As night waterman of a 9 hole municipal golf course in Ely,Nevada, in the early 1980’s, most of my summer nights were spent hoping for rain so I could take a day off. I’d circle the track 6 nights a week, moving 35 sprinkler heads between 7:00 p.m. and 3 a.m., alone in the black and silent nights under some of the clearest, darkest skies in the world. But that didn’t mean I did not enjoy a night off. One promising night, the ceiling was low. Clouds hung halfway down the taller surrounding mountains in a total overcast. But no rain, so I circled.
About 2:00 a.m., puttering south up the 6th hole in the Cushman maintenance vehicle, I noticed a light. That’s not adequate. You don’t just “notice” a shaft of life shining directly down from above a mountain, illuminating “WP Hill”. Out West every town with a mountain stacks whitewashed rocks on the face of it, in the shape of the local high school monogram. In White Pine county, that meant a big, whitewashed “WP”, in interlocking block letters, 100-150 ft high, and that night they were lit up by a brilliant white pillar of light extending down out of the clouds. (You can see the WP on the face of the mountain just off of dead-center in this picture, taken from very near the golf course. The wide angle lens makes the mountain appear small and very far away, but it is no more than 3 miles, and I had this clear line of sight to it.)
My first thought was “helicopter? At 2:00 a.m.?” so I stopped the Cushman cart, and turned off the motor to listen. Silence.
Silence. You may not understand what this means. Ely, Nevada is 250 miles from any major city. It sits at 6,435 ft. above sea level, and is surrounded by foothills leading to 11,ooo ft. peaks At 2:00 a.m., on grass, in the center of 140 acres of golf course land, with your Cushman motor off, there is almost a vacuum of noise. As I looked at the light of a “would be helicopter,” piercing the clouds and lighting up the WP like a Klieg light, it was even quieter.
Wait a second. THROUGH the clouds? Interest rapidly morphed to disbelief. The cloud ceiling was at most 100 ft above WP Hill, and thick. This light was bright and piercing through the vapor. What kind of light is that? Almost before I could think that thought, the circle of illumination began expanding, from the small circle around the WP, bigger, and bigger … never losing any brightness… until the entire mountain was illuminated! Silence. Whatever was making the light had risen, unless the laws of physics had been suspended, and the thick layer of clouds were also alight. Silence.
Without warning the light snapped off, and the pitch-black, center of the Great Basin, overcast night returned to what passes for normalcy in a desert mining town 150 miles north of Area 51.
The next day, KUTV Salt Lake City meteorologist Mark Eubanks rattled through the forecast, including the usual nod to Ely’s temperature, and then closed with “…and, still there’s no word about the bright light reported across the region last night, from Ely to Delta, but we sure received a lot of calls wondering what it was.”
I have no idea what made that light, and as a reasonable man, I don’t make any absurd claims. Could have been a secret Government project, straying off base from Groom Lake, or from the Tooele, UT Air Force Base. Or it could have been an alien ship. Either way, it was a UFO.