11 Things you never knew about Area 51
For over half a century, Area 51 has been regarded with suspicion by almost all those who have heard of it. And that's no surprise, seeing as the US government still haven't told us very much about the site - nor have they always been incredibly forthright in dispelling the various alien rumours that surround it.
However, despite its covert status, there are some things we know about Area 51. Some of them we've known for a while, and others have only recently come out. Either way, if you're itching for more details on the secretive site, then look no further...
1. It used to be known as 'DREAMLAND'
Somehow, this name makes the place sound even more suspect than "Area 51". It was allegedly named this after an Edgar Allan Poe poem by the same title, in which there is a line: "the traveler, traveling through it, may not-dare not openly view it; Never its mysteries are exposed, to the weak human eye unclosed." It also earned the nickname "Paradise Ranch" at another point in its lifespan - though this was to make it more appealing to people who were sent to work there.
2. It's since been renamed to Nevada National Security Site
Officially, that is. Everyone else still knows it as Area 51 - and it got that name from designations on Nevada Test Site maps from the 1950s. "But what were they testing?" you ask. Well, that's easy: nuclear weapons, purportedly. Hundreds of them - many of which were above ground.
3. The CIA didn't acknowledge it existed until 2013
Area 51 was probably one of the worst-kept military secrets in history in this regard, because everyone knew about it. The CIA was forced to admit it was real just five years ago, though, as a declassified document about the U-2 spy plane programme made many references to the site.
4. Over half of American UFO reports from the '50s to the '60s were accounted for
Sorry guys, but most unidentified flying objects turned out to be perfectly normal occurrences - and many of them were actually the aforementioned U-2 planes. However, many still remain unexplained. This could be because the people that saw them were hallucinating or making it up, or because what actually happened was just a different secret military operation, or because there really were aliens, and we still aren't being told the whole truth.
5. Area 51 didn't really get its extraterrestrial reputation until the late 1980s
In the '80s, a man called Robert Lazar claimed in a TV interview that he worked near Area 51 reverse-engineering crashed UFOs. He was later found to have fabricated his story (well, duh), but the site's reputation has always stuck nonetheless.
6. It used to be really, really boring
The first people who lived at and worked on the site only had access to a single cement tennis court and a tiny bowling alley for entertainment. There was no TV, and radio signals only reached the location at night on account of the mountains surrounding the area.
7. The Roswell Incident was a U.S. government 'cover-up'
But not in the way you think. Yes, the government lied about the origins of the "crashed ship", claiming that it was a weather balloon, but it definitely wasn't alien in origin. In fact, it was a top-secret balloon called "Project Mogul" that was designed to detect nuclear bomb testing in the Soviet Union.
8. Two civilian contractors once died there
Two men passed away after inhaling toxic chemicals at the site, and their wives unsuccessfully sued the government for causing their premature deaths. Apparently, US environmental exposure laws don't apply to Area 51 as they do to everywhere else.
9. Space equipment for lunar landings was tested there
But only in the sense that they did test runs on the site. Various pieces of space equipment, including rovers and life support technology, were tested in and around the restricted location. The moon landing seen in 1969 was the real deal, however.
10. Today, it's apparently used for training purposes
From what the CIA has admitted to, we know that aircraft crews are trained in combat scenarios at the base, and new planes/technologies are sometimes trialled there too. In the past, at least, the area has been used to develop new aerial vehicles such as helicopters and unmanned drones, as well as some secret gadgets that probably never saw the light of day.
11. You really don't wanna trespass
If you're caught sneaking past the guards or ducking under any barriers, you could get arrested. The punishment is usually a $1,000 fine, a six-month prison sentence, or even both.
As far as we know, then, Area 51 has nothing to do with little green men or top secret UFOs. It does, however, have some terrestrial secrets it doesn't want us to find out about. Will we ever find out what they are? Well, maybe one day - but, until then - it doesn't seem worth the trespassing risk to find out.