At Area 51, plenty of invaders, no aliens

Some 3,000 visitors were beaming into his tiny hometown this weekend, snapping selfies outside the secretive Area 51 military test base, running through sagebrush in alien costumes and dancing to throbbing club beats as part of a viral online joke bewitched to life.

Day pointed to the signs nailed to his front gate in Rachel, Nevada, population 40ish (50 on weekends).


People in this sparsely populated expanse of scrub desert have gotten used to conspiracy theorists and UFO chasers hunting for an extraterrestrial truth behind the secrecy and security of Area 51.

But in late June, law enforcement and residents here began bracing for an onslaught, after 2.1 million people said they would rush the base on foot at an event organised on Facebook called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The event creator later said the whole thing had been a joke, but online masses committed to launch anyway.

Residents worried that even a tiny fraction of that many out-of-towners could lead to chaos.

But by Saturday, it appeared the invaders had come in peace.

Most people were heeding warnings from county sheriffs, state police and the Air Force not to assault the gates of a heavily guarded military base. At 3 a.m. Friday, about 150 people made the 9-mile drive up a dusty road and surged toward the back gate, but mostly just laughed and pantomimed an invasion.

“We just wanted to see people like us,” said Mike Main, who drove with his mother from Tampa, Florida.

While some local residents spent the weekend pounding No Trespassing signs into the ground and stringing plastic webbing around their trailer homes, Don Williams said he had been won over by the visitors, who had arrived from as far as Massachusetts and even Australia.

For days, interlopers have been streaming into town in camper vans and RVs, motorcycles and in some cases cramped two-door sedans. Since there are nearly no hotels for 50 miles, they set up tents in the dirt, bargained with residents for a bedroom in a trailer and rented $80-a-night camper spaces. Some slept under the stars.

c.2019 The New York Times Company

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