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In 1967, Lee Elders had gone to work for Capitol Detective Agency in Phoenix, a job that allowed him to work his own hours and afforded him several months off each year to travel, explore, and eventually lead expeditions into the Amazon Basin, primarily the El Oriente region of Ecuador. Born in Bowie, Arizona, Elders had been reared in the desert, a place of hard edges and little subtlety. The landscape had shaped his personality: he walked with a determined forward lean, shoulders hunched, lost in thought, caring little for diplomacy. Brit Nilsson had met him at the Phoenix airport in 1974, as he returned from an expedition, banging his way through customs carrying an armload of blowguns and spears. He hadn't bathed in two weeks.
"I wish you could have met Lee back when I met him," she said later. "I couldn't stand him. He was the most horrible, arrogant you-know-what... he was obnoxious, is the best word to describe Lee. And he thought he was perfect." Brit, calm and well-reasoned, is a tall, buxom woman with large brown eyes from the Indian side of her heritage and blond hair from her Scandinavian ancestors. She recently had divorced. Though she was fifteen years younger, Lee eventually her over, and she agreed to marry him.
Years of exploration in South America had etched deep fissures into Elders' face. A friend who had known him in South America in 1974, "back when Ecuador represented the equivalent of an Egypt in the early 1900s," claimed that Elders was the first non-native to enter vast regions of the Amazon Basin and forge relationships with the territorial Jivaros and Shuaras. Estimates at the time were that no more than one in every ten artifacts surviving the Spanish conquest of the Inca civilization had been recovered. During the early 1970s, based on four hundred-year-old legend and recent tribal rumor, Elders had arranged the financing and equipment for archaeological expeditions into the jungle in search of the Inca huacas.
Back in the States, working again for the Capitol agency in early 1976, Lee Elders, then thirty-eight, had been assigned to a large transportation company, to find, screen, and qualify ten individuals the company could place within its employee ranks to penetrate a theft ring. One afternoon, while Elders talked to the company's head of security about the theft problem, a phone call interrupted their conversation. Elders overheard the security man say, "What do you mean you lost it?" Sensitive company data sent from one computer in one building to another computer across the street somehow had never made it to the second computer. The security man hung up the phone and said to Elders, "Holy Christ! How could this happen?" Elders explained to him that the information could have been intercepted.
Tom Welch, a close friend of Elders, worked for the same detective agency. That evening, Elders told Welch about the conversation he had had with the security guard, and Welch began searching for a "countermeasure" firm. Through he turned up several other private investigation companies like Capitol, none of them specialized in telecommunications. He expanded his search beyond Phoenix to include the entire Southwest and still found no one capable of investigating computer theft.
"Tom and I started talking," Elders said later. "'There's a tremendous need out here for a company that could protect against this; maybe we should start one.' Then, we started researching it and found out there's a lot of theft going on. Then, after another six months of searching, we stumbled on a company in New York that had state-of-the-art telephone analyzers which you could hook up on-line and do your sweeps with."
With this level of sophistication, in less than an hour, they could probe a huge communications system and determine the use of every wire out of thousands in the system.
"We're not talking about something like black boxes and wands," said Welch. "We're not talking about little RF bugs; we're talking about manipulating the wiring. That's where sophisticated data theft takes place. They can run it right in front of everybody's nose, out of the building and anywhere in the city, and in some cases across the country."
In the latter part of 1976, Tom Welch and Lee and Brit Elders purchased the $20,000 telephone analyzer and founded Intercep, a company of licensed investigators trained in the protection of corporate security. Corporate officers suspicious of sensitive information leaks quietly hired Intercep to discover the source of the leaks, either in the ranks of their employees or as taps within their telecommunications system. With most of their work consisting of non-crisis security checks, Intercep specialized in preventing computer theft and the bugging of executive phones and offices by competitors. After a year and a half, they had performed for three of the top ten Fortune 500 corporations, and business already had expanded overseas.
When Wendelle Stevens returned from Switzerland, he realized he had become involved in a case potentially so big he would be incapable of investigating it. There were landing tracks he could not explain, witnesses who needed further interrogation, scores of photographs he did not know how to analyze definitively.
"I was convinced there was so much here," said Stevens, "that no UFO club could ever investigate it properly. It would take several people, well equipped, trained in proper investigative techniques. I'd spin my wheels forever trying to find out what they could turn up in two days."
The Elders had already seen some of the Meier photos the day Lou Zinsstag laid them out carefully on Stevens' dining room table. The photos had impressed them at first, but Lee Elders was certain they were fake and Meier and the witnesses crazy.
"I came back," recalled Stevens, "and told Lee I didn't think they were a bunch of kooks. As a cross section of people, they probably were more intellectual than we were and as smart as any of us, probably smarter than most of our UFO researchers."
"Well then," said Elders, "they ought to be able to find out what's going on."
"The man himself is not smart enough to fool all of those people," said Stevens. "I sat down across from him and looked him in the eye. He's a simple man, he's very sincere, he doesn't have much of an education, he doesn't have any resources, he doesn't have anything going for him. Plus, a lot of people are watching him, and I couldn't find anybody who had seen anything suspicious."
"Bullshit," countered Elders, "they're pulling your leg over there."
Stevens listed four reasons the Meier case appeared unique among many thousands of UFO cases. "One," he said, "there are more notes and more information, and more detailed descriptions of vents provided by witnesses, than in any other UFO case recorded. Two, there are more photographs and many of the photographs are better than in any other UFO case ever. Three, there is more physical evidence to study and analyze in this case than in any other UFO case known. And four, there are more individual contact events in this case than any other in history, and the contact is still going on!"
During less reserved moments, Stevens called the Meier story "the hands-down greatest UFO case of all time," and "the biggest, most spectacular, longest-running, most productive case in the history of the phenomenon."
But the Elders were not interested. Not only was Lee Elders busy, but he was also concerned about the reputation of his fast-growing security firm. "I'm just getting big into Intercep," he said, "and this wild colonel, who's just lost all objectivity after thirty years, gets me out chasing UFOs. My career's right down the toilet."
"What if the story's real?" Stevens asked him. "It can't hurt it then."
"But you don't have any proof that it's real," replied Elders.
"That's what I'm trying to find out," said Stevens.
"I wouldn't worry about the case," Elders told him. "It's all a bunch of baloney anyway."
"No, it's not," argued Stevens. "Something's going on there. It's changed too many people's lives."
"Steve," said Lee, "we just can't get involved in stuff like that."
Brit Elders kept a diary. Every evening she recorded the highlights of daily occurrences and conversations with friends. On November 19, 1977, she wrote the following entry: "Steve arrived Phoenix p.m. Blown away. 'Meier for real.' Three hours of ranting and raving. Lee not paying much attention. Never seen Steve so up. Can't interest Lee. Who has time to chase UFOs? Didn't phase [sic] Steve, kept rambling. Pushed for Lee to throw Intercep into investigation. Lee and I talked rest of night. He doesn't want to commit the company name to such a weird subject. Steve will have to understand...."
Stevens resorted to pleading. He said, "Look, I've got a problem. I can go to the UFO organizations with this; they all would jump at the chance to get control of it. But they'll investigate it with mail order investigators, and they'll surely fuck it up like they do all of the others. I need some real investigation on this. I need people who know how to look for information, I need somebody who's got staying power, I need somebody who isn't going to waste time, who knows what to do and how to document it."
One of Stevens' main concerns was the rate at which some of the photographs were disappearing. Whether the story of the contacts was true or not, the evidence might be gone before anyone had a chance to analyze it. As Intercep grew over the next few months, and the Elders and Welch became more involved in the business, Stevens continued his pleas. Once they met Meier, walked some of the sites, and talked to the witnesses, he felt certain they would agree with him that something was going on. Elders and Welch humored, even teased him about his sudden devotion to this one case. But they knew Stevens well enough to realize something must be different about the Meier story; though for thirty years Stevens had maintained that UFOs were of extraterrestrial origin and he had a mind open to even the most outlandish of stories, he did require proof, and until he saw that proof, he gave no credence to unsupported claims. The photographs were proof, but only if they held up, and despite their looking almost too good to be valid, Stevens had found nothing during his trip that would indicate they somehow had been fabricated. Though none of them would admit it at the time, the Elders and Welch had their curiosities piqued ever so slightly by Stevens' failure to uncover Meier's "technique." He had unveiled so many in the past, often by simply studying a photo in his hand.
"It wasn't just a tall tale," Welch said later. "Either there was one hell of an intriguing story, how somebody did all of this and pulled it off under the guise of being a naïve Swiss farmer, or there might be, for the first time, an incredibly historic event."
In April 1978, the Elders had to travel to London on business. When Stevens heard about the trip, he immediately suggested it was a perfect opportunity: after they had concluded work for their client, he could meet them in London and the three of them could then take the night train to Zurich. It wouldn't cost much. Then, they could rent a car and drive through the Swiss countryside... they would love Switzerland in the spring... and spend a couple of days in a quaint guesthouse. Meeting Meier and talking to some of the people at the farm might even change their minds.
The Elders had never been to Switzerland, and the client was to pick up the tab for the flight to London. A few days on a side trip with Stevens, who typically investigated his cases carrying a small backpack filled with notebooks and apples, would be inexpensive. The Elders finally decided that if it meant that much to Stevens to have them just look at the farm and talk for a while with Meier, they could afford the time.
"I don't think I convinced Lee by telling him what I saw," said Stevens. "What convinced him, I think, more than anything else was my appeal as a friend to come help me take a look because there was nobody else I could rely on to do it. He said, 'We'll come over there, but we're not coming over to investigate any of your kookie stuff.'"
With the Elders scheduled to be in London the first of April, Tom Welch remained in Phoenix for the Honeywell Corporation's fourth national Computer Security and Privacy Symposium. The two-day affair promised the latest information "by many of the nation's most prominent authorities on the subject of Systems Security and Privacy." Honeywell had asked Tom Welch to give the featured address on "Electronics Communications Protection."
"Since we were trying to learn and constantly develop our abilities in our business," recalled Welch, "it required us to be a t the frontier edge of computers and electronics and communications. By then, we had had a ton of experience in a number of small cases, and we were picking up major clients. Some of our cases involved rather elaborate cover stories, new employees as well as an electronic penetration, industrial espionage, a variety of things. And it was here that we were developing a knack for bursting the bubble."
Their growing knowledge and experience provided Welch with the material for his presentation. He assumed it also would serve the Elders well in Switzerland. "There was a lot of potentially complicated detail involved with Meier," he said, "and if it was a hoaxing effort, it was on a grand scale. But we were very confident that by the end of a week, if there was a hoax going on, Lee and Brit would probably have gotten to the bottom of it. Our confidence stemmed from having this knack for penetrating the problems of our clients quickly. We had no expectation whatsoever of spending a lot of time on it."
At the end of March, Stevens flew to London with the Elders, and after a two-day sweep of the client's offices, the three of them reserved berths on the night train from London to Zurich, and departed the evening of April 1. After renting a tiny bright orange Renault in Zurich, they drove northeast on the autobahn to Winterthur, left the main highway, turned south, and continued through the countryside. The terrain was open and rolling, and speckled in the distance with three-story farmhouses under orange roofs, goats in the pen, and dairy cows with their heads bent into the green of the hillsides. Soon, they passed through Turbenthal, then Wila, then took the unmarked turnoff to Schmidruti, and began climbing into the hills, where grayed patches of snow still clung to the ground in areas shaded from the sun. The last series of tight switchbacks finally straightened and the road leveled out just as they reached the short cobblestone row that comprised Schmidruti. They swerved off the main road, passed the Gasthaus zum Freihof, and headed down the dirt and gravel path, now overhung by gray leafless trees. When they arrived at the farm, they saw Meier outside washing his face in the horse trough.
Since Stevens' first visit six months earlier, just before the snow and cold, little had changed around the farm. Spring rains and melting snow had turned the driveway back to mud, the roof still leaked, there was no plumbing, and the only heat came from a wood stove or the fireplace. To wash dishes, Popi had to collect water from the cold pump and boil it on the stove.
"It was a disaster," Lee remembered. "I mean you talk about poverty, it was there."
Brit recorded in her diary, "First impression-disaster area. Snow on the ground, bitter wind. Tiny white flowers coming through the snow. House looks like an old dilapidated barn, needs paint. Shutter on upstairs window hangs cockeyed. Big apple trees along hillside in front of house. Dirt, or rather mud, road to house. Raining, pouring."
Despite the wind and dampness, a small band of young people from various European countries had again migrated to the farm, the first of spring arrivals. Clustered in tents near the first barn, they were helping Meier dig trenches for a sewer line.
Lee Elders had formed little opinion of Billy Meier, though he expected to dislike the man for having perpetrated a hoax and for having been responsible for he detour to Switzerland. Furthermore, if he was to begin snooping around, looking for evidence that Meier was a fraud, he had to consider Meier as his adversary, someone to be watched closely. But when he met the man, he found himself totally disarmed.
Meier dried his hand and face, and walked over to where Stevens and the Elders had pulled in with the car. Stevens introduced the Elders as his friends from Phoenix. "I met Meier," Lee said later, "and his eyes... that's the first thing I remember because it was like I had known the man before, like he had known me before. It was an intriguing déjà vu experience."
Stevens and the Elders stayed at a guesthouse in Dussnang, a small village over the hill and fifteen minutes from the farm, where every half hour, bells pealed from the steeples of two old churches. Because of Stevens' prior visit and continuing long-distance relationship with Meier, the man and his family accepted the Elders immediately. During the day, Meier accompanied them on drives away from the farm to give them a feel for the countryside. Through early spring had arrived, the ground at the higher elevations where Meier had taken most of his photographs remained either too soft for driving or still covered with snow. At a few of the sites, they drove and walked close enough to see from a distance the openness of the terrain, the angular pitch of the hills. At night, they ate with the family at the farmhouse and listened to Meier's stories of the contacts. They had been taking place now for over three years. In all, Meier claimed to have met face-to-face with Semjase or one of the other Pleiadians over one hundred times. The notes had grown to nearly 3,000 pages of conversation on interstellar travel, life on Erra, universal law, advanced physics, archaeology, astronomy, Creation, the fate of other human races, the destiny of planet Earth, and spiritual societies obscuring even the Pleiadians.' Only fourteen days earlier, Meier had had another contact.
The man seemed open and honest, a fact, Brit noted in her diary, that intrigued Lee. "Not hiding anything," she wrote. "Eyes sincere. Does not look away when answering questions, extremely direct. Kids cute like all kids, love chocolate drinks. Kaliope very quiet, haunting."
"I tried to focus on Meier," Elders said later. "Steve had his area of expertise, Tom had his. I felt more comfortable in focusing on the man, trying to get close to him. That wasn't hard to do, really wasn't much of a challenge. I've read many books on psychology, and I watched his body language to see if it might tell something about him, see if he was defensive in answering questions, moved his arm, crossed his legs, that type of thing. I checked eye blink rate to see if it increased when I asked certain questions. But I never really detected anything of a nervous nature with him. He was very stable, very calm. Someone once remarked that the eyes are the mirror to one's soul, and if this were true, then Meier had nothing to hide because he didn't back down from you, he wasn't shifty eyed, he didn't look at the ground, he looked you directly in the eye."
Meier offered the Elders albums full of photographs to peruse, told them to read whatever they pleased in the translated portions of the contact notes, and answered their questions with a tired patience. One evening, he showed them several films he had taken of the beamships with an old 8mm camera. In one of the films, a black-and-white segment shot on a cloudy day, a ship darts back and forth near a large pine tree. Suddenly, it cuts in front of the tree and as it does, so the upper branches sway as if in a backwash. Lee Elders had Meier run the short clip over and over, watching closely for the blast as the ship seemed suddenly to swing in front of the tree.
In another sequence, a ship flies into the scene at Hasenbol and comes to a perfect stop. It doesn't move or swing, but hovers until it takes off again. And there are other objects in the scene: snowcapped peaks in the distance, wind blowing through the branches of a pine tree to the right. Elders and Stevens imagined helicopter and long cables, but they couldn't figure out how Meier made the ship come to a complete stop without swinging.
The extremes that took place each day began to bother Lee Elders. In the mornings and afternoons, he might embark on one of his inquisitive tours of the farm and surrounding forests and turn up nothing; or he would be out viewing sites from a distance, increasingly curious at how Meier was able to fake the photographs; then at night, he would sit around the kitchen table listening to Meier's casual recollections (he sounded almost bored) of being teleported into a Pleiadian beamship or of traveling to other planets. Elders could not accept most of what Meier said simply because it could not be true. But the next day, he would go back out and view another site, talk to more witnesses, and perhaps see something new, like photos of the landing tracks, and he would get to wondering how he himself would manufacture something so convincing, and his mind would go blank.
Elders and Stevens took Meier's photos with them as close as they could get to the sites, and, using them for comparison and orientation, brainstormed on ways that Meier could have rigged a scene and photographed a hanging model. Or, far more complicated, how he could have set a model in motion and captured it on film.
"We matched them up," recalled Stevens, "that the pictures had to be taken right there, that that was the point where the photographer stood, and there was no way he could have rigged anything because there are no trees around, no poles, nothing there, and the ground fell away downhill, at a steep angle, and the next one was four miles away coming up the hill, and the objects were out in between. We thought of rigging a pole with wires running out, but we couldn't find anything we could run the wires to because the trees were all a hundred feet away, and there was nothing else there. Plus, there was no way he could have run a string of wires like that alone, getting up and down poles and trees with one arm. Have you ever tried to climb a tree with one arm? We thought if there were confederates, in three, three and a half years, they would have found one because we weren't the only ones looking for confederates; everybody there was looking for confederates."
The Elders had expected to find a commune filled with brainwashed teenagers trying to sell newcomers on the righteous message from the Pleiadians and the Prophet Billy Meier. But the only young people at the farm were the ones camped in tents who left after a few days of working and talking, and were replaced by new arrivals. Most of the people who came often to the farm, some to work on weekends, others to help Meier with his small publication Wassermannzeit, were at least in their late twenties, many of them older than Meier himself. One was a school principal, two were schoolteachers, one worked as a graphic artist, and another as a computer programmer. And nobody tried to sell anything, ideas or artifacts.
Originally prepared to dislike Meier, and still not trusting him, Elders nevertheless found himself enjoying the man's company. "It was fun talking and listening to him," he recalled. "We all had our shots of rum or coffee kirsch, and that took the edge off. I guess he was using alcohol on me as much as I wanted to use it on him, to see where I was coming from. But we'd have a couple belts and everybody'd loosen up. Meier led a fascinating life. His life reminded me so much of my years of exploration in South America. We had something in common to talk about. I was fascinated by his Middle East stories; he was fascinated by my expeditions into South America. We got along well."
One evening, the Elders sat in the Meier kitchen, the only place they could get warm. Dinner that night consisted of hot chunks of a heavy bread that Popi had baked over the fireplace and a white cheese that Meier himself made from the milk of his two dairy cows kept in a stall beneath the house. Meier, in a reflective mood, sipped coffee from a white china demitasse adorned by a bright enamel rose. He told the Elders that every time he had contact with the Pleiadians, he found it difficult to return to his normal life on Earth.
"If I go there," he said, "if I talk with them, if I am in the ship together with them, I never like to return to the earth. Every time, I have trouble coming back. You see, if I am shouting there, really shouting, pounding my fist on the table, it's something else than if I am shouting here on the earth. I'm shouting there in peace and in love. Sometimes, I have to make myself very, very angry to come back home. It's so peaceful and restful and loving there, speaking together with them. You see what can happen, and everything in the world is okay. There, I am much more clear in my head, in my thinking and feeling, than here. Then, I have to return to a world which is full of turmoil and shouting and everything. There is fighting, day after day, hour after hour, second after second. With them, it is not so. If you are shouting there, it is with peace and love, too."
The Elders wanted to know the answer to a question that probably was the one most asked of Meier: Why had the Pleiadians specifically selected him for the contacts? Matter-of-factly, Meier explained that he had been groomed for the contacts since he was a small boy, and before that, in a previous incarnation, he had had contacts with the Pleiadians. According to Meier, the Pleiadians' desire to reveal their presence slowly and without ceremony arose from events that occurred long ago, when early earth humans believed that visitors from elsewhere in the universe were gods or the angels of God.
"The Pleiadians distance themselves every time from such things," he explained. "There is one way around this problem. To tell the people, to tell them again, again, and again, what's really happening, what the Pleiadians are really: that they are humans like the humans from this earth, that they are no more. What I have to do practically every day, I have to shout. I have to beat my fist on the table to tell the people what is real. And they have the same problem. But there is one way of teaching. Tell the people day after day, hour after hour, they are really not gods."
"But can they be accepted as people like ourselves?" asked Lee.
"Impossible to connect them," said Meier. "It's exactly the same thing if you have a motor that works with regular gasoline, and you go and put pitch into the gasoline; it blows up."
"They're not like us," said Lee. "They may look like us, they may talk like us - "
"But the vibrations," interrupted Meier, "the waves and everything, that's much higher."
The Elders, of course, had no way of testing Meier's story of what the Pleiadians looked like, how he came to be their contact, or what knowledge and information the Pleiadians, if they existed, had imparted to him. They tried to avoid dealing with such claims, which seemed too outlandish to believe, yet could not be disproved.
"Unless it happens to you," Brit said later, "you're always going to have that little doubt anyhow, 'Is it or isn't it real?' How do you explain it, and how do you rationalize it?"
They wanted to see more of Meier's tangible evidence, what he could offer to establish the Pleiadians' presence. Without this, Meier's stories meant nothing to them.
The next day, they were out again, looking at a small meadow tightly surrounded by forest, where two sets of landing tracks had once appeared. At the site, they studied the photographs of the tracks. The grass was not broken, just mashed down; according to witnesses, it stayed that way for weeks; a single set of footprints led to and from each grouping of three six-foot pod marks. The Elders viewed everything from a perspective of simple logistics; how could it be accomplished: tools, time, expense, expertise? With the landing tracks, no vehicle could be driven to within 250 feet of the site. Whatever was used to make the tracks would have to be light and compact enough to carry through the woods at least that distance. It would have to be heavy enough to mash tall thick grass perfectly flat, yet light enough for one person to twirl without using a center pivot, for the tracks were smooth all the way across. However the swirling was accomplished, it would have to be carried out from a single point at the edge of one of the circles for no footprints existed elsewhere. How could such an apparatus be made? How could it be transported? And how do you crush grass so it will never rise again yet remain alive?
That night, the Elders were back in the warm kitchen, listening to Meier talk more about earth humans being a younger stage of the Pleiadians' own evolution. "That is one of the reasons they study us," said Meier. "We represent an earlier part of their society."
"What does it feel like to be dematerialized?" asked Brit.
"It is a condition of being well-balanced," said Meier.
"Explain that, please," said Brit.
"As if you would find yourself in eternity," replied Meier. "It starts the moment the dematerialization begins."
"Does it end when you rematerialize?"
"No," explained Meier, "it does not end like that. That condition stays, depending on your own thinking and feeling. You see," he continued, "when I leave the ship, I jump into the hole, and into the hole they, what we call, 'arrange' the material. If you leave the ship and lose your material body, you will not realize it in that moment until the body touches some other material thing, like the ground or a tree."
"When they come out of the ship," asked Brit, "are they dematerialized, and do they materialize when they touch the ground?"
"You can't see them," answered Meier. "But if they touch the ground, they will materialize. See, here in this hole [he points to one of the photographs]; I don't know exactly if it is this one or one of these other two. But it is open here, and when they jump into the hole, they will dematerialize."
"So when they jump out," said Lee, "you don't see them come down; you only see them in here?"
"Now, when their body forms, is there a whiteness...?"
"It's just solid. It's just, 'They're here,' and then, 'They're gone.'"
"There are no stages of development."
Meier shook his head.
"Colonel Stevens once told me that sometimes when you came back you were out of breath," said Lee. "Is that true?"
"It's because of the atmosphere we have here," explained Meier, "and the atmosphere they have there. They have thirty-two percent oxygen. It is better and lighter breathing."
"The air on board the ship?"
"Yes. Just imagine you are somewhere out in the countryside, and then, you have to go to the city. And this is very fast, practically a split second from one place to the other."
"Is there anything you've been told not to discuss?" asked Lee.
"Mainly things that concern the future," said Meier. "Also, not to talk too much about the teachings because man has to think for himself to find out the truth."
"A lot of what he said had to be taken with a grain of salt," Elders said later. "It was hard to conceive of. But yet, everything made such logical sense. I think what I focused on was the delivery of what he was saying. Was he emotional? Was he blasé? He was just sitting there as if he were talking about going down to the corner to get a loaf of bread - which made it all appear real; made it very believable.
"Basically, he made you stop and think, why shouldn't they be like us? Why should they be any different as far as family life or education? And if they're two or three thousand years more technologically advanced than us, then sure, it would make sense that they carried little devices on their belts that could translate languages instantly. I had to go back to that one phrase he kept saying. "They're no different than we are.'"
Meier talked on about civilizations that lived in harmony in the universe and traveled faster than light, about life on Erra and the androids and the spiritual leader there, about his childhood experiences with Sfath. People came from all over Europe to hear him speak of these things. Lee Elders listened closely to everything Meier said, searching for inconsistency. Not once did Meier contradict himself, nor did he preach or try to sell them merchandise. Though they offered nothing in the way of objective proof, Meier's answers to their questions came patiently and logically.
Unobtrusively, in their comings and goings, in their conversations with witnesses, the Elders and Stevens explored the farm, the main house and barn, the outbuildings, and the nearby woods, searching for a darkroom, a machine shop, or unusual rigging or equipment. Everything about the farm seemed old and crude, a cover perhaps, but basic necessities for pulling off such a sophisticated show would require at least electricity, and other than the thin wire lighting a few bulbs in the kitchen and living areas, no power lines came to the house or anywhere else on the farm. But Lee Elders kept looking, finally narrowing his search to four closed rooms.
"One was under the old carriage house where Jakobus slept; there's a room down there. That intrigued me. Another was a storage place to the side of the carriage house. The third area that intrigued me was the basement to the house itself. And the fourth area was Meier's office. I kept wondering, what's in there?"
One afternoon, under the pretense of an urgent need to speak with Jakobus, Elders engineered a stunt Stevens would never have tried on his own. He dragged Stevens down the steps leading to Jakobus' room beneath the carriage house. "We knocked on the door and sort of invited ourselves in," recalled Elders. Immediately, before Jakobus could rise, they combed the room and started babbling in English about farming and the weather and whatever else came to their minds, none of which Jakobus understood. Before he could respond, they had satisfied themselves that Jakobus and his room were clean. Then, they started laughing and shook his hand. "Danke, danke schon!"
"Very Spartan conditions," said Elders, "nothing abnormal.
"The second area I got into was the equipment room. This was the side of the carriage house facing the farmhouse, and there was nothing in there except saws and hoes and grass cutters and things like this, a lot of equipment they used around the farm.
"And then, finally, we got into the basement under the house itself. We just went down one day. It was very easy; you come out the back stairs there, down the concrete steps, and turn to your right and come down the other steps. The door was unlocked. We didn't make it obvious that we were skulking or anything like that; we just walked to the door and opened it. 'Ah, wonder what's in here, let's see how they store their food,' or whatever, walked in, and checked it out. They used it for storing their cabbage and carrots and things like that. There was nothing down there. So except for his office, we had totally explored everything that we could see which might be a hiding place for something."
Brit found herself in the office and the room adjacent when Elsi Moser, an English-speaking schoolteacher, took her back to show her some contact notes and 11 X 14 blowups of the photographs. But there was little to see - a few books, an old typewriter, an old desk with no drawers, two lamps, and a small cactus garden. "Nothing odd," wrote Brit in her diary. She even had the Meier children show her parts of the farm, including their rooms.
"We've seen nothing strange," Brit recorded after a few days at the farm. "Lee is in a quandary. It's hard not to like Billy and the others. We must remain objective. After all the evidence that's been presented - not analyzed, presented - Lee still questions all. Steve has no objectivity left, just wants more and more and more. I'm on overload."
Stevens and Elders also got into Meier's office after Stevens asked Meier about the sound made by the beamships. Stevens had overheard someone at the farm talking about the sounds, but neither he nor Elders knew a tape existed. Meier surprised them by offering to take them back to his study and play the recording for them. Elders turned on his own tape recorder to capture the eerie, warbling, at times piercing sound that, as far as he knew, could have been produced with a synthesizer. But the tape was nothing they could have analyzed back in the States.
"We were in one of those little crannies there next to his office," said Elders, "and there were chickens all through the damned place, and he was playing the sound and we were recording chickens clucking, roosters squawking, and the beamship purring. And it was a total disaster. When we got back, it sounded like we were in a henhouse. So we had to retape them later."
After a few days of circulating around the farm and finding nothing suspicious, the only discovery that shocked Lee Elders was how Meier had his evidence organized.
"He kept everything in the closet and stuffed under drawers, in between mattresses. It was unbelievable. And that first year at the farm, there were no doors to close off, just a little curtain between the living area and the area they slept in. People walked through there all the time. He used to keep these beautiful photographs in shoe boxes under his bed!" Several hundred photographs had disappeared.
Among the witnesses with whom the Elders spoke was Herbert Runkel, who told them of the first time he went on a contact with Meier, not the night of the dense fog but an earlier night. Jakobus drove that night, too. When Meier disappeared into the woods, it had been raining, there were puddles on the road, and the trees swayed in the wind. An hour passed as the two men sat in the car at the edge of the forest and talked or walked back and forth to keep warm. They never saw any lights.
"Nothing," Herbert said to the Elders. "No animal, no light, no car, nothing. No sounds, no house, no nothing. Only the wind blowing."
After an hour and twenty minutes, Meier had returned.
"I remember when Billy came back," said Herbert. "I put my hand on his shoulder, 'Hello, you are back,' and I saw his clothes were completely dry. I shook his hand. He was warm."
Lee Elders was certain this was merely a trick of some sort. He questioned Herbert. Could Meier have had a shelter in the woods, a small fire going, turned his coat inside out?
"No," said Herbert, "that's impossible because we were always looking around. We looked up at the sky and listened carefully because we wanted to see something or hear something, maybe when the ship rose up."
One thing that struck the Elders about Herbert was the confusion on his face when he recounted his experiences with Meier. The man obviously was intelligent and well read, yet he seemed totally perplexed by what he had seen. Often, he would end a story by saying, "I am not crazy. I saw that with my own eyes."
Elsi Moser taught school in a nearby canton. A warm and intelligent woman of fifty who had lived for two years in England and spoke excellent English, Elsi told the Elders, "If Billy really had contact every time he said he did, I don't know. But he has had contact with extraterrestrials. I am certain of this."
One of the little things that had convinced Elsi that the contacts were taking place was a film Meier had shot with his movie camera on a tripod. In the clip, what appears to be a beamship hovers at some distance. Meier himself suddenly comes into the film from the right, the left sleeve of his old green sweater dangling as he walks away from the camera down a path. Then, he stops and, with his right hand, beckons the ship to come closer. But the ship remains in the distance. Meier squats on his haunches, waiting for a minute or two, watching the sky. Once, he looks at the camera and points to the ship, which still moves no closer. Finally, he shrugs, and with a look of disappointment, walks back toward the tripod, as the ship still hovers high in the distance. Elsi told the Elders they would have to know German and the Swiss-German people to understand this because the disappointment on Meier's face when the ship does not come closer is genuine.
Many witnesses had seen strange lights in the sky, perfectly silent lights, sometimes white, sometimes red and yellow and orange, often in twos, and flying crazy patterns. Even more of the witnesses had seen Meier himself do unexplainable things. Harold Proch told the Elders about New Year's Eve 1977, a night when Meier and about ten other people had been sitting around the kitchen table talking. Harold had asked Meier a question about parapsychology, but Meier did not answer directly.
"He asked if I had a two-franc piece," recalled Harold. "I didn't have one, so Elsi gave one to me. Billy took it and told me to hold his hand. I sat on the opposite side from him."
Meier wrapped his fingers around the two-franc piece, a coin the size of an American half-dollar. Harold cupped his hands around Meier's fist. Meier looked at the fist and suddenly, his whole body began to tremble. The table shook, as did Meier's chair. Several people found themselves suddenly fearing the power that had been unleashed. Harold held on to the shaking fist, but when he looked up at Meier's eyes, what he saw there startled him.
"This is hard to describe," he said later. "It was as if you were looking into space through his eyes."
For fifteen seconds, Meier shook violently as though the coin in his fist controlled him. His eyes grew larger and larger, deeper and deeper, his face now contorted and drained of all blood.
"Then, he collapsed at the table," said Harold, "his hand opened and the coin fell out. It was black. All the people stood up; Billy was gasping as if he were dead. It was phenomenal. And I sat face-to-face with him. I could see the reaction on his face. I have never seen anything like it. You can't describe this with words."
The hot coin had singed the palm of Meier's hand, causing a blister. When Harold had the coin analyzed, a metallurgist told him that to scorch such metal would require a heat of 1,500 degrees.
Another evening, the Elders and Stevens sat again in the kitchen, listening to similar stories from people who had seen Meier do things no one could explain. Meier had done so many things no one could explain that the stories had begun to sound the same to the Elders. Some people had seen him hold a twenty-centime piece between his thumb and index finger and etch his fingerprints into the metal. Elsi had once seen him take a nail two to three inches long, stand it on its head on the kitchen table, then cup his hand on the table about eight inches away. In a moment, as though drawn by some irresistible force, the nail had started to dance across the table and vibrated upright all the way into Meier's motionless hand.
"When did you realize you had this power?" Brit asked Meier.
"When I was a small boy," said Meier. "I started to learn new thinking."
"For this power of the mind," suggested Lee, "could you use the word 'magic'?"
"You see," said Meier, "magic is a word that means only 'using the power.' Nothing else. Only 'power using.'"
"And when did you discover you had magic in your life?" Lee repeated Brit's question.
"When I was a small boy."
"What did you do?"
"I was taught by Sfath," said Meier. "He told me how to use everything, how to study to learn."
"Could you make things move," asked Lee, "or put out a candle by thinking about it?"
"I was never testing," answered Meier. "I don't know."
And then, he told them a brief story. When he was six years old and weighed only fifty-five pounds, his father was constructing a small addition to their house and had asked the young boy to wheel a cart filled with dirt out of a deep hole he had dug under a portion of the house. The cart weighed two or three times as much as Meier at that young age. But by "using the power," he told the Elders, he was able to lift the cart with his thoughts and transport it out of the hole.
Among the favorite stories told by witnesses who had seen Meier do unexplainable things was the time, during a discussion, he had melted a thick metal spoon in his bare hand. Meier had been stirring his coffee when, to emphasize a point, he raised the spoon out of the coffee and shook it. The raised spoon suddenly had turned to a silver liquid in his hand and dripped onto the table. Several people had seen this.
As he listened to this story, Stevens said, "Man, why didn't you save the liquid?" Nobody had thought to do that. With the liquid in small puddles on the table, someone had simply wiped it up with a damp cloth. But the story got Stevens thinking out loud. "God," he said, "what we could do with a piece of metal."
When Stevens said that, Meier stood up from the table and said, "Just a minute."
He walked out of the kitchen and they heard his footsteps heading out to the barn.
"He came back with this dilapidated, dirty, filthy cardboard box," remembered Lee. "And he put it on the kitchen table. Inside, he had brown wrapping paper, and he started opening it. All of us were just hanging over his shoulder."
"I asked them to give me a piece of the beamship," said Meier, "but all they brought me were some metal samples."
Lee Elders stood quickly and took two pictures, one of Brit helping Meier open the box, and another of Brit and Stevens peering into the box. Inside lay several small packages of brown wrapping paper, and in each package, carefully wrapped, was a sample that Meier claimed had been given to him by the Pleiadians.
"We were in the kitchen there," remembered Elders, "and Meier had just shown us the metal. Bashenko was running amuck, slamming things against the wall, yelling, trying to get attention. On top of that, a chimney sweep was there, cleaning the chimney. But we had the microphone close to Meier, you can hear what he's saying, and it was real interesting because he said one thing and that was that this metal is used to make the ship."
Meier started to unwrap the little packages, and one after another, out came a small rock specimen, or a crystal, or a shiny fragment of metal.
"They told me that the metal is in four states," said Meier. "Here are the notes I made."
In each cubicle, brown and somewhat faded, lay small pieces of paper, Meier's handwritten notes on each of the specimens, describing briefly what each was and from where it came. According to the notes, one of the samples he unwrapped represented the next-to-the-final stage in a seven-step process the Pleiadians used to make the metal substance that comprised the hull of the beamships. On the table glistened a half-inch triangle appearing to be an alloy containing silver and gold.
Stevens had always told the Elders that pictures could be faked, but one thing that could never be faked was a piece of metal exhibiting unusual, possibly unearthly properties. However, this solid kind of evidence rarely accompanied UFO cases. In all of Stevens' experience, such an intriguing piece of evidence had arisen perhaps twice. Yet Meier had been sitting on these specimens for over three years, and he had made no attempt whatsoever to use them to sell his story to Stevens to "prove" he was telling the truth. Stevens had to ask about them specifically. And this was his second trip to see Meier. Again, Stevens learned that with Meier, he had to ask the question or he would never get an answer.
Meier gave several metal and crystal samples to Stevens and the Elders to have them analyzed back in the United States if they desired. Now, nearing the end of their five days in Switzerland, they had many signed witness statements and several items that could be tested in a laboratory by a scientist - photographs, metal samples, sound recordings, and movie footage.
"It's overkill for us by this time," remembered Elders. "We've just heard sounds, we've heard all these stories, now he's showing us metal. It's just flat overkill. Steve had been there the year before and he had no idea... none of us had any idea... that Meier had metal specimens, or sounds, or the numerous photographs he had."
At the conclusion of their stay, Stevens seemed even more overwhelmed than he had upon completing his first trip to the farm.
"It's just got to the point where one man couldn't have done so much so well to fool so many people for so long," he said. "Just too much for one person to accomplish. Having tried to do a number of these things myself, I realized what was involved in faking a simple picture of a suspended object in the sky. To fake all of the types and kinds of pictures successfully and not be caught, with no confederates, no resources, no equipment, no money, no lab, and a broken camera and one arm, makes it a little bit difficult to believe that the whole thing is a fabrication and a fraud perpetrated by somebody for some reason when there wasn't even an apparent reason."
Because of his obvious intelligence and sincerity, the great deal of time he had spent observing Meier, and the resulting confusion in his mind, perhaps the most convincing witness had been Herbert Runkel. Herbert warned the Elders and Stevens that people who had seen only a few of Meier's pictures and then concluded that the object had to be a model and that the case therefore had to be a hoax, just did not understand the reality of the setting in which the story was taking place.
"These thoughts always come from people who know nothing about the case," said Herbert. "They hear about the case, or they see only one or two pictures. They never go to the place where the pictures were taken. Because people who have seen the places always say, 'That is not possible.'"
Though a shallow crust of snow remained in large patches on the ground, the Elders finally walked one of the sites, the high green bluff at Hasenbol. As he stood on top of the bluff, Lee Elders thought about what Herbert had said. "My moment of truth did not come until I walked that site," he said later. "I went up to that hilltop where he shot, I'd say, thirty percent of the best photographs of his collection plus that film, and I knew, right then and there, something was going on - because of the distance involved, because of the terrain, everything about it. We marked fifty-two yards from where Meier stood to the tree the ship was hovering behind. That's a long distance. You're not going to use small models on that."
"And there's a drop right behind that tree," added Brit. "It just goes straight down."
"And it's always cold there," continued Lee, "wind's always blowing, cold and miserable. Yet he got movie footage on that site and photographs on that site. So that's when I started thinking, okay, so he didn't take them with models, and they are not paste-ups. So what are they?"