Alien Trails and Cosmic Tales: Day Two — Camo Dudes at Area 51 and Raëlian Dreams.
Las Vegas in the morning is like looking behind the veil of Shroomland, or a behind-the-scenes look at the stage just moments before the play starts. The audience hasn’t seated yet, and the workers — the stage hands, cleaners, and janitors — are on their way, ready to prep today’s performance. It’s still Las Vegas, you know, the city that never sleeps, but with a different, gloomy mood. A hooker sticks her head out from behind a corner, yells “Merry Christmas” to me, and I greet her politely back. I mean, it’s a kind gesture to wish someone a Merry Christmas, even if I doubt that was her original intent.
For a Swede like me (and, as I’ve learned, for many Americans), the first meeting with Las Vegas is an overwhelming, bizarre journey into a psychedelic world of amusement park madness, where artificial beauty meets the most necessary needs of humans: games, sex, play, food, sleep, drugs, and more games. Most people are nice, the hotels are big, and all around the casinos, obese humans drive around in little cars, from one slot machine to another. This is not a judgment; it’s an observation. Las Vegas looks and feels like in the movies, which is both good and bad.
However, on this day, our goal was to leave the city of sin and drive right out into the desert, towards Crystal Springs, where the Alien Researcher Center was based — a kitschy souvenir store with tacky T-shirts featuring green, glowing alien heads and coffee mugs. When Clas was there first, in 2016, they had started to build a small museum inside the store, but when we arrived to talk with the manager, Misty, they hadn’t finished it yet, and the room worked as storage. We had decided to wait a few hours to film there and go directly to Rachel, where we would take the left road, a gravel road with sharp stones, 2.6 kilometers from Rachel. It was the so-called Back Door Rd, leading up to — you guessed it — the back door of Area 51. Before that, the first car with Fia and Clas discovered that the black mailbox was up again. A replica, of course, so we stopped there and filmed a short segment about the story of the mailbox with Clas and Felix. Turned out fun, but I doubt it will end up in the series. We have so much footage already.
When we originally planned to shoot in the area, our plan was to stay one night at The Little A’Le’Inn, the local motel and bar, film there, talk with people in Rachel, and then go back to Las Vegas the day after. Surprisingly enough, we were met with hostility from the current owner, Connie West — the daughter of the former owner, Pat Travis. She demanded $30,000 for us to film there, and of course, we don’t have that kind of budget. Fia talked with her on the phone several times, but we decided to give up and do a segment on Alien Research Center instead. I’ll get back to that. Before entering the road to Rachel and the black mailbox, we stopped at the iconic Extraterrestrial Highway sign where Clas met a man who had forgotten to leave the key to their room at The Little A’Le’Inn and mentioned that Pat was there — so Clas and Fia decided to give it a try; to convince Pat we could film there. At the same time, Felix, John, and I continued on the road up to the Area 51 gate, which turned out to be a lot more paranoid and weird than we had expected.
I mean, the gate is a tourist attraction. We’re not the only folks going there to film; it’s standard for productions like this. I gotta admit we all, with maybe the exception of John, were a bit nervous, and it didn’t turn out better when the camo dudes in their white truck showed up, stopping a hundred meters away, just to keep their eyes on us. The gate itself was as calm as usual; it’s seldom one sees people there, but during filming, they felled the road barrier, and it felt like a sign to leave. Which we didn’t. To make things worse, the camo dudes in their fancy white truck drove out from their place down the road to block the path from other people driving up to us.
My low blood sugar didn’t make the experience better, and with the camo dudes studying us, I felt both nervous, sweaty, and a bit non-communicative. That didn’t stop me from filming in front of the gate, even if I didn’t feel top-notch. For almost two hours, we shot up there, so long the camo dudes got bored and left, and afterwards we drove to The Little A’Le’Inn for lunch, the famous Saucer Burger — in all fairness, a quite mediocre burger. But it felt good with some food in my belly. I had planned to buy some souvenirs and decided to wait until we got to the Alien Research Center. Which turned out to be a bad decision because the manager had left, and it was closed.
There was now a risk we would arrive late for our next meeting, in Henderson, just outside Las Vegas, and we had to start driving. We continued to film in the car with Felix, John, and me, while Fia and Clas got stopped by the police (for the second time that day). Fia managed to talk herself out of it, as usual. In our car, we filmed discussions among the team, which turned out very funny, and also a scene where Felix and I sang Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere.”
We arrived just a few minutes late to Henderson, where we met Thomas Kaenzig, the president of the Raëlian Movement US. To be honest, I had very little hope we would be able to meet someone from the Raëlians, but their PR person, Kasyo Perrier, was very kind and surprised us by fixing Kaenzig to us, which was very cool of her. While I can’t reveal where Kaenzig and his wife lived, I can reveal it’s in a large, expensive house within a very exclusive gated community. At first, I thought the four-story building consisted of several apartments, but it turned out Kaenzig had the whole house — carefully designed with modern art and minimalistic furniture. Not my style of home, but it looked very cool. We stayed with Kaenzig for two hours, where Felix first did an in-depth interview with him and later a more reality-based segment where they played pool on a table with the Raëlian symbol on it. One highlight for me was meeting their cat, Mimi, who had the same bitchy attitude as my own cat, Kitek. Much appreciated.
After we were done, we took the cars and drove to a nearby restaurant, which turned out quite terrible, at least for me. The lamb racks tasted like nothing! Tomorrow we’re leaving Las Vegas, and while that day didn’t offer any surprises, we were in for a nasty treat the day after. You’ll just have to wait and see…
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of Northern Lights: High Strangeness in Sweden, out now from Beyond the Fray Publishing. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats.