Sep 08 2011

The Billy Meier Affair – Wedding Cake Edition

I continue to be fascinated with the Swiss farmer who has, in my opinion, been engaged in a many-decade UFO hoax – Billy Meier. My fascination comes from the obviously terrible quality of his hoax and the lameness of his excuses for failure, combined with the fact that there are still those who believe him. It is, if nothing else, a natural experiment in human gullibility with the conclusion that there appears to be no limit this phenomenon.

Here are some examples: Billy Meier produced, among other bits of “evidence” for his alleged ongoing encounter with aliens, photographs of what has come to be known as the “wedding cake” UFO (what Meier calls a “beam ship”).

There it is next to that tree. That’s a remarkable bit of UFO piloting there. The pilot appears to have a wide open field in which to navigate, but chooses, for some reason, to nuzzle up next to the one tree standing in the middle of the field.

I am sure you can invent some absurd ad-hoc explanation for this, even though it seems absurd on its face. The simplest explanation, however, is that the tree is supporting the model of the UFO. Meier has used this technique before. Below is another “beam ship” with an odd affection for foliage.

But let’s take a closer look at the wedding cake UFO. The Independent Investigations Group has done a thorough analysis, and come up with some interesting facts.

Meier claims this is a photo of an actual ship, some 15 or so feet across. Skeptics claim that it is a small model, constructed by Meier or an accomplice. Investigators have noticed the small projection from the base of the UFO – that looks like a detail that just might provide a clue as to the true nature of this object.

It turns out that the little projection, and in fact the entire base, matches exactly with the shape of a particular garbage can lid. From Forgetomori we have this picture of the lid:

Ding, ding, ding! I think we have a winner. The resemblance of the lid to the base of the wedding cake UFO is uncanny. It is so exact, in fact, that Meier himself could not ignore the correlation. Meier produces what he claims are transcripts of conversations he has with his alien visitors, but which can more easily be explained as him making stuff up. Here is an exerpt from one such conversation, reported by both IIG and Forgetomori:

From Meier’s 254th Contact Report, November 28, 1995:

Ptaah: “. . . As far back as the 1920s we worked with flying devices you have named the ‘Wedding Cake Ship,’ … we endeavored to transmit all of the necessary data regarding the vehicles’ shape to terrestrial scientists, in the form of telepathic impulses, to assist them in developing flying disks on Earth … We thoroughly investigated the entire situation and discovered that the old, newly re-emerged drawings were used for the design and production of these receptacle covers. … This, then, is how the shape of the container covers came about, which, as I mentioned earlier, strikingly resemble the lower rim section and undercarriage on our flying devices.”

We can tell this an an alien speaking because they say things like “receptacle covers” instead of “garbage can lid.”  So the aliens were telepathically beaming the designs for their wedding cake beam ships to German engineers, and these advanced ship designs somehow got confused with a garbage can lid, and that’s why they “strikingly resemble” each other. Got it. It’s a good thing the ship designs require a structure that it is the right place to serve as a handle for the garbage can lid. It’s no wonder the German engineers were confused.

It also seems that part of the telepathically communicated design specs also became confused with Christmas tree ornaments, as the IIG demonstrates the striking resemblance of the balls on the wedding cake UFO to uncapped bulbs.

There is also this photo showing apparently a piece of the model having fallen off and landing on the lower section:

The whole affair is similar to another Meier claim that he encountered and photographed two beautiful female aliens, who had suspiciously 1970s hairstyles. The photos he presented were eventually matched with dancers from a Dean Martin television show.

After years of Meier believers denying the resemblance, and trying to prove the female aliens were not the same as the dancer, Meier eventually admitted that they were, in fact, the same. He had yet another communication from his alien handlers reminding him that Men-In-Black had gotten their hands on the film and substituted photos of American “look-a-likes” for the aliens Meier actually met. Meier had forgotten this fact, until he was reminded.

You see – there was a sensible explanation all along. The Men-In-Black are so incredibly effective that within days they found human females on television that looked so similar to Meier’s alien friends that he would not notice the substitution, and this would set him up for later refutation.

The fact that my 8 year old daughter tells more convincing “fibs” than Meier does not seem to bother the faithful. And that is my real fascination – the human capacity for gullibility, or motivated belief. If it has any limits, they have yet to be documented.

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40 responses so far

40 Responses to “The Billy Meier Affair – Wedding Cake Edition”

  1. SARAon 08 Sep 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Well, I had not heard of Mr. Meier, but after reading this I felt like I wanted to thank him for the entertainment.
    I looked it up and he is profiting from this hoax and not just entertaining himself at the expense of the suckers. Which is not funny.

    People want so badly to believe in something more than human. Aliens, Angels, Fairies, Spirits…
    I continue to wonder if we somehow evolved a pre-disposition for belief in the supernatural.

  2. CWon 08 Sep 2011 at 3:34 pm

    One of the funniest bits on SGU was when you spent about 15 minutes or so giving the details about the whole Billy Meier story. And you would finish each element of the anecdote with “wait, there’s more….”

  3. PharmD28on 08 Sep 2011 at 4:10 pm

    the most absurd thing nearly I have read in a while…unreal that people would believe this stuff….

  4. derekcbarton 08 Sep 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Hi there.

    I started looking into the Billy Meier UFO Case when I was with the IIG. Now I have a dedicated website for all of my research that can be found at http://www.billymeierufocase.com/

    All of my previous material, plus LOTS of new material, is located at this new website. It was fun to finally discuss my research at Dragon*Con last weekend.

    Thanks.

    -Derek

  5. nybgruson 08 Sep 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks for the chuckle Dr. Novella. I agree that human gullibility (and stupidity) has no upper limit (err, or lower… depending on your POV).

    That’s why I always laugh when theistic apologists make the claim that it is impossible to think so many people would believe something so strongly as to be willing to die for it if it weren’t true and posit this as evidence for their deity of choice. But to me, wedding cake UFOs and zombies who are their own fathers are equally absurd.

    But I used to work in an ER for over 3 years and every time I was blown away by something and though to myself “Nothing can top that idiot!” I was invariably proven wrong.

  6. Bronze Dogon 08 Sep 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I know this is funny, and I’d otherwise be facepalming, grinning hard enough for it to hurt, but for some reason, it’s partially canceled out by some kind of creepy aspect.

    I think it might be the thought that this guy might just be crazy enough to believe his stories despite crafting the obvious hoax. I remember something about the Ministry of Truth having history re-writers who somehow manage to bend their brains enough to believe the stories they know they personally fabricated.

  7. robmon 08 Sep 2011 at 7:20 pm

    This hoax was so bad it couldn’t help being funny, if Billy hadn’t tried to make excuses this would have just been another alien encounter story backed up by cheesy photos of a ufo slightly more sophisticated than a pair of pie tins glued together and tossed into the air. But inventing lame excuses turned this into comedy gold.

    I like how the alien was supposedly telepathic but talks like an off the shelf sci-fi alien instead of a normal person, calling garbage can lids receptacle covers, and how he used Meier’s name for the ship, wouldn’t aliens have an alien name for their own ship? Why didn’t the alien describe a wedding cake as terraced human mating bread while he was at it? It would have been consistent.

  8. roddog61on 08 Sep 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Well, thank you for finally updating us on this guy. He’s my favorite crank (next to “Hyper-dimensional Hoagland and that planet X chick). Is there ANY chance you could have him as a guest on the SGU? I know the mere suggestion is probably making your ears bleed but it would be SO entertaining. Well, I understand that it’s asking a lot of you but you haven’t really had a “kook” on your show since that “Earth is growing Guy”. However, I could hear the pain in your attempts to bring reason to the table and I understand if you can’t bring yourself to torture yourself, even further, with Billy. But, he’s SO mental. Just sayin’… Isn’t there some “spokesperson in America” for this fool? That might be the lesser of two delusions.

  9. Shelleyon 09 Sep 2011 at 1:14 am

    So interesting! People truly want to believe in something bigger, greater, more powerful.

  10. SteveAon 09 Sep 2011 at 7:36 am

    “That’s why I always laugh when theistic apologists make the claim that it is impossible to think so many people would believe something so strongly as to be willing to die for it if it weren’t true and posit this as evidence for their deity of choice.”

    I always point them towards the Mormons.

    The gullibility of people is astonishing; like the audience at a spiritualist performance who will swallow any half-baked, inept display of cold reading because it confirms what they want to believe. These people must be irresistible to the con-men amongst us; I imagine the hucksters look out over the crowd and see nothing but a flock of pigeons queuing up to be plucked.

    I don’t know much about Meier or his motivation. If he’s sincere, it’s sad; but what are the odds he’s a ruthless cynic who delights in playing mind games with his hapless trusting acolytes.

  11. steve12on 09 Sep 2011 at 11:19 am

    Now I know who Riley Martin got his schtick from.

    What’s worse: believing this nutcase or believing in breatharianism? I always said the latter was as bad as it gets, but those saucers attached to the tree… I dunno now.

  12. jamesmon 09 Sep 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Steven,

    I am one of those “believers” you referred to but I prefer to avoid using a word such as “believer” because it implies a lack of supporting evidence. I don’t think that there isn’t any convincing supporting evidence for the truth of Meier’s claims but I do think that some of the explanations given are fantastic and improbable according to the common man’s reasoning ability. But they are, in the end STILL possible (think of Sherlock Holmes: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”).

    To respond to your first point stating that the beamship was probably attached to the tree, the “some reason” for this was as follows:

    If the Plejaren allowed Meier such close up photography of this craft without any possible means to reject it (such as a nearby trees or other objects) then it would make it UNDENIABLE in the mind of the common man and this would result in them directly and significantly interfering in the evolution of a developing pre-interstellar civilisation (that’s us). In fictitious Star Trek terms, that’s called violating the prime directive and is not permitted. The case is apparently the same with the real Plejaren Federation.

    But I must mention that, apparently, what they have been permitted to do is influence us in more subtle ways…are you aware of the methods they use?

    Referring back to the photo with the tree, this looks like it was the same event when Billy filmed it with a movie camera and actually zoomed in on it from far away. Have you seen that one? Its quite a movie. Some explain it away as a trick of perspective and the use of a miniature tree. Apparently Billy pleaded with Quetzal to have his beamship move around the tree but was repeatedly refused this request.

  13. BillyJoe7on 09 Sep 2011 at 5:13 pm

    “but those saucers attached to the tree”

    Perhaps he just lacks frisby playing skills. :D

  14. nybgruson 09 Sep 2011 at 6:40 pm

    @steveA:

    I believe it was Phil Plait that commented how with our skeptical understanding of human nature and scientific knowledge we could become incredibly wealthy with minimal effort if only we could do away with those pesky “morals” and “scruples.” Like a modern day version of showing cavemen a BBQ lighter and having them worship you as god.

    And yes, Mormonism. I had an aquantaince recently comment about my FaceBook posts which show the dark side of religion, and part of his diatribe against me was that “not all Mormon’s are crazy.” I retorted that indeed they are – believing that women will always be subservient to a man, even in the afterlife, having different “levels” of heaven the top of which allows you to be a god yourself in your own universe, and thinking this is all written on golden tablets given to some dude 175 years ago by an angel on a hill is crazy. It is absolutely, fundamentally, unequivocally, patently absurd. And to geniunely believe it…. well, it still shocks me when I have those moments where I truly realize that people really and honestly do geniunely believe that sort of thing. It is such a foreign concept to me.

  15. SteveAon 10 Sep 2011 at 1:20 pm

    nybgrus: “I retorted that indeed they are – believing that women will always be subservient to a man, even in the afterlife, having different “levels” of heaven the top of which allows you to be a god yourself in your own universe, and thinking this is all written on golden tablets given to some dude 175 years ago by an angel on a hill is crazy.”

    I think it was Dawkins who suggested that this ability to suspend reason might, under some circumstances, have survival value. Your willingness to believe nutty ideas somehow demonstrating your level of commitment to your social group and increasing your worth in their eyes and the chances you will receive their aid when you need it…Or something like that.

    It reminds me of a Monty Python sketch where Eric Idle sees John Cleese about buying some life insurance. John’s character (Feldman) asks Eric (Martin) if he bought his urine sample.

    Martin: Yes I did. It’s in the car. There’s rather a lot.

    Feldman: Good, good.

    Martin: Do you really need twelve gallons?

    Feldman: No, no, not really.

    Martin: Do you test it?

    Feldman: No.

    Martin: Well, why do you want it?

    Feldman: Well, we do it to make sure that you’re serious about wanting insurance…

    ‘Do I really have to believe in that golden tablets stuff?’
    ‘Yes, we want to make sure you’re really, really serious about Mormonism.’

    I wonder how many do honestly believe in it and how many just go with the flow. Perhaps there comes a point when not even the ‘believer’ can tell any more.

  16. nybgruson 10 Sep 2011 at 6:40 pm

    @SteveA:

    I do tend to shy away from anthropological explanations using evolution as justification. Most of them are “just so” stories. I’ve learned this because I have an entire degree in medical anthropology and pretty much my entire body of coursework was generating really good “just so” stories. But I digress.

    But I do think there is some validity to that concept. But I also think there is much more to it. The brain is essentially cobbled together over time, with different components not being re-tasked but simply interfaced differently. And obviously there is genetic and environmental variation.

    Early imprinting is important – obviously it would be a survival trait that the offspring would accept whatever the authority figure told them was true. But I remember as a child being baptized (we had escaped from Eastern Europe when I was about a year and half old and then by the time my family managed to settle down and get around to that I was about 5). And I remember even then, that the whole concept was just so weird. My mother explained to me what we were doing and why. She explained about god and the priest and the water. And I vividly recall thinking, “WTF?” (well, the 5 year old version of that). Then at the ceremony I was convinced it was all just an act – I mean, who could really believe something as elaborate and obsequious was real? So I piped up and was quickly hushed and told I was “in the house of god.” That just confused me even more.

    My father was essentially areligious. My mother very minorly so. We went to church a few times a year and went to Eastern Orthodox festivals – great food and good fun but I was always weirded out by the dudes in black dresses. But my mother bought me a bible and *asked* me to read it. Of course, she also gave me a book on Greek mythology to read as well since she liked those stories as a child. I read both… and saw, at the tender age of 8 or 9, that there was absolutely no material difference between the stories. The funny thing is I asked my mom why the Greeks made up such stories and she said “To explain the natural world around them since they didn’t know any better.” Then I asked why it evolved into the stories of the bible and she said it didn’t – they were different things. But I new better.

    So yeah, it just strikes me as so incredibly foreign that anyone could take any part of it seriously. So I am sure that many theists of all ilks don’t really believe it but more or less go with the flow and kinda sorta believe in some higher power. But there are definitively people who really and truly, without a doubt, actually believe every word of it. And THAT just blows my mind.

  17. SteveAon 13 Sep 2011 at 8:27 am

    nybgrus: “she also gave me a book on Greek mythology to read”

    Snap. Almost. For me it was Ray Harryhausen and ‘Jason of the Argonauts’. That got me interested in Greek mythology when I was 10 or 11, then I got hold of a copy of ‘Bullfinch’s Mythology’ (a nice introduction to the topic and an easy read for a child) and it went on from there.

    I’ve given my own children books on Classical and Norse mythology. Apart from educating them it will hopefully inoculate them against nonsense.

  18. nybgruson 13 Sep 2011 at 9:04 am

    steveA:

    I read Jason and the Argonauts as well. Great story. Followed a few years later by The Ilyiad and The Odyssey. I think it is great to learn about all these things and they are wonderful stories. And yes, it certainly helped inoculate me against nonsense :-D

  19. Ted N.on 14 Sep 2011 at 7:42 am

    Cw: “wait, there’s more….”

    You bet!

    Billy Meier claims to be the reincarnation of both Jesus Christ (aka Jmmanuel) and Mohamed and of all prophets, who ever walked the earth:
    http://www.billymeierufocase.com/index-6.html

    Thanks to the technology of his aliens, he can time travel and one of his first destinations was the year 32 to pay a visit to Jesus (aka Jmmanuel), with whom he had a lengthy conversation…
    http://futureofmankind.co.uk/Billy_Meier/Asket%27s_Explanations_-_Part_7

    He came up with his own bible (the true and only one, of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talmud_Jmmanuel ) and has hired a media representative to spread the gospel in the USA and beyond:
    http://theyflyblog.com/regarding-billy-meier-as-the-reincarnation-of-jesus-christ/07/22/2011

    Billions of years ago, he created countless human races, including ours; he predicted and continues to predict all major events in the history of mankind ( http://futureofmankind.co.uk/Billy_Meier/Warning_to_all_the_governments_of_Europe! ), and sure enough, the end is near!

    http://futureofmankind.co.uk/Billy_Meier/Contact_Report_476

  20. Judy1on 14 Sep 2011 at 7:47 pm

    I’m afraid Billy Meier was properly hoodwinked by the folks who contacted him. They repeatedly told him that they had travelled vast distances only to meet up with him under a tree somewhere in Switzerland.

    If they’d said to him (the truth) that they’d been hidden away in an underground base since their last (the Classic Maya’s) disappearance in the 10th century, then governments would’ve conspired to track them down here on terra firma. So they had to make up something about originating in outer space so as to head off any future search party.

    When Meier asked them about the attached spheres on the ‘Wedding Cake’ variation, he was told that they assisted with interstellar travel.

    The truth is: there is really no need to look to any deus ex machina extraterrestrial here. The spheres are actually there to detach from the cupola whenever a crop field is used to message us. They collapse the crop into whatever shape is required and then – hey presto! a crop circle appears.

    For more information on this phenomenon; please check out a CGI animation featuring the Wedding Cake beamship ‘making hay’ on this fab new website. http://www.howcropcirclesaremade.com

  21. zen_arcadeon 18 Sep 2011 at 10:51 am

    The story is so preposterous on its face that I can’t believe it has survived in the imaginations of so many naive, conspiracy oriented people. Talk about cringe inducing leaps in logic.

  22. jamesmon 18 Sep 2011 at 7:00 pm

    How do you explain Meier’s possession of advanced scientific knowledge according to this list of facts later corroborated by Earth science?

    At http://www.futureofmankind.co.uk/Billy_Meier/Will_Humanity_Wake_Up%E2%80%A6In_Time%3F or at http://www.futureofmankind.co.uk/Billy_Meier/Scientific_Facts_Corroborated

    The most probable answer is that he had been given the information by a technically advanced source.

    Thanks,
    James

  23. nybgruson 18 Sep 2011 at 8:01 pm

    perhaps Nostradamus was also visited by these aliens? Or had some psychic ability?

    Or Mark Twain predicting the internet (1898)? Aldous Huxley predicting in-vitro fertilzation (1932)? Jules Verne predicting SCUBA diving (1875)? EE Smith predicting CD/DVD/hard drive type storage devices (1934)? Or how about GPS by Arthur C. Clarke (1945)?

    Reference

    Perhaps they were all visited by aliens and given advanced knowledge as well? Because that seems to be the only probable explanation, right James?

  24. daedalus2uon 18 Sep 2011 at 10:09 pm

    There is a metaphor in Japanese culture that seems relevant.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baka_(fool)

    An officer contemplating a coup could tell who was loyal to him by seeing who would assert belief in his nonsense.

    Asimov predicted calculators with red LED numbers. He was extremely pleased at getting the color right.

  25. daedalus2uon 18 Sep 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I looked at some of those “corroborated facts”, and they are anything but.

    #18, the core of the Earth is actually uranium and is actually a reactor that is undergoing fission. This really is nonsense. The concentration of U235 in natural uranium is so low now, that a natural uranium reactor is quite difficult. It requires a specific moderator, like graphite or deuterium, and a complete absence of neutron absorbing species. Like iron. Many of the rare earths are high neutron absorbers and have chemical properties very similar to uranium (which is why many rare earth ores are radioactive, because they contain uranium. The natural reactors in Gabon were one-of-a-kind occurrences, the uranium weathered when the atmosphere had exactly the right oxidation potential to dissolve uranium and nothing else.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_reactors

    There have been very large neutrino detectors built and operated since this “prediction” was made.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutrino_telescope

    and not surprisingly they have found no neutrino sources at the core of the Earth.

  26. Ted N.on 19 Sep 2011 at 3:09 am

    @daedalus2u,
    besides, there is since 2004 a comprehensive study providing evidence, that the sources of the ‘predictions’ of Meier are neither a magical cristal nor aliens, but … ordinary newspapers and scientific publications of the time, including their mistakes and preliminary wrong data:
    http://www.iigwest.org/investigations/meier/ike42report.htm

    The faith of the believers is alas stronger than reason, logic and common sense.

  27. Judy1on 29 Oct 2011 at 7:14 am

    Just to update all of you skeptics on the ‘Wedding Cake’ beamship phenomenon. This camera phone footage shows this very Beamship releasing orbs in broad daylight above the M11 in England.

    Enjoy!

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3761177/UFO-over-motorway-brin-broad-daylight.html

  28. tmac57on 29 Oct 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Judy1- Why is it that tabloid reporters get all of the good UFO photos and videos? Seems like The Economist and New York Times are falling down on the job.

  29. BillyJoe7on 30 Oct 2011 at 1:54 am

    UFO = CGI

  30. Judy1on 30 Oct 2011 at 5:35 am

    Hello Tmac57. “Why is it that tabloid reporters get all of the good UFO photos and videos? Seems like The Economist and New York Times are falling down on the job.”

    Tmac57: It’s called US censorship!

    BillyJoe7. If this is CGI fakery, then why bother replicating the very motions of a Wedding Cake Beamship – namely the release of highly charged metallic spheres from the cupola. The very same orbs/spheres which can be clearly seen attached in close up.

    Surely a CGI faker wouldn’t know, wouldn’t care, and so wouldn’t bother with such minutiae.

    http://youtu.be/lNGnElDT460

  31. BillyJoe7on 30 Oct 2011 at 7:32 am

    Judy,

    My apologies.
    I thought you were joking.
    (Poe’s Corollary :) )

    “Surely a CGI faker wouldn’t know, wouldn’t care, and so wouldn’t bother with such minutiae.”

    All you need is just one faker who does know, does care, and can be bothered.

    “why bother replicating the very motions of a Wedding Cake Beamship”

    This is an example of the logical fallacy called question begging:
    In your explanation, you are assuming your conclusion – your conclusion being that there is something called a Wedding Cake Beamship. You can’t do that. There may be no Wedding Cake Beamships and all the videos could be fakes.

  32. Judy1on 30 Oct 2011 at 8:21 am

    BillyJoe7 It must be nice living in your world where governments withhold nothing from their citizens (subjects), there are no conspiracies and anyone who sees things differently is instantly dismissed as logically fallacious.

    http://www.howcropcirclesaremade.com

  33. nybgruson 30 Oct 2011 at 8:54 am

    she’s gotta be a troll BJ.

    But then again I can’t really wrap my head around people who truly believe in their religion of choice so who am I to judge?

  34. Judy1on 30 Oct 2011 at 9:01 am

    nybgrus I’m a Troll? … how rude.

  35. BillyJoe7on 30 Oct 2011 at 4:40 pm

    nybgrus, I see what you mean.

  36. tmac57on 30 Oct 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Judy-I didn’t realize that The Economist was published in the US. ;)

  37. Judy1on 31 Oct 2011 at 6:02 am

    Yeah, sorry tmac57. I have a bit of a downer on US censorship at the mo, which is obviously clouding my judgement.

    You may be surprised, but derekcbart (luckily for us here at Neurologica) is the very guy who is best qualified to answer that original question.

    http://youtu.be/EIe4VMtCREo

  38. tmac57on 31 Oct 2011 at 10:44 am

    Judy1- You think that’s impressive? Then take a look at this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBvUBQWK0w4&feature=player_embedded

    Believing is seeing.

  39. Judy1on 31 Oct 2011 at 11:10 am

    tmac57 – yeah that was amazing, but have you seen this?

    http://youtu.be/2CNd6OGdMO8

  40. BillyJoe7on 31 Oct 2011 at 10:59 pm

    I don’t know, I didn’t see anything fake about those kitttens.
    Unlike tmac’s video which is amazing but an obvious fake.
    And your UFO videos….;)

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