Arizonans were instrumental in promoting Meier-mania. Beginning in the late 1970s, Wendelle C. Stevens, a Tucson UFO enthusiast, and others began touting and publishing Meier's photos (while playing down the messianic stuff).
Looking at Meier's photos, it's hard to believe he was ever taken seriously. Yet several Arizonans assured the UFO-hungry public that they had tested Meier's photographs and had found them to be genuine.
One of these investigators included a young man who claimed that he had used computers to verify the authenticity of Meier's photographs.
His name was Jim Dilettoso.
Kal Korff is one UFO researcher who believes Jim Dilettoso is a poseur.
Korff became interested in UFOs and began corresponding with Wendelle C. Stevens in the late 1970s. The two swapped UFO photos, and Korff studied the Billy Meier phenomenon. When the normally open Stevens refused to discuss certain aspects of the Meier case, Korff grew suspicious.
His doubts led him to write two books, one in 1980, the second in 1995, debunking the Meier case. In 1991, Korff traveled under an assumed name to Switzerland and inspected many unpublished Meier photographs. Korff's investigation, revealed in his book Spaceships of the Pleiades, showed that Meier's outer-space photographs were actually crude snapshots of TV science programs.
One photo is of two out-of-focus women who Meier insisted were aliens. In a tape-recorded interview with Korff, Jim Dilettoso claimed that the photo was authentic because the woman in the foreground had elongated ear lobes. But Korff showed that a clearer, unpublished photo taken by Meier revealed that the elongated ear lobes were actually lengths of the woman's hair.
In one of Wendelle C. Stevens' books of Meier photographs, futuristic-looking (for 1979) computer enhancements of the spaceship photos are accompanied by captions which purport to describe tests that authenticated Meier's photos.
De Anza Systems, a San Jose company, was credited with providing the computers to do the analyses.
In 1981, Korff interviewed De Anza employee Ken Dinwiddie, who confirmed that Dilettoso had brought the Meier photos to his shop. But Dilettoso and another man had simply asked that De Anza make some sample enhancements of the photos as a demonstration.
"They came to De Anza under the pretext of wanting to buy our equipment. We demonstrated it, and they snapped many pictures and left. We made no data interpretations whatsoever," Dinwiddie told Korff in the presence of two other investigators.
"What about the captions which appear in the [Meier] book under each photo? Are they correct?" Korff asked Dinwiddie.
"Those are their interpretations, not ours. Nothing we did would have defined what those results meant."
It was clear to Dinwiddie, Korff writes, that Dilettoso and Stevens dreamed up the impressive-sounding captions despite that they had nothing to do with demonstrations De Anza had performed.
Korff showed Dinwiddie a caption below a Meier photo that purports to show a hovering spacecraft: "Thermogram--color density separations--low frequencies properties of light/time of day are correct; light values on ground are reflected in craft bottom; eliminates double exposures and paste-ups."
"No, we put those colors in the photo!" Dinwiddie exclaimed. "Jim [Dilettoso] said, 'Can you make the bottom of the object appear to reflect the ground below?' I said yes, and we performed the operations that they asked for."
Added Dinwiddie: "My impression of Jim Dilettoso is that he freely chooses to use whatever descriptive text he enjoys to describe things. He is not particularly versed in computer technology. He's a pretty good piano player, though."
Korff says that since his book was published in 1995, Dilettoso has made no efforts to dispute its contents.
Dilettoso tells New Times that he didn't write the captions, but that they aren't misleading. "If you talked to Ken Dinwiddie today, he would say we didn't do this."
New Times did talk to Ken Dinwiddie last week, and he remembers things the way Korff describes them.
Dilettoso has applied even more questionable methods in his "validation" of UFO photographs.
In 1987 and 1988, he worked for an Arizona affiliate of NASA; his work involved helping NASA technology get to the private sector, he says.
But he admits that he wasn't working for NASA in 1991 when he provided Wendelle C. Stevens with a seven-page analysis of UFO photographs taken in Puerto Rico. On NASA stationery, Dilettoso writes that "this is not an official project," but concludes that the photos of a flying saucer encountering an F-14 Tomcat are authentic.