Behind miles of barren desert and barbed wire, warning signs and a camouflaged security force, lies the Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range. Inside this Air Force Base, 130 miles north of Las Vegas, lies the dry Groom Lake, and on its shores is Area 51. Area 51 is a secret military facility, about 90 miles north of Las Vegas. The number refers to a 6-by- 10-mile block of land, at the center of which is a large air base the government will not discuss. The site was built by the CIA in the late 1950s as a testing ground for the top secret spy planes, due to its remoteness, proximity to existing facilities and presence of a dry lake bed for landings. The U-2, YF-12A and F-117A were flight tested here long before being made public. Since the government won't acknowledge anything about the base, it's hard to know what is going on there now. Common rumors suggest several possible new aircrafts, including an ultra-high speed spy plane dubbed "Aurora" by aviation watches, various unmanned aerial reconnaisance vehicles (UAVs), stealth helicopters and a possible replacement for the F-117A. The existance of these projects is speculative, however, and most activities at Groom are probably more mundane weapons and systems testing, of interest only to hard-core military buffs. It remains an enigmatic iceberg of the Cold War: no one knows for sure what lies beneath the surface.


Cammo Dudes is the nickname for the anonymous private security force that patrols the military border. They wear camouflage fatigues without insignia and drive white Jeep Cherokees with government plates. They keep close watch on any visitors that come within a few miles of the border, but they are under orders to avoid contact. Since you can't easily see the base itself, the Cammo Dudes are one of the few reliable tourist attractions. The greatest danger is wandering across the unfenced military border, which would result in your immediate arrest and a fine of $600. Wherever a road crosses the border, it is marked by clear "Restricted Area" signs which should not be crossed. In the desert, the border is marked by orange posts every 50 yards.

Bob Lazar


Bob Lazar claims to have worked with alien craft at "Area S-4" in Nevada Bob Lazar claims to have worked with alien spacecraft at a secret U.S. Government facility at Papoose Lake, about 80 miles north of Las Vegas. Lazar intially made his claims on a local Las Vegas Television station in Nov. 1989. He says he worked at a facility called "Area S-4" at Papoose Dry Lake, south of the known government air base at Area 51, in late 1988 and early 1989. There he says he saw nine flying saucers housed in hangars built into a hillside. Lazar says he had hands-on experience with one of the craft and he can describe its propulsion system in detail. Lazar says he read briefing papers about the alien presence but that he saw no aliens himself (aside from a fleeting glimpse of a small figure through a window at the facility). The core story is, almost by definition, unverifiable, since no one can go to Papoose Lake to check it out. The only thing we can investigate are the claims that surround it. If Lazar does not tell the truth about the things we can verify, how can we trust the things we can't verify? Lazar has lied about his educational credentials and his position at Los Alamos. He claims that his records have vanished and that the government has turned him into a "non-person", but there are no specific records that can't be accounted for. Only his educational records are missing, which plainly never existed to begin with. All evidence indicates that Lazar worked at Los Alamos as a repair technician, not as a senior scientist as he claimed. There is also no evidence that Lazar has ever visited Area 51, which unlike the S-4 claim, can at least be checked out "off the record" through former Area 51 workers. Lazar says he travelled to "S-4" by way of Area 51 on daily 737 flights that hundreds of other workers take. Although he says that Area 51 was only a transfer point for him, he has been unable describe the arrivals area or what you see when you first get off the plane. The simplest theory to explain the Lazar story is that it is completely false and that he concocted it initally to fool John Lear, who had been telling extravagant aliens-at-Area-51 stories for a couple of years before Lazar arrived. Lazar could have simply fed back to Lear a more rational version of what Lear wanted to hear. Other more complex theories say that Lazar is recounting a real flying saucer experience that actually took place elsewhere or in different circumstances, or that he is a dupe or willing participant in some complicated U.S. Government or foreign government plan. (For example, it could have been attempt by the Soviets to probe or disrupt activities at Area 51. Is so, this would not have been the most convoluted deception of the Cold War.) Motivation for the fraud remains murky, as Lazar and his primary supporter Gene Huff have ignored or sabotaged many opportunities for financial gain from the story. (Although movie options and the saucer model kit have made the story profitable for him, Lazar seems disinterested in pursuing deals.) Thanks to Huff's aggressive attacks on anyone who questions the story, it is hard to find many Lazar supporters left in the UFO community, even among those who want desperately to believe. All lies and mismanagement aside, Lazar's is a fascinating tale, compelling even as fiction. Its restraint and long-term internal consistancy remain impressive. Lazar's straightforward explanations of his experiences, his healthy skepticism of other UFO claims and his early willingness to submit to hypnosis and a polygraph test remain intriguing. (The test was inconclusive, and the professional hypnotist believes Lazar's emotional responses to his recalled S-4 experiences were not faked.) Ultimately, Lazar's claims have prompted the world to ask, "What is out there at Area 51?"

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