As the Area 51 military base prepares to celebrate its 50th birthday next week, the man who put the base on the public's radar screen says he wants nothing to do with the place.
Former government scientist Bob Lazar is the man who claimed to have worked on alien technology at a facility near Groom Lake, but Lazar left town years ago and has kept a low profile ever since.
Millions of people have heard Bob Lazar's story, and a lot of them believe it. The poohbahs of ufology think Lazar is a government disinformation agent assigned to spread lies and muddy the waters about what really goes on at Area 51. Still others think he's a profiteer who made it all up because he wanted to cash in.
Lazar decided years ago to leave the sniping behind. He left the state, dropped out of sight and started a new life. So where is he and what's he doing?
Bob Lazar says, "... given the same information, I'm not sure I'd believe the story either. There's a lot I can't prove. It's what I observed and what happened to me."
If Bob Lazar sounds a bit more philosophical these days, maybe it's because of his mellow surroundings. Basically, he moved to the sticks -- an idyllic spot in rural New Mexico with a few dogs, a rescued horse, and his wife Joy. The house at the end of the dirt road is comfortable, but tough to find, which means strangers aren't likely to show up to ask questions about flying saucers.
Bob Lazar says, "I really had to cut that loose. I don't answer UFO emails anymore, so if anyone is thinking of emailing me, I don't care if you were abducted. I'm sorry to hear about it. Nor do I believe most of the UFO stories."
There was a time, though, when Lazar was at the center of the UFO universe. In 1989, his allegations about ET craft being tested in the Nevada desert exploded into the public consciousness. He said he worked for the Navy at S-4, a hidden hangar complex south of Groom Lake, where nine flying discs of various shapes were stored and tested.
Lazar said an anti-matter reactor powered the craft. His drawing of what he called the sport model became the basis for a popular model kit still sold in stores. Many other products were launched too. Tourists arrived outside Groom Lake by the bus full, news teams flew in from all over the world, and the state created the Extraterrestrial Highway to cash in on the furor.
Lazar's story was rich with detail. Not only did he see the craft fly, he said, but also he got to peek inside, and that's when it hit him. "They had really small chairs. Why did they need small furniture?"
While the public ate it up, the military said nothing, and the UFO hierarchy dismissed it all as a fabrication since Lazar could not verify parts of his background. Lazar was widely ridiculed, especially after he got into trouble for helping a career prostitute. Some of the stories that surfaced about him were downright bizarre.
Lazar, in a 1993 interview, said, "The latest one is that you and I and John Lear are all Shriners or 32nd degree Masons, and the saucer story is all a cover. It's really the Shriners who are flying these things."
Lazar doesn't miss the UFO craziness at all. Out here, he's almost anonymous. He minces no words about whether he sticks by his story. "I felt privileged to be part of the project and it was fascinating to be in it in any way, shape, or form, but life moves on."
And it's a busy life at that. Lazar started United Nuclear, a scientific supply company that sells a long list of stuff online to schools, universities, even to government agencies and labs, things like cloud chambers, radiation detectors, and uranium ore.
Lazar says, "We're consultants for a lot of companies. You get the strangest phone calls, even from the Navy Seals, who say, we need a device like this to go overboard and activate. They give specifications and ask can you build it? We fabricate a prototype, get it to them, do a short production run. By that time we get another call from another company to make some bizarre equipment and really have a blast."
Speaking of blasts, his online ads selling pieces of uranium ore understandably caught the attention of several government agencies, especially since he also built a 30-foot long particle accelerator behind his house.
"Every government agency you could possibly think of has been here and hassled us, and that includes the SWAT team that woke my wife and I up at 6 in the morning and handcuffed us out on the front lawn.
After various agencies were assured that Lazar wasn't building atomic weapons out behind the barn, agents calmed down. A few pop by from time to time to see what he's up to. There's one thing they don't talk about.
Laser concludes, "To be taken seriously, you can't be known as Bob the UFO guy."
We did talk UFOs a bit. Viewers who remember the Lazar story may recall that he claimed the space ships were fueled by something called element 115, which did not exist back in 1989.
Recently, however, scientists created 115 in a lab. What does this mean to the Lazar story, and is there a way to prove it? The I-Team will have more on that Friday at 5.
The KLAS-TV online team has created a special webpage about Area 51 with interview clips, maps and photos, and links to other viewpoints about the base.
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