Should everything go according to plan, more than a half-million strangers will gather in a remote Nevada town in mid-September, united by a common goal: to raid Area 51 in the wee hours of the morning — using a strength-in-numbers approach to reveal any extraterrestrial treasures stashed within the notoriously clandestine government base.
Or, put more simply: “Lets see them aliens.”
By Friday evening, more than 540,000 people from around the world had signed up to attend the joke Facebook event: “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” — and just as many had indicated they were “interested.” Planned for Sept. 20 in Amargosa Valley, an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, the event page is filled with thousands of satirical posts and memes theorizing the best way to break into the top-secret facility.
The Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr. explains why a 2017 admission from the government was like pouring kerosene on UFO conspiracy theories. (Video: Monica Akhtar/Photo: Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
Most people discussing the raid, including various news outlets that have written about the event, recognize that it’s not intended to be taken seriously. But what about those who don’t? It’s not clear exactly how many people — if any — will actually show up to lead a blitzkrieg on the Nellis Air Force Base Complex, which houses the land containing Area 51.
Though some who’ve posted on the event page in recent days have considered that possibility.
“P.S. Hello U.S. government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan,” wrote user Jackson Barnes, following his rather descriptive proposed game plan. “I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the Internet. I’m not responsible if people decide to actually storm area 51.
Speaking with The Washington Post on Friday, Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said officials were aware of the event. When asked how authorities would respond to ardent explorers who might attempt to enter Area 51 in September, McAndrews said she could not elaborate on specific plans or security procedures at the base.
She did, however, issue a warning to those itching to try their luck.
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” McAndrews said. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
The facility has long been a source of public intrigue, yet for decades, Americans were told Area 51 didn’t exist at all. That notion was officially debunked in 2013 when the CIA confirmed its existence through documents obtained in a public records request by George Washington University.
Yes, Area 51 is definitely real — and even though the report indicated it was nothing more than an aircraft-testing facility, mentioning nothing about extraterrestrial life, the revelation gave credence to conspiracy theories alleging the government uses the base to hide aliens and their spacecraft. The CIA has since published information about test flights that took place there, and the alien aspects in many of those theories have been debunked.
However, in 2017, the Pentagon confirmed the existence of a $22 million government program to analyze “anomalous aerospace threats” — also known as UFOs — giving the alien-obsessed kooks fresh fodder for their conjectures.
Though the facility is not publicly accessible, the area around Area 51 is a popular tourist destination, sprinkled with alien-themed motels, museums and restaurants. (In 1996, Nevada renamed state Route 375 to “Extraterrestrial Highway.”) But those who venture too far into the land surrounding the base are greeted with warning signs indicating they could be fined or jailed for trespassing and taking photos.
Some signs suggest those who enter could be subject to “deadly force.”
In 2014, a tour bus carting four passengers near Area 51 inadvertently drove through the warning signs and entered the base, Las Vegas Now reported. The truck was stopped by men in “military garb,” and everyone in the vehicle was threatened with a misdemeanor conviction and $650 fine. The incident was caught on video, making it obvious the tour’s passengers thought it was all part of the experience. Only the driver was charged.
Of course, those who say they will participate in the September raid know their mission won’t be easy. Some have offered their own plans and even schematics detailing how the group will take on the base.