Source: Las Vegas Weekly - Nevada, USA
June 1st 2006
Whatever They're Hiding, I'd Like to Know What It Is
Memorial Day at Area 51
By Skylaire Alfvegren
"Insanity runs rampant here," Sharon tells me with a sassy
smirk, the kind small-town waitresses develop after years of
pouring coffee for bikers, truckers and other highway bandits
making a pit stop off the interstate.
But Sharon's greasy spoon-the infamous Little A 'Le' Inn of
Rachel, Nevada-plays host to characters more colorful than your
standard highway travellers. Scrubby and beyond desolate, Rachel
sits about 150 miles north of Las Vegas off Interstate 375.
Rechristened the "Extraterrestrial Highway" in 1996 in an effort
to lure tourists to this real-life twilight zone, the permanent
population, inhabiting helter-skelter trailer encampments and a
half-dozen homes, has yet to exceed 100. And residents like it
The population roughly doubled this past weekend, when "truth
seekers" from as far afield as New York, Florida and Iowa
gathered for the annual Memorial Day UFO/Friendship Campout,
which Boise, Idaho, resident Ike Bishop has been organizing
In 1955, Groom Dry Lake was chosen as a test site for Lockheed's
super-secret U-2 spy plane. First dubbed "The Ranch," and then
Watertown (named after former CIA director Allen Dulles' New
York hometown), the Atomic Energy Commission later renamed the
secret aircraft testing facility Area 51.
An entire mythology has grown up around Area 51 (also known as
Dreamland, the airspace code name for the site), a 6-by-10 mile
"operating location" adjacent to the Nellis Test Range and
overseen by the U.S. Air Force. Its runway, the longest on
Earth, has been the testing ground for spy planes like the U-2,
SR71 and B-2 Stealth Bomber.
Rumors that the "secret" base was used as a storage space for
crashed UFOs, and where alien technology has been "back-
engineered" and applied to military aircraft circulated for
years before Las Vegan Bob Lazar made the claim on local
television that he tinkered with alien spacecraft at Papoose
Lake, a dry lake bed located south of the Groom Lake facility.
Lazar referred to the location as S4. Area 51, hidden behind a
range of impenetrable mountains, lies some 25 miles south of
Bishop lived in Las Vegas for 29 years, where he worked as a
private investigator. He left in 1989, the same year Lazar's
claims began luring the curious out to the Little A 'Le' Inn. "A
lot of interesting things are going on out here," Bishop says.
"I'm using my background as a private investigator to see if I
can help uncover some of the facts, some of the truth, about
what's going on."
Some 70 attendees filed into the Rachel Senior Center to take in
lectures with titles like "The ABCs of ETs" and "Scrutinizing
Roswell, Area 51, Underground Bases and Pyramids." But the
highlight of Bishop's conference is the nightly "skywatch."
After dusk, those gathered bundle up against the chilly desert
wind and point their binoculars in the direction of the
"I have spent a lot of time in the past in the desert, watching
what goes on, and I do know that if you want to see anything,
you can't go out during these events expecting to see the latest
and greatest," remarked Rachel resident Bill Whiffen. "You need
to spend a lot of nights in a row, waiting them out, with
binoculars and cameras and a lot of patience. And you've got to
stay up all night, because I've had sightings ranging from dusk
to 4 a.m."
"It's crazy here from the end of April until the end of
November," says my waitress. Rachel plays host to a number of
non-Area 51-related events every year. It's a pit stop for The
Great Race (featuring vintage cars motoring from Philadelphia to
San Rafael, California) and well as the TSCO "Vegas to Reno,"
the longest off-road race in the United States.
But Rachel's biggest bang, sky-wise, occurs during Red Flag
training exercises, when pilots from all over the world come to
participate in mock combat training within the Nellis complex.
Held over a period of weeks, aviation buffs and UFO enthusiasts
alike converge on Rachel to watch the show. "If you have a
scanner with the proper channels, you can often hear a voice
saying 'That over there-doesn't exist' in reference to Area 51,"
Whiffen says. (The next Red Flag events are scheduled for August
5th to September 2nd).
"My interest piqued down here when I came for a Red Flag
exercise two years ago and got a glimpse of the black triangle,"
Bishop tells me. (Impossibly gigantic, black triangle-shaped
craft were first reported over European skies, and gradually
made their way west-they have been reported over the skies of
Southern Nevada since the 1990s.) "It was a HUGE craft. We saw
it three nights in a row and got it on video. It had no sound,
and the craft itself was about a half-mile across. I used the
mountain peaks that it came through as reference points.
"I don't believe-knowing what I know about black projects-that
we have that kind of technology," Bishop continues. "Our
technology has expanded so greatly and so rapidly over the past
20, 30 years, but I don't think its expanded fast enough to
encompass the technology that the black triangle has. But I've
seen it; I've seen it operate, I've seen it turn sideways, and I
watched it float for over 45 minutes, which is a long time for a
"American military technology is 50 years ahead at any given
time," says Whiffen. "I've been telling people for 10 years that
what I've seen out here is going to be common aircraft a few
decades from now."
There are two opposing camps who make Rachel a destination: they
intersected on Memorial Day weekend, as Area 51 celebrated its
Golden Anniversary. Dozens of campers came out for the one-time
Dreamland Resort event, celebrating terrestrial technology and
good old-fashioned American know-how.
German-born Joerg Arnu, a clean-cut computer programmer based in
Las Vegas, runs Dreamlandresort.com, the premier website for
those interested in the militaristic side of Area 51. "Our group
is not interested in UFO stories. We feel that we have more than
enough real evidence that whatever goes on at Area 51 has
nothing to do with ETs, but is in fact R&D for new defense
systems, mostly aircraft and anti-aircraft related," Arnu says.
"Due to the nature of tests out there, it is only natural that
occasionally some tourists or locals catch a glimpse of a test
flight or a new top-secret jet, and begin to talk about it. What
better way to hide the real deal than to muddy the waters with
stories about UFOs and alien autopsies at Area 51."
"My main interest is to bring like minds together," Bishop says,
as he stacks folding chairs into the Rachel Senior Center. "I
don't really hang my hat on any particular thing unless I'm able
to prove it. I'm from Missouri-I've got to see it to believe it.
And my scientific background makes me want to prove these
things. My position is that I'm merely looking for the truth. I
just returned from the boundary line [of the base], and the
security is so strong, and so aggressive, they're protecting
something. And what ever it is, they're protecting it very
aggressively. I'd like to know what that is."
[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://www.uforeview.net
for the lead]
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