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What is Area 51?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 17, 2024
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Area 51 has been a constant source of conspiracy theories since the 1950s, especially since no one actually knows what goes on behind this heavily guarded area of land except the people who work there. Speculation is rife with theories covering everything from unidentified flying objects (UFOs) to secret government aircraft manufacturing. It is located in a remote region of the Nevada desert, north of Las Vegas.

The official explanation given by the military is that this is the location of a firing range used by the US Air Force. It has a restricted “no fly zone” placed on it and is very heavily guarded. The perimeter fence is monitored by hundreds of close circuit television cameras, armed guards patrol the area, and signs warn that trespassers will be shot.

Except for the people who work there, virtually no one has ever been inside Area 51. Photographs exist showing a large airbase that is not marked on any map. One of the most popular theories as to what goes on behind the fence is that UFOs are studied there.

In the 1950s, a UFO supposedly crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, and the craft and its inhabitants were taken to Area 51 to be examined. Theorists say that the government is trying to replicate the technology used by the UFO or even trying to rework it back to flight status. These theories have done much for tourism in the area, and there are even highway signs that read, “Extraterrestrial Highway.”

Another major theory is that the base simulates the environment of the Moon, and it has been suggested that the whole of the Apollo moon landing in 1969 actually took place there. Still another popular theory is that this is where the military carries out top-secret aircraft testing. The aircraft supposedly tested there are known as black aircraft, and the idea is to keep their existence a secret for as long as possible. This includes keeping their existence hidden from the enemy and the public.

Area 51 has become embedded in US popular culture. Books, films, websites and computer games have all used this tiny location and the many theories and reasons behind its secrecy for entertainment. Whatever is going on behind the fence has been kept hidden for over 50 years, and the public seems to be no closer to finding out the secret.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1003234 — On May 25, 2020

As one person stated, if aliens are in there we need to be able to kill them. There you have it. Te real reason the average person cannot be trusted with this kind of info. Why would you think they need to be killed? They might be very good.

By anon972784 — On Oct 06, 2014

I think they test people to use as weapons in there, personally.

By anon956190 — On Jun 12, 2014

I think Harry was the name of one of the extraterrestrials at area 51.

By anon332205 — On Apr 27, 2013

It's an undeniable fact - area 51 is a military installation, and like every military department, the USAF has secrets to keep (especially in R&D). But: aliens, UFO crash near Roswell in 1947? Sounds ridiculous to me. What kind of aliens have the technology to travel thousands of light years through space, approach the earth undetected, and then they are too stupid to land properly, even in the desert? However, such conspiracy theories always spread like wildfire - as long as lots of people lack of logic and sense of reality. There's a big difference between science fiction movies and real life!

By anon316646 — On Jan 29, 2013

I don't get any of this stupid stuff. I think that Area 51 is just people trying for attention by saying that they were in Area 51.

By anon308772 — On Dec 12, 2012

Never trust the government. If they tell you something about Area 51, it's a lie, like their lies when they kidnapped American citizens to use them as test subjects for toxic weapons, or like they said that Area 51 didn't exist. It will be even worse. They try to control the internet! I don't trust America's government a bit.

By anon302720 — On Nov 11, 2012

One word: Aliens. That's what's in there! Look at images and zoom in!

By anon301795 — On Nov 06, 2012

The only successful "attempts" that I've ever heard of as far as viewing the interior of the Groom Lake Air Base known as area 51 have been remote viewing sessions. These however, have to be taken with a grain of salt, as it is impossible for anyone without an intimate knowledge of the goings on at the base. From what I've been led to believe, even the people who are employed at area 51 are kept in the dark as far as it is possible, meaning that information is extremely compartmentalized. They find those they want to hire and recruit them via an intense, in-depth process.

By anon297926 — On Oct 17, 2012

I think they know something. I just don't understand how every president has kept it a secret. Clinton got caught doing stupid stuff, and so did many more. Maybe it is just research. Who knows? This country is a mess.

By anon289104 — On Sep 02, 2012

I think that that is where they control military base items such as what they use (bombs, guns and etc.) And they probably test their planes too.

By anon280638 — On Jul 19, 2012

Do you think Superman lives in area 51? I mean seriously, the X Men, all the superheroes -- what if they are all real, and they all are hiding in area 51 so no one knows?

My theory is that the books and movies and comics about superheros aren't made up by people. A long time ago, when superheros don't have to hid in area 51, they lived and someone wrote about them like a journal, and eventually when they had to hide in area 51, then someone who found the journal made it into comics, movies, books, etc., based on the journal(s) written by people when superheros were not in hiding.

So my theory is that Superman, Spiderman, Batman and the rest of the superheroes and X-Men are all in hiding in an underground facility big enough to hold them comfortably, in Area 51. --Bob

By anon277739 — On Jul 01, 2012

You want to know what's there? Well, we never got anything outside our atmosphere. There is nothing on earth that can withstand the burning getting out. I am going to tell you, it's satellites. They don't want you to know we never went to the moon and it's close to the center of the USA. There is proof that I am right, if you look for what I just told you.

By anon276312 — On Jun 23, 2012

@anon98775: "But if someone really wanted to get in there they could." The answer to that is "no". Along with the video, IR, night vision cameras, there are ground sensors extending over one mile past the main boundary. (I worked next door at the test site for a while, and learned this after getting too close).

I know from experience that you have one chance to stop when told to do so, and after that they will open fire. In 1993, the border was extended to prevent people from getting photographs from a nearby mountain that would allow you to see the base.

Most of what happens there is military testing. aircraft, etc. As for aliens, who knows? For those who feel that "we have the right to know", well be careful what you wish for. You may very well regret knowing what goes on in there.

Back to anon98775: If you wish to try your theory that someone could get in there if they wanted to, I don't live that far away from that area. I'll be happy to drop you off close to it, and wish you the best of luck. (no meanness intended with that statement).

By anon272784 — On Jun 03, 2012

I believe that they should just tell us what they're hiding, but if it's something to do with extra terrestrials, they should tell us because then if they come back, we would have the proper tools and equipment to kill them. But if it's not about extra terrestrial life, then they do not have to tell us unless it's something that may harm or endanger mankind. Please respond.

By anon266178 — On May 04, 2012

I wish we knew what's in Area 51. I want to know. Why can't we know? If we have to grow up and the face reality of life then why does Area 51 have to be so secretive? Why don't people fight for the right to know?

We were born to learn and discover things. Why should be we locked from some truths? How can people find a way to even work there?

By anon258315 — On Mar 31, 2012

I think that area 51 is just a fake and that it is nothing but a bunch of conspiracies as others said.

By anon243388 — On Jan 27, 2012

With all the big deal about aliens and ufos, it makes it almost impossible to do my research paper that's worth like a million and four points so it really stinks having to cite all this stuff.

I'm citing some of the stuff that you people have said on this website and I have to have like 5,000 references to get an A. I'm about to just say rage quit!

By anon169306 — On Apr 20, 2011

this is really creepy and i think soon we are going to be in a war with this ufos, starting with china, since so many people live there and the want to eliminate most of the population so the rest of the world can be controllable. pay attention people.

By anon169188 — On Apr 20, 2011

Either the government wants power, or the government wants us civilians to not know the truth for the sake of our lives. Either way, there has got to be something in there. The astronaut got fired for saying "Something is watching us". Anyone working in area 51 before they moved out that has even mentioned the extraterrestrial got shot, or even put in jail. What does that tell you? The aliens have far more power over us.

The aliens were on this planet longer than we have. The great pyramids, even the smartest scientists on earth can't figure on how it was built. That was not man-made. There is no way. The aliens wrote the bible, you can tell two different people has written it if you study further in it.

I don't care what anyone else's beliefs are but i know down inside, aliens are god. They want something. I have so much more to explain about my theory on this subject, but I'm not going that far on the internet with anon people.

The government is evil, and they all know exactly what's going to happen. Trust me, we have no idea what we are dealing with.

By anon165514 — On Apr 05, 2011

I don't really care what's inside to be honest. It's not UFOs that's for sure. I don't think the US government is as intelligent as people credit them either!

By anon153372 — On Feb 17, 2011

how close can you really get to it?

By anon151193 — On Feb 09, 2011

it's for the nation's safety. i don't think foreign countries know what's in there. what we don't know they don't know?

By anon151190 — On Feb 09, 2011

they can't reach area 51. It's under heavy guard. you can't even get near area 51. It's restricted air space. if you go by land you are intercepted if you get near it and you can't fly near it so how are you going to target it

By anon149299 — On Feb 03, 2011

Why does the government think that whatever their hiding in there the population can't handle it. They think were stupid and will over react but what will happen when the truth comes out and it risk the lives of Americans.

By anon146132 — On Jan 25, 2011

i think its cool and I can't wait to found out what they have been hiding forever. it's close to 60 years.

By anon129815 — On Nov 25, 2010

i think the government is hiding what ever they are hiding, and make it seem like it's a big thing because they want the power.

if people aren't going along with what they say or if someone (like a few times in the past) say they have seen aliens while working there, they get shot. if everyone starts freaking out or believing that the government is horrible for bringing "ufos" then they need to start shooting people to keep everyone in place. if one person acts out, the rest will.

don't get me wrong, i would love to see what's inside, but I'm not going to get killed for it or do what the government wants me to do!

By anon100765 — On Jul 31, 2010

It's understandable that the government is going to hide things from the rest of us, but there has to be something more important in there. Something not released to public. Does this mean it is endangering us?

Whatever is inside Area 51, it's got to be crazy. Otherwise, someone would know about it by now. I would like to know what is in there that makes it so guarded and top secret. I have a feeling, in the near future we are going to know more about what goes on.

By anon98775 — On Jul 24, 2010

You can't dispute the fact that area 51 is highly popular. The cover of aliens (not illegal mexicans) but a research base for cutting edge technology, possibly dangerous technology. But if someone really wanted to get in there they could.

By anon95198 — On Jul 11, 2010

The government hides a lot of stuff from civilians. I don't think there is anything there. It is just a place where they test things out.

It got the whole "top secret" and "mysterious" image a long time ago, and it is something that has just "stuck" with area 51. If you are high rank in military and trustworthy, you have to be asked to work there. And of course pass screenings and testing. The government just wants civilians to think it is Top Secret and mysterious to make it seem to the little people that they (government) can possess something so big and hold it secret from so many people for so long. It keeps people trusting the military and government. Trust me, you really think if something so top secret and grand was really there, no one would target area 51?

Come on, look what happened in NY (911). If there was something there that people (other countries) wanted, they would totally target that area.

By anon92858 — On Jun 30, 2010

I know that they are keeping aliens there. why would they be so secret? I've seen some mighty strange people walking among us they could be aliens using the disguise of a burn patient or accident victim and i think they are.

By anon92725 — On Jun 29, 2010

Maybe area 51 was once a ufo research lab,b ut it would not be anymore today, since the increasing rumor of its secret is revealed, they would move all extraterrestrial to somewhere else (unknown) and used area 51 as a decoy today. A decoy such as a (so called) top secret military base or so sort of nuclear testing grounds (as said). Whatever it is, the government is hiding something really important and something that we may soon see in a couple of years.

By anon85643 — On May 21, 2010

i think this is totally unfair. we have a right to know what's going on in there because we all live here, and if there is a ufo, what happens if one of its brothers comes to collect them? What do we all do?

By anon69255 — On Mar 07, 2010

I would love to know what's going in there.

By anon34057 — On Jun 16, 2009

There is one question that I think not very many people have wondered or asked, how do you get hired for Area 51? I mean people can't live forever... and what about their families? Lots of questions, but until a meteor sets course for earth, I don't think they will let out any information on Area 51.

By anon20234 — On Oct 27, 2008

Let me tell you, I see a lot of off-the-wall stuff about area 51, considering I am doing a paper about it in a class. I feel very depressed to think that it takes me much longer to get research because I have to be able to cite it properly.

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