Area 51 has been cloaked in mystery for decades, so it’s only natural that the claimed extra-terrestrial secrets hidden within the distant desert location would be resurrected in the era of social media.
Area 51 memes have taken over the internet, prompted by a prank Facebook event to take over the classified military complex and discover the alleged aliens held there. The event, titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us”, is scheduled for September 20, and 1.5 million individuals have already registered.
People have claimed sighting Unidentified Flying Objects (U.F.O.s) at the southern Nevada military facility since the 1950s.
The Reno Evening Gazette ran a storey on June 17, 1959, with the headline “More Flying Objects Seen in Clark Sky”, and described how Sgt. Wayne Anderson of the local sheriff’s office was among several locals who saw an object “bright green in colour and descending toward the earth at a speed too great to be an aeroplane”.
According to the CIA, secretive flight testing has been taking place in the area since the military began testing U-2 CIA spy planes in 1955, around the time reports of U.F.O. sightings began to surface — but the news has done little to dispel the otherworldly theories that have long surrounded the enigmatic site.
Here’s all you need to know about Area 51’s history and why over a million people want to “see those aliens”.
What exactly is Area 51?
Area 51, formally known as the Nevada Test and Training Range at Groom Lake, is a high-security open training range for the United States Air Force in southern Nevada – however the location remains highly classified.
Dr Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, requested information on the CIA’s Lockheed U-2 aerial reconnaissance programme in 2005, which involves the covert manufacture and testing of spy planes used to gather intelligence.
The request compelled the CIA to declassify papers pertaining to the U-2 and A-12 OXCART programs, as well as the military installation where the planes were built and tested – Area 51.
Richelson, who died in 2017, told The New York Times in 2013 that “there was absolutely no mention of small green men here. “This is the U-2’s history”. The only point of overlap is the issue of U-2 flights and UFO sightings, with the fact that you had these high-flying aircraft in the air being the source of some of the sightings.
According to Malcolm Byrne, Deputy Director and Director of Research at the National Security Archive, Richelson indirectly answered the enigma surrounding Area 51. “I don’t think Richelson was intentionally targeting Area 51; it’s just that, as is sometimes the case with these things, there’s serendipity, and so stuff is published that has items of interest for other individuals”.
What exactly is the anticipated “raid”?
Jackson Barns, who claims to have planned the prank event, describes his tongue-in-cheek plan to attack Area 51 in a pinned post on the event’s Facebook page. It entails Monster energy drinks, “Kyles” (the internet moniker for white men and boys who get angry and pound drywall), and Naruto-running, which is based on a Japanese anime program.
“Then the Rock Throwers will fling stones at the inevitable opposition (we don’t want to damage them, we just want to anger them enough so they don’t shoot the kyles as often)”, Barns continues, before emphasising that he opposes the plan’s implementation. “P.S. Hello, United States Government, this is a joke, and I have no intention of carrying out this plan. I simply thought it’d be cool to get some internet thumbs up”.
So far, 1.5 million individuals from all around the world have signed up to participate in the “raid”, and the event has become a worldwide meme. Even rapper Lil Nas X debuted a new music video for his tune “Old Town Road” featuring cowboys attacking Area 51.
What has the government done in response to the raid?
The US Air Force, according to a spokeswoman, is aware of the plans to “attack” Area 51 and is vehemently opposed to them.
“Any effort to unlawfully access the area is strongly prohibited”, an Air Force spokeswoman told NPR and numerous other media sites in a statement on Monday.
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from attempting to approach the area where we train American armed forces”, stated Air Force spokesperson Laura McAndrews to The Washington Post. “The United States Air Force is ready to protect America and its assets at all times”.
What is it about Area 51 that has sparked so many conspiracy theories?
When Sgt. Anderson notified the Reno Evening Gazette (now the Reno Gazette-Journal) about seeing a U.F.O. in 1959, the source also reported that the Nellis Air Force Base, roughly 130 miles south of Area 51, had received two earlier claims of U.F.O. sightings in the previous three weeks.
Those allegations came just a few years after suspicions of a UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, which the Roswell Army Air Field subsequently said was a weather balloon. In 1947, the Air Force began examining allegations of UFO encounters, which became known as Project Blue Book in 1952. The Air Force had investigated over 12,000 accusations by the time Project Blue Book concluded in 1969.
Meanwhile, locals in the southern Nevada region continued to report U.F.O. sightings, which were most likely sightings of the top-secret surveillance planes that were being built. Even yet, people’s imaginations have been running wild ever since.
Area 51 themes have also crept into popular culture, including in films such as Independence Day and Paul.