Picture in your head hordes of complete strangers rallying mid-September at dawn break in the middle of a Nevada desert to storm the Area 51 entrance in pursuit of aliens.
It’s a preposterous idea concocted on social networks as a prank, but its popularity spread like wildfire. This Monday, the tongue-in-cheek Facebook “Storm Area 51” rallying page counted over a million signees.
The US military personnel has finally responded to the situation, stating that they’re observing the development.
As told to the NPR by an Air Force spokesperson, “The U.S. Air Force is aware of the Facebook event encouraging people to 'Storm Area 51'.”
The official named the area as “Nevada Test and Training Range”, explaining that it provides “flexible, realistic and multidimensional battlespace to test and develop tactics as well as conduct advanced training in support of U.S. national interests”, adding that "any attempt to illegally access the area is highly discouraged."
As the Facebook page in question states, the idea is to use a “Naruto run” to access the facility while moving “faster than their bullets”. The call to action is a literal “let’s see them aliens”.
Naruto run refers to a popular Japanese anime character, Naruto Uzumaki, whose sprinting style involves pointing his chest forward and arms jutting behind his back.
This is just another instance of an internet joke gone too far, right?
Connie West, co-owner of the local tavern and motel Little A’Le’Inn (little alien) told NPR that it might sound like a joke but “there apparently are some people who want to check out the joke”.
The Alamo, Nevada, motel is the closest thing to a lodging near the Area 51, about 26 miles away from the runway itself.
Ever since the Facebook page was created, Connie’s phone has been ringing off the hook, with everyone wanting to book a room ahead of the event. Her motel has only 10 rooms but they’re all full for the September 20 event, and Connie also says almost all of those guests asked about the gathering.
West is also the owner of approximately 30 acres nearby where campers can stay for a night for $15. About 60 persons have decided to raise a tent on September 20, something Connie never remembers seeing on a day not related to an organized gathering such as a bike competition, marathon or race that can happen in the desert surrounding the inn.
“I think they're stupid if they think they're going to get to the test site,” said Connie. “Apparently, people are taking it seriously. I’m gonna capitalize on it.”
In this instance, she meant selling baubles at the motel’s gift shop, such as coffee cups, bumper stickers, T-shirts and keychains, featuring a wink to the obvious.
“All featuring aliens and/or Area 51,” said Connie.
The infamous base in Area 51 is off limits to the public, though tourists still pour in from all over the world, meaning outfits like West attempting to capitalize on the alien craze aren’t uncommon. Even the state of Nevada jumped into the fray, renaming the road “Extraterrestrial Highway” because of how many UFO reports there were from drivers.
Those fond of conspiracy theories have been harping on about Area 51 for several decades, proposing the idea that US government uses the facility to hide crashed alien vehicles and aliens. CIA went on to release a classified report in 2013, which stated spy planes were driven at the site. The report was dated 1992. Officials have confirmed that Area 51 is an actual government facility but have stayed mum on the details.
The New York Times published a story in May, describing “unexplained aerial phenomena” under classified guidance, which stoked new theories about aliens stowed away at Area 51.
It’s hard to estimate how many of the million persons who signed up for the event know that it’s not a serious event or how many of them would want to trek to a Nevada desert but most comments on the page seem to be in on the joke.
"We need vape lords to create a smokescreen to block out satellite and camera images,” wrote one Nick Prafke on the page.
The creator of the page is a 20-year-old Californian who only wanted to identify himself as “Val”. He wants to stay anonymous because he’s aware what kind of harassment comes with worldwide publicity.
Val explained via Facebook Messenger that he thought “it would be a funny idea for a meme page”, adding that after that “it took off like wildfire” and that “most people seem to understand” that the page is satirical.
Val added that he will most likely be present for the event but not for the stated purpose (trying to storm the facility).
In his words, he’s gotten some pretty great people contacting him to schedule a more educational variation of the event, though he refused to share any details. However, he did say it’s unlikely to involve Naruto running through the desert at dawn break.