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Half a million people signed up to storm Area 51. What happens if they actually show up?

  • Author: Michael Brice-Saddler, The Washington Post
  • Updated: July 13
  • Published July 13

File - A car moves along the Extraterrestrial Highway near Rachel, Nevada. (AP Laura Rauch, File)

Should everything go according to plan, more than half a million strangers will gather in a remote Nevada town in mid-September, united by a common goal: raid Area 51 in the wee hours of the morning - using a strength-in-numbers approach to reveal any extraterrestrial treasures stashed within the notoriously clandestine government base.

Or, put more simply, "Lets see them aliens."

By Friday evening, more than 540,000 people from around the world had signed up to attend the joke Facebook event: "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us," - and just as many had indicated they were "interested." Planned for Sept. 20 in Amargosa Valley, an hour's drive away from Las Vegas, the event page is currently filled with thousands of posts theorizing the best way to break into the top-secret facility.

"We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry," reads a brief description of the event, which was created by popular video game streamer SmyleeKun. "If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets." The latter part of the description references anime ninja Naruto Uzumaki, whose notorious head forward, arms-behind-the-back running technique has led some to believe it makes them run faster. (It doesn't).

Most people discussing the raid, including various news outlets that have written about the Facebook event, recognize it's not intended to be taken seriously. But what about those who don't? It is not clear exactly how many people, if anyone, will actually show up to lead a blitzkrieg on the Nellis Air Force Base Complex, which houses the land containing Area 51.

Some who’ve posted on the event’s page in recent days have considered that possibility.

"P. S. Hello U.S. government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan," wrote user Jackson Barnes, following his rather descriptive proposed game plan. "I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the Internet. I'm not responsible if people decide to actually storm area 51."

Speaking with The Washington Post on Friday afternoon, U.S. Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews said officials were aware of the Facebook event. When asked how authorities might respond to ardent explorers who may attempt to enter Area 51 in September, McAndrews said she could not elaborate on specific plans or security procedures at the base.

She did, however, issue a warning to those itching to try their luck.

"[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train America armed forces," McAndrews said. "The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets."

The facility has long been a source of public intrigue, yet for decades, Americans were told Area 51 didn't exist at all. That notion was officially debunked in 2013 when the CIA confirmed its existence through documents obtained in a public records request by George Washington University.

Yes, Area 51 is definitely real - and even though the report indicated it was nothing more than an aircraft-testing facility and mentioned nothing about extraterrestrial life, the revelation gave credence to conspiracy theories alleging the government uses the base to hide aliens and their spacecraft. The CIA has since published information about test flights that took place there, and the alien aspects in many of those theories have been debunked.

But in 2017 the Pentagon confirmed the existence of a $22 million government program to analyze "anomalous aerospace threats" - a.k.a. UFOs - giving alien-obsessed kooks fresh fodder for their conjectures.

Though the facility is not publicly accessible, the area around Area 51 is a popular tourist destination, sprinkled with alien-themed motels, museums and restaurants. (In 1996, Nevada renamed state Route 375 to "Extraterrestrial Highway") But those who venture too far into the land surrounding the base are greeted with warning signs indicating they could be fined or jailed for trespassing and taking photos.

Some signs suggest those who enter could be subject to "deadly force."

In 2014, a tour bus carting four passengers near Area 51 inadvertently drove through the warning signs and entered the base, Las Vegas Now reported. The truck was stopped by men in "military garb," and everyone in the vehicle was threatened with a misdemeanor conviction and $650 fine. The incident was caught on video, making it obvious the tour's passengers thought it was all part of the experience. Only the driver was charged.

Of course, those who say they will participate in the September raid know their mission won’t be easy. Some have offered their own plans and even schematics detailing how the group will take on the base.

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