Area 51 is a secret Air Force base secluded deep within a wide-ranging tract of restricted government land in the remote Nevada desert. About two hours' drive north-northwest of Las Vegas, Area 51 also known as Groom Lake, S-4 and Papoose Lake is shrouded in mystery.
Generally believed to be the training and development zone for the military's most secret project, particularly spy planes and stealth technology, rumors of something more sinister taking place at Area 51 persist despite any compelling evidence. Widespread speculation ranges about exactly what goes on at the base. A number of people have reported strange sightings in the sky above the base, and others contend the military uses the base to study downed and captured alien craft, even aliens themselves, eventually using the alien technology in military projects.
The following special report was written by "Condor," a ParaScope operative who at this time wishes to remain anonymous. We have, however, confirmed Condor's identity and the facts of this report and stand by its assertions as 100% accurate.
For the past several decades, the Air Force has officially denied the existence of Area 51, also known as the Groom Lake installation. But in a recent statement, it has admitted that something exists in the middle of the desert, but won't say what. The brief text of that statement reads as follows:
"There are a variety of facilities throughout the Nellis Range Complex. We do have facilities within the complex near the dry lake bed of Groom Lake. The facilities of the Nellis Range Complex are used for testing and training technologies, operations, and systems critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces. Specific activities conducted at Nellis cannot be discussed any further than that."
I had to find out the truth for myself.
I had to be in Las Vegas, about two hours' drive from Area 51, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to scout out the clandestine base for myself to separate fact from fiction, reality from rumor. Not wanting to try to infiltrate the world's most secret (but widely known) military installation by myself, I enlisted the help of a couple of trusted colleagues.
"Darren" came to America from Poland, where he worked as an electrician after serving a stint in the Polish army as a tank commander. He volunteered to do the driving. "Miranda" is an actress and a model, but more importantly, she's an ace photographer. She'd bring the 35mm with the heavy-duty telephoto lenses, along with a small spy camera that could be slipped discreetly into her panties if need be. Finally, I'd be manning the surveillance gear and navigating, calling the shots as we made our break for the heart of Area 51.
Needless to say, the best-laid plans often run awry. This one was no exception. Darren chickened out after a desert training run near Las Vegas, and Miranda flaked before we left the hotel, saying she had to fly to Singapore for a fashion shoot. She took all her camera gear with her. Which left me holding the bag, and an empty one at that. But I was determined to at least visit the site, snap a few photos and try to get a lay of the land. It was time to improvise, modify the game plan, and execute a new strategy.
I decided to make the long drive up from Vegas on a Sunday, figuring that was the best time to catch a secret military installation with its pants down. I'd get there a few hours before sunset, take stock of the situation, gather what intelligence I could, take a few pictures with my trusty old camera, and wait for the cover of darkness to offer up the secrets of the base.
Road to Nowhere:
State and regional tourism boards decided to give the highway it's wacky name to attract more visitors to the remote area. "Any stimulation those poor folks can get from anyone trying to come through, alien or otherwise, would be really welcome," said Jim Merlino of the Pioneer Territory Tourism Commission. With the 1994 average of about 50 cars per day traveling along Highway 375, Merlino has a gift for understatement.
But despite the state's whimsical attitude toward naming the road, there's still a feeling that what's going on at Area 51 maybe isn't quite so funny as everyone would like to believe. In fact, some Rachel residents wanted the word "alien" included in the highway's name, but the transportation board refused. "Extraterrestrial means it can be something just flying above the Earth. It could just be meteors," said board director Tom Stephens, attempting to distance the state from an official endorsement of an alien presence. "None of the board members I know of has any special knowledge of visitors from outer space."
Perhaps not, but visitors to Rachel and the surrounding area might beg to differ. The highway runs through territory that some claim is a hotbed of UFO activity. And despite official military denials, it's clear the Air Force engages in extensive flight exercises across the wide expanse of dessert. Aliens or not, strange lights in the desert have some people on edge, and the general air of denial and secrecy put forth by the Air Force doesn't do much to clear matters up.
Until very recently, the government's official policy on Area 51 is that it doesn't exist. The Air Force now admits to a number of installations and sites around the general area, but still won't speak directly about Area 51. What many visitors fail to comprehend is that the patch of land known as Area 51 is in fact a tiny fraction of the much Larger Nellis Test Range, a sprawling installation that encompasses more restricted land than the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.
Despite official government assertions to the contrary, there are hundreds of miles of fences guarding hundreds of thousands of acres of "nothing." Not surprisingly, Nevada 375, America's Extraterrestrial Highway, doesn't even come close to the real action.
Aliens (and Tourists) Welcome!:
Pat and Joe Travis run the Little A'Le'Inn, which is a bar that serves up alienburgers and regular beers and has a few mobile home units out back where star-gazing tourists can rest overnight at rates roughly competitive with Motel 6.
I sat down at the bar at about 3:00 one Sunday afternoon. Not surprisingly, two pear-shaped men one in a Members Only jacket and aviator glasses, the other wearing a calculator watch and several pens in his breast pocket were discussing their fantasy plans for infiltrating the base. Apparently pilots, they went on at great length about how they would approach from unrestricted airspace, punching their way through the base's defenses to land outside a hangar full of UFOs. Needless to say, I was more convinced of the UFOs in the hangar than of these gentlemen's ability to fly right into Area 51.
I sucked back a cold Budweiser and continued eavesdropping on the Red Baron and Top Gun as I browsed the large collection of photos, books and souvenirs on display. A quarter gets you a map of the area, and a buck buys a postcard or bumper sticker touting Rachel and Area 51 as the "UFO Capital of the World." UFO model kits, alien heads, E.T. ashtrays and flying saucer caps are yours for the taking, if the price is right. Clearly, UFOs aren't just big business for Rachel, they are about all Rachel's got going for it.
But why not? If the government insists on denying that Area 51 even exists, if the Air Force thinks we're too stupid to spot a stealth fighter on a practice bombing run, then the uniquely American thing to do is make a tourist attraction of the damn place, and I that's great. Geekiness aside, the atmosphere at the A'Le'Inn is warm and inviting. Where else in the world can you sip a beer, eat a pack of crackers and then ask the bartender for directions to a non-existent secret base full of alleged alien ships?
I ponied up my 25 cents for a map and headed out the door. Joe Travis warned me, "Stay outside the border. If you drive in there, they will see you, they will catch you, they will arrest you and they will fine you $600, no questions asked."
So much for my bold plan. Where's an ex-tank commander and actress/photographer when you need 'em?
Edge of Nothing:
It was, alas, just a mailbox.
The dirt road cuts through a scrubby patch of ranchland, where cows stare blankly as you wind your way over their unfenced grazing land. In fact, not a single fence lies between the cows and the base perimeter (which is actually an unfenced "buffer zone"). Watching the cows follow me with their glazed, bovine eyes, it occurred to me that perhaps at night, they snuck into the base to commune with alien saucer pilots. Or perhaps the cows and gray aliens were mortal enemies, which would explain the strange cattle mutilations across the southwest.
A long, well-groomed dirt road stretches on for about nine miles past the ranch, knifing its way through some of the strangest terrain this side of Mars. The road, straight for miles up until this point, dips down through a series of small washes and switchbacks, making a high-speed land assault on the base border difficult if not impossible. Soon afterwards, I reached the unguarded, unfenced border of the base...or at least its buffer zone.
"Warning. Restricted Area," say the signs. "It is unlawful to enter this area without permission of the Installation Commander." The signs also point out that photography is prohibited, and wrap things up with a simple, understated sentiment that hardly seems appropriate for a military installation that officially doesn't even exist: "Use of deadly force authorized."
To the left is a strange-looking stalk sticking up from the top of a small hill with a camera and what looks like a few other instruments mounted on top. There are often white Jeep Cherokees parked atop the hills surrounding the base, but today, the Jeeps and their cammo-clad private security goons are not presentor at least not visible. For a moment, I flirt with the idea of strolling across the border, just to say I did it. Then I contemplate the warnings so many people have passed along to me; virtual guarantees that I'll be caught, detained and fined at least $600.
Screw it! I take a brazen stroll across the border, beyond the imaginary edge of nothing. I take a look around, breath the air inside the perimeter, and hop quickly back across to the safe side.
I snap a few more pictures, get back in the truck, and head back to the black mailbox. As I drive along, the sun melts behind the mountains that lie beyond the base boundary. Its unblinking, all-seeing eye has gazed at the base for hours as it passed over, but it has taken with it the secrets of Area 51 into the darkness of night.
I park by the mailbox and wait. The minutes crawl by. There are no stations on the radio dial. Not a single car passes by on the main road. The Nevada desert is still and quiet, keeping its secrets looked under a blanket of blackness. For nearly six hours, I sit and listen. Waiting. Watching. Nothing happens. No lights, no UFOs. I don't even hear crickets chirping.
Finally, I decide to pack it up and make the long, lonely drive back down the Extraterrestrial Highway. I return to Las Vegas and the dizzying buzz of lights, sound and motion. This town has no secrets, and is an open book to anyone with a dollar to spend or dime to gamble. Area 51 seems an entire universe away, and I'm starting to think reality is caving in around me. On my way out of town in the wee hours of the morning, I pass a gigantic interstate billboard touting a hot new Vegas dance club called... Area 51.
Epilogue: No More Secrets: - Area 51 exists.
To deny this is a surreal folly that only the U.S. military has the temerity to attempt. Some people believe Area 51 is nothing more than a cold war relic, a top-secret base that saw the testing and development of the U2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes, and, most recently, the latest round of stealth fighters and bombers. Others are convinced that it's the spot where crashed alien ships are taken, living and dead aliens are studied, and other-worldly technologies are reverse-engineered and applied to a super-secret generation of deadly weapons and aircraft.
No one on the outside knows the secrets of Area 51, but there are a number of things about the base that we do know with a very high degree of certainty:
* Area 51 is a tiny part of the sprawling Nellis Test Range, managed by the Air Force and used for flight training, bombing runs, flight testing and weapons development. The entire restricted zone includes hundreds of thousands of acres, an area larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.
* An extensive crew of private security guards patrol the area, aggressively countering ordinary citizens' harmless attempts to peek behind the ludicrous veil of secrecy and surreal denial. They often place road sensors, signs, camera pods and other equipment on public land, including surrounding land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.
* The military has engaged in an ongoing and intensifying campaign to confiscate and restrict access to a staggering amount of public land surrounding the area, closing several popular vantage points located many miles outside of the base's buffer zone.
* Photographic film and videotapes are routinely confiscated and not returned. Private citizens are searched without warrants or probable cause. The Air Force pays the Lincoln Country Sheriff's office at least $50,000 a year to respond to incidents along the base perimeter, effectively playing local enforcer to an Air Force that officially refuses to acknowledge the area's very existence.
* As many as 10 flights of private 737 aircraft fly into and land at the base on a routine schedule. These flights have been logged and tracked between Area 51 and Las Vegas a number of times, and there is a restricted terminal at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas where the fleet of 737s take off and land every day, ferrying workers to and from the base.
* A number of individuals have filed lawsuits in which they contend that during their employment at Area 51, their job duties included the unauthorized and illegal disposal and burning of toxic and hazardous wastes in open pits. These workers claim their work with these materials have severely impacted their health, further stating they were denied protective clothing and equipment by their employers. The government, named in the suits, has so far stonewalled, officially denying the existence of the Area 51 installation, thereby effectively removing the employees' ability to pursue legal action.
* One report of the covert installation's annual budget places estimates between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. A report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal quotes a source as claiming that a secret entertainment complex known as "Sam's Place" existed within the base boundaries, and that some officers routinely indulged such extravagant tastes as grapefruit flown in from Israel ($25 each), canned tuna from South America ($26 per can), prime rib and New York steaks as regular lunch items, $50,000 a month worth of bottled water and regular servings of frog's legs, king crab and filet mignon served at no charge.
* Another report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal contends that a sheet metal worker for a base contractor contracted hantavirus syndrome at an unspecified Air Force facility within the Nellis Air Force Range Complex.
ParaScope opposes the government secrecy and duplicity involved in the existence and operation of Area 51. The installation is funded by public money, and the taxpayers have a right to know what takes place there. Accountability is a cornerstone of a democratic republic, and without citizen oversight of this base and others like it, public trust will erode and government of, by and for the people as we know it will cease.
Do your part. Contact these people and let them know you're paying the bills at Area 51 and you want a full accounting of the base and its activities. For a sample letter and suggestions on how to contact and communicate with public and private officials, check our "Shout" area within ParaScope, accessible via the main screen. The people have a right to know, and together, we can find the answers to this mystery.
Appendix: Getting There:
So you want to go to Area 51.
A few things to keep in mind:
* It's a long drive through the middle of nowhere. Gas up first and take plenty of water.
* You don't need a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but the road to Area 51 is gravel, so keep that in mind.
* Allow about two hours one way from Las Vegas to Rachel, Nevada.
* DO NOT cross the border into the Area 51 buffer zone unless you're prepared to be detained and fined.
* Watch out for cows (and other critters) on the open roads and respect the property and privacy of the citizens around the area.
* If you leave your vehicle to hike near the area, stay aware of the base boundary at all times. It's easy to get lost and accidentally cross onto base property, in which case you will be detained and fined.
* If you're planning to shoot pictures, use film with a low number of exposures, such as 12 exposures per roll. Shoot fast and hide your film on your person you're less likely to be searched than your vehicle. Have a few "dummy" canisters of unshot or worthless film that you can grudgingly surrender if pressed, hanging onto your real film.
* Above all, remember your constitutional rights. No one can detain you or search you or your vehicle without probable cause and a warrant. Your tax dollars fund Area 51 and pay the salaries for those who want to keep it a secret.
To reach Area 51 from Las Vegas:
Take Interstate 15 north out of Vegas to state highway 93.
Follow 93 north through Alamo and Ash Springs. Shortly after Ash Springs, watch for state highway 375.
Take 375 east/north toward Rachel. If you want to go to Rachel (the nearest town to Area 51), continue past the black mailbox. If you're just interested in Area 51, keep an eye out for the black mailbox as you descend from Hancock Summit.
The black mailbox is near mile marker 29 (it's the only mailbox for miles, so if you see a mailbox, that's the one). Turn onto the dirt road at the black mailbox.
Follow this dirt road for about 4 miles. You'll see a water tank, a small knoll and some sorting pens. Immediately after passing this area, the road forks in three directions: take the middle path for just under a mile until you come to another well-groomed dirt road leading off to the right, which will be Groom Lake Road.
Turn right onto Groom Lake Road (and pay attention to the way you're going in so you can find your way out again). Follow this road for about 8 miles to the boundary of the base.
Take care not to cross the boundary, as it is not fenced off, only marked by signs. Going past the signs is considered trespassing on a restricted government military installation and carries a $600 fine.