Top 10 Facts About Area 51

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Top 10 Facts About Area 51

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
For this list, we'll be looking at what we DO know about this much-discussed and highly classified Air Force facility. Our countdown includes It Drives Tourism, A Military Balloon Crash Started it All, The Site Is Still Very Much Active, and more!
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Top 10 Facts About Area 51


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Facts About Area 51.

For this list, we’ll be looking at what we DO know about this much-discussed and highly classified Air Force facility.

Do you believe that the U.S. government is hiding aliens or alien technology from the public? Let us know in the comments!

#10: It's the Center of Countless Conspiracy Theories

Area 51 and wild conspiracy theories go hand-in-hand, but most people don’t realize just what a wide variety of stories the facility has inspired. It’s at the heart of the American fascination with UFOs, but also so much more. The high level of security and secrecy has inspired far-flung theories regarding its purpose, dating back to the 1940s. These include the reverse engineering of alien spaceships, alien interrogation, an extraterrestrial autopsy clinic or breeding facility for human-alien hybrids. Non-UFO-related theories posit that it's the seat of a clandestine global government, a test site for weather manipulation, a launch site for American black ops, or even that the moon landing was faked there. And this is far from an exhaustive list.

#9: It Drives Tourism

Given the sinister nature of all of the aforementioned theories, you’d think people would steer clear of Area 51. But it’s a freaking tourist magnet! Okay, that might be an overstatement. There is, however, a steady flow of tourists from around the world who come to explore the region based on its “out of this world” reputation. This has given rise to a number of local businesses, like the Little A'Le'Inn (little ay-lee in) in nearby Rachel (as spelled), Nevada, that cater to tourists and their extraterrestrial dreams. Nevada even went so far as to name State Route 375 the “Extraterrestrial Highway” in 1996. The likelihood of seeing a UFO might be low, but the mystery itself is enough to keep tourists interested.

#8: Security Is VERY Tight

The one thing that you definitely won’t be seeing on a trip to Area 51… is Area 51. At least, not a close look. The security at this secretive Air Force installation is truly next level. The path to the facility is an unmarked dirt road. There’s nothing stopping you from taking it, but you won’t get very far. Long before any of the actual structures are in sight, you’ll be told to turn around and go back the way you came. This warning can come from various signs (which you’d do well to heed), armed patrols or the gate house. People who’ve been caught trespassing have historically been arrested and fined, but as the signs clearly state, the Air Force reserves the right to use deadly force.

#7: For the Best View, Head to Tikaboo Peak (ticka-boo)

If you believe that the truth is not “out there” but, rather, in Area 51, and you’re determined to get the best possible look, who are we to stop you? Alien enthusiasts and locals alike agree that the safest and best legal way to get a glimpse of Area 51 is to scale Tikaboo Peak. The mountain doesn’t actually have an official name, but this is the name locals use. This is the best and closest vantage point to the secretive facility. Before you get your hopes up however, you should know that it's still about 26 miles east of Area 51. There used to be closer lookout points, Freedom Ridge and White Sides, but they’ve since been added to the off-limits territory surrounding the base.

#6: Aerial Images Have Only Recently Become Available

Between online sleuthing, and just the sheer amount of technology available to us today, secrets are harder to keep than ever. But keeping an entire air force base under wraps? That’s nearly impossible. In 2013, in a long overdue response to a Freedom of Information Act request from 2005, the CIA finally acknowledged that Area 51 exists. It continues to be strictly controlled airspace with very limited outside air traffic, but it finally appears on Google maps, including satellite images. The United States continues to limit photography of the base in general, but given that foreign nations and private companies have their own satellites in space, hi-res images can now be purchased online.

#5: It Was Once Nicknamed "Paradise Ranch"

Area 51 might be the most popular name for this secretive facility, but it’s not an official title. In fact, taking the mystery surrounding this piece of land to almost comedic extremes, people can’t even seem to agree on where the “51” came from. The facility has actually accrued a variety of different titles and nicknames over the years, including Nevada Test and Training Range, Watertown, Dreamland, Pittman Station, Homey Airport, the Box, and the Red Square, among others. One of the most notable is “Paradise Ranch”, which we actually know the story behind. In the 1950s, the base was in need of staff and so it was labelled “Paradise Ranch” in order to entice would-be employees to move into the on-site housing. Talk about false advertising!

#4: A Military Balloon Crash Started it All

Roswell, New Mexico and Area 51 are intimately linked in the minds of many. In 1947, an aircraft crashed just outside of town. At the time, it was described as a “flying disc” and generated a lot of media buzz, prompting the military to clarify that it was simply a “weather balloon”. Despite this explanation, accusations of a government cover-up persisted for decades. In the mid-’90s, the Air Force gave further details, explaining that the balloon was part of Project Mogul, a program working on high-altitude balloons to monitor the Soviet Union. They were too late, however. A connection had been drawn between Roswell and Area 51, which was built in 1955 and is said to house the remains of the aliens and their spacecraft.

#3: Project OXCART Is Responsible for Most of the UFO Sightings

While Area 51 initially came under scrutiny via its potential ties with the Roswell UFO incident, its own activities certainly didn’t help. And we’re not just talking about all the ominous signage and secrecy. Beginning in the 1950s, locals in Lincoln County, Nevada began reporting unidentified flying objects in the area. It turns out that the Air Force was developing the then-secret Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance planes. This paved the way for the OXCART program, part of which was the development and testing of (once again, in secret), the Lockheed A-12. Unlike any other aircraft of its time, the A-12 certainly would’ve confused any locals who spotted it during a test flight. Adding to the confusion, Area 51 was also reportedly used to house and test captured Soviet aircrafts.

#2: Former Employees Have "Confirmed" the Conspiracy Theories

Between all these various secret programs, there’s certainly plenty of viable excuses to explain away the UFO sightings that have been reported over the years. But… what if that’s just what the government wants us to think? In 1989, Area 51 conspiracy theorists thought their prayers had been answered when Bob Lazar (luh-ZARR) came forward, seemingly confirming their every suspicion. He claimed to have worked at Area 51 in Sector 4 where he was tasked with reverse engineering alien spacecrafts. He made a number of other bold claims about Area 51 and extraterrestrial contact with earth. Unfortunately, the Air Force denies ever having employed him. Worse, both of the universities where he claimed to have graduated from, MIT and Caltech, deny him ever having attended.

#1: The Site Is Still Very Much Active

Whether Area 51 is being used to study extraterrestrials or just run-of-the-mill earthly aircrafts, we know one thing for certain: it’s still in operation. After OXCART, Area 51 has reportedly been used to develop and test a number of other aircrafts, including the D-21, Have Blue and the F-117. Secrecy obscures the details, but the assumption is that Area 51 continues to serve as a development and testing site for cutting edge aerospace technology. Evidence to support this includes the fact that the Air Force expanded the territory in the ‘90s and again in 2015. There are not only signs of new construction at the main facility, but also a secondary runway 12 miles north with its own cluster of buildings. And so the mystery continues to grow!
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