This interview with Leo Sprinkle first appeared in the March 2000 issue of “UFO Magazine,” to which I am a regular contributor. See the link to “UFO Magazine” on the first page of the web site. 


Dr. Leo Sprinkle and “Soul Samples”

By Sean Casteel


While it has never been easy to be a UFO researcher in the tightly constricted world of professional academia (Harvard’s Dr. John Mack springs quickly to mind), Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle, Ph.D. perhaps deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award for his nearly 40-year struggle to legitimize the scholarly study of paranormal subject matter such as alien abduction and reincarnation.

“It was a career spent trying to be an academic person and at the same time a UFO contactee and UFO investigator,” Sprinkle said. “Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.”

After so many years of valiantly “butting heads” with administrators and receiving only discouragingly paltry amounts of grant money to conduct his psychological and statistical studies of UFO experiencers and people who recalled past lives while under hypnosis, Sprinkle finally resigned under pressure from the faculty of the University of Wyoming in 1989.

“Not only were there a few administrators who didn’t like my work,” he said, “there was a concern that my visibility or notoriety was causing consternation even among those who supported me. Although I chose to resign, I felt as if the pressures put upon me to stop my work were forcing me to get into a position where I had to choose between what I considered to be my professional integrity and conformity to what I was being asked to do. I could conform to the notion of not doing reincarnation and UFO research during office hours, but I could not conform to the view that I must stop discussing these matters entirely. I felt that was inappropriate, and I could no longer follow that edict.”

Sprinkle moved on and continued his work in a less lucrative private practice in Laramie. He recently published his first book, entitled “Soul Samples, Personal Explorations In Reincarnation and UFO Experiences” (Granite Publishing, 1999) which recounts the details of his stormy relationships with his higher-ups at the University of Wyoming as well as the often inspiring stories of numerous people who helped further his research and with whom he worked as a psychological counselor in exploring their abduction experiences and past lives.

The book’s title originated with a remark made to Sprinkle by colleague Keith Thompson, who said, “Leo, when other investigators were chasing lights in the sky and gathering soil samples, you were helping UFO experiencers and gathering ‘soul’ samples.”

Sprinkle said his book combines two different approaches, both personal and professional.

“One is my personal experiences in ESP, reincarnation, and UFO investigations,” he said. “And the other is the attempt to meet with people and to conduct surveys and questionnaires in terms of both individuals and groups that I’ve worked with as well as people who have corresponded with me. So two-thirds of the book is my own little odyssey and a third of the book is the models and tables and figures that have come out of surveys of other people.”

How did Sprinkle first develop the interest in UFOs and reincarnation that became over time his divine obsession? As in many a researcher’s life, it all began with a UFO sighting. It was 1949, and Sprinkle was attending the University of Colorado in Boulder.

“A buddy and I saw a flying saucer,” he began, “and that upset me, because only kooks reported UFOs. We didn’t want to be considered kooks. We wanted to be considered serious students, even aspiring scholars. It bugged me, and I went into a mild depression.”

Sprinkle and his friend eventually agreed to file the UFO away as a secret device of the military.

“The helped me deal with it,” he continued. “But since I was always on the lookout for ways of understanding reality from a scientific standpoint, I went into psychology as a way of bridging my interest in science and my interest in the spirit. And as I was always open to people, in talking with them I began to realize that people around me were describing paranormal experiences [of their own], which puzzled me because it didn’t fit my model of science and reality.”

A second sighting in 1956, this time while with his wife Marilyn, further prodded Sprinkle toward the direction his life would eventually take. Marilyn had long been encouraging Sprinkle to read books about UFOs and ESP, but he had stubbornly resisted.

“I still held to the notion,” he said, “that I wanted to be a scientist, and I didn’t think that would be ‘scientific.’ But after the second sighting, I recognized that I had to deal with it. I started reading books that a friend of mine had, and I realized by the time I finished my doctoral studies that UFOs and ESP were somehow intertwined. I didn’t understand that, but I knew that a lot of people reported psychic experiences, poltergeists, telepathy and other kinds of things as part of their UFO experiences.”

Sprinkle eventually discovered a relationship between UFO experiences and reincarnation as well.

“The relationship is difficult to describe,” he said, “until a person has some experience with both. One Canadian reporter asked me years ago, ‘What do you say to skeptics?’ And I said, ‘Well, if they’re debunkers, then they don’t really talk to me. But if they are truly skeptical, I say read a thousand reports and talk to a hundred people who’ve had ET encounters and then have your own encounter. Then we can talk.’

“Modern UFO contactees,” he continued, “often say that in various lifetimes they have had an ongoing relationship, sometimes with the same entities, in which there seems to be two major lessons. One is the concern about the planet and the other concern is about human evolution, human spiritual development. From my standpoint, the connection between the study of reincarnation and past lives and the study of flying saucers and ETs offers us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves as ongoing souls who happen to be in bodies on the planet at this time. This time is crucial in terms of Mother Earth and her well-being.”

Not only is there a relationship between UFOs and reincarnation, according to Sprinkle, but a UFO and it’s varying formations of lights in the sky may include a message about the soul of the witness.

“The puzzle has always been,” he said, “why do some people have some kinds of experiences and why do other people have other kinds of experiences? If one uses an experimental, empirical approach, then there’s no explanation.”

Sprinkle made use of the example of Barney and Betty Hill, the New England couple who were among the first abductees to explore their experience under hypnosis. (Their 1961 encounter with a UFO is the subject of journalist John Fuller’s book, “Interrupted Journey.”) The Hills told Sprinkle that they believed the aliens had chosen them at random.

“They felt they were just fish to be trolled, so to speak,” Sprinkle said, “or that they were ‘there’ and so they were the ones who were picked up. Many other people have that same point of view, and they may be correct.

“But other persons who have looked into the connections, psychologically and psychically and spiritually, feel that there was a definite purpose [to their encounter.] Just like for me. When I was a youth in ’49, I felt that the flying saucer sighting was ‘coincidence,’ although looking back on it, my buddy and I were looking into questions of general semantics and science and reality, and it was exactly what I wanted. I wanted something that would help me understand reality.”

Sprinkle laughed at the obvious irony.

“The only trouble is,” he said, “it shattered my notions of reality. So as I look back on it, I realize that even though at the surface level many people report the sightings as ‘strange’ or as a mere coincidence, at a deeper level they recognize that this was another lesson for them to learn. Not only about the nature of their connections with the people around them, but also about their connection with their higher self, their soul level.”

The question for Sprinkle becomes “What is a person thinking and feeling and dealing with when he or she has a UFO experience?” The UFO then functions as a kind of ink-blot test for the soul, Sprinkle theorizes.

“If one plays the game by allowing that the stars are in the background,” he explained, “and the encounter is in the foreground, then one can say, ‘Okay, what if I see the flying saucer as myself? As my soul? Whether it’s a hard, physical object or a light I’m looking at, does this help me understand my own level of soul development? How many objects are there? How do they behave together?’ Put all this together and then sometimes there can be an understanding of the game that’s being played or the little theater that’s being enacted between the ET theater director and the UFO/ET experiencer.

“It’s been fun to help people who are interested in playing the game to say, ‘Can I find out more about my soul development, my purpose in life, my mission, from the kind of UFO/ET encounter that I’ve experienced?”

Sprinkle often mixes puns and humor into his writing and his work with experiencers, and he only partially jokes that he thinks the aliens often do the same. But he readily admits that he has more than one motive for trying to evoke laughter in people.

“I think that there’s two reasons,” he said. “The psychological reason is that there’s fear and doubt underneath about whether I’m really helping people to learn, and so humor in some way helps me to ease the fear and the doubt that I experience. Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying something to the effect of, ‘I laugh that I may not cry.’ Humor is a way of dealing with suffering, so that’s part of it.

“But at the other end of consciousness, I think that many people who truly are spiritually searching are more joyful than those people who are afraid of that spiritual search. It’s been said that many masters and yogis have a little smile, as if there’s a joke involved in life. Many people argue that higher levels of consciousness are joyful, blissful, and puns and jokes for me are ways in which we can experience that humor or that joy.”

Sprinkle next offered a third reason for employing humor whenever possible, one that comes directly from his regressive hypnosis work with experiencers.

“In my work with clients,” he said, “sometimes they are extremely fearful and upset when they learn consciously about their missing time or being onboard craft with the strange creatures. For example, a woman returned back to the normal state, opened her eyes after having described her session with ETs onboard a craft, and she was so frightened. She said, ‘Leo, do you think they’re going to come and take me away?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think you’ll be that lucky. I think you’ll have to stay and work like the rest of us.’

“She froze between her fear and her pleasure in thinking that maybe they wouldn’t come and take her away. Then she laughed and said, ‘Yeah, I suppose I will have to stay and work.’ So the joy of the mission and the suffering of the mission seem to go hand in hand.”

Speaking of joy and suffering, what’s life like for Sprinkle now that he’s left the University of Wyoming and finished his first book?

“Much easier,” he replied. “I still teach a non-credit course on psychical research at the university. Once in a while I still serve as a member of a doctoral committee in education or psychology. As a professor emeritus, I’m still connected with the university but not on a day-to-day basis. I work about half as hard as I used to and I have twice as much fun.

“I spend time with a few clients who are interested in exploring past life therapy or UFO experiences or both. That’s my joy. I do so-called ‘life readings’ or psychic readings for people, long distance as well as sitting sessions. I enjoy that and people seem to benefit from the information that comes out of our sessions.”

But there is also another book project underway for Sprinkle.

“I’m working on a manuscript,” he said, “called ‘RAW Notes.’ R-A-W are the initials of a client that I worked with for years who was an interesting guy. He died of AIDS, and he was both a UFO experiencer, which I didn’t know until many years after we had worked together, and also a person who channeled information. He had a lot of social and family problems because of his bisexual lifestyle, but he was a good father and a good teacher. So I’ve been working on a manuscript trying to utilize the 20 years of notes that I had taken and put them in some kind of book form in case somebody might be interested in that story.”

Sounds a little like the best-seller “Tuesdays With Morrie,” doesn’t it, Leo?

“Yeah,” he said, “But I didn’t realize it until I had already decided that I was going to write this book. RAW and I would meet at one o’clock on Wednesdays. Then I found out about ‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ but I haven’t read it yet because I don’t know whether I’m going to be influenced too much or too little by the story. It sounds as if the writer has done an excellent job of describing his ongoing relationship with his professor.”

Ultimately for Sprinkle, the understanding of UFO and reincarnation phenomena will be an integral part of mankind’s forward movement into to the New Millennium.

“I encourage people to meditate and to consider the possibility, whatever their encounter has been or whatever the lessons that have been learned, that humanity is at the crossroads,” he said. “What we think as individuals and what we feel as members of humanity can make a difference in terms of the next step we take.

“I’m looking forward to Millennial Madness. I’m hoping that instead of concentrating on the physical failures of our computers that we will meditate on the moment that so many minds are going to be focused in on-the question of ‘What now? What next?’ I’m hoping that we will become more open to the information that ETs and humans are sharing. It’s an exciting time to be in the body and alive on the planet.”