Despite its relatively long history in pop culture, the CIA only officially acknowledged the existence of Area 51 for the first time in June of 2013, in histories of the Lockheed U-2 and A-12 projects that were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted in 2005.

To this date, it’s unclear what goes inside the base. Some say that it’s simply for the testing of experimental aircraft, others say it’s for reverse engineering the technology of the US‘ enemies. Others yet say that it’s for interrogating the aliens that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.

It’s kind of like our own mysterious Pine Gap base, which we discuss in S2E13 of our unsolved mysteries podcast, All Aussie Mystery Hour:

Whatever is it that they’re doing in Area-51, if something of any great significance is being conducted within the confines of Area 51 AKA Paradise Ranch AKA Dreamland, there’s no reason it should be shrouded in mystery and secrecy, which is why we’ve decided to crack this case open.

No, we did not get testimony from a former employee. No, we didn’t send a reporter in (I only drove up to the gates last year and even then was too nervous to even take a photo). We’ve pieced together what we can from Area 51’s reviews on Google Maps.

A quick note about our methodology: obviously there is no location on Google Maps called ‘Area 51’. There are, however, marked places for Groom Lake (the salt lake on which the base is built), and for Tonopah Test Range Airport (a not-so-top-secret airport northwest of Area 51’s Homey Airport that conspiracy theorists believe is also linked to Area 51). And boy, do both of these have reviews.

First, we must address the naysayers. In a five-star review, Emily says that the base is just a front:

i loved it the camp sight is very roomy (for one person ) i like it here but dont be stupid leave area 51 alone i mean it is just a front ok ? the real testing gose on under ground i shuld know

What expertise she’s referring to that explains why she should know is unclear.

Giving the place four stars, Itzel seems of the belief that Area 51 is nothing more than a place for the USAF to figure out how to make better planes by copying others:

Love the fact you reverse engineer Russian and Chinese aircraft here because the F-35 is garbage

Aliens and secret aircraft technology are of no consequence to Joshua, who seemed to have a wonderful time at Area 51 (five stars):

this place is amazing i bought my new car from here

Michael, in a glowing five-star review, contends that the real action is at a different base and that the action isn’t actually aliens:

area 6 is around the corner and no aliens it was us all along nuff said different time same place different country

In addition to some friendly advice, Anselm gives the base a harsh one-star review and suggests that the secret isn’t aliens, it’s something even bigger (my money is on classified Bigfoot research):

Lol people say this place has aliens well the government said publicly that area 51 exist but has nothing to do with aliens. The truth is that area 51 is a “secret ” hiding an even bigger secret BTW you can’t get in a sniper will shoot you before you see a molecule of the base.

Chris gives the place one star and suggests, based on the evidence, an absence of aliens:

Didn’t see aliens….

David (five stars) is not at all troubled by top-secret government programs but, instead, wants to know why the secrets of Area 51 can be contained but we can’t keep THE BLOODY IMMIGRANTS out:

amazing – we can protect this area with all our might but yet our border to the south remains a total free for all.

Interesting take, Dave.

Brayden‘s one-star review highlights the inconvenience of having this secretive project hidden in such a beautiful area:

The salt flats are very beautiful but a lot of the roads are restricted and have guards up on the hills. I’m pretty sure this is because area 51 is in the area. It’s a shame I cant see get a very good view of the salt flats because of the military

Others, though, know the truth: the secrets contained within are of extraterrestrial origin. Reviewer TP (five stars) knows what’s up:

It has ufo

Aaron (one star) has similar beliefs but is a little less certain:

Wow res probably aliens hiding here

In another sterling five-star review (this place must be good), James authoritatively lays some knowledge on everyone:

Been there. They Have tons of UFOS and alien corpses that they don’t want us to know about

Vasile wasn’t as chuffed with his experience, giving the base only one star:

At night i see at one humanoide , he have a big head and 4 fingers its so crezyy

My friend, it sounds it.

Athul has some incredibly strong feelings about this mysterious military installation (five stars):

Area 51 is there..and aircrafts too…so if it is an abandoned base….why the aircrafts doing there….there are aliens man and the base is not abandoned….ITS TIME THAT YOU REVEAL..AMERICAN GOVERNMENT MUST REVEAL THE SECRETS….BEWARE THE WIND IS COMING AND IT WILL TAKE EVERYTHING WITH IT…THE SECRETS MUST BE REVEALED….ITS OUR SLOGAN

Shannon (one star) is not happy:

I think that area 51 is hiding something and they are the know we know that aliens are real the just wont tell us you secretive basterds I’m on to you people

Kieran had a wonderful time (five stars) but is very curious about what’s going on:

Now that is great I wonder if they are doing tests on extraterrestrials?

Others fall somewhere in the middle, approaching the issue with an open mind, like Liam (one star):

I don’t hate it I just really would like to know what they do and stuff. And why did google make a fake Area 51 do they know what’s the big secret we need to know what’s happening on this planet.

We do, Liam. We really do.

James, by all accounts, definitely had a one-star experience:

Confusing restaurant. Waitstaff rude and heavily armed.

Dar (five stars) is being compelled to go there by forces outside our comprehension:

I been dreeming about this place i have to gi

Others still, like Gopu (five stars), simply want to put food on the table:

HOW TO GET A JOB IN AREA 51

Taken as a whole, these detailed first-hand accounts can only lead us to one conclusion: it’s aliens.

Image: Google Maps