Area 51 – Not of this Earth

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From any point within the "city limits," the entire town is visible. Save for a few outlying ranches and cabins, it consists of nothing more than trailers and shoddily-built frame structures lining Highway 375. At the southern edge of town, completely opposite the Little A'Le'Inn, is the Area 51 Research Center. Despite what the owners and ‘experts' there may tell you, this is nothing more than a tourist trap, a vending outpost that just happens to dispense ‘confidential' military and extraterrestrial knowledge in generous (and expensive) doses. There's something less charming, and more serious (perhaps delusional) about the Research Center, and it starts with the junked pile of scrap metal and derelict aircraft parts scattered beside the Center's front door. It carries over into the research trailer, as the denizens dispense "watch the skies" hoopla with a stiff upper lip that makes the whole scene ridiculous.

An occasional vehicle, usually a pickup truck complete with gun rack and dog in tow, will blow through the town, shaking up the dust that invariably settles on the road. The only other visitors, aside from the ranchers and tourists, are the occasional ominous dense desert fog, and perhaps aliens from outer space.

The setting begs the inevitable question: what do the people of Rachel think? It's impossible to speak for the town as a whole, but the overwhelming impression is this: they do believe. And they have every right to believe: these residents have seen more than their fair share of bizarre occurrences.

Eerie lights and deafening roars are known to sweep through the desert in the dead of night. One resident told of a strange beam of light piercing an iron door at a local café, illuminating the doorjamb. And then there was the heavily-publicized case of the two Las Vegas women who drove up to Rachel to investigate the UFO rumors. Their car became lost in the dusty, mirage-like maze of dirt roads that snake through the mountain ranges, and they came up missing. Their car was found days later, burned-out and abandoned. The women were never seen again.

For years the government swore that Area 51 didn't exist. Military brass did their damnedest to prevent stories of the top-secret compound from leaking out into the open. Gradually, however, the cover was blown. A disgruntled Nellis employee here, a wayward tourist there, and the advent of the Internet all helped spell doom for the base's strict secrecy.

The result was an unparalleled media frenzy which put the peculiar little burg of Rachel on the map forever. In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the alleged crash of an alien craft outside Roswell, New Mexico (the remains of that crash, alien theorists say, are still kept in the hermetically-sealed bunker at Nellis), Rachel played host to a slew of UFO-related festivals and conferences. Television came scrambling to capitalize on the phenomenon: Montell Williams, Larry King Live, and even a PBS ‘Sightings' special were filmed in and around Rachel. Things would never be the same, for alien-seekers and military officials alike.

The Travises, and their charming Inn, represent just one facet of this tiny, remarkable hamlet. On the outskirts of town, just off the Extraterrestrial Highway, is an Area 51 landmark, known to conspiracy buffs the world over.

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