What would happen if a crowd of people stormed the gates of Area 51 looking for aliens, and all of them ran really fast with their arms outstretched behind them?
We probably won’t find out. But the idea has captured the interest of more than a million people on social media.
It has caught the attention of the Air Force, too. A spokeswoman warned that the area “is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force.”
On June 27, a Facebook account whose name includes a profanity shared an event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” It is scheduled for 3 a.m. on Sept. 20 in Amargosa Valley, Nev.
That’s not far from Area 51, the secretive military testing base that was formally acknowledged by the federal government in 2013, when the C.I.A. released a classified report on spy planes that were tested there beginning in the 1950s.
But conspiracy theorists have long suspected that the base was devoted to the study — or even the captivity — of extraterrestrial life forms.
“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” the Facebook event page said. “If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.”
The “Naruto run” is a style of running associated with Naruto Uzumaki, the main character in the Japanese anime series “Naruto.” It’s a meme. To do the run, you tilt your torso forward, extend your arms out behind you, and sprint goofily.
As of Monday morning, more than a million people had responded to the post to say they were going to the September event. More than 800,000 others said they were interested.
Most seemed well aware that the post was made in jest. One Facebook user shared a detailed battle plan, involving two Naruto runner battalions running “full speed around the north and south flank” of the base. And a few commenters shared a meme that said, “If we all hit our vapes at the same time, we can use it as cloud cover so they won’t see us coming.”
But as it turns out, some people may be taking the event seriously. The Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, Nev., which is close to Area 51, has gotten an unusually high number of reservations for a certain date.
“Oh, it’s insane,” Connie West, a co-owner of the inn, said in an interview on Sunday. “My poor bartender today walked past me and said, ‘I hate to tell you, but every phone call I’ve had is about Sept. 20.’”
She added that many people had mentioned the Facebook post when they called to reserve the inn’s rooms and recreational vehicles, all of which are now booked for that date — even though the Facebook post invited people to Amargosa Valley, which is hours away from the Little A’Le’Inn by car, and on the opposite side of Area 51.
“They’re pretty serious,” Ms. West said. “They’re coming. People are coming.”
The Facebook event has picked up so much steam that the Air Force responded.
A spokeswoman, Laura McAndrews, told The Washington Post on Friday that officials were aware of the event.
She added that “we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces.”
In an email on Monday, Ms. McAndrews said that “the Nellis Test and Training Range, where Groom Lake (commonly known as Area 51) is located, is an area that provides the ability for the United States to conduct realistic and advanced training.”
Earlier this year, the Navy seemed to officially acknowledge reported sightings of strange objects in the sky when it sent out new classified guidance on how service members should report what the military calls unexplained aerial phenomena, or unidentified flying objects.
And in 2017, The New York Times reported on a shadowy program at the Pentagon that has been investigating reports of unidentified flying objects for years.
But rather than infiltrate secret military sites, earthlings in search of evidence of extraterrestrial life may want to keep an eye on scientific explorations like the one taking place on Mars, or planned efforts to explore a moon of Saturn.
Ms. West said Area 51 is well guarded, with signs warning trespassers that they could face consequences, including prison time or deadly force, if they get too close. She said she expected people to try to breach the boundaries of Area 51 in September, though she wished they would not.
“There’s going to be a force to reckon with,” she said of the authorities guarding the base. “They have enough helicopters and military aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base.”