MYSTERY WIRE — There’s no telling what’s next at Area 51. For a place that’s in the middle of nowhere, the secret base has already recorded an unbelievable history.
But it’s the untold secrets that hold so much promise for the greatest story in human history.
The Area 51 dossier
For decades, the tiny town of Rachel, Nevada, survived on the grit of its residents, living a testy co-existence with the Big Secret across State Route 375. Locals shared a cup of coffee or a beer with the CIA, Air Force and the “Camo Dudes” who patrolled the desert for reasons unknown.
During the ’50s and ’60s, spectacular aircraft — the U-2 spy plane, the A-12 and the SR-71 Blackbird — made appearances in the skies, and people started to notice.
As the years passed, the base grew — stealing land and telling anyone who asked that “Area 51” didn’t even exist. That pattern doomed the chance for the quiet co-existence.
A land grab in 1984 drew the spotlight to the secret base, and five years later, a shadowy worker hiding behind the name “Dennis” announced a secret that no one had expected: There were nine “flying disks” stored at a place called “S-4,” and the government was trying to learn how they worked — and maybe flying them around. The secrets revealed in Bob Lazar’s interview with George Knapp were at the center of a 1989 special, “UFOs: The Best Evidence,” and years of coverage since then.
Instantly, Rachel had a tourism economy, and the town cafe rebranded itself the “Little A’Le’Inn.” The community built business around what the base provided: a steady stream of people who wanted a glimpse of secret planes, or maybe strange lights in the sky.
The rumors grew, and the security around the base held fast.
The information flowing out of Area 51 since has been sparse. Occasional photos, documents and satellite photos pique our interest. Thanks to observers, we have seen much more than the government is ever willing to admit.
KLAS-TV’s coverage exposed the secrets of Area 51, starting with Richard Urey’s look at the history of the base and the land grab, to Tom Warden’s reports on Freedom Ridge — an overlook that provided a too much visibility of the secret base, at least in the eyes of government officials. And the stories Lazar told Knapp are on a completely different level, launching an industry of UFO merchandise and even inspiring movies that casual observers often seem to view as non-fiction.
Links to stories
The best of our Area 51 coverage:
- 1984 series: “Area 51, The 30 Year Secret“: (1984)
- Spy planes tested at Area 51 integral to US Cold War strategy (1984)
- Family lost out when Area 51 borders swallowed their mine (1984)
1989 series: “UFOs: The Best Evidence“: (November, 1989)
- Bob Lazar describes alien technology housed at secret S-4 base in Nevada (Nov. 10, 1989)
- Bob Lazar convinced disks were alien, calls UFO secret ‘unfair outright’ (Nov. 13, 1989)
- Area 51 overlook known as Freedom Ridge at center of dispute (1994)
- Area 51 maps, hangar details should end base’s ‘secret’ status (Feb. 5, 1996)
- Monitoring “JANET”: Observer watches Area 51 daily commute (Feb. 5, 1996)
- Crowds streamed to Rachel, Nevada, for years hoping for Area 51 UFO glimpses (Nov. 29, 1996)
- Area 51 employees sue: Hazardous materials exposure prompts action (Nov. 29, 1996)
- ‘Black triangles’ likely first glimpses of rumored stealth bomber (Feb. 11, 2002)
- Area 51 a secret? See satellite photos and decide yourself (Feb. 23, 2003)
- How one man exposed secret security around Area 51 (June 2003)
- U-2, SR-71 Blackbird secrets stayed secret at Area 51 (May 5, 2005)
Storm Area 51 coverage
- Exclusive: Man behind ‘Storm Area 51’ talks about joke gone awry (July 18, 2019)
- George Knapp maps out Area 51 (Sept. 12, 2020)
- Coverage of first night: Area 51 veteran hopes new generation keeps fighting secrecy (Sept. 20, 2019)
- Coverage of second night: Thousands of curious Earthlings travel to Storm Area 51 festivals near formerly secret Nevada military base (Sept. 21, 2019)
- Bob Stoldal, George Knapp on challenges of revealing Area 51 story — PODCAST (Nov. 14, 2019)
- JANET planes ferry workforce from Las Vegas to Area 51 (Nov. 16, 2019)
- New Area 51 photographs taken by private pilot (July 16, 2020)
All this happened before many Americans jumped on the bandwagon in 2019 when a Facebook post went viral with the suggestion that it was time to “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.”
Matty Roberts of Bakersfield, California, created the storm. It turned into a pair of music festivals and #StormArea51 events in Rachel and nearby Hiko.
Residents railed at the prospect of unwanted crowds, and made it clear that Roberts was not welcome there as the festival neared.
When the dust cleared, #StormArea51 was a fun — relatively small — event that drew about 3,000 people to the area on Sept. 20-21. But staffing security and services for the event cost Lincoln County about $200,000, and barriers to a repeat event went up quickly.
But can you really stop a viral Facebook post?
Follow the Area 51 story from the start: