"I certainly believe in aliens in space. They may not look like us, but I have very strong feelings that they have advanced beyond our mental capabilities...I think some highly secret government UFO investigations are going on that we don't know about, and probably never will unless the Air Force discloses them."
-- former Arizona Senator, Barry Goldwater
What do dead, bloated cows, a lack of radio stations and an absence of telephone poles have in common?
These disparate elements can be found near Area 51, perhaps the most Top Secret military facility in the world.
During our travels, we learned the pair of deceased, turgid bovine we passed in the middle of the highway was resultant of a free roaming policy, an 18 wheeler and its groggy operator.
A possible high speed chase emanating from Area 51, involving a red Hummer and a large, white Bronco, piqued our interest. A photo we shot of an anomalous, aerial craft during our desert sojourn, keeps us pondering to this day. Three mini-tornadoes simultaneously skipping across arid caliche only heightened our experience.
For a place in the middle of nowhere, there sure is a lot goin' on near Dreamland; a.k.a. Area 51.
On the itinerary of any serious Groom Lake explorer is the renowned "black mailbox." Now beige, this postal drop demarcates a spot where UFO hunters, at one point, gathered nightly, searching the skies over Area 51 for enigmatic activity. Located along Route 375, state-named the Extraterrestrial Highway, between mile markers 29 and 30, the original mailbox was supplanted with a more contemporary version for practical reasons.
Contrary to misconception, the letter receptacle is not the property of Area 51, but rather belongs to one Steve Medlin, a local rancher owning the sole farmstead in Tikaboo Valley. Prior to changing out the old mailbox, our herdsman friend often discovered tourists rifling through his correspondences, hunting for Top Secret documents. Allegedly, Steve's letters frequently came delivered sporting fresh bullet holes. The latest version of the famed mailbox is impervious to gunfire, complete with a lock to deter curious researchers. The original black letter drop was auctioned off for $1,000 in '96 to a UFO fanatic.
A dirt thoroughfare leading south from the landmark is aptly named Mailbox Road, and intersects after five miles with Groom Lake Road, which leads to the fabled base.
Area 51 was the testing facility for the U-2 spy plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117 Nighthawk, the Bird of Prey and perhaps even Bruce Willis' latest hairpiece. It's been surmised Dreamland is also responsible for the development of a Top Secret aircraft known as the Aurora, which purportedly reaches velocities in excess of five times the speed of sound.
According to tale, the skies above Area 51 were so filled with inexplicable craft during the late '80s and early '90s, that UFO hunters were able to view spectacular atmospheric shows, nightly, from the black mailbox.
This region became popular after Robert "Bob" Lazar, an alleged physicist, claimed to have been contracted out by Area 51 to reverse engineer extraterrestrial spacecraft. According to Lazar, during his stint at S-4, a site adjacent Area 51, he'd witnessed alien vessels in flight. In addition, Robert attested to encountering an extraterrestrial entity at the base. Whether or not Bob's claims are valid is still a hot topic amongst UFOloglists. That being said, Lazar's declarations drew UFO hunters to the black mailbox like Oprah to Twinkies.
The level land around the postal drop is a good spot for skywatching. During summer months, especially on weekends, one may still encounter UFO seekers there, scanning the heavens after dark.
Should you tire of losing your paycheck on progressive slots, and hanker to witness unidentified flying objects, point your car north on Interstate 15. Veer left on Highway 93, and continue until you hit Highway 375. From there, travel northwest.
Skip those two-for-one margaritas on the Strip because you've got 120 miles of desolate asphalt ahead of you. Keep an eye out for free-roaming cattle, as these livestock may outweigh your car, and can often be found crossing the two-laner in the middle of nowhere.
© 2011. Hugh Mungus
Birnes, William J. (2004). The UFO Magazine UFO Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Single-Volume UFO Reference in Print. pp. 22-23, 188, 208-209. Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN: 0-7434-6674-8
Oesterle, Joe; Cridland, Tim. (2007). Weird Las Vegas and Nevada: Your Alternative Travel Guide to Sin City and the Silver State. p. 173. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN: 1402739400
UFO Hunters: The Complete Season Two. Prod. John Alon Walz. Perfs. Dr. Ted Acworth, Bill Birnes, James Lurie, Pat Uskert. DVD, 2007. ISBN: 1-4229-3099-8