Are alien spacecraft, as some Nevadans increasingly claim, patrolling the skies above Carson City and other communities in Northern Nevada?
Virtually all responsible scientists say those who claim they have seen or ridden in them are delusional, hoaxers or ordinary people who innocently misidentify stars, satellites, aircraft, solar flares and military drones.
Whether or not you believe such spacecraft are real, you’ll be intrigued to learn that a 2012 National Geographic Channel poll revealed that 36 percent of Americans believe they exist, 17 percent do not and the rest are undecided.
And the UFO Reporting Center (UFORC) in Seattle reports that sightings have increased in the U.S. by 46 percent over the past four years.
Here in Northern Nevada, at least two dozen of the alleged sightings have been registered with the UFORC as having recently occurred over Carson City, Dayton, Gardnerville, Fallon and Winnemucca.
In one instance, a Carson City married couple claimed they saw “three mysterious objects surrounded by star-like blinking objects” flying in a “triangle formation near our home.”
In two other reports filed with the UFORC, two Carson men said they had seen “egg-shaped objects bearing very bright lights hover over the ground and then take off” and “a cigar-shaped, wingless craft with white, reflective-like hulls pass over our house at night.”
A Dayton resident driving along U.S. Highway 50 to Mound House said he encountered a flying saucer hover over his car. The saucer, he stated, had “large, wide-open windows through which I could see a female with white, flowing robes. She smiled at me and I could see her hand had three fingers and a thumb. The men in the saucer had no hair, and they drew the drapes and the saucer flew off,” he told the UFORC.
A Carson City man who said he was “a former pilot with more than 20 years experience in military fighters” reported he and his family witnessed a “mysterious object surrounded by a semicircle of blue and green lights” streak across Highway 95 north of Carson. A Gardnerville man reported he had seen a “silver craft with no signs or lights” fly over his house before taking off.
A Fallon man who described himself as an “air traffic controller for more than 24 years” said he and several colleagues saw “a very large, chrome, silver or mirrored sphere” travel about 3,600 mph over Fallon Naval Air Station. Another Fallonite reported he and his wife also had seen five such spheres flying over town “for several hours.”
I’ve never seen a flying saucer, but I know a fellow who says he has. His name is Leo R. Sprinkle, and he holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Missouri.
I met Dr. Sprinkle in the mid-1970s, when I was chairman of the Journalism Department at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and he was a professor of psychology and director of the university’s Division of Counseling and Testing. The Henley and Sprinkle families were neighbors and friends, and our children attended the same Laramie schools.
In addition to my administrative and teaching responsibilities, I wrote a weekly Sunday column for the Cheyenne Tribune-Eagle and the Laramie Daily Boomerang.
Upon learning that Sprinkle had told his students and fellow academicians he had seen flying saucers, I interviewed him and devoted one of my columns to his allegations. It appeared in both newspapers Sunday, Nov. 2, 1975, under the headline “UW Professor Says All Evidence Points to Fact of Flying Saucers.”
My column also was accompanied by a photo of Sprinkle and an illustration, drawn by my wife, Ludie, that depicted a “space creature” as described to me by Sprinkle that reportedly had been seen emerging from a flying saucer near the town of Rawlins, Wyo.
During my interview with Sprinkle, he said that “saucer folks” come in all shapes and sizes ... ”some are green and they like people and flowers.” Others, he said, “have pumpkin-like heads that resemble helmets. Some saucer folks have large eyes that extend around the sides of their heads.”
The saucers themselves “come in many sizes ... ranging from 5 feet in diameter to huge pencil-shaped craft 500 yards long,” Sprinkle told me.
The saucers usually land in rural or uninhabited areas because their occupants are fearful of humans, added Sprinkle, who also told me that he had seen two saucers: “One was a round, metallic object and the other was bright and glowing.”
Today, 38 years after my interview with Dr. Sprinkle was published, he is 83 years old and retired from teaching. But he writes for professional journals, appears on the lecture circuit and has appeared as a guest on network television programs such as NBC’s “Today” show.
I haven’t seen or spoken with Sprinkle since my family and I left Wyoming in 1977 to purchase the then-weekly Lahontan Valley News. But if I asked him if he believes spacecraft are flying over Nevada, I am confident he would answer, “of course.”
David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News, a sister publication to the Nevada Appeal.