I don’t believe that the United States is holding aliens and alien spacecraft anywhere on its soil. I do believe that Bob Lazar is a raving lunatic. This is the man who, in 1986, made “Area 51” a household name. He claimed to have been working at a facility a couple of miles south of the until-recently-unofficial air force base at Groom Lake, Nevada, reverse-engineering the propulsion mechanism of a crashed flying saucer. His history doesn’t check out. He has a criminal record which dates back to before he claims to have been employed by the contractor who allegedly staffs the base. He’s a lunatic. I don’t believe him for a second.
But, my goodness, I find the place itself fascinating.
That’s for a few reasons. But one of them is how it went from this small base:
To this gargantuan one (which stretches another several miles north of this image):
in such a short space of time.
The planes in the first picture are Lockheed A12 spy planes, which later became the most intimidating SR-71 Blackbirds. Decomissioned in 1988 1998 (I’m an idiot), they were some of the earlier aircraft to be tested at Groom Lake, which opened in the ’50s to fly the U2 Spy Plane.. They needed a place away from the public eye to test them. They were about as top-secret as it’s possible for a thing to get. Yet people still got away with taking photos of the place back then.
And, of course, the majority of the world’s fascination with the base emerges from how tight security is now. It is, most likely, the most high-security facility on the planet. There are no public roads within nearly 30 miles of Groom Lake. Drive a few miles down the nearest private one, and you reach a sign which tells you, in no uncertain terms, that if you go any further you might well be shot. Take a glance up to the right when you reach that point, up a hill, and you’ll probably notice an unmarked security truck has been tracking you, and is now silently watching. Stay for more than a couple of minutes, and the Apache helecopters appear overhead. People don’t usually stick around to see what happens next.
Even miles outside the perimeter, on completely public land and over 20 miles outside the facility itself, people have found audio tracking devices buried underneath the desert sand. “Property of the US Military,” they say. And their wires run past the perimeter and towards the Groom Lake complex. In the mid 1990s, the Government purchased vast areas of public land, including the last two remaining clear views of the Area 51 complex. Only one such view remains, at the top of Tikaboo Peak, a mountain 26 miles away from the base. You can only see it, peaking over the horizon, with high-powered binoculars or high-definition cameras. It takes three hours to climb the mountain, which experts recommend those without extensive climbing experience don’t attempt. It is cut off and isolated from civilisation: no mobile phone network transmits in the area, and it’s a several-mile drive from the mountain’s base to the nearest town. I absolutely intend to go there one day.
Because there’s something so haunting about that place. Perhaps it’s the enormous dry lake bed, which looks like an alien landscape in itself. You can’t really see that from Tikaboo; you did used to be able to get a pretty clear view from Freedom Ridge, before the Govt bought the land. Perhaps it’s just how iconic the location has become. Perhaps it’s just that it’s forbidden. It’s the place in the world that so many people want to go, yet so few are permitted to do so.
A few days ago, on the LOST finale, Dan Lips talked about the human desire for mystery. We all strive towards solving mysteries, but really, they’re at their most poignant when we don’t know. Dan mentioned Area 51, which is what spurred me to write a bunch of stuff about this. He’s bang-on. I don’t want to know what happens at Groom Lake. I know I will never know. At best, in 50 years, as I walk to draw my pension, I might spot in a paper (will we still have those) an article about what they were getting up to in 2010. If it becomes declassified after the standard period, which it might not. And I love that.
I love that in the last half century people have gone to the moon, that we can now see further than ever into outer space, that we have such a deep understanding of what’s going on beyond the confines not just of our planet, not just of our solar system, but of our galaxy — and yet there’s a stretch of land a few miles long and wide, just a hundred miles away from Las Vegas, that nobody except those with security clearence beyond the Military’s highest level has even the faintest idea of what it’s used for.
The obvious conclusion to draw is that it’s used for exactly the same stuff as it’s always been used for: every declassified or leaked document pertaining to Groom Lake refers to test flights and development processes of the most sensitive new military aircraft. As well as the U2 and the SR-71, it has since become reasonably public knowledge that both famous ‘Stealth’ planes – the B2 Spirit and the F-117 Nighthawk – both enjoyed a development period there. You only have to take a look at those aircraft – the spiky, small-yet-aggressive F-117 and the enormous, birdlike, elegant B2 – to see why UFO sightings in the area may have skyrocketed in the 1980s. They look like nothing else that has ever been created by human beings, and, in their own eerie and mechanical way, are just staggeringly beautiful.
I’m not a conspiracy buff. There’s not a conspiracy theory on the planet that I subscribe to. But I do love mystery, and I do love finding beauty in human creations. I find Groom Lake to be so, so remarkable. Why not go explore? It’s not like you’ll ever go there for real.