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Tiny Nevada town near secretive Area 51 braces for alien hunters
Connie West, co-owner of an alien-themed motel in the tiny U.S. desert outpost of Rachel, Nevada, believes they are coming no matter what. Not aliens, but alien hunters.
A whimsical invitation on Facebook has urged UFO enthusiasts to gather on Sept. 20 and “storm” nearby Area 51, a U.S. military base long rumored to house extraterrestrials and spaceships. More than 2 million Facebook users have said they plan to go.
Residents of Rachel, a 150-mile (240-km) drive from Las Vegas and home to roughly 50 people, are split on how to respond. Some sternly warn the public to stay away, fearing large crowds will overwhelm a town with no gas station or grocery store. Others, including West, believe the best course is to welcome them with a music festival dubbed Alienstock.
“We’re trying to figure out how to make this a positive from an absolute negative,” West said in an interview. “You can fight it, but it’s coming.”
West, with her mother, runs Rachel’s only business, the Little A’Le’Inn motel and restaurant, and was inundated with phone calls as soon as the Facebook post appeared. She estimates at least 30,000 people will arrive on Sept. 20, and she’s scrambling to order enough portable toilets. As of mid-August, she had secured 30.
Area 51 was shrouded in secrecy for decades, stoking conspiracy theories that it housed alien bodies and a crashed spaceship from Roswell, New Mexico. The U.S. government did not confirm the base existed until 2013, when it released CIA archives saying the site was used to test top-secret spy planes.
The documents made no mention of little green men or flying saucers, but that did not end suspicion.
Rachel and its surroundings had long celebrated their spot in UFO lore as a tourist draw. A 98-mile (158-km) road running through the area is dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway, a purported hotbed of UFO sightings.
But when a Facebook user named Matty Roberts from Bakersfield, California, invited people to run into Area 51 on foot in a large group “to see them aliens,” the Air Force cautioned against it.
“Any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous,” an Air Force statement said in response to questions about the event.
The Air Force said it uses the facility to test combat aircraft and train personnel. The entrance is dotted with cameras and signs warning against trespassing.