The Big Myth About Area 51 You Need To Stop Believing

Area 51 has been a hotbed of suspicion for years, but there's a good reason why some of its so-called "myths" were kept as closely-guarded secrets for so long. The top-secret base is depicted in pop culture as a place associated with aliens and UFOs. Given its array of security cameras, guarded outposts, and warning signs galore, it's no surprise why many are curious about what goes on within Area 51's fortified walls. However, the initial reason for its existence was to serve as testing grounds for experimental aircraft, away from prying eyes, according to declassified documents (via National Security Archive).

Before it was known as the mysterious Area 51, officials attracted workers by calling it "Paradise Ranch." Sure enough, the large swathe of empty land in Groom Lake eventually became a venue for clandestine operations, many of which were deliberately kept from the public due to the ongoing tensions with the Soviet Union at the time. In 2013, a series of declassified documents were revealed to the public courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act. Fortunately, these not only helped shed some light on the many mysteries surrounding Area 51, they also showed the lengths the government would go through to keep the general public out of the loop.

An Area 51 myth turned mundane

For some of Area 51's biggest myths, the reason was a lot more terrestrial in nature: war. During the 1950s, the US Government began development of a stealth aircraft, which came to be known as the Lockheed U-2. It wasn't a gravity-defying alien saucer, but rather, a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft designed to reach more than 60,000 feet to avoid radar detection, according to NSA declassified documents. One of its missions was to fly over the Soviet Union to gather intel during the Cold War. According to the declassified information, increased activity took place in Area 51 due to the construction and test flights of the spy plane.

To maintain its secrecy, the CIA only referred to the U-2 aircraft as "articles," while using the word "drivers" when addressing its pilots. However, its test flights had an unintended impact — they resulted in a significant increase in UFO reports, according to the NSA. The spy plane's capability of reaching unusually high altitudes alerted commercial airliners, which at the time, only flew as high as 20,000 feet. Furthermore, the U-2's sleek, silver design would often reflect sunlight, making it appear like a glowing foreign object to any onlooker. Eventually, the US Air Force established Operation Blue Book to gather all reports regarding UFOs, and were able to debunk most of them as being rather mundane.

The truth is already out

Based on the declassified U-2 papers, Blue Book investigators were able to dismiss the "majority" of UFO reports by cross-referencing them with U-2 flight logs. However, the investigators weren't allowed to reveal this to reporters. In the end, the document concluded that the U-2 and its successor, the A-12 Oxcart, were responsible for more than half of the UFO reports from the '50s into the '60s. Other activities in Area 51 included testing secretly obtained Soviet MiG planes to find their weaknesses.

Considering the nature of these tests, paired with the ongoing Cold War, it was only natural for a base focused on developing stealth technology to conceal its practices from public knowledge. In fact, it's not just the public, as historian Dwayne Day told that efforts were also made to hide its secrets from Soviet satellites that might be recording the base's activities from above. Needless to say, when it comes to preventing Area 51's secrets from falling into the wrong hands, the government certainly had a lot on its plate.

Are there still Area 51 myths that remain unsolved?

If Area 51's mystery is nothing more than secret spy planes made to infiltrate enemy territory, then what about the iconic flying saucers? While the Air Force did develop a secret saucer-type vehicle during the Cold War, it wasn't exactly in Area 51, nor was it successful. Dubbed "Project 1794," the AVRO Vertical Take-Off and Landing flying saucer was intended to reach heights of over 100,000 feet, while traveling over 2,900 mph (via LiveScience). It reportedly cost about $3 million to build, but was canceled in 1961 due to instability issues. Of course, this doesn't mean there aren't any similar vehicles still lurking in one of Area 51's massive hangars.

According to aerospace historian Peter Merlin via Fox News, Area 51 is responsible for providing jobs for over 2,000 people. Merlin explained that whatever goes on behind the base's enclosed borders can't be divulged, not because they may be housing aliens, but rather, the nation's defenses depend on its operations.  Whether or not the public will be notified of any other technological breakthroughs that occur in Area 51 is anybody's guess. Given the previously concealed documents that are now out in the open, perhaps the public will learn more about the cutting-edge hardware, when the time is right.