Who's Laughing Now?
Detainment at Area 51 is No Joke
“We could make you disappear, and your body would never be found.”
Darren Perks knew that this wasn't going to be a friendly encounter, but had it really come to this?
The words of the guard were filled with both conviction and nonchalance. One man's perception of a threat was just another man's protocol here at Area 51, perhaps the biggest little secret in UFO lore. And as he lay there, the barrel of an assault rifle pointed at his back, a barely debatable assertion waged in Darren Perk's head; Perhaps this wasn't the smartest way to get answers.
It was an interesting array of ingredients for a documentary to begin with.
- Throw a handful of British experiencers, varied beliefs on the UFO subject, on a road trip from Hollywood to Nevada.
- Have them cover an extensive variety of conspiracy theories and the UFO subject.
- Add a dash of skepticism by a light-hearted comedian with an outside eye on the topic.
And therein lays the deliciously fringe-filled recipe for 'Conspiracy Road Trip: UFOs', which would air on the BBC in October of 2012. Presented by Andrew Maxwell, a comedian made popular in England, he'd hit the road with the breakfast club of Ufology, including an agnostic who had never witnessed a UFO incident, a believer that an extraterrestrial race was out to get him through mind control, a young ufo researcher starting out in the field, an experiencer who witnessed a massive ufo on a freeway in Los Angeles, and Perks, both an experiencer and veteran investigator.
As filming began, the group would cover such topics as animal mutilations, alien abduction, government cover-ups, and a scientific approach to the UFO phenomenon. On their way, they would interview such people as John Lear, son of Bill Lear, inventor of the Lear jet, and controversial advocate of the theory of current life on the moon. They would interview Felisse Wolf Simon, a NASA scientist who would speak to them about the world-famous Arizona Meteor Crater. They would also speak with both Steve Murillo and Preston Dennet, members of the Los Angeles branch of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Subsequently, Wolf Simon, Murillo, and Dennet's interviews would all suffer the fate of post-production, being strategically edited out of the final cut of the broadcast, leaving out a lofty amount of credibility to the documentary.
As planned, the road trip made its final destination at Groom Lake, otherwise known as Area 51, on May 14th, 2012. Their bus hesitantly pulled up to a gate at the base. They peered out their windows at what appeared to be an empty strip of desert and cement. There seemed to be no security anywhere. So they hopped off the bus, armed with both intrigue and their cameras, and made their way up to the first barrier that stood between them and an incident that would last over the next five hours.
- Interview With Darren Perks -
When you arrived at the back gate of the base, it was said that the guard post looked empty. Were there any vehicles and/or security measures you noticed before getting this close?
The place was totally deserted. There were no guards, vehicles or aircraft. Just three small buildings, some barriers and some lights on poles. There was one closed circuit camera on the other side of the buildings. The barriers were down and there were warning signs all around.
Whose idea was it to breach the barriers?
We had a permit to film on public land for the show, so filming on the public side of the barriers was fine. I was advised, previous to the trip, that the Rachel area would be a good place to film. We had been there for quite a while filming and the production team was trying to call the guards but there didn't seem to be any. Then the director and producer made a decision that everyone should cross the barriers, but to try to make contact with the guards at the security hut when we did. At first, I held back. But when I could see no guards, I joined everyone else and carried on filming. This went on for about another thirty minutes or so with no action from the guards. At this point, we were on restricted land and trespassing.
Why do you think the guards waited until your cameraman approached them to take action?
We could see them, clear as day, watching basketball on television and eating dinner. Later on, after the incident, they actually said to us, and I quote, “We were quite happy for you to carry on filming where you were, as long as you did not cross the second security barrier. Had you gone past that second barrier and we would have been forced to shoot you.” When our cameraman knocked on the door to try to speak to them, I think that annoyed them for the mere fact that we had disrupted their dinner.
According to Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee, in an interview with The Huffington Post, there seems to be a discrepancy over what happened when you were detained. Can you give us a play-by-play of what went down from the moment you guys breached the gate until the moment you left the sight?
There is no discrepancy. The sheriff tried to play the whole incident down, but twelve people cannot be wrong. Here is what occurred in chronological order:
5:30pm - We arrived at the ‘Rachel Gate’ NT TR Boundary on the bus and parked up to film. After filming for about thirty minutes, we then crossed the barriers and walked freely onto the restricted area. It was that easy.
6:30pm - Filming carried on for about another thirty minutes. This is when our cameraman knocked on the security door. The guards rushed out and forced every single one of us to the ground at gunpoint. We were made to lay in a line face down in the dirt with our arms stretched outwards. We were not allowed to speak. One by one, we were ordered to our feet and were then searched. Our cell phones, wallets, and I.Ds were confiscated, along with all of our film equipment. At this point, we were told not to look to the right, which just so happened to be the direction to the main area of the base. We lay there for approximately three hours.
9:30pm - Perhaps the discrepancy lay with Sheriff Lee's non-belief that we lay there for three hours. Then again, he didn't show up until 9:30pm. The fact of the matter is, we did lay there. That is not to say we weren't allowed to get up. If we needed to use the toilet, we were strictly escorted. It was also getting cold in the mountain terrain, so we were allowed to get our jackets from the bus (which was thoroughly searched as well.) There was one moment when I snuck in some photos on my phone without the escort's knowledge.There was also a lot of action occurring during those three hours on the part of security. More personnel arrived from the main base in white pickup trucks and there was a lot of radio chatter happening. During this time, an Apache helicopter was also flying around in the distance and they were talking to it on their radios. They said that it was ‘watching the bus’. When the Sheriff arrived, he himself was not allowed onto the restricted area, so we were then escorted to the barrier and were then asked questions by him, and were given a ticket for trespassing. We collected our belongings from the security hut, but not before we were ordered by the Commander to physically remove any images or video taken on our phones. However, I had already anticipated this and had secured some images in a hidden folder on my phone, which they did not see. They only asked to see the image gallery and nothing else, so that is what I showed them.
11:30pm - After a stern warning by the Commander, we were allowed to leave. We headed back to our accommodation in nearby Alamo. We were followed all the way back by unmarked pickups with Government plates. They also followed us everywhere for the next two days, and they stuck out like a sore thumb. I was able to snap a shot of them from a distance.
During the detainment, once things had cooled down a bit, you asked one of the guards a very interesting question. What did you ask him?
I simply asked if he had ever seen UFOs on base. I wanted to test the waters and challenge him on this. He was young, and he had been chatting to us more than the others. So I figured, why not?
And what was his reply?
It was interesting. He paused before he answered, looked over at the other guards for some sort of re-assurance, and they just stared at him. His blunt reply, “I can't talk about it.”
Were these guards military? Or some sort of independent security outfit?
I have since found out that they work for a company called JT3. These were the initial guards in the security hut. The other staff that arrived were military and USAF, as I could see the insignia on their uniforms. There were also two men that showed up from the base in suits. I assume that they were from the Government. I spoke to a lot of the locals whilst there, and not a single one of them said that the guards work locally. They are employed nationally by JT3 and come from all areas. I was also told that most live in Las Vegas and fly or drive into the base for work. It was clear that the USAF were part of the security teams there because they were the ones ordering the other guards on how to deal with us. Also, as confirmed by Sheriff Lee, the guards had to phone Washington, who in turn, had to phone London to let them know that a handful of British civilians were being detained on American soil at a military base.
What are your personal thoughts on what is currently being done at Area 51?
It’s clearly a research and development facility. I believe that they are using reverse engineered extraterrestrial technology to develop craft. I also believe that they are testing electromagnetic technology there for spacecraft. The attention the base has garnered in recent times prompts me to believe that any actual UFOs or extraterrestrial beings have swiftly been moved far, far away. But another part of me believes this may just be a ploy to divert attention away from the facility. Underneath the base, I’m certain that there are labs developing technology that we can't even imagine.
Would you change anything about your actions at Area 51?
I think I would have tried to get the film crew to film elsewhere, like Tikaboo Peak. That way, we would have been able to see the base from that position. However, I don’t regret what I did. I can not change what happened. But I do think it was a bit silly and we were lucky to just get a slap on the wrist and a moderate fine of $600.
Do you feel anything was accomplished by you and your crew?
I feel that we did indeed highlight the lax security at a place that boasts such threatening security measures at first glance. There's no doubt in my mind that heads rolled within the base because we were allowed to step onto the restricted area to film.
And so ended a five-hour incident that easily could have been avoided if not for the debatable courage, reckless abandon, and persistence of a group of film-makers who just wanted some answers. But clearly, the higher-ups producing this documentary saw two distinct variables as they pushed the crew to take that extra step... or two-hundred yards past the barrier; entertainment and ratings. And so they got it, with little to no sacrifice, save a $600 fine that was presumably paid off quickly and recouped swiftly. Granted, the event itself did not make it into the broadcast. But they were able to show a few photos that Perks was able to snap before breaching the barrier and when he retrieved his jacket from the bus during detainment. As for the footage at the base? It was confiscated, sent to the FBI, and returned to the production company in July of 2012, with everything intact except the footage shot at Area 51.
Although Andrew Maxwell, the comedian skeptic behind the show, refused to comment on the event, it no doubt challenged his belief that Area 51 was just like any other military base. And whether the documentary opened any closed minds on the UFO phenomenon, it surely put a microscope on the security of an installation that supposedly houses more questions than it will surely ever answer. Perhaps the UFO enigma remains even more enigmatic after the airing of this documentary, but at least this crew gave it a go.
There is, however, one last burning question that remains: What exactly were those guards eating for dinner that annoyed them so much as to finally approach the twelve trespassers after these trespassers had approached them first?
That information, unfortunately, remains classified.
About the author
Ryan Sprague is the author of 'Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon'. He is also a UFO journalist, TV personality, and a podcaster. More at www.somewhereintheskies.com