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Area 51

The Quick Guide To Area 51: Just For Fun, Just This Once

We try not to talk about Area 51 all that much. While we enjoy the alien/extra terrestrial theme - and of course our mascot, Allen the Alien! - we don't really subscribe too much to conspiracy theories and so on.

Not that we don't have fun with all this. Heck, we even named our fan club on Facebook "Area 51." By the way, the photo above is Area 51 from space.

However, it's been in the news a bit lately, and so we're going to - just this one time - talk about Area 51. We will try to be serious about it, so if you're expecting to hear recommendations for a Naruto run...you've got another thing coming. That said, this is also sort of just for fun. We just felt like we'd sound off about it this one time.

What IS Area 51?


The area commonly called "Area 51" is part of Nellis Air Force Base and the Nevada Test Site, which (naturally) is owned/operated by the US Air Force. It's located in the Great Basin Divide in southern Nevada in Nevada's Lincoln County. It is 83 miles north-northwest of Las Vegas, about 150 miles west of St. George, Utah, and about 430 miles northwest of Phoenix, Ariz.

It's been publicly acknowledged as being an aircraft and weapons testing site. For obvious reasons, the government isn't going to talk too much about it.

The area itself is located near Groom Lake, a salt flat out in the middle of the desert. The nearest town is the tiny hamlet of Rachel, Nev., with a population of 50. There's a hotel and restaurant there ("The Little A'le'Inn") and not much else; they don't even have a post office.

A good share of the people who work there aren't Air Force personnel. Many are scientists and engineers who work for government contractors. People commute from a private terminal at McCarran International Airport via Janet Airlines, a private airline owned by AECOM but more or less known to service the US Air Force. Known contractors in the area include EG&G, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Livermore Labs and others.

The Central Intelligence Agency confirmed that Area 51 is an aircraft research and development facility, after a 2005 Freedom of Information Act request led to the 2013 publication of The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954-1974, a paper by CIA historians Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach. You can read the released version - which still has some redactions - from the National Security Archives.

A Brief History Of Area 51

area 51

So, the history of Area 51 starts way back in 1941.

At the time, the then-US Army Air Corps (there was no Air Force yet) needed somewhere to train and test aircraft, including for target practice. An outdoor range...for planes! So, a few guys headed into the desert in search of a place to do just that.

They found Groom Lake, adjacent to the land holdings of the Sheahan family. The Sheahans, according to Jalopnik, own a ranching property right next to Area 51, including Groom Mine. Groom Mine was a working mining compound (with multiple families living and working there) until the 1950s, which was part of how the Sheahans made their living, along with other ranching activities.

Dan Sheahan, the then family patriarch, took them in and let them stay on the ranch (even fed them!) while they conducted their surveys ahead of establishing an aircraft training range and testing facility around Groom Lake.

No good deed, of course, goes unpunished.

Within a decade, the Sheahans and others living and working at Groom Mine were being treated to .50 caliber machine gun fire during target practice, which often hit outbuildings on their property and darn near killed people on multiple occasions.

Since Nevada was also a nuclear testing site, they were also treated to some additional rewards for their kindness. Fallout! Radiation burns! Dead cattle! The kind of fun the whole family can enjoy! They've also had some delightful visits from security personnel, who were (sarcasm intensifies) most likely very reasonable and understanding of the situation.

Since then, the Sheahans - who just want to live on the land that belonged to them - have been in a bitter dispute with the Air Force.

Anyhow, along with the bombing range and nuclear testing, advanced aircraft designs began to be tested in the area, starting with the U-2 spyplanes in the 1950s. According to Popular Mechanics, one explanation for some UFO stories is that commercial airline pilots would see a U2 or other experimental high-altitude aircraft and lose their minds, since no aircraft had an operational ceiling that high or that fast a top speed.

Since then, advanced aircraft and avionics systems get tested in Nevada before deployment. It's where the Air Force and the companies that make the stuff they use develop and test things.

The Sheahans? By 2015, they were embroiled in a bitter court battle with the US Air Force. They received an offer for their Groom Mine property: $5.2 million, for 400 acres of land and mining claims. The property had been valued at just over $100 million. They had been living there for more than a century, and more than one generation of their relatives is buried in the family plot on their land.

The Sheahans refused the offer. The Air Force responded by initiating condemnation proceedings and ultimately, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, seizing the land through eminent domain. The Sheahans, as of 2017, were set to receive less than $350,000 for their property, which the family had owned for more than 100 years.

Granted, there's probably more to the story - there are three sides to any dispute; what Party A says, what Party B says, and the truth - but the optics are not flattering, to say the least.

This is not, of course, to say anything bad about the people who serve in the Air Force; they are brave men and women who deserve our gratitude for defending our country. This is instead to say that some of their bosses pulled a move straight out of the Hedley Lamarr playbook.

The Camo Dudes: Area 51 Security

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The base is a heavily-restricted area; you can't even go there without security clearance, and Area 51 security is provided by a group of men affectionately referred to as the "Camo Dudes."

Who ARE the Camo Dudes?

Well, the information isn't publicly available, but it's known that they aren't regular military but instead are PMCs, or private military contractors. They patrol the area in pickups, and if you get close to the boundary lines they will show up and in a bad mood.

They have been known to draw guns on people. They do not have a sense of humor, and - depending on their mood - may or may not detain you for messing around.

Granted, the penalty isn't too stiff. In many instances, they tell people to make themselves scarce. However, if they aren't feeling generous, they'll detain you and call the Lincoln County Sheriff's office. When they arrive, the typical penalty is a $750 fine for trespassing.

But be aware: they are statutorily authorized to use lethal force if they deem it necessary, so messing around up there is not a very good idea.

You should also know that the Air Force DOES have their own special forces and other infantry personnel, and a bunch of Mountain Dew-addled, meme-loving neckbeards do not want any part of ParaRescue or AFSOC.

Area 51 And Aliens


Okay, now we're into the deep end of the pool: what about Area 51 and aliens?

There is no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, confirming the existence of extraterrestrial life, nor the existence of extraterrestrial life with advanced technology.

Could it exist? Well, given the size of our galaxy - and indeed, the size of the universe - it's impossible to rule it out. Space, as Douglas Adams put it, is big. REALLY big. You just don't know how big it is.

But, since we're on the topic…

To date, there's only one credible source of information I've found about there being anything extraterrestrial at Area 51. Namely, Bob Lazar.

Bob Lazar has been interviewed to death, so there's enough information out there for you to do your own research. I do not recommend the documentary on Netflix, because it's AWFUL. I would instead recommend you watch his appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast as a starting point.

He has made it clear that there are many areas at the site, including some that work with advanced aircraft for the military. He was at a different part of the complex, however.

Anyway, Bob Lazar got his start as a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He eventually found his way into the employ of EG&G's Special Projects division in the late 1980s, and started work at S-4, a sort of satellite facility a few miles away from the Area 51 site.

Lazar's job was to reverse-engineer bits of technology that he and his co-workers were given. His work was mostly with a propulsion system in the laboratory, and specifically with a small reactor. It came from...well, let's say it was a foreign aircraft.

Per Bob Lazar, there were multiple crafts, at least three he was aware of. Only one had sustained any damage, and they had been uncovered from locations unknown, like from an archaeological dig or something.

Lazar attests that the reactor he worked with - about the size of a basketball - works by generating a gravitational field. He further theorized that it had to produce gravitational waves, like ripples in a pond, in order to do it. The reactor itself came from what he asserts is an extraterrestrial spacecraft.

Here's where things get a little more interesting. First, human technology is not capable of generating gravity. Secondly, at the time he worked there, gravitational waves themselves were only theoretically possible.

What we know now is that they DO exist. We apologize, but we must make the following detour - For Science!

Gravitational waves had been hypothesized by the end of the 19th century. Part of Einstein's theory of relativity is that gravity is affected by distortions in the curvature of space-time and ripples, therefore making waves.

The hitch is they can't be observed directly. You have to wait for an event to take place that produces observable effects that could only be produced by gravitational waves. As it happens, just such an event was observed in 2015 by the LIGO observatory (two black holes colliding) proving the existence of gravitational waves and netting physicists Kip Thorne, Rainier Weiss and Barry Barish a Nobel Prize in the bargain.

So: technology that we can't replicate, but that does something that's possible. How the spacecraft worked, incidentally, is the reactor creates gravitational waves, which propels the craft through space. That gave it handling characteristics unlike any aircraft on earth; it can move in any direction and stop on a dime.

Lazar also discovered the fuel source was a heavy element that - at the time - didn't exist on the periodic table. They worked out that the fuel would have to have an atomic number of 115, meaning a nucleus with 115 protons. It was a stable isotope of that element, with no atomic decay.

As it happens, an element with exactly that atomic number was synthesized at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research or JINR, a research facility in Moscow, in 2003. (Russia, not Idaho.) It has been resynthesized a few more times, and in 2016 was added to the periodic table of elements as Moscovium. Granted, it's most stable isotope, moscovium-290, has a half-life of 0.65 seconds, meaning the best moscovium we can make at the moment only exists for less than a second.

Okay, so what does this mean?

Bob Lazar, who has a definite background in the sciences, asserts he worked on aircraft and technology that A.) cannot exist, given the limits of human technological achievements but B.) could theoretically exist, given current human scientific understanding.

Bear in mind that I said he was "credible," not "unimpeachable." With that said, he's the only person who has had something to say about anything alien-related regarding the uber-secretive Area 51 and had any sort of substantiation to go with it. How much credibility that lends Bob Lazar...well, that's up to you.

You Should Probably Stay Away From Area 51

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All joking aside, there are a few takeaways about Area 51 that you should have gathered by now.

First: the site is an Air Force facility, where they do top-secret testing of next-generation aircraft and aircraft technology. That's the sort of stuff that HAS to be kept secret.

Second: Because of that, they have a heavy security presence. You are committing a crime if you show up and security is not going to have a sense of humor about you being there.

Third: if you take their heavy-handed tactics with the Sheahans as an indicator, the folks who run the base are not joking around when it comes to protecting their interests.

It's one thing to sit on a distant hill and watch to see if anything cool happens. It's another to commit trespassing, especially when you know the guys that will stop you from doing so have guns and bad attitudes.

If you have other ideas...here's my message to you, Rudy: time you straighten right out, or you'll wind up in jail.

We hope this has been fun for you. The thing about Area 51 is that because it's off limits, there's a "forbidden fruit" appeal to it. Add any number of conspiracy theories to it and people who enjoy that sort of thing start to get curious and so on.

About The Author

Writer sam hoober