Space Exploration

Believe It: Bid on the Vintage UFO Photos Made Famous in 'X-Files'

By Halina Loft
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Sotheby's Space Photography Online auction includes an extraordinary grouping of photographs taken by "Billy" Eduard Albert Meier, a notorious ufologist. One of the photographs in the group was used in 'The X-Files' television series, making it one of the most famous UFO photographs of all time.

"M r. Mulder, why are those like yourself, who believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life on this Earth, not dissuaded by all the evidence to the contrary?"

"Because, all the evidence to the contrary is not entirely dissuasive."


This bit of banter is exchanged between two main characters – FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder and his informant, "Deep Throat" – on Season 1 of the hit television series The X-Files, which ran from 1993 to 2002. The lines succinctly capture a main theme explored in the show: that is, the tension between knowing the scientific facts – about paranormal activity, the existence of extraterrestrial life, etc. – and yet, despite all the evidence, still wanting to believe.

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A still from X-Files, featuring the iconic, original "I Want to Believe" poster (made using a vintage photo taken by "Billy" Eduard Albert Meier in Switzerland, from 3 March – 14 June 1975).

"I want to believe" remains the iconic tagline of The X-Files series, bolstered in part by an eye-catching poster hung above Mulder's desk. The poster shows the phrase laid over a striking photograph of a UFO, which hovers above the jagged silhouette of a coniferous forest. But the poster's origin reveals a compelling story all its own, concerning one of the most significant "believers" of modern history: "Billy" Eduard Albert Meier.

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"Billy" Eduard Albert Meier, UFO Sighting, 3 March-14 June 1975. One of 6 vintage photos included in Lot 214 of Sotheby's Space Photography Online sale.

Meier, a Swiss native, has long alleged to be an extraterrestrial contactee and is the founder of Freie Interessengemeinschaft für Grenz- und Geisteswissenschafter und Ufologiestudien (Free Community of Interests for the Border and Spiritual Sciences and Ufological Studies).

Born in 1937, Meier attests that his first other-worldly encounter occurred during childhood and continued, off-and-on, for decades. And in 1975, Meier set out to photograph his experience. Sotheby's Space Photography Online auction includes three groups of Meier's photographs, with between four and seven photographs in each group. These collected photographs, shot by Meier, purport to depict an interstellar visit by a spacecraft from the planet Erra.

This series of photographs (included in lots 213-215) are among the most highly publicized and well-documented images of UFO phenomena ever recorded.
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UFO SIGHTING. 7 VINTAGE PHOTOS TAKEN BY "BILLY" EDUARD ALBERT MEIER IN SWITZERLAND ON 28 MARCH 1976. Estimate $6,000 – 9,000.

The first grouping purports to depict three UFOs hovering over the mountains of Bachtelhörnli, Switzerland in the morning and evening of March 28th, 1976.

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UFO SIGHTING. 6 VINTAGE PHOTOS TAKEN BY "BILLY" EDUARD ALBERT MEIER IN SWITZERLAND FROM 3 MARCH-14 JUNE 1975. Estimate $6,000 – 9,000.

The second grouping includes two photographs which appear to show a single UFO moving slowly over the town of Berg Rumlikon, in Switzerland on June 14th, 1975 at 1:16 and 1:20 pm, and four images depicting a single UFO in a forested hilly area of Schmidrüti, Switzerland on March 18th, 1975, from 4:45 to 5:40 pm.

One of these photographs became perhaps the most famous and notorious UFO image of all time when 'The X-Files' chose it to appear in the famous "I Want to Believe" poster.

The poster hung in Mulder's office for the first three seasons of the show, but was changed in the 4th season due to an intellectual property suit brought by Meier, as the creators of the show never obtained permission to use the image. In the 2016 re-boot of the show, the creators made up for this, and obtained permission from Meier to use two of his photographs in the trailer, one of which is part of lot 214 (Meier image number 61) and the other, part of lot 213 (Meier image 187).

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UFO SIGHTING. 4 VINTAGE PHOTOS TAKEN BY "BILLY" EDUARD ALBERT MEIER IN SWITZERLAND IN SWITZERLAND IN 1975. Estimate $4,000 – 6,000.

And the third grouping includes four photographs, two showing a single UFO moving slowly over a wooded area of Winkelriet-Wetzikon in Switzerland on March 18, 1975 at approx 9:08 am, one image depicting a single UFO in a forested area of Schmidrüti, Switzerland on March 18th, 1975, at 5:22 pm and a single UFO hovering over the small town of Berg Rumlikon on June 14, 1975 at 1:16 pm.

Meier's photographs gained greater importance and scrutiny thanks to Lt. Col. Wendell Stevens of the U.S. Air Force, a pilot who collected UFO related media for Project Blue Book. After Stevens retired, he continued to investigate more than 100 UFO case, including the curious UFO sightings of "Billy" Eduard Albert Meier of Switzerland. When Stevens came across the Meier case, he gathered a team of U.S. private investigators to research the Meier evidence at labs including the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in an attempt to determine their authenticity. The photos were given to directly to Stevens by Meier, or sold for the cost of development. From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Meier took 1,476 photos and 34 films, of which about 600 photos and 9 films were of UFOs.

Meier and Stevens wanted to believe, just as Mulder did – maybe you do, too, despite everything. Bid for the chance to own these significant photographs from now until 3 December at 12:00 PM EST.

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