Most visitors to Area 51 come hoping to see UFOs. It’s impossible to discuss UFOs and Area 51 without mentioning the Papoose Lake area, known as “S-4.” S-4/Papoose Lake is immediately south of Groom Lake/Area 51 and, according to reports, is the scene of the most amazing UFO-related activity the Top Secret Government is trying to keep hidden. Unfortunately, those reports are almost certainly bullshit.
The legend of S-4 began in November 1989, when a man named Bob Lazar came forward claiming he was a physicist who had worked on UFOs being tested at S-4. Lazar said the UFOs were being reverse- engineered from alien technology recovered from crashed UFOs; their power source was a mysterious “element 115” used to power antimatter reactors. He said he had seen golf balls bouncing off “gravity waves” emitted by the reactors, that he had read autopsy reports of aliens killed in UFO crashes, and that the government knew the UFOs came from Zeta Reticuli. Lazar said he held advanced degrees from MIT and Caltech, was previously a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and had been hired at S-4 as a result of a personal recommendation by Dr. Edward Teller, the developer of the hydrogen bomb.
Area 51 Map Photo Gallery
Lazar’s claims caused a sensation in Las Vegas, and he was extensively featured on local television and radio stations. His story spread like wildfire within the UFO world and got play in several supermarket tabloids. He was soon a regular on the late night talk radio circuit, and television crews came from Europe and Japan to interview him. Lazar was a persuasive speaker. He spoke authoritatively, used scientific terms and engineering jargon, and seemed familiar with military projects. He admitted there were aspects about the saucer program he didn’t know or understand. He didn’t seem like the stereotypical wildeyed UFO buff; his manner was calm, sincere, and rational.
And Lazar claimed the best places to see these UFOs being tested was near the gate of a secret facility he called Area 51. His preferred viewing spot was near a black mailbox along Highway 375 (known ever since as the Black Mailbox, even though it was later painted white). In fact, he said he had escorted people up to Area 51 and the Black Mailbox in the months before he went public, and these witnesses supported Lazar’s claims that strange lights and disc-shaped objects could be seen in the night skies near Rachel.
Unfortunately for him and those who wanted to believe his story, Lazar’s credibility soon crashed to Earth like the wrecked UFOs he claimed to have seen. The first big hit came in April 1990, when he was arrested in Las Vegas on charges of pandering for prostitution (he was later convicted). With that, some previously credulous reporters finally began looking into his past. It turned out he didn’t have degrees from MIT or Caltech, but instead had attended (but not graduated from) Pierce Community College in California. He had indeed lived near Los Alamos, but had been employed as a photo-finishing technician, not as a scientist at the national laboratory. His biggest claim to fame in Los Alamos was apparently his attempt to mount a jet engine on his Honda CRX (he had vanity license plates that read JETUBET). His record after he moved to Las Vegas raised more questions, such as the fact that he had filed for bankruptcy in 1986 as a result of a failed photo-finishing business and had married his second wife before divorcing his first.
Amazingly enough, there are still people who believe Lazar is telling the truth and such unpleasant facts were fabricated and planted as part of a campaign by the Top Secret Government to discredit him. Others believe Lazar was a patsy set up by the Top Secret Government to ridicule the whole notion of UFO tests at S-4/Area 51 and allow those tests to continue without close public scrutiny. And others believe that Lazar was just an articulate, personable con man who knew how to tell a good story to an audience eager to be fooled.
If nothing else, Lazar must be credited with launching the entire Area 51 mania. This section that you’re reading is a perverse tribute to his sense of drama and keen insight into the human need to believe in the unbelievable.
What’s There: As an American citizen, you can be arrested and imprisoned for taking a fuzzy, indistinct photograph of the Area 51 facilities from a mountaintop over 20 miles away. Fortunately, some Russians got angry and you can now buy one-meter satellite photos of the area from an American company (and the satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California).
Space Imaging, of Denver, CO, operates the IKONOS satellite and sells high-resolution photos made from space. Space Imaging includes many former military brass among its managers, and had announced that it would not sell photos of restricted military areas such as Area 51. Moreover, U.S. law prohibited U.S. companies to sell satellite photos of restricted military areas. As such, requests to Space Imaging to purchase photos of Area 51 were routinely declined.
In March 2000, Space Imaging released “before and after” photos of Chechnya after an assault by the Russian army. A few days later, the Russians released a photo of Area 51 taken in early 1998 by their SPIN-2 satellite. While the Russians did not publicly comment on why they made the Area 51 photo available, it is believed they were angry over the Chechnya photos and the release of the Area 51 photo was in retaliation. Shortly after the release of the Russian photo, Space
Imaging released its own one-meter resolution photo of Area 51 that was taken in April 2000. No reason was given for this abrupt reversal in policy (and violation of federal law), but it was clear that the Russian release (and the photo orders the Russians were receiving) must have been the major factor. Whatever the reasons for their release, these photos give us valuable new information about Area 51.