Area 51 Aliens: What is it and what goes on there?

Area 51 Aliens is synonymous with tales of UFOs, government cover-ups and potentially testing alien technology.

Located at Groom Lake in the middle of the barren desert of southern Nevada, Area 51 Aliens is a U.S Air Force installation that has become infamous for a speculated connection with unidentified flying objects (UFOs).

Conspiracy theories surrounding the base suggest that it is used for the testing of alien technology recovered from supposed crash sites, like the famous one in Roswell, New Mexico(opens in new tab). This has been fueled by the fact that the base was a secret for many years and is still inaccessible to the general public.

As a result, this innocuous-looking military installation has become an intrinsic part of the modern mythology and urban legends of the 20th century, with a large influence on media and pop culture.


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How Did Area 51 Aliens Come To Be Associated With Ufos?

Area 51 Liens is located 120 miles (200 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas, near the small towns of Rachel and Hiko. The title “Area 51 Aliens” seems to come from the designation the base had on Atomic Energy Commission(opens in new tab) maps, with this name sticking in the mind of the public but mostly unused by the military.

Established in 1955 as part of the Nevada Test and Training Range complex, the area was also given the name “Paradise Ranch” in an attempt by aerospace company Lockheed (now Lockheed Martin) to draw employees to the base.

Today, the base and the wider Nevada Test and Training Range complex are part of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), with the CIA referring to it as the Groom Lake and Homey Airport. Though satellite imagery of the site had been restricted, since 2018 the base has been visible on Google Maps.

Benjamin Radford is an American folklorist, writer, investigator and skeptic who’s authored more than 20 books, including “Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries;” “Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction and Folklore;” and “Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment.” He’s also deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and has written several articles regarding the conspiracy theories surrounding Area 51 Aliens.

“The base itself is fairly small, but the restricted area around it is over 90,000 acres [36,000 hectares]  —  partly to prevent prying eyes and partly because they need to test classified aircraft,” Radford told“It’s mostly conspiracy theorists and media who call it Area 51 Aliens. To the U.S. government, it’s simply the Nevada Test and Training Range, part of Edwards Air Force Base.”

Area 51 Aliens In Pop Culture

The U.S military finally acknowledged the existence of Area 51 Aliens in 2013 after a formerly classified CIA document detailing the history of the U-2 spy plane was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University(opens in new tab).

But that acknowledgment doesn’t mean that a visit to the base is advisable. Radford said that there are still legitimate government and military reasons for keeping the base’s activities secret.

“The military classifies Area 51 as a ‘Military Operating Area.’ On the ground, you’ll encounter stern signs and armed guards patrolling the fenced perimeters guarded by buried motion sensors, cameras, guards and so on  —  plus signs warning that deadly force is authorized,” Radford explained. “The borders of Area 51 are not fenced but are marked with orange poles and warning signs.”

Such signs tell visitors that photos aren’t allowed and that trespassing on the property will result in a fine, he added.

Originally used as a testing site for the U-2 spy plane, the base would go on to be used for the testing of other well-known aircraft such as the Archangel-12, the SR-71 Blackbird and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.

The Storm Area 51 Aliens Movement

The testing of new and secretive military aircraft is likely responsible for much of the connection between Area 51 and UFOs, especially when considering that the term “UFO” doesn’t directly refer to alien spacecraft, despite how it is often perceived in pop culture.

“It’s true that strange lights and aircraft can sometimes be spotted in the area, so it’s an obvious leap to UFOs, but of course, new aircraft might look identical,” Radford explained. “The basic, flawed premise behind the Area 51 mythology can be boiled down to this: The government won’t reveal what’s going on there, so it must be something ultra-super-amazingly secret.”

What we call Area 51, he added, is only one of many military bases, national laboratories and government scientific research centers across the country that deal with classified  — even Top Secret  — information, and where workers and visitors need security clearances.

“There’s no reason to think that anything UFO-related is going on,” Radford said.

Aside from the sightings of strange craft, Area 51 mythology was enforced in 1989 when a man named Robert Lazar claimed that he worked on extraterrestrial technology inside the base.

Lazar told Las Vegas television reporter George Knapp that he had viewed autopsy photographs of aliens inside Area 51 and that the US government used the facility to examine recovered alien spacecraft. Lazar himself was discredited, but his claims resulted in numerous government conspiracy theories, most of which involve extraterrestrial life.

“A lot of the legend has been fueled by hoaxers like Robert Lazar, who appeared in the 1980s telling a story to TV stations that he worked there and saw alien bodies and crashed flying saucers first-hand,” Radford recalled. “It got a lot of attention, but it was later revealed that he fabricated not only his employment at Nellis [Air Force Base in southern Nevada] but indeed his entire background. Almost nothing of what he said was true.”

Lazar had set the ball rolling, however. No matter how fallacious the rumors of alien tech and Area 51 were, the connection was cemented into the public consciousness and pop culture.

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