It all started as a joke on Facebook, but Friday hundreds of travelers marched to a top-secret military complex across the barren wasteland of Rachel, Nevada, in hopes of finding alien life. That was the plan at least. They wanted to raid Area 51.
Back in June, Facebook user Matty Roberts created a gag event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” which invited alien enthusiasts from around the world to visit the U.S. military base where many conspiracy theorists believe the government is hiding extraterrestrial life.
The event began early in the morning at 3 a.m., as dozens showed up to the gates of Area 51 sporting meme-related outfits and alien masks, according to The New York Times.
While many feared a “humanitarian disaster,” as many thought the participants would actually attempt to break into the area, the reality was a bit different.
Adrian Marsh, who attends Johnson County Community College, said he saw several interesting people gathering at the base’s entrance while watching a livestream.
"There was a guy dressed as Buzz Lightyear, a guy walking around with a cat in his shirt and someone who caught a desert lizard and was just walking around with it," Marsh said.
While thousands of people attempt to party with aliens in Nevada, 1,500 miles away, KU students react to the whole ordeal.
Ruby Kate Lester, a freshman from Denver, said she is interested in Area 51’s secrets.
“We haven’t explored everything yet, but we haven’t even explored our oceans either, so I’m open to the idea,” Lester said. “I'm more interested in seeing what they actually keep in Area 51 if anyone gets in.”
She said she first heard about the event through social media, and she thought it was a joke.
"I heard that it was actually real. Then everybody started going nuts on every social media outlet," Lester said. "Then everybody started bringing it up everywhere."
Tristan Burns, a freshman studying journalism, reacted to the seriousness of the event.
“I think it’s one big meme,” Burns said. “If you're going, I'd say expect to be disappointed at what you're going to find. I feel like people have really high expectations for it.”
The event sparked both controversy and curiosity across the internet as the desire to unearth one of mankind’s biggest secrets was enough for thousands to flock to the small rural town to “see them aliens.” The issue was that it asked people to infiltrate a highly-guarded military base.
The classified test site is off-limits to the public, and those who trespass are arrested or fined.
It was more than three months ago since the initial post, and things have gotten complicated — and dangerous.
With the lack of clear organization and the creator himself formally cancelling the event, nobody knew what to expect.
The numbers of those interested have dwindled, but many posts on Reddit show images of plane tickets and window seat photographs from people planning to go.
Rebecca Worth, a sophomore studying elementary education, said she doubts that many will actually show up.
“People in Kansas aren’t flying out to Nevada,” Worth said. “But if people are determined, people are determined.”
Though meant to be a joke, the event attracted the attention of the U.S. Air Force, who said they are aware of the event, and those who enter may face deadly consequences.
“The U.S. military would shut that down real fast,” Worth said.
Lexi Mitchell, a junior ROTC member studying molecular, cellular and developmental biology, said she doubts the military would intervene at all.
“It doesn't really pertain to the military whatsoever,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s more of a police problem. We wouldn’t do anything with that.”
While many are advised to take the safer option of attending “Alienstock,” a music festival in Las Vegas created for Area-51 raiders, the host town of Rachel is not supportive of the event.
According to a 2010 census, the town of Rachel has approximately 60 people and though comedic in intent, the town is taking this event seriously.
Guards were stationed nearby to stop any actual intrusion. Hundreds more visitors are expected to descend upon the desert until Sunday, Sept. 22, to attend one of two music festivals. The first is “Alienstock” and the second is an Area 51-themed party in Las Vegas, where Rachel residents advised people go to instead.