Lauren Reid Headshot

Area 51 is one of the most famously known United States military institutions in the world and is home to a huge amount of conspiracy theories. There have been a lot of questionable things about the institution — one of them is if it even exists. Though its existence was confirmed in 2013, its exact location still remains unknown. It’s rumored to be right between the U.S. Air Force base and an abandoned nuclear testing ground in the desert far outside of Las Vegas. Not that, that really matters, because no one can get anywhere near the area, including in the air above it, due to intense restrictions that were put in place by none other than the government.

The history of the 38,400 acre area is actually pretty ordinary for the most part. An individual named Patrick Sheahan founded a homestead on the land in 1889. To get a picture of how remote this land was at that time, Las Vegas didn’t even exist yet, and once it was founded in 1905, it still wasn’t accessible until 1906. Sheahan and his family lived on this quiet area of land for over 30 years. In 1941, the government sent a few agents to scope the area.

The government then constructed an airstrip just six miles from Sheahan’s homestead. In 1951, the United States Department of Energy started nuclear tests. The area was quickly taken over by the government, becoming a base for training spy planes and for the testing of nuclear bombs. After WWII, the airstrip was barely in use. It wasn’t until the Cold War that the government started occupying it again, transforming it into a spy plane factory. After that, technology advanced quickly at the institution.

The government’s behavior about the institution is what has led numerous conspiracy theorists to believe there is something not right with Area 51. Besides the restrictions — which I will point out that those air rights I mentioned, extend all the way to outer space — any mention of Area 51 gets erased from any official government documents, including the ones that have already been declassified.

The area also has what is considered its own airport. To air traffic control at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, it’s known as Homey Airport (KXTA). It’s been said that the workers of the institution fly government owned passenger jets called “Janet Airlines” to and from the desert daily. There are also buildings on site that Google Earth has been able to confirm, while the government doesn’t acknowledge that they’re real.

To add to the slightly suspicious behavior of the government, there have been reports of UFOs being seen near the institution for decades. The first record of these reports started in the late 1950’s — keep in mind that the government claimed Area 51 in the early 1950’s. A majority of these reports came from airline pilots themselves, and a majority were right around dusk. The reports were of “flying disks” at altitudes that were too high for any plane.

The government did take these reports seriously, and the Air Force constructed what was known as “Operation Blue Book.” This investigation compared the reports to that of the CIA’s top secret flight log. The conclusion that was given to the public was that they were seeing “weather phenomenons.”

In 1989, conspiracists faced a breakthrough. An interview with a man named Bob Lazar spiked a lead for what could have been going on at the secret government institution. Lazar told Las Vegas’ local CBS affiliate that he had been stationed at a base in the desert that was known as “Sector 4." Lazar claimed that Sector 4 was underground and pretty much attached to Area 51 by a railroad system. Lazar told the affiliate that he and other workers were working to reverse-engineer what was basically an alien spaceship. Ironically, no records of Lazar working for the government could be found.

In addition to Bob Lazar, others have also since then come forth about their extraterrestrial experiences connected to Area 51. The commander of the Area 51 base in the 1960s, a man who read radars for three decades at the base, a CIA experimental test pilot, an Area 51 special-projects engineer and one of the men who was in charge of the base’s half-million-gallon monthly supply of spy-plane fuels, all came forward with stories they lived through while working for or on the base. That's five credential people who essentially claimed that Area 51 is not what citizens think it is.

For example, Kenneth Collins — the CIA experimental test pilot I mentioned — recalled a time in which his aircraft crashed. Collins was flying a top-secret spy plane over Utah when the plane malfunctioned. One odd thing was that it crashed for no apparent reason. Another is that Collins was rescued by three guys in a pickup truck who took Collins to the local highway patrol. The CIA reported the crash as a generic Air Force plane, which would make sense since it was supposed to be a secret anyway.

But, the icing on the cake is that the three men who rescued Collins were tracked down and made to sign national security non-disclosure agreements. For Collins, the CIA asked him to take a truth serum. They told him that they simply wanted to see if he remembered anything before the crash. Collins said the serum made him feel intoxicated and his behavior mirrored it. Collins was taken home and left on his couch, with no explanation given to his wife. He remembered less the next morning than he did before questioning.

Like the dozens of other conspiracy theory enthusiasts, I believe Area 51 is associated with what we’d call aliens. From the history and facts, I think it’s possible that the government came across aliens centuries ago. I think in some kind of way, the Air Force became allies with aliens.

Actions such as the government erasing any sort of information on Area 51, being capable of erasing records of Lazar’s employment, the numerous reports of UFO sightings, the stories of former workers and how quickly technology advanced on base, makes me believe that our government works closely with aliens. I also don’t think the serum Collins ingested was truth serum, but rather something to truly make him forget. The lack of information available until recently, which practically gave the government time to rewrite history, is all just a little too fishy to me.

Rumor has it … Area 51 is not what we’ve been told.

Lauren is a senior at UTK this year majoring in journalism. She can be reached at

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