Tiny US town near Area 51 braces for alien hunters

An invitation on Facebook has urged UFO enthusiasts to gather on Sep 20 and 'storm' nearby Area 51. Now, residents of Rachel, a 150-mile (240km) drive from Las Vegas and home to roughly 50 people, are split on how to respond.

NEVADA (REUTERS) - An invitation on Facebook has urged UFO enthusiasts to gather on Sept 20 and "storm" Area 51. Now, residents of the tiny town of Rachel, a 240km drive from Las Vegas, are split on how to respond. 

The town of Rachel, Nevada is home to roughly 50 people and just one business: The Little A'Le'Inn Motel and Restaurant.

But now, it's bracing for an onslaught of visitors.

That's because Rachel is just 43km away from Area 51, the United States military base shrouded in secrecy and the centre of conspiracy theories about extraterrestrials and UFOs.

And while residents have long embraced alien-obsessed tourists, the town is now worried that thousands - possibly tens of thousands - of UFO enthusiasts could be coming to Rachel following a call on Facebook.

"There is really no precedent for this event so there is no way to estimate how many people are going to show up," said Rachel resident Joerg Arnu. 

The town has been caught up in the viral "Storm Area 51" campaign, which started on Facebook as an event calling on people to gather on Sept 20 to raid Area 51 to look for aliens.

More than two million Facebook users have RSVP'd.

 "You can fight it but it's coming, so why not turn a negative into a positive," said Little A'Le'Inn co-manager Connie West. 

Others like Mr Pat Jordan fear too many people will overwhelm a town with no gas station or grocery store.

"That many people are going to stress the community to the point that we can't cope with it," he said. 

When the US Air Force caught wind of the viral campaign, it issued a stark warning, saying "any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous".

This prompted the organiser of the initial event to change gears.

The Facebook user named Matty Roberts is instead trying to draw earthlings to Alienstock, a three-day music festival in Rachel that Ms West is helping to organise.

She estimates at least 30,000 people will actually show up so she's scrambling to order enough portable toilets.

So far, she has 30.