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Five Significantly Better Alternatives to Visiting Area 51

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     Aliens are one of the world’s most popular subjects for entertainment, mostly because there is no solid proof that extraterrestrial beings do not exist. Places like Roswell, New Mexico and Nevada State Route 375, also known as the ‘Extraterrestrial Highway’, capitalize on the wonder and awe of the possibility of life from other planets coming to visit our Earth. Even Area 51, a highly secretive United States Air Force base, is getting a lot of attention recently with a petition recruiting people to storm the base. Budweiser is getting in on the hype by offering free beer to any aliens that escape the base. Of course this is highly unlikely, both the event and aliens escaping, but if extraterrestrial tourism is peaking your interest there are plenty of other places in North America that are open to tourists.

     The most active attraction began with an expression of good-faith toward any possible inter-planetary beings. Green River, Wyoming built a small airport for itself in 1963 in order to facilitate any small aircraft coming to or going from the city. Over 30 years later, though, the city planners of Green River felt as if they should rename their “Greater Green River Airport” to the “Greater Green River Spaceport.”

     In mid-July, 1994, Jupiter was bombarded with the 23 fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet which had been pulled in by the gravity of the gas giant. Scientists and telescopes from around the world and the atmosphere focused their attention toward the planet as the fragments created fireballs between 30,000 and 40,000 Celsius as they entered Jupiter’s atmosphere. Impacts left massive, dark craters on the surface of Jupiter, easily visible to anyone with a telescope. For Jupiter, it was a mild inconvenience from which it recovered within a decade, but a similar impact on Earth could very well have caused a mass extinction.

     Green River, a community known for their willingness to take in the poor and homeless, decided that it was in the spirit of the city to rename their airport, hopefully welcoming any fleeing residents of Jupiter. As of yet, almost exactly 25 years later, no extra-terrestrial refugees have landed at the Spaceport despite Jupiter only being about 6 years of travel away (based on the 1977 technology of Voyager 1). Sadly, the city does not have any other alien-themed attractions making Green River Spaceport a little out of the way for fans of extraterrestrials.

     Though it lacks a Spaceport, Kecksburg, Pennsylvania is home to an incredibly well documented possible one time UFO landing site. The famous ‘Kecksburg Space Acorn’, a monument to the highly documented yet suspicious 1965 event the town is known for, stands in the middle of the town commemorating the events. Kecksburg’s incident has a ranking of 1 on the Hynek Scale, a system devised by the American astronomer and ufologist, J. Allen Hynek. Hynek’s scale is as follows: 

       -1 relates to orbs of light seen during the night time;

       -2 relates to a disc or flying object seen during the day time;

       -3 relates to an unexplained appearance on radar in addition to rankings 1 or 2;

       -4 relates to a ‘close encounter of the 1st kind’, where a UFO is seen within 200 yards;

       -5 relates to an encounter of the 2nd kind, where the UFO interacts with the environment;

       -6 relates to an alien of some sort being seen.

     On the night of December 9th, 1965, residents of Kecksburg reported a fireball streaking across the sky and making a ‘controlled landing’ in the nearby forest. This fireball was reported by residents of other states, as well as in Toronto, Ontario where it was noted in the December 10th edition of the Toronto Star. Residents also reported a sudden military presence in the town and surrounding the suspected crash site, and that a covered object was taken away on a flatbed truck shortly after.

     Some residents were able to reach the crash site before the military arrived, finding what was described as an acorn-shaped object marked with indecipherable markings similar to hieroglyphics. The event was denied by NASA and the US Air Force for decades until the late 90s when a woman named Leslie Keen, partnered with the Sci-Fi Channel, launched a lawsuit against NASA over a breach of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Keen and her team eventually won the lawsuit and were given access to the archives at NASA, but were met with even more adversity when they found that many files had been lost or destroyed. Keen continued her investigation until 2009, concluding that the events in Kecksburg on December 9th, 1965, could not be confirmed or denied to be extraterrestrial event.

     Today, Kecksburg only offers the Space Acorn and a UFO memorabilia store for passing tourists. A few documentaries have been made based on the incident, perfect for getting any tourist who visits Kecksburg and would like to learn more.

     Moving up to Canada, Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia is home to one of the most interesting suspected UFO sightings in North America, holding both a 1 and a 3 on the Hynek Scale.

     On October 4th, 1967, multiple residents of Shag Harbour, including a few members of the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), reported seeing orange lights high above the nearby bay. The lights eventually dove from the sky and began hovering just over the surface of the water, leading many of the onlookers to believe that they were witnessing an airplane crash. Boats from the area floated out to where the orange lights came down to the water but the lights had ventured out into the Gulf of Maine and disappeared, leaving behind a mysterious yellow foam on the water.

     The following day an investigation was launched by the RCMP, concluding that something had hit the water but they were unsure of what that thing was. The HMCS Granby, which was named the HMCS Victoriaville until a year prior, was sent from Quebec to aid a diving crew who searched the floor of the bay, sadly finding nothing of interest. Due to lack of information and evidence the case was dropped and the story fell out of the public eye.

     Decades later, in 1993, theories of Shag Harbour had slowly amassed, including the involvement of Russian submarines or American experimental aircraft. Intrigued by the theories, an independent UFO researcher named Chris Styles began investigating the story of Shag Harbour with the assistance of Doug Ledger of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Styles and Ledger uncovered records from CFS Shelburne, which had been a member of the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) at the time, describing an unknown underwater object moving towards a point in their vicinity.

     After Canadian Naval ships surrounded the location at which the object stopped, the records detail another underwater object appearing and joining the initial object. The Canadian Navy maintained their distance and observed the objects for a week until the Navy was called to investigate a suspected Russian submarine entering the area. At this point, the two objects escaped the remaining ships and vanished into the Gulf of Maine.

     Though incredibly well documented, many of the accounts were made anonymously or off the record in fear of being ostracized or ridiculed over the claims of extraterrestrial beings. Members of the Navy feared the suspension or invalidation of their ranks or pensions. Furthermore, North America was at the height of the Cold War with Russia, leading many to assume that the event was an attempt act of Russian espionage with experimental technology. Shag Harbour has much more of a tourism base than the previous places, with a UFO conference every August and a year round UFO Centre.

     Over in Manitoba, tourists can find the home of Canada’s best documented suspected UFO encounter, holding a 2 and a 5 on the Hynek scale, despite not being considered extraterrestrial by the man whom it happened to. The incident at Falcon Lake, Manitoba, is even more documented than the incident at Roswell, New Mexico and is arguably the crowning jewel of North American UFO events.

     On May 20th, 1967, Stefan Michalak was exploring the shores of Falcon Lake, one of the many bodies of fresh water in Whiteshell Provincial Park. Michalak was an industrial mechanic by trade but studied geology as a hobby and was taking advantage of the May Long Weekend to study a granite vein he found in the park previously.

     While exploring, Michalak was startled by a gaggle of geese who began honking due to being startled themselves. When he looked over, he noticed two cigar shaped objects with a reddish glow floating in the sky, and as he walked closer to investigate, one flew away while the other descended and settled just above the ground. Michalak believed he was looking at an American experimental aircraft and began to sketch it. After a while of the aircraft remaining still, Michalak began approaching the craft noting a warm breeze and sulfuric smell in the area.

     Michalak noted a door on the side of the craft with bright light and voices coming through, and suspected that the aircraft could be experiencing issues. Being a mechanic, he yelled out to offer his aid, first in English, and then in Polish, Russian, and German when there was no response. As he continued closer, Michalak peered into the door with the help of the shaded welding goggles he would use as eye protection during geological digs. He noted various flashing lights and buttons, but saw nothing living inside. Three panels slid across the opening, sealing it from Michalak’s view, and when touched the ship melted the fingertips of the rubber gloves he was wearing.

     The craft then rotated, bringing a panel with a grid of holes before Michalak. A blast of hot air erupted from the ship, setting his shirt on fire and singeing his undershirt, and the ship took off. Michalak almost immediately began feeling headaches and nausea, and, after retrieving his jacket, wandered back to town. Michalak was treated for burns to his chest in the shape of the grid he saw on the ship, and over the following weeks he experienced migraines, blackouts, vomiting, and weight loss.

     Despite Michalak’s family being bombarded by the media and bullied by people around them, the story of Falcon Lake took hold. Upon returning to the site, a barren circle could be found on the ground devoid of moss or stones, and the scraps of Michalak’s clothing had been tested positive for radioactivity. Bits of radioactive metal have been found melted into the cracks surrounding the area, one sample of which the Michalak family still has and still emits light radiation.

     Michalak was sent to a psychiatrist who made remarks on how grounded and healthy Michalak’s mental health was, and in the following 30 years before his death Michalak never contradicted the story he told the media. Michalak’s son, Stan, remarked on how incredible this was considering that his father was a simple blue-collar worker, and that it would be almost impossible for a normal person to keep a secret for such a long time.

     Falcon Lake is home to various UFO tours and memorabilia shops, and the provincial forest is open to anyone who would like to explore the area themselves.

     Despite the attention garnered by the previous stories, their occurrence during the Cold War and the short span of time between the three of them casts doubt. The possibility of experimental aircraft and the likelihood of espionage between America and Russia is very plausible, leading many to discredit the events. Back in 1897, though, there was very little to explain the events of Aurora, Texas, which holds a 3 and possibly a 6 on the Hynek scale.

     On the morning of April 17th, dozens of reports were filed about a cigar-shaped object sailing through the air, all the way from California to the town of Aurora, Texas. The object was moving slowly, somewhere between 10 and 12 miles per hour, and was gradually dropping from the sky, coming to a stop in Aurora, Texas where it collided with a windmill. Townsfolk quickly descended upon the crash site to find the wreckage of an airship and a pilot who “was not of this world”, who was later buried in the local cemetery. The grave marker was eventually stolen, and by the time the events became popularized again in 1973, the grave was unmarked and the location lost.

     To add integrity to the story, when the ship crashed into the windmill it left debris scattered across the Judge’s property. The townsfolk gathered the wreckage and, opting for ease, dumped it in the well on the Judge’s property and had the well covered. In 1945, a full 48 years later, a man named Brawley Oates purchased the property and decided to re-open the well as a source of drinking water. Oates soon developed a severe case of arthritis which he claimed was a result from drinking contaminated drinking water. Oates subsequently covered the well again and built an outhouse on top of it.

     Journalist Jim Marrs claims to have seen the grave before the location was lost, detailing it to be a size fit for a child and to have a crude headstone depicting a modern stereotypical flying saucer. Another journalist, Bill Case, visited the grave with a metal detector and claims to have detected three separate metallic objects buried within. Upon returning a second time, though, Case claims that the grave had been robbed of the metallic objects as there was no longer any signal.

     The leading cause of doubt, and something as interesting as the supposed events in Aurora, Texas, is the debated existence of an aeronautical club in California from around the same period. The Sonora Aero Club, an intellectual club dedicated to the pursuit of designing machines that could attain flight, was a supposed secret society in Sonora, California in the 19th century. They mainly described their ideas orally, temporarily illustrating them on a chalkboard for clarity, but their dreams were brought to the public eye after a house fire in the 1960s.

     The fire uncovered some of the work of Charles Dellschau, a German artist who moved to America in the mid-1800s, and was a member of the club. In the later years of his life, before his passing in 1923, Dellschau began illustrating the inventions the group theorized and wrote down their ideas in a yet-to-be deciphered code. Thousands of pages were found in the 12 books the fire uncovered, beginning with the number 1601, leading many to believe that other collections have either been lost or destroyed. While it is hard to authenticate any information about the club itself, especially since Dellschau’s age could have affected his memory, many names and events described in the books have been confirmed by historians.

     While the Wright Brothers first achieved flight in 1903, many believe that this hive mind of aviation enthusiasts could have built a mediocre aircraft that they then used to prank the entire nation in 1897.

     Sonar-based technology has since found a random unmarked grave in Aurora’s graveyard, possibly belonging to the un-earthly pilot, but the town of Aurora refuses to exhume any gravesites both for respect and to keep the story alive. Tourists are welcome to visit the town, but the gravesite is the only notable extra-terrestrial attraction.

     While rushing Area 51 on September 20th is a horrible idea for a vacation, experiencing the world of extraterrestrial themed tourism is a great way to experience something unique and memorable. Whether it be to entertain children, or because the thought of intergalactic life visiting Earth is something you are passionate about, there are dozens of places across North America to visit. While this article only outlines a few, hundreds of other locations and events revolve around the themed of space and life from other planets. Better yet, none of these attractions result in being arrested.

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