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Cool Places by Satellite: Secret Placess
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Some of these were quite easy to find, though others took a while. When you click on a link you’ll see the location through either Wikimapia or Yahoo, depending on which offered the better view in that instance. Wikimapia uses the Google Maps database but allows viewers to add labels. Its images are between very recent and three years old. The Yahoo images average another year or so older.

1. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Satellite view
OK, let’s take care of AREA 51 right off the bat. For those of us who have been in cryonic suspension since the late 1980s, this is the folkloric name for a heavily classified US government test facility about 220 highway kilometers (140 miles) northwest of Las Vegas. It served as a bombing range during World War II, but things really got going in 1955 when Lockheed set up shop there to develop the U-2 spy plane.

Apparently a lot of other, progressively stranger and eerier craft have been and are currently being test-flown in the area. Its airspace is most emphatically off-limits to civilian and most military aircraft. Camouflaged rent-a-cops, known as cammo dudes, in cooperation with Lincoln County sheriff deputies, have traditionally read the riot act to any and all rubberneckers who got too close. Lately their approach has been more along the lines of “May we help you?”

Belgian UFO
J.S. Henrardi 15.06.1990 Wallonia, Belgium
The facility has had its ups and downs. In 1994, toxic injury lawsuits on behalf of seven Area 51 employees (two of them deceased) against the Air Force and the EPA were squelched on grounds of national security. Something crashed on August 4, 1999 and touched off an enormous fire that was still smoldering the next day. In December of 2001 several dozen cammo dudes went on strike against their employer, EG&G, complaining of abusive 9/11-inspired overtime and underpayment.

Not surprisingly, Area 51 may be one of the world’s most heavily photographed and scrutinized landscapes by now — at least from an extreme distance. You can zoom way in on this view to about 1 foot per pixel. (Though you’ll see many informative labels now, when Wikmapia first appeared on line it allowed literally anybody to post them: “Area 51 Marijuana Farm,” “Area 51 Sex Dungeon,” and “Cemetery of People that Look at Area 51 on Wikimapia,” for example.)

Satellite view
Your tax dollars also support many other junior Area 51s that most people, aside from UFO/aviation aficionados and a few local residents, know little or nothing about. One is a purported cattle ranch in California’s Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles and west of Edwards Air Force Base. IF YOU LOOK AT IT FROM ORBIT or from a nearby hilltop you’ll see little in the way of cattle but quite a few buildings, dish antennas, three runways marked to warn off ordinary air traffic, and pylons to mount radar test targets. I once caught a very bright red-orange light doing frenzied zigzags in the sky over this so-called Anthill facility during the graveyard shift. Others report triangular affairs resembling the Belgian object shown above right, creeping at walking speeds over the nearby and otherwise perfectly prosaic tract communities of Palmdale and Lancaster.

You’ll find two similar outfits here and here. The former used to warn emphatically “UNSAFE FOR LANDING,” though now looks pretty conventional. The latter, redolent of surrounding onion fields and not all that far from the Roy Rogers Museum, has some fascinating structures to zoom in on at the north end of its faux runway. My thoughts for all three of these plants lean mostly toward radar research, but your fantasies may vary.

Satellite view
At least if you blunder your way into a secret restaurant they probably won’t handcuff you. As a rule these tend to be mom-and-pop enterprises that don’t bother registering with the Health Department and depend on word of mouth for their clientele. But here are two genuine, super-exclusive establishments that [presumably] observe all proper sanitation codes.

That kind of money
The first is CLUB 33 in New Orleans square at Disneyland, originally built in the mid 60s as an apartment suite for Walt Disney and his guests but after his unanticipated death converted into a posh eatery. Membership is awarded as a perk to upper-eschelon executives of Disney and other firms, but also sold to anyone willing to wait several years and then pay an initiation fee of $9,500 and $3,175 yearly thereafter [2012 update: A more recent article claims $25,000 initiation, $10,000 annual]. Unlike the park, Club 33 is open all year around.

The other is a Chinese-themed restaurant, THE PAIZA CLUB on the 36th floor of the Venetian Resort Hotel in Las Vegas. It was originally open only to Asian high-rollers willing to gamble $500,000 or more at the casino; but business was shaky and so its proprietors had to lower their standards to the riffraff of mere $100,000 bettors. I imagine they serve real bird’s nest soup there — sustainably harvested, one hopes.

Satellite view
The next location isn’t really secret, as such, but all activities there are very much so because it houses one of the planet’s most isolated indigenous tribes, the Sentinelese. It’s NORTH SENTINEL ISLAND, part of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It’s entirely tree-covered as you can see and about 80 km2 (30 mi2) in size or a little larger than Manhattan.

Those few who have seen the Sentinelese describe them as short and very dark-skinned with peppercorn-like hair. Though basically pre-neolithic they also salvage scrap metal from nearby shipwrecks for tools and weapons. Contact with outsiders is extremely infrequent and they greet most would-be visitors with swarms of arrows or at least threatening gestures. In 2006 the Sentinelese hacked two Indian fishermen to death who drifted too close to the island while sleeping off a bender.

Satellite view
Our final hush-hush site is known as the SKINWALKER RANCH, Bigelow Ranch, Sherman Ranch, or Gorman Ranch. According to the story, a Terry and Gwen Sherman (or possibly Gorman — either or both may be pseudonyms), bought a Utah ranch just south of Fort Duchesne in 1994 and planned to raise cattle there.

Mysterious Doings
This turned out to be a lousy idea, because every manner of paranormal activity assaulted them from every angle of the property: disembodied voices, bizarre craft including a refrigerator-like object with a blinking light, glowing orbs, underground machinery noises, strange doglike creatures, a transitory circle on the grass through which could be seen blue sky, various phantoms, household objects levitating, superexotic-looking birds presumed not to have been endemic, and so on. Oh, and more than a dozen of the family’s cattle turned up strangely mutilated.

Terry and Gwen couldn’t live with this sort of thing, so a non-profit National Institute for Discovery Science founded by hotel magnate Robert Bigelow took the ranch off their hands for $200,000 and ran an elaborate series of scientific tests. This generated a flood of abstruse pdf documents on NIDS’s website and a hair-raising book, but independent corroboration for any of this weirdness has been elusive. Now that the Skinwalker Ranch’s location is largely out of the bag, they’ve beefed up security and trespassers are especially unwelcome.

Next: But of course, Your Tremendousness
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© 2008 Peter Blinn   


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