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October 20, 2014

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Top secret! Atomic Testing Museum pulls back the curtain on Area 51

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Steve Marcus

Check out Area 51: Myth or Reality … before someone or something makes it disappear.

The Details

Area 51: Myth or Reality
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.; $6 (plus $11-$14 museum admission)
Atomic Testing Museum, 755 E. Flamingo Road, 794-5151

Well, this is interesting. There’s an alien lying on a hospital bed and a larger-than-life wall-sized photo of Lonnie Hammargren dressed in medical scrubs behind it. The implication here is that Dr. Hammargren, former Lieutenant Governor and neurosurgeon, conducted alien autopsies. It’s a little joke thrown in by the Atomic Testing Museum for its Area 51: Myth or Reality exhibit.

Naturally, a Department of Energy-mounted exhibit of its legendary desert laboratory northwest of Las Vegas is going to have fun with extra-terrestrial fascination. Given the intrigue of Area 51, it makes sense they’d tip a hat to little green men and flying saucers through references to UFO sightings throughout history, newspaper and radio clips of the 1947 crash in Roswell, New Mexico, and even a George Knapp room.

But following a section on outer space and the SETI program, Area 51 gets to the meat: the U.S. government’s once-classified aircraft and projects, including videos of test pilots discussing their experiences in supersonic speed and reverse engineering of Soviet crafts. On display are an A-12 pressure suit worn by pilots, tires from the A-12 and scale models, including one of Avrocar, a flying saucer built because the U.S. government thought that Soviets had built them. There’s obviously no reference to Josef Stalin’s Soviet saucer filled with surgically deformed children, as disclosed in Annie Jacobsen’s 2011 much-discussed book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base. As with everything regarding Area 51, the truth and/or complete fictional absurdity has a classified shelf life.

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