An internet joke to storm Area 51 and “see them aliens” has drawn hundreds of people to the mysterious US government facility.
Half a million people signed up to try to enter the military base in Nevada which conspiracy theorists say holds alien technology.
The event – taking place this weekend – is called Storm Area 51: They Can’t Stop All Of Us and says: “We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Centre tourist attraction and coordinate our entry… let’s see them aliens.”
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said the event was believed to have drawn about 1,500 people to two tiny desert towns close to Homey Airport.
He said the attendees were mostly well-behaved, adding: “I don’t want to jinx myself, but so far it’s gone pretty well”.
One person was arrested, and another briefly detained, on suspicion of trespassing onto the grounds of Area 51.
Two others were arrested for indecent exposure and an alcohol-related incident.
More than 150 people got close enough to get a selfie with the gates to the once-secret military base.
This is despite US Air Force warnings telling people not to try to enter the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located.
“It’s public land,” the sheriff said. “They’re allowed to go to the gate, as long as they don’t cross the boundary.”
A makeshift festival has been set up in Rachel, the Nevada town closest to Area 51, which has long been the subject of rumours involving aliens and UFOs.
One attendee, Daniel Martinez, said he was drawn by the idea of the crowds more than the base.
Mr Martinez, who drove for six hours from California to get there, said: “Here’s a big open space for people to be… One person starts something and it infects everybody with positivity.
“Anything can happen if you give people a place to be.”
No serious incidents connected to the event have been reported at either Rachel or Hiko, another town close to Area 51.
Michael Ian Borer, a University of Nevada sociologist who researches pop culture and paranormal activity, called the event “a perfect blend of interest in aliens and the supernatural, government conspiracies, and the desire to know what we don’t know”.
Mr Borer said: “People desire to be part of something, to be ahead of the curve.
“Area 51 is a place where normal, ordinary citizens can’t go. When you tell people they can’t do something, they just want to do it more.”
Eric Holt, the Lincoln County emergency manager overseeing preparations, said he believed authorities could handle 30,000 visitors in Rachel and Hiko.
However one neighbour was worried about trouble.
Joerg Arnu, a Rachel resident, said: “It will get cold at night. They’re not going to find what they’re looking for, and they are going to get angry.”
Earlier this week, two Dutch YouTubers who apparently wanted to film Area 51 pleaded guilty to misdemeanour trespass and illegal parking.
Govert Sweep, 21, and Ties Granzier, 20, were arrested on 10 September in a car inside the Nevada National Security Site near Mercury – more than 20 miles from Area 51.
They were sentenced to three days in jail and had to pay nearly $2,300 (£1,800) each in fines.
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