- In June, a college student created a Facebook event encouraging people to “storm” Area 51 in September to “see them aliens.”
- But things spiraled out when over a million people responded.
- The event was blown out of proportion, the page’s creator Matty Roberts has since said.
- What happened next can only be described as internet chaos. There were copycat events, plans for an event called “Alienstock” which drew Fyre Festival comparisons, and recently two YouTubers got arrested outside of Nevada.
- Here’s a timeline of how the joke was simply taken too far.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
For a few brief, if glorious, months this year, it seemed there would finally be an answer to a question plaguing hundreds, if not thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people: Are there aliens at Area 51? And if so, can we see them?
It all started with the viral Facebook event, “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The event’s description seemingly indicated that it was all a joke.
“We will all meet up in Rural Nevada and coordinate our parties,” it says. “If we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.”
(A “Naruto run,” for the uninitiated, refers to the popular anime, in which a person runs very fast with their torso forward, and arms back.)
But as the event, which was initially supposed to take place on September 20, grew in popularity, concerns began to mount. Here’s a timeline of the controversial event which nearly spiraled into a disaster of Frye Festival proportions.
June: Matty Roberts creates the event out of sheer boredom.
- Barry King/Getty Images
In June, Matty Roberts, a 21-year-old college student from Bakersfield, California, created the Facebook event.
In a September interview with the LA Times, Roberts said it began as a joke. And at first, the group was just a place where people shared memes.
But soon things changed.
“I sparked a movement while I was bored at 2 a.m.,” as he puts it.
July 15: The event gets mass media coverage, garners a warning from the Air Force, and generates really funny memes.
As Roberts told the LA Times, the Facebook event had a meteoric rise to popularity. By mid-July, nearly a million people had expressed some level of interest on Facebook.
And where there’s online interest, there are memes. The event spawned one of the best meme cycles of the summer -here’s some of the best from way back when.
— ????????Paco442???????? (@Paco_442) July 12, 2019
Me making sure my Alien from Area 51 has all of the love and affection it deserves pic.twitter.com/P4Fy6sf9aG
— chel$ea ???? (@chhlss) July 15, 2019
— #Area51 Memes ???? (@AreaMemes51) July 15, 2019
As things reached a fever pitch, the Air Force caught wind of the so-called “storm.” A spokesperson told Insider’s Ellen Ioanes that people should stay far, far away from the base.
“The Nevada Test and Training Range is an area where the Air Force tests and trains combat aircraft. As a matter of practice, we do not discuss specific security measures, but any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Ethan Stroker told Insider.
July 19: There’s a copycat event for the Bermuda Triangle.
As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And it didn’t take long for a copycat event to arise. The event, “Storm The Bermuda Triangle, It Can’t Swallow All Of Us,” was launched with the Area 51 event in mind, the event’s organizer Anthony Dominick Carnovale previously told Insider.
“Obviously we’re not gonna rush into the water and start searching for monsters in the Bermuda Triangle,” he said. “The name of the event was more of an attention-grabber”
Instead, he planned to host a festival in Miami, Florida, from October 1 to 3, hoping to raise money for cancer and wildlife research.
July 28: The small towns around Area 51 started to worry.
Meanwhile, in Nevada, the small towns around Area 51 began to worry about the “raid” on the base. In late July, residents of Rachel, Nevada, which has a population of 54, started to worry, the Associated Press reported at the time.
With just 184 hotel rooms in the county, Lincoln County spokesperson Ben Rowley wondered where the more than 1 million respondents on Facebook might stay.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said that even 50 visitors could cause chaos and traffic. The town of Rachel has no stations or grocery stores, BuzzFeed News reported.
“I think this started out as a joke but there may be enough people taking it seriously and it could be a problem,” Lee said. “Someone is going to get hurt and people may go to jail. It’s not anything to joke about.”
August 21: Concerns over the Alienstock festival were raised.
For the next month, concerns continued to build, especially as a festival called “Alienstock” was organized by Roberts, Frank Dimaggio, and Connie West, the owner of the hotel, the Little A’Le’Inn.
The festival billed “live music, arts, and camping under the stars” as a part of “an experience that celebrates aliens and the unknown,” BuzzFeed News reported.
West told the Associated Press in August that over 10,000 people were expected to attend the event.
Lincoln County Commission Chairman Varlin Higbee advised attendees against attempting to enter Area 51.
“We don’t want them going down to government property; it will probably be blocked off,” Higbee said. “We don’t want civilian people in contact with the military at all. That will get ugly.”
And although Alienstock was spawned from a meme-laden Facebook page Higbee said they had no choice but to take it seriously and began emergency preparations.
September 10: 2 YouTubers were arrested outside of Area 51.
On September 10, two YouTubers from the Netherlands were arrested near the base. Ties Granzier, 20, and Govert Sweep, 21, were found trespassing at the Nevada National Security Site, a government nuclear testing facility close to Area 51, on Tuesday, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office said.
- Nye County Sheriff’s Office
The pair, who flew to the US to attend the viral “Storm Area 51” event, had blatantly ignored “No Trespassing” signs.
Trespassing at a military base can come with a punishment of six months in prison, a $500 fine, or both, according to the US Department of Justice.
September 13: Alienstock is canceled after Fyre Festival comparisons.
On September 13, Roberts and Dimaggio withdrew from West’s Alienstock. The pair told media outlets they were pulling their support from Alienstock because they were concerned it was lacking resources needed for a safe event, like food, water, and security.
In a statement, they said they were not interested in hosting another Fyre Festival, a reference to a doomed music festival held in the Bahamas in 2017.
- Barry King/Getty Images
“Due to the lack of infrastructure, poor planning, risk management and blatant disregard for the safety of the expected 10,000+ Alienstock attendees, we decided to pull the plug on the festival,” the Alienstock website says. “We are not interested in, nor will we tolerate any involvement in a FYRE FEST 2.0. We foresee a possible humanitarian disaster in the works, and we can’t participate in any capacity at this point.”
Instead, they are throwing their support behind a free event held in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 19 appropriately called the Area 51 Celebration.
West, for her part, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she still plans to host her event in Rachel, as she has secured 20 bands and has all the proper paperwork.
“So, yeah, it’s going forward,” West told the Review-Journal. “We’re going to throw the best party that we can.”
- Read more:
- 2 YouTubers were arrested near Area 51 after traveling from the Netherlands for the viral ‘Storm Area 51’ Facebook event
- ‘Yang for Area 51’: Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said he would ‘love’ to declassify Area 51 if he could to promote ‘government transparency’
- Even though the viral Facebook event organizing the Area 51 raid is a joke, the hotel right by the site is completely booked for the day of the event
- Nearly 2 million people have signed up to storm Area 51. The US’ first ‘UFO’ controversy turned out to be a top-secret military project.