The ‘Raid’

A tongue-in-cheek Facebook event titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” was created in early July, describing a plan of attack for a growing group of attendees who desperately want to “see them aliens” (over 1.7 million have RSVP’d). The “details” section of the event reads: “We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry…”

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If you weren’t convinced the event was a joke, the pinned post on the event page makes it abundantly clear. “Hello US government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan.” Regardless of the page’s disclaimer, the US Government took it seriously enough to respond with a warning that it’s a military base and trespassing won’t be taken lightly. 

The internet chimes in…

As with anything that goes viral, creators began flooding the internet with satire, poking fun at the idea of what would happen if the event were to become a reality. Many internet users began speculating what would be their next course of action if they rescued an alien from Area 51. Where would they go with their new alien friend?

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Other users speculated how people raiding Area 51 would fare against the US military guards patrolling the gates and guarding the inside the facility. How would the guards react to hordes of “kyles” (young men with an affinity for Monster Energy drinks and punching holes in drywall), rockthrowers, and runners? We may find out on Sept. 20, 2019…

Matty Roberts: The creator of the Facebook event

A college student named Matty Roberts created the Facebook event after being inspired by a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. He suggested that if enough people stormed the mysterious base the military would be unable to stop them. The creator of the “Storm Area 51” Facebook event first spoke to the media under a surname; Despite the fact that the event was clearly tongue-in-cheek, Roberts feared the FBI would take it seriously.

Matty Roberts, event creator, Storm Area 51
Youtube

“I just thought it would be a funny idea for the meme page,” Roberts said. “And it just took off like wildfire. It’s entirely satirical though, and most people seem to understand that.” He revealed his identity shortly after his first interview with NPR, reiterating that he hopes no one will get hurt. Roberts also says he hopes that the event will turn into something like a festival, with bands and artists performing near the base (at a safe distance).

Why the sudden resurgence in interest in Area 51?

For that, blame may fall on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Bob Lazar (allegedly a former employee at Area 51) was a recent guest on the show, where host Joe Rogan asked him and filmmaker Jeremy Kenyon questions about their new documentary, Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers. It should be mentioned that Lazar claims he makes no money on documentary appearances, interviews, or anything relating to aliens or Area 51.

Jeremy Corbell and Bob Lazar, film screening
Filmmaker Jeremy Corbell (L) and Bob Lazar (R) Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The Youtube version of the episode currently has over 6 million views. Rogan probes Lazar on many aspects of his story, granting him legitimacy in the eyes of many viewers who were perhaps too young to remember when Lazar first made his bombshell assertions in 1989. What kind of story would make millions of people interested in storming a US military base, unarmed?

Enter: Robert Lazar

In 1989, the conspiracy movement surrounding Area 51 and extraterrestrials began to take shape. Its genesis came when an ex-employee of Area 51 dropped a bombshell to Las Vegas news reporter George Knapp: Aliens exist, and the government is hiding that fact.

Bob Lazar, aliens, witness, Area 51
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Bob Lazar claimed the military had taken apart a UFO at S-4 (a subset of Area 51) and that he himself worked on reverse engineering alien technology under the direction of the US military. He also claimed to have seen autopsy photographs of an extraterrestrial. Fearing for his life, Lazar appeared on television with his face obscured, answering to the name “Dennis.”

The story spreads

Later that same year, Bob Lazar revealed his true identity in a subsequent interview with George Knapp. Naturally, the news reports spread like wildfire. Highlights from his interview include the following points: The government discovered a UFO built out of a mysterious material that feels and looks like stainless steel, the flying saucer is propelled by the atomic element moscovium, and “grey aliens” have been visiting planet earth for 10,000 years. 

Jeremy Corbell, director of Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers Image by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

It bears mentioning that Lazar has not been able to provide hard evidence to support many of these claims. To his credit, however, Lazar passed multiple polygraph tests where he reiterated many of his most outlandish assertions. So what exactly did Bob Lazar see and work on at S-4?

Alien technology

Bob Lazar says that the alien artifacts he and others saw and worked on at S-4 included: a reactor that can generate its own gravity, nine spacecrafts from the Zeta Reticuli star system (specifically planet ZR3), and a deceased alien itself.

Alien abduction, Area 51, UFO, beam

Lazar recalls being shown the alien reactor by a colleague named Barry who turned the basketball-sized device on and told him to touch it. The device, he says, repelled his hand the same way two like magnetic poles repel one another. Lazar also claims that he had been hired to replace another scientist who perished working on the reactor — presumably while trying to cut into the reactor with a plasma cutter.

Alien spacecraft look very different from one another

Unlike human air and spacecraft, most of which take a similar basic shape, Alien transportation varies quite a bit, according to Mr. Lazar. He says one was shaped like a “jello mold,” with ripples along the sides, while another was shaped like a flat disk.

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Diagram by Bob Lazar/Youtube

The inside of one of the crafts is equally as foreign looking, says Lazar. There are no right angles, for one — everything is curved. Furthermore, all the components appear to be fused together — either that, or it’s all one piece made from the same “dark pewter” colored material. Bob Lazar says he has video footage of a launch of one of these vessels, though he’s never produced it. If you’re finding any of this hard to believe, you’re not alone…

Bob Lazar’s credibility is called into question

While Bob Lazar has always maintained that he’s told nothing but the truth, predictably, many skeptics disbelieve him. He’s demonstrated a more than passable knowledge of physics, but numerous journalists have not been able to verify his claim that he attended MIT, let alone earned a master’s degree.

Bob Lazar, speaking, Area 51, UFO
Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images

So if he’s lying, how would he pass a lie detector test? While polygraph tests are often shown in movies and television shows to be infallible, in reality they are much less reliable. For this reason, results of a polygraph test are inadmissible in a court of law. Another explanation common among skeptics is that Lazar himself believes his claims, even though the events never took place.

Why are people so fascinated with Area 51?

Whether you believe Lazar or not, the damage was done. UFO sightings, compounded by the fact that the government would not even acknowledge the existence of Area 51 seemed to give credence to the most bizarre alien and conspiracy theories. 

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Despite growing public interest in the site and information requests from investigative journalists, it wouldn’t be until June 25, 2013 that the military would formally admit that Area 51 exists. They did so by releasing declassified documents about the OXCART programs (U-2 spy plane development and testing) to historian Jeffrey T. Richelson of George Washington University. Of course, staunch conspiracy theorists scoffed at the information released.

Area 51 conspiracy theories

There are several conspiracy theories about what has taken place at Area 51. Many people believe that the UFO that crashed in Roswell in 1947 was shipped to Nevada, where it was worked on at Area 51. Theorists claim that scientists (like Lazar) were tasked with reverse engineering the fallen aircraft.

Simpsons, Area 51 meme, conspiracy
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Others say that there are meetings that take place between humans and extraterrestrial beings at Area 51. Other theorists have hypothesized that non-alien (though similarly outlandish) experiments and developments are taking place there, such as time travel, teleportation, and weather control. Some even theorize that Bob Lazar is simply a shill, planted to throw people off the scent of what’s really happening at Area 51. Admittedly, theories about extraterrestrials are more fun. Let’s dive a little deeper…

Area 51 and Majestic 12

Commonly discussed with Area 51 is MJ-12 (or Majestic 12), an alleged “above top secret” group of scientists, military officials, and government leaders tasked with studying the alien spacecraft that crashed in New Mexico. 

Majestic 12, MJ-12, top secret
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Believers point to leaked documents signed by the president himself as “proof” of the organization’s existence. Noted ufologist (yes, that is a thing), Jaime Shandera, was allegedly mailed pictures of these documents in 1984. Its pages describe the creation of a committee of 12 members tasked with concealing the UFO crash in Roswell and recreating the alien’s superior technology.

More documents are uncovered

Seeming to bolster the ufologist’s claims, Stanton T. Friedman and Bill Moore discover the “”Cutler/Twining memo” one year later while perusing the National Archive’s declassified files. This correspondence between a former president’s assistant Robert Cutler and General Nathan F. Twining mentions the mysterious MJ-12.

Stanton T. Friedman, convention, ufologist
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Of course, most of the ufologist’s claims have been debunked — the FBI has gone as far as to call the documents “completely bogus.” Robert Cutler was out of the country on the date the memo was supposedly written, and the president’s signature had been superimposed onto the document with a photocopier. Believers maintain the authenticity of the documents and argue that efforts to debunk them are part of a government ruse to hide the truth about Majestic 12 and aliens.

What is Area 51 (officially)?

Depending on who you talk to, Area 51 is either a simple Air Force training base or a place where the military hides any number of juicy secrets involving extraterrestrial beings. Perhaps due to the highly confidential nature of the site, many believe that the US government hides things at Area 51 that could potentially cause widespread panic if the public ever saw them.

Image by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

For decades, the government refused to acknowledge that Area 51 even existed, contributing to the mystery and lore surrounding the site. So what’s the official story of Area 51, and perhaps more importantly, what really goes on there?

What goes on there?

Area 51 is an active Air Force military installation that remains under 24-hour surveillance. Top-secret and completely off-limits to the public, the only thing we know for sure is that flight tests take place there. Some of the military’s most impressive flying machines were developed and tested at Area 51.

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With that information, skeptics are quick to dismiss conspiracy theories about the facility — after all, a UFO is just an Unidentified Flying Object — couldn’t these flying objects just be advanced military planes the public hasn’t seen yet? What was the military developing in the Nevada desert?

What’s the (declassified) history of Area 51?

During World War II, the US army used the site for testing aerial artillery. 10 years after the end of the second great war, Area 51 was acquired by the Central Intelligence Agency — a government agency that is known for its secrecy, if nothing else.

Spy plane, U-2 plane, Secret test
Photo by Patrick AVENTURIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The CIA commissioned Lockheed Martin to develop the U-2 spy plane at Area 51. The U-2 (sometimes called the Dragon Lady) is probably the most recognizable spy plane ever built and frequently appears in popular culture. Later, Area 51 was used to develop and test the A-12 and F-117 Nighthawk. So how did we get from an average government testing site to alien conspiracy theories?

UFO sightings

People have been seeing strange things in the sky for about as long as Area 51 has been around. In hindsight, some of these sightings can be likely be blamed on the top secret spy planes being tested at the base. The Reno Evening Gazette ran a story describing the sighting of a bizarre flying object on June 17, 1959. Titled “More Flying Objects Seen in Clark Sky,” the piece said that multiple locals, including policeman Sgt. Wayne Anderson, had been puzzled and alarmed at what they’d seen.

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The newspaper called the UFO “bright green in color,” and stated that it had been “descending toward the earth at a speed too great to be an airplane. It had no tail as a meteor would be expected to have, according to viewers.” Oddly, the object was not picked up by radar. Could this have simply been a U-2 spy plane? Perhaps, but even the military took some of these UFO sightings seriously…

The infamous ‘UFO crash’ and ‘Project Blue Book’

The sighting of the UFO near Reno described above comes over a decade after reports of a flying saucer crash in Roswell, New Mexico. Of course, the object that crashed in New Mexico was later revealed by the Roswell Army Air Field to be a weather balloon. To this day, many remain unconvinced.

Project Blue Book, UFO investigations
Project Blue Book investigators. U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia

UFO sightings were so common around this time that the Air Force began investigating sightings themselves. Keep in mind that this was during the cold war — a bitter arms race between the USA and Soviet Russia was raging. If there were mysterious objects floating around in the air, the military wanted to know why. The study would come to be known as Project Blue Book. With all this mystery surrounding unidentified flying objects, it’s only natural public curiosity would eventually boil over. 

What is the military’s reaction to ‘the raid?’

Bemused and humorless, the Air Force finally released a statement warning would-be participants against trespassing on the infamous military base when the Facebook event approached a million planned attendees. Speaking on behalf of the Air Force, spokeswoman Laura McAndrews answered questions pertaining to the planned raid.

Time traveler, Area 51, storm area 51
Know Your Meme

“[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,” the Air Force spokeswoman said. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.” Will that be enough to keep out the anime-inspired ambushers?

So will people actually show up on September 20th?

It seems likely that a sizable amount of people will congregate near the infamous military base. In fact, many people have even bought flight tickets to Nevada that week — causing airlines to raise their rates. However, it’s doubtful anything resembling an actual raid will take place. 

plan of attack, storm area 51, naruto run
Facebook / Storm Area 51: They Can’t Stop All of US

Area 51 is 5 square miles — that’s a lot of ground to cover, even for the most seasoned of “Naruto-runners.” Bob Lazar himself has stated that all the alien technology would have been removed from the site years ago. So if you decide to book an overpriced plane ride to Area 51, know that there’s little chance you’ll actually see any aliens (obviously).

What is there to do at Area 51?

Area 51 is now a popular tourist destination — you can’t enter the base, but you can visit all sorts of alien-themed shops and restaurants just outside it. People that have visited say that from the fence outside the base, there’s little to see.

Baker CA, outside Area 51, gateway to Area 51
Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

However, tourists have described an eerie feeling. No one comes to greet you at the gate, but you can see guards in the distance and people watching you from the mountains. Aliens or not, they really don’t want you going inside. If you’re curious, the event will be live-streamed, so you’ll be able to see the festivities (or carnage) go down in real time.

Area 51 in popular culture

Area 51 has been mentioned in a number of movies and television shows, perhaps most notably in several highly watched episodes of X-Files. In the two-part episode “Dreamland,” Agent Mulder (played by David Duchovny) finds his mind switched into the body of a “man in black” after visiting Area 51 and witnessing a UFO flying overhead.

X-files episode, Dreamland, Area 51
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Area 51 is also the title of a popular light gun arcade game released in 1995, and a limited-release film released in 2015. The game requires players to fight off space aliens and zombies as they make their way through the military base. The film follows the story of several conspiracy theorists that break into Area 51 looking for secrets and proof of extraterrestrial life.

The ‘Alien-Human Battle of Dulce’

There are other places besides Area 51 and Roswell where alien sightings are extremely prevalent. Dulce, New Mexico in particular, has been host to numerous sightings of UFOs and suspicious “extraterrestrial” activity. One man even claims to have participated in an epic battle between humans and aliens.

War of the Worlds, Alien attack, battle
War of the Worlds (2005)/IMDb/ Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures

Businessman Paul Bennewitz became convinced that the city is the site of a UFO base when he began intercepting messages from extraterrestrials that set up camp in the area. A former government engineer, Philip Schneider, claims to have shot an alien after coming face to face with it after drilling underground in 1979. He claims to have been rescued by a green beret, but according to him, the underground war is still raging to this day. Plenty of Dulce residents claim to have seen UFOs, flashing lights, and suspicious activity.

Witnesses see lights over the New Jersey Turnpike

It’s easy to dismiss ufologists as simply being conspiracy theorists, gullible, or just plain crazy — but there are several reported UFO encounters with multiple credible witnesses. How do we explain these? Perhaps you must decide for yourself what to believe.

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Numerous drivers pulled over along the New Jersey Turnpike on July 14, 2001 to observe a frightening spectacle. Orange and yellow lights appeared in the night sky, taking a “V” formation. Among the witnesses was police lieutenant Daniel Tarrant. Air-traffic controllers reported that no airplanes, jets, or (earthly) spaceships caused the mysterious display. The New York Strange Phenomena Investigators, however, claim to have gotten a hold of radar data that corroborates witness testimonies.

White lights seen above Stephenville, Texas

On Jan. 8, 2008, residents in the small town 100 miles southwest of Dallas observed white lights in various formations above Highway 67. Pilot Steve Allen said the strobe lights “spanned about a mile long and a half mile wide.” Witnesses say the lights formed one horizontal arc before becoming several parallel vertical lines.

Texas UFO report, UFO sighting, bizarre
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The Air Force stated that the lights were caused by F-16s Fighting Falcons flying in the area were responsible for the reports. To this day, many residents scoff at this explanation, maintaining that no human technology could have produced what they witnessed.

An unknown craft appears on radar off the coast of San Diego

The USS Princeton was sent out in Nov. 14, 2004 to investigate numerous mysterious incidents of objects detected on radar. These unknown objects would appear 80,000 feet above sea level before falling rapidly, only to hover just above the water. Two FA-18F fighter jets witnessed an unknown oval-shaped craft beneath the water. Shortly after a Tic-Tac-shaped object appeared in the sky.

USS Princeton, UFO sighting, fighter jet
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Commander David Fravor and Lieutenant Commander Jim Slaight of Strike Fighter Squadron 41 tried to intercept the UFO but were unsuccessful. Despite having no visible wings, engine, or exhaust the object sped away at three times the speed of sound — more than twice as fast as the pursuing FA-18F fighter jets. It vanished before appearing on radar 60 miles away.

Witnesses at O’Hare International Airport report seeing a ‘flying saucer’

Flight 446 on Nov. 7, 2006 was delayed after a tarmac employee reported an object hovering over gate C17 at O’Hare International Airport. 11 other United employees and several witnesses outside the airport corroborated the sighting of the dark grey metallic saucer-shaped object at 4:15 p.m.

O'hare Airport UFO, unexplained sighting, weather event
Youtube (Arrow added)

Reportedly, the UFO hovered for five minutes before departing — shooting upward through the clouds, revealing the clear blue sky. More people read the story of the incident posted on The Chicago Tribune’s website than any other news report to that date. The Federal Aviation Administration and skeptics maintain it was a weather phenomenon. No follow-up investigation took place.

F/A-18 captures footage of a UFO

A leaked video that surfaced in 2017 shows an unexplained encounter with a UFO. In the video, an F/A-18 Super Hornet captures the fast-moving unidentified craft with the auto-tracking feature. The incident is remarkably similar to the report of the Tic-Tac-shaped UFO spotted in San Diego.

F/A-18 fighter, witnessed UFO
Photo credit: PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

The 45-foot-long vehicle leaves no exhaust in its wake and travels incredibly fast, despite having no visible wings or an engine. Video of the traveling object was captured by a Raytheon Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared Pod aimed 25,000 feet above the ocean off the East Coast of the United States. No one has been able to provide a solid explanation.

Communicating with aliens

Event the most skeptical among us are forced to acknowledge the possibility that alien life-forms exist. The universe is immense beyond measure. Therefore, the existence of life and civilizations on other planets and solar systems is entirely plausible — some even say likely. If we were to make contact with these beings, how would we communicate with them?

Arrival, alien communication, contact with aliens
IMDb/Paramount

There just so happens to be a field of study that attempts to answer that question. Alien linguistics operates on the idea that if we ever make contact with aliens we should be somewhat prepared for the interaction. It seems like an impossible task, but one that linguists are willing to take on.

So how would we speak to Aliens and understand them?

Linguists would first have to rely on two incredibly large assumptions. First, we’d have to assume that their language functions at least somewhat similarly to ours. If their minds work completely differently than ours, our efforts may prove fruitless.

symbols, communication, language
Photo by Eric LAFFORGUE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Secondly, both parties would have to understand what the other is doing. By making vocalizations and pointing to an object, two humans that speak entirely different languages can eventually grasp what the other is trying to communicate. For this to be successful, you each have to know that you are trying to communicate with one another. Be it through noise, written symbols, or movements, alien linguists would systematically use context and syntax to set about understanding extraterrestrial communications — much like the character Louise Banks (Amy Adams) in Arrival.

Is it possible we’ve already been contacted by aliens?

If you believe Bob Lazar and many ufologists and Area 51 conspiracy enthusiasts, humans have already come in contact with them on numerous occasions. It is also possible that extraterrestrials have attempted to contact us and we are simply not technologically advanced enough to perceive their attempts at communication.

Crop circles, alien communication, contact with aliens
Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images

While it’s certainly more exciting to imagine the first alien contact taking place face to face, it’s far more likely we’d be communicating with them from incredibly vast distances. If you’re lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to be the first to make contact with aliens, 18th and 19th century mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss theorized that you should provide a symbolic representation of the Pythagorean Theorem. This will (hopefully) show a more advanced species that earth hosts some form of intelligent life. The fate of the world may rest on your understanding of basic Geometry.