Officially it has never existed, but the truth about Area 51 is finally out there.
For the first time ever, newly declassified CIA documents refer openly to the top secret parcel of land in central Nevada that has become the global focus of conspiracy theories, rumours of crashed UFOs, alien bodies and futuristic air force projects.
The acknowledgement comes in a US government history of the U2 spy plane programme, obtained by George Washington University’s National Security Archive through a public records request.
It includes an unredacted map of the secret site chosen to test the jet in the 1950s – but never identified on any government map.
Researcher Jeffrey Richelson first reviewed the history in 2002, but all mentions of Area 51 had been redacted.
He requested the history again in 2005 and, after an eight year wait, he finally received it a few weeks ago with the references restored.
“President Eisenhower also approved the addition of this strip of wasteland, known by its map designation as Area 51, to the Nevada Test Site,” the history reads.
“The outlines of Area 51 are shown on current unclassified maps as a small rectangular area adjoining the northeast corner of the much larger Nevada Test Site. To make the new facility in the middle of nowhere sound more attractive to his workers, Kelly Johnson called it the Paradise Ranch, which was soon shortened to the Ranch.”
Officials have already acknowledged in passing the existence of the facility, but Mr Richelson believes the new document shows the CIA is becoming less secretive about Area 51.
“It marks an end of official secrecy about the facts of Area 51,” he told The Las Vegas Sun. “It opens up the possibility that future accounts of this and other aerial projects will be less redacted, more fully explained in terms of their presence in Area 51.”
But the new openness only goes so far.
There is nothing in the declassified files to shed any light on the existence of little green men from outer space, US government attempts to control the weather or any of the other, arguably outlandish, rumoured activities at the desert site.