Rachel, Nevada: UFO enthusiasts drawn by alien-themed festivities have poured into rural Nevada near the Area 51 US military base, but fears of a mass raid on the remote site or a public safety crisis proved unfounded, with only five people arrested.
More than 3000 out-of-towners ventured on Thursday and Friday, US time, to the desert region around the secretive US Air Force installation long rumoured to house government secrets about extraterrestrial life and spaceships.
Little A’Le’Inn owner Connie West speaks on the phone outside of the bar and restaurant in Rachel, near Area 51, Nevada.Credit:AP
The pilgrimage and two festivals welcoming the visitors were organised after a Facebook user jokingly exhorted readers to "storm" Area 51 on September 20 "to see them aliens".
It followed the US Navy's admission that videos taken by its pilots were indeed of mysterious objects.
But it refused to call them UFOs, instead naming them "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)".
Two videos emerged in December 2017 that showed US Navy pilots encountering mysterious spherical objects that appeared, at first glance, to move through the air in ways that baffled experts. A third, released in March 2018, depicted a similar encounter.
People visit the Alien Research Centre in Hiko, Nevada, near Area 51.Credit:AP
That the eerie footage had emerged along with revelations about a secret and since-shelved Pentagon division known as the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program did not exactly staunch speculation that a less-earthly culprit was to blame for these "incursions". On YouTube, the footage has been watched millions of times.
And so it came to the steady stream of cars that continued rolling into the county near Area 51 on Friday for events that were scheduled to run through the weekend.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said the region's guests were largely well behaved, with just a few exceptions. "I don't want to jinx myself, but so far it's gone pretty well," he said.
Three people were arrested on suspicion of trespassing onto the grounds of Area 51, Lee said. Another was arrested for indecent exposure after urinating near an entrance to the base, and a fifth for an alcohol-related incident, Lee said.
The Air Force had issued a stern warning to the public not to trespass on the installation, which it said is used to test aircraft and train personnel.
Area 51 had long been shrouded in mystery, stoking conspiracy theories that it housed the remnants of a flying saucer and the bodies of its alien crew from a supposed unidentified flying object crash in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.
The US 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.
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