The Not-so Secret History of Area 51

Updated on September 7, 2019
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects including education and creative writing.

Originally posted on
Originally posted on

Every year, people from many walks of life congregate to a desolate area 90 miles north of Las Vegas. They come to the outskirts of an off-limits military base to watch the sky above it (and, if possible, find a place with the best view of the base, itself). If they're lucky, they may see the latest experimental jet fighter or high-altitude reconnaissance plane. Others, though, are hoping to see more than terrestrial jets; they're there in the belief that the facility is holding fantastic secrets that go beyond this world.

To understand the mystery of Area 51, one has to separate fact from fiction. This facility has been instrumental in numerous mysteries surrounding top-secret government experiments, extraterrestrials, and cosmic technology.

In some cases, the mystery behind the place has been combined or confused with other UFO legends, such as the Roswell Incident (which actually has no connection except in UFO lore). Either way, Area 51 is a genuine mystery that has barely eluded the curiosity of many. That includes the "Area 51" buffs that come to this place to see it for themselves.

Its Humble Beginnings

During the 1950s, the United States government, Air Force, and defense contractors were looking for a place to test aircrafts that were important to national security (such as the U-2 spy plane). The place they discovered was a barren six-by-ten mile region marked off on existing military maps as "Area 51" (the map was divided into grid known as Areas). The area surrounding it was controlled by Nellis Air Force Base. Thus, this region appeared to have enough security for the time being.

This region was unique, as well. It had two dry lakes. One of them, Groom Lake was ideal as a natural runway with a salt flat surface that rivaled that of Bonneville Speedway in Utah. Also, at the time, Area 51 was miles from civilization.

Throughout the years, the facility became a popular place to test "black budget" aircrafts. These were aircrafts that were tested before being publically acknowledged. The aircrafts that were tested at the facility were the SR-71 Blackbird, D-21 unmanned drone, and the F-117A Stealth Fighter.

A warning sign. Also on top of the on the dirt road is an ever-present "cammo-dude" security officer's truck.  Originally posted at
A warning sign. Also on top of the on the dirt road is an ever-present "cammo-dude" security officer's truck. Originally posted at

The Mystery

The mystery behind Area 51 goes beyond testing top secret jets. The way the place functions, the workers, and the security have added much to the image and legend of the base.

Workers at the facility - military and civilian - are often reported as being flown in on unmarked passenger jets from Las Vegas. Many of these workers enter through off-limit areas within McCarran International Airport. The jets have come to be known as "Janet" among those trying to research the base.

Another sign of its protocol is the security surrounding the area. Signs on the side of Highway 375 (also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway) which runs near Area 51 warn of serious consequences for trespassers. To bolster this threat, military and private securities patrol the area outside the base. They are often seen driving in white four-by-four trucks and wearing camouflage. They've been given the name "cammo-dudes." To strengthen the security, sensors have been planted strategically through the area outside the base's parameter.

Bob Lazar's  (supposed) badge and what he claims was at Area 51. Originally posted on
Bob Lazar's (supposed) badge and what he claims was at Area 51. Originally posted on

UFO Conspiracies Make the Base Known

In many respects, Area 51 wasn't associated with the UFO mythology until 1987. That year, Bob Lazar, a self-described employee and physicist at the base, revealed to a Las Vegas TV reporter that a facility at Papoose Dry Lake just south of Area 51's main facility was experimenting with technology derived from extraterrestrial life-forms.

According to his account, the government was in possession of at least nine alien spacecrafts that were being examined and scrutinized for its "advanced technology". He claimed he had been hired by a private firm to reverse engineer the technology that included such things as levitation or anti-gravity propulsion.

He also claimed that a secret document from President Harry Truman (known as Majestic, Majic 12 or MJ-12) indicated the government's involvement with UFOs since the 1950s (the documents has been debunked as a hoax).

Even Hanger 18 in the Roswell Incident has been incorrectly placed at Area 51.

Since his accusation, other UFO researchers have made the leap of connecting Area 51 with the Roswell Incident in which it was believed that a UFO crashed and was recovered outside Roswell, New Mexico. Even Hanger 18 in the Roswell Incident has been incorrectly placed at Area 51. It wasn't until the late 80s - after Lazar's story - that a false connection was made between the secret base in Nevada and the incident in New Mexico.

Skeptics have researched Lazar's accounts, as well as his credential and have found nothing plausible. Lazar claimed he had postgraduate degrees from MIT and Cal-tech. However, the schools have no record of him attending (in his defense, he claimed that the government is trying to erase his public record to discredit him).

Despite having his story questioned and his credentials exposed as fraudulent, Lazar is still a hot commodity on media circuit. Every so often, he will appear on documentaries televised on the History Channel.

A Real Event at the Base Revealed in Court

There is a lesser known, yet very pivotal, facet to the mystery behind Area 51. In the 1990s, Area 51 was taken to court, not by UFO buffs using the Freedom of Information Act, but by lawyers representing employees and families of employees exposed to toxic waste at the facility.

It turned out that something sinister was going on at the base, after all. Toxic waste was illegally being dumped. Some reports indicated that the waste was burned in pits and created toxic fumes that either harmed or eventually killed workers.

In 1997, Area 51's secret existence was finally made public. Still, this was no surprise to UFO buffs, the citizen of Rachel, Nevada (the closest town to it), and the Russians who had satellites photographs proving its existence.

Another Area 51?

Still, the base is off-limits; however, there is speculation that the base is not being used for secret aircraft. That function has been moved to another undisclosed base in Utah.

Still, Area 51 and its supposed UFOs are still a draw. People will still drive up the the rechristened Extraterrestrial Highway, to see if they can spot a flying saucer or top secret jet zooming over the base.

originally posted at
originally posted at

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    © 2017 Dean Traylor


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