Earth is because first we must fly far into space before we can convert to hyper-speed. We then come back out of the hyper-space condition far outside of your solar system and fly to here once more in normal drive.
"I am not allowed to give you any further details. But I can tell you that your advanced scientific circles are already working on systems known as light-emitting drives and 'tachyon' drives. The elemental principles are already known to them. The light-emitting drive serves as the normal propulsion system to move the ships to the limits of space and time. Once there, the tachyon drive is brought into action. This is the hyper-propulsion system, which is able to force space and time into hyper-space. We use other names, but the principles are exactly the same."
Before Stevens's first trip to Switzerland in 1977, Lou Zinsstag had sent him the contact notes pertaining to the Pleiadian propulsion system. But Stevens had never heard the term "tachyon." Nor had the Elders or Welch.
After Welch had read in the contact notes Semjase's explanation of Pleiadian propulsion to Meier, he questioned the man often about the concept. Welch came away thinking that Meier knew more than he should, both for his station in life and for the dearth of information on the subject in all but the most sophisticated scientific circles.
"He wrote down in the notes what he had been told," said Welch, "and then he elaborated on what he understood of the concept as a method of space travel. I saw those notes in '78. We did learn later that, for some period of time, specialists either connected with NASA or with companies like General Dynamics had been quietly working on that as a propulsion concept. What's interesting is that the man who wrote the notes has a formal education equivalent to the fifth or sixth grade. He does not live near major libraries, he does not live near major scientific centers, he doesn't have immediate contacts in those fields. At the time, we didn't know what 'tachyon' meant. Most physicists didn't know what a tachyon was. And to apply the concept of theoretical tachyon to space propulsion is a huge step to make. There was no evidence that we could dig up that he had collaborated with anybody on this.
"But the thing that was startling to me was that, as soon as we started to dig into that, all of a sudden something else would pop up, in the notes or through Billy, that was equally sophisticated, unique, and advanced in a different field. In the notes, there were conversations about the universe and celestial mechanics, about healing methods and advanced medical equipment that just did not make sense coming from a man out in the remote countryside of Switzerland. Most of it, though, I noticed in the way he carried himself in conversations - the way he dealt with knowledge. It all seemed out of context with his personality. It seemed as if the man had a tutor in various fields who was one incredible tutor."
"After my first trip in the summer of '78," said Welch, "we got together and decided there was a tremendous amount of information here, a tremendous number of unanswered questions. We were intrigued; we were hooked at this point. Witnesses we had met seemed quite sincere, as well as changed. That was the thing. They seemed changed. There was a sense of change in the area all around the Meier farmhouse, something that you couldn't put your finger on, just something you sensed. I can give you an analogy. Some of the people we met reflected the same kind of change you would detect in someone who's been on an operating table and has been termed technically dead for two or three minutes and then comes back. I had talked to two people like that, so I knew the difference. They have a light airiness about them, a sense of harmony about their lives that envelops you when you talk to them. I sensed that in some of the witnesses.
"When I left after that trip, I had the feeling, 'I don't know what it is, but something is going on. Something here is going on.' And I wouldn't have been satisfied if Meier himself all of a sudden had stood up in front of everybody and shocked them by saying, 'I faked everything!' I wouldn't have believed that because he couldn't have known how."