He also said he had photographed and filmed UFOs that resembled hub-caps; tape-recorded their noises, which resembled sound effects from old science-fiction films; conversed with female UFOnauts, who taught him cosmic truths; flew aboard a UFO into space, where he photographed God's "eye" and the Apollo-Soyuz docking of 1975; and traveled by saucer into the future, where he saw the ruins of San Francisco after an earthquake.
But Meier's "evidence" dissolved under scrutiny, ufologists say. Ufologist Spaulding used a computer to clarify blurry details in Meier's photos and, he said, detected threads holding the "UFOs" aloft - evidence that they were small models suspended near the camera. Also, critics said, the photos of quake-ravaged San Francisco turned out to be copies of an artist's rendering from the September 1977 issue of Geo magazine. And in Meier's 8mm movies of UFOs, the objects sway back and forth as though they were lightweight models bobbing in the breeze.
Yet the Meier story has survived partly because of the relentless advocacy of his American backers, the Arizona ufologists Lt. Col. Wendelle Stevens (US Air Force, retired), Tom Welch and Lee and Brit Elders. Years ago, they obtained the legal rights to market Meier's photos and other memorabilia, threatened to sue anyone who used the material without permis- sion and built a small publishing industry, Genesis III. The publishing arm sells books and videocassettes (for as much as $29 apiece) about Meier's adventures.
Now they've landed a much bigger fish: royalties from Kinder's 206-page book, published May 26th. They're sharing royalties in return forgiving Kinder access to Meier's photos and other documents.
Much money may be made by all: Kinder will take 50 percent of the royalties, then the rest will be divided among Meier, Stevens, the Elderses and Welch.
Sales have gone "extremely well," Kinder said. The best- seller list is in sight, said the book's backer, New York publishing whiz-kid Morgan Entrekin, who paid Kinder an advance of more than $100,000. Bay Area bookstore owners say its selling moderately.
The book has infuriated many ufologists who think it lends an undeserved patina of respectability to a vulgar hoax, although Kinder doesn't reach a specific conclusion about Meier's claims. "Face it, you're in it for the money like the rest of the writers of superficial paranormal literature," Spaulding said in a bitter letter to Kinder.
"It's been a real ordeal trying to fend off the entire UFO community," joked Kinder, 40. "There were times when I would look at Meier and think, `He's nothing but a clever con man.' There were other times would I would look at Meier and think, `Here is a sincere and warm individual who has experienced something far above his understanding and intellectual capabilities and is trying to deal with it.'"
The Elderses say they've received threatening letters and phone calls and that Meier has been the target of several assassination attempts. They're not disturbed by evidence that Meier faked photos of, for example, the San Francisco earthquake; in fact, they haven't even discussed it with Meier, Lee Elders said. His wife insists that just because Meier faked "one or two things" doesn't mean all his photos are phony.
To Lee Elders, the best evidence for Meier's contentions is an analysis of metal samples from an alleged UFO. The analysis was conducted by Marcel Vogel, formerly a chemist at an IBM research center in San Jose. In the New York Times Book Review, a full page ad for "Light Years" quotes Vogel as saying the metallic composition was one "we could not achieve...on this planet."
However, the book doesn't mention that Vogel is a very, very imaginative fellow. In fact, he also has claimed the ability to communicate psychically with plants.
End of part 2
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