Many people who believe in UFOs also think that "Area 51" dried-up Groom Lake in Nevada is where the Air Force keeps the flying saucers it captured. And maybe an autopsied alien body or two.
Others think the military base is the testing grounds for America's most secret military machines, everything from the F-117 Stealth fighter to electro-magnetic pulse weapons that would make Buck Rogers nervous.
What is certain is that there is something in that moonscape property north of Las Vegas. Officially designated the "Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range," the federally protected territory covers an area equal to Rhode Island and Connecticut.
What also is certain is that 1,851 federal civilian workers are employed in mostly well-compensated jobs at several ultra-high-security facilities in and near the range, according to a Scripps Howard News Service analysis of U.S. Office of Personnel Management payroll records.
"This really is one of the last big secret military bases in the United States," said Jeff Moag, a National Security News Service researcher in Washington. "It used to be that the Air Force tried to pretend that Area 51 didn't exist at all."
The Air Force last year conceded the existence of the base when it released a publication that suggested experimental Cold War-era aircraft could have been mistaken for flying saucers.
Whatever they do in the Nellis Bombing Range continues under the Clinton administration.
Payroll records show the Department of Energy, which controls the nation's stockpile of nuclear bombs, employs 32 people in Mercury, Nev., the only town inside the bombing range.
But non-government military observers for several years have said they think that hundreds, or thousands, of military and civilian workers who are employed in the desert facilities take daily flights from Las Vegas airfields into the base. The computer records appear to confirm this.
The Department of Energy officially employs 448 people in the Las Vegas area, even though there are no known federal projects in the city that could justify such employment. The Air Force has 1,068 civilian employees there, some of whom certainly work at Nellis Air Force Base.
But more suspect are the 166 civilian employees of the departments of Defense and Army, the 156 Environmental Protection Agency workers, the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency employees and at least two representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff. Some of these people work in classified operations at the bombing range.
The payroll for all of the civilian workers in the area totaled $80.6 million.