Strange Facts and True Stories About Area 51

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Anthony Quintano/Flickr

Conspiracy theories, UFO sightings, ex-employee confessions, secret tunnels — there's no shortage of Area 51 controversies. While some of the conspiracy theories are extremely far-fetched, others might make some sense.

Did you know that the U.S. Navy had to confess to a strange flying phenomenon? And that Area 51's been involved in a lawsuit? There's also a UK version of Area 51 out there. Ready to find out what it is — and more?

Crossing the Gate?

Because Area 51 isn’t heavily gated in some areas, it’s common to think that you can cross the border into it. After all, all that’s showing at the gate is a sign stating you shouldn’t go in. But don’t underestimate that sign — the government can and will use all force necessary if you cross the gate.

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Photo Courtesy: notevenathing/Flickr

Due to an insane amount of security present at the border, you will get caught within seconds. Wait until you hear about the two disappearing YouTubers who were never heard from again after making their gate-crossing video.

Camo Dudes

Area 51 security is known colloquially as the "camo dudes." You can find them in a white pick-up truck, dressed in desert-style camouflage, which is precisely how they got their nickname. Their job is to patrol Area 51 to make sure there are no trespassers.

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay/Pexels

Due to the popularity of the Area 51 gate, you can usually find them on a hill nearby. If you’re spotted, they're allowed to use all necessary force, including holding you at gunpoint. It’s safe to say that if you see the white pick-up truck approaching when you’re near the gate, you might be in deep trouble.

Area 51 vs. the Law

While the government might deny any alien activity at Area 51, it couldn’t deny that working there isn’t all that it seems. In the ‘90s, a lawyer was approached by Area 51 workers who fell ill due to the hazardous materials and waste they were repeatedly exposed to.

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Because the government had yet to admit the existence of Area 51, the lawyer and workers, including their families, were threatened with prosecution. For the lawsuit to go forward, the lawyer had to go out of his way to provide photos to prove that the facility was, in fact, real.


Conspiracy Theories

There’s no shortage of conspiracy theories when it comes to Area 51. Apart from the standard alien talk, one of the biggest theories is the fact that people seem to think the moon landing was actually filmed at Area 51. Of course, this hasn’t been confirmed, but according to National Geographic, space equipment was indeed tested by the astronauts near the controversial site.

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Some conspiracy theorists believe that NASA officials filmed the actual landing at Area 51, fooling billions of people. The moon rocks that you can see on the videos are supposedly lunar meteorites found in Antarctica.

Arrested YouTubers

Due to Area 51’s popularity and the lack of a visible security gate, the site attracts plenty of daredevil YouTubers who want to get the best possible footage of their adventures. In September 2019, two Dutch YouTubers were arrested for trespassing at the site.

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Photo Courtesy: Terje Sollie/Pexels

The pair ignored the gate signs because they wanted to see just how heavily guarded the place was. They got fined $2,280 and served three days in jail. During the arrest, the police discovered a drone in their vehicle, despite the rules that no personal aircraft like that are allowed to fly over Area 51.

Paradise Ranch

Before Area 51 got its reputation among UFO fanatics, it needed some advertising done to convince government workers to move nearby. As you can imagine, packing your bags to move to the middle of the desert doesn’t sound appealing unless you’re a part of a cult.

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In an attempt to stop their families from worrying about moving to the middle of nowhere, an engineer came up with the name Paradise Ranch. After all, calling it Paradise Ranch does sound a lot more appealing than knowing your loved one is actually moving to a real desert that’s highly secured by the government.


Captured Aircrafts

These may not be UFO aircrafts, of course, but it’s almost just as exciting to find out that the United States Air Force captured Soviet MiG fighters when the planes mistakenly landed in Israel back in the late ‘60s. The aircrafts were tested at Area 51 in order to see their full potential and performance limitations.

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These tests had secret codenames: HAVE DOUGHNUT, HAVE DRILL and HAVE FERRY. The test projects were top secret and the Groom Lake area (an official name for Area 51) was never revealed on the map to avoid any sightings.

Secret Planes

Speaking of planes, because the Groom Lake area was a testing site, it was also home to some of the craziest planes ever. Some of these were kept top secret and weren’t even revealed to the public for years. One of them was the F-117 Nighthawk, a powerful attack aircraft flown in several wars but only officially revealed in 1988.

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Photo Courtesy: Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II/Wikimedia Commons

It’s assumed that Area 51 features plenty of other similarly natured aircrafts that are way too powerful for the public to ever know about. And, by the looks of it, they could be even more powerful than aliens.

A Secret Until 2013

One of the reasons why Area 51 attracts so many people around the world is because it’s so secret. In fact, the government didn’t want to make it public until 2013. It was the first time the CIA even acknowledged it, mentioning that it’s mostly a testing site for the high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance plane.

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Of course, this didn’t stop the public from spreading some of the wildest theories, especially since confessions about Area 51 started to come to light decades before the CIA’s official acknowledgment. As of 2019, the government refuses to address the suspicious UFO sightings in the area.


Illnesses in the Area

Area 51 isn’t the only test site nearby — there’s also the Nevada Test Site, where the United States Department of Energy has conducted more than 700 nuclear tests. You can imagine how the area isn’t very eco-friendly.

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In fact, because aircraft are disposed of by simply being set ablaze with road flares, this exposes workers to various toxins that can lead to illness. In 1989, a former employee of Area 51, Robert Frost, died of exposure to dangerous chemicals. His wife Helen sued government officials, but the lawsuit was dismissed in 1996.

Just Another Non-Existent Terminal

Just Another Non-Existent Terminal, or JANET, is an airline dedicated to Area 51 employees. Their aircraft has no airline logos other than a red stripe. It’s almost impossible to track by civilians, with its official destination listed as the Tonopah Test Range.

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Many have figured out that the aircraft flies into and out of Groom Lake and to a private terminal at Las Vegas. To work anywhere close to the JANET airlines, you need to have top-secret government clearance and be able to respond to incidents like hijackings and bomb threats. At least that’s what the official job ad said.

Land Dispute

Imagine buying land anywhere close to Area 51. It’s a dream for many UFO fanatics but a nightmare for the Sheahan family, which owns Groom Mine, a mining area from the 1870s. The federal government became interested in the hope of expanding the Area 51 testing site there.

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They offered $333,300 for the land, a price that the family lawyer deemed way too low. In 2015, the government officially reclaimed the land through eminent domain and entered a legal battle with the Sheahan family. It’s not every day you can say that you’re suing the government!


Independence Day vs. Area 51

You know your movie is a big deal when the actual military is involved in wanting to know about its scenes and not showing secret locations. When Independence Day was filming, the U.S. military really wasn’t happy about it.

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As you know, the movie references Area 51, and the military was determined to have the film’s producers remove any references to it from the script. The director’s commentary states that the U.S. military was going to support the movie with costumes and airplanes. But after the filmmakers refused to delete the scenes, the military withdrew support.

The UK Version

Did you know that the United Kingdom has its own version of Area 51? Just like in the U.S., Rudloe Manor got caught up in UFO conspiracy theories back in the ‘90s. It was an underground bunker constructed during the Cold War and served as the Emergency Government War Headquarters.

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Photo Courtesy: Goodchild A (F/O), Royal Air Force official photographer/Wikimedia Commons

Conspiracy theorists became fascinated with it due to high security around the area and, of course, a lack of acknowledgment from the government. People also suspect that this is a decoy site for a much more important facility — some of these rumors were perpetrated by the security staff at Rudloe Manor.

Classified Crew That Passed Away

In November 1955, 14 men were on their way to Area 51. But unfortunately, they never made it. Their airplane crashed into Nevada’s Mount Charleston. Nobody was supposed to know they were there, and nobody did for 40 years.

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Photo Courtesy: Nyenyec/Wikimedia Commons

They were working on a top-secret project with the U-2 spy plane, and their deaths weren’t known until the project was officially declassified in 1998. The men were officially identified by a Las Vegas hiker who was on a mission to find out more about the secret plane wreckage in the mountains.


Area 51 vs. NASA

Area 51 didn’t only fight with families and movie makers. It also threw some shade at NASA, whose astronauts were on the Skylab 4 mission when they caught a rare glimpse of Area 51. Now, remember: The government didn't acknowledge Area 51 until 2013.

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But NASA took and published the site’s photos in 1974. It did so against the orders of the government, which wanted the pictures to be classified. This sparked a huge debate, but in the end, NASA won and was able to keep the published photos.

UFO Capital of the World

Did you know that, due to the popularity of UFO sightings, Rachel, Nevada, was actually named the UFO Capital of the World? Of course, this is due to the fact that people may see a lot of experimental aircraft in the area, and because they look so unusual, it tends to be assumed they belong to aliens.

Photo Courtesy: Airwolfhound/Flickr

While actual alien sightings have never been confirmed, Rachel, Nevada, is continuing to attract tourists with its Extraterrestrial Highway. Its website states that, as of December 2019, its population is 54 humans and an unknown number of aliens.

Driving Grandmas

In 2008, a group of teenagers wanted to make a YouTube video about visiting the Area 51 gate. It all started as usual, until they were stopped by two grandmas who also wanted to know how to get to the gate. The teens told them to follow their car, but the grandmas happened to speed right past the gate sign.

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Photo Courtesy: ayphella/Flickr

This, of course, triggered the arrival of the camo dudes along with the police. It’s unclear what happened to the grandmas and whether or not the entire video was real — but it’s definitely a surreal watch.


Other Areas?

Have you ever wondered if Area 51 has any other areas, like Area 1, Area 2 and so on? Considering its real name is Groom Lake, it’s unclear why Area 51 got its name. It’s assumed that the number comes from the official government diagrams and the Atomic Energy Commission grid-naming system.

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Photo Courtesy: el cajon yacht club/Flickr

However, no other similarly named areas exist for the public eye — or at least, none that were officially acknowledged and confirmed by the government. One thing’s almost certain: There probably isn’t another area that’s as classified and secure as Area 51.

Underground Tunnels

Due to the mining site nearby, it’s assumed that Area 51 may be using underground tunnels that connect to other secret facilities. Similar tunnels near the border of the base were explored by a YouTube channel called EXPLORE WITH US.

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Another theory claims that Area 51 is actually a future hub for an underground rail system that won’t only connect secret facilities, but all of North America. Of course, those are just theories, but it’s very easy to assume that Area 51 might, in fact, have plenty of underground tunnels and laboratories.

UFO Videos

There’s one theory that seems to be the most believable when it comes to UFOs. After a video captured an unexplained flying object in the area, the U.S. Navy confirmed that these weren’t just far-fetched images. They were, according to the Navy, real videos that were capturing true flying phenomena around Area 51.

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Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Of course, the Navy never used the term "UFO" and merely stated that this was an "unidentified aerial phenomena." Still, the confirmation was enough to really convince some UFO fanatics that aliens did actually exist.


Bob Lazar’s Confessions

Area 51 first became famous after an ex-employee, Bob Lazar, claimed he saw alien experiments at the facility. He was supposedly working on a spacecraft, which, according to Lazar, flew with its bottom at the front. He also described many other details.

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Photo Courtesy: Tim1337/Wikimedia Commons

Although many of his claims are questionable, conspiracy theorists believe that the described spacecraft is similar to one of those confirmed by the U.S. Navy. In June 2019, Bob Lazar was interviewed by Joe Rogan, and he talked more about his work at Area 51. The podcast was accessed more than 9 million times.

Google Maps

There’s someone out there who most likely knows the full details of Area 51. That company is Google. Over the years, Google Maps revealed more and more details of Area 51. However, it’s unclear whether the current shape of the facility is actually revealed completely.

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Due to the popularity of UFO theories, you can actually turn the Google Maps street pointer into an adorable spaceship. Considering the government didn’t want NASA to post those Area 51 photos from decades ago, allowing something like this seems to be a huge deal.

Disappearing YouTubers

One of the creepiest cases of YouTubers visiting Area 51 belongs to a channel called MacADVentures. They’re a father-and-son duo and they love to travel. Like many other adventurers, they wanted to see how close they could get to Area 51.

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Photo Courtesy: Kaique Rocha/Pexels

One of their last videos was filmed in 2016 and revealed they were held at gunpoint by the camo dudes near the gate. They weren’t seen for two years, with many people claiming they were arrested and heavily tracked by the government. In September 2019, the son made a YouTube video saying they’re fine, but many viewers are still suspicious.



Aquatone was one of the first secret projects carried out at Area 51 way back in 1955. It was authorized by President Eisenhower, and its first-ever test was carried out on the Lockheed U-2 aircraft.

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It’s unclear where the project name comes from, but then again, it’s Area 51, and we all know project names are chosen to make the least amount of sense possible. While it was clear that President Eisenhower may not have held any particular interest in Area 51, other presidents have had different ideas. But more about that a bit later.

It Continues to Expand

Perhaps the scariest thing about Area 51 is the fact that it continues to grow. Back in the day, it only had one runway and a few other facilities. These days, it’s grown into multiple runways along with plenty of infrastructure, some of which the public will never get to see.

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Photo Courtesy: Doc Searls/Flickr

Considering Area 51 continues to search for land to purchase, it’s clear that workers will be testing some pretty powerful aircraft and want to make sure they’re still invisible to the general public. And remember, we have no idea how big Area 51 is underground.

UFO Sightings?

UFO sightings became more frequent in the ‘50s and ‘60s, with many people claiming they’d seen spacecraft belonging to aliens — or at least that’s what they thought. The truth is, plenty of those sightings have been debunked and appeared to have been just manned reconnaissance flights.

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Photo Courtesy: Lupinelawyer/Wikimedia Commons

One of Area 51’s secret aircrafts called OXCART could fly at 2,200 miles per hour at extreme altitudes. It required far more security measures than any other aircraft, including extended restricted airspace. It’s one of the reasons why Area 51 safeguards such vast tracts of land.


Grand Theft Auto 5

Independence Day wasn’t the only piece of media that managed to capture Area 51 and introduce it to pop culture. Video game GTA 5 also had a go at introducing this military base. Although to avoid any trouble, the developers called it Area 69. Just like the real deal, this area is highly protected and operates a no-fly zone.

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Photo Courtesy: Coastal Elite/Wikimedia Commons

It does support the theory of alien experiments because, when you visit the base, the game allows you to see alien research laboratories. We’re kind of glad that the real Area 51 isn’t actually called Area 69, though. It would attract a completely different audience.

Trump’s Secrets

So what do government personnel think? Do presidents other than Eisenhower know what’s happening at Area 51? A ufologist claims that Donald Trump knows more about Area 51 than he's letting on after seeing one of Trump’s interviews.

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Photo Courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Trump admitted that there were credible pilots out there who claimed they saw suspicious, unexplainable things flying over Area 51. But he just shrugged it off and quickly changed the subject after admitting that he doubts something like aliens could exist. He said he’s not a believer himself, but stated that anything is possible.

Hillary’s Agenda

Trump isn’t the only one. Even Hillary Clinton seems fascinated by the potential of what lies beyond Area 51. Before the 2016 election, Clinton revealed that she was committed to sharing what’s at Area 51 with the public. Of course, unless it was an actual threat to national security.

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Photo Courtesy: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

She was quoted saying, "I would like us to go into those files and hopefully make as much of that public as possible. If there's nothing there, then let's let people know there's nothing there." Guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out the truth.