TIKABOO VALLEY, Nev. — While gamblers in warm, dry Las Vegas casinos plunk coins intoslot machines, two men stand vigil in the icy rain about 120 miles to the north, scanning the sky.
"Look at that!" yells Sean David Morton, pointing to a tiny, distant light. "It's bobbing up and down, making figure eights and weaving motions. It's zipping through the sky at an amazing speed."
Sean David Morton has spotted an extraterrestrial craft. Yup, a flying saucer, he says.
Late last month, Morton and his friend, Jeff Slack, joined about 40 other Los Angeles-area people from all walks of life. They drove here to a valley near a top-secret military testing site known as "Area 51" or "Dreamland" in search of unidentified flying objects.
For the last two years, spectators, skeptics and believers have flocked to this remote spot near Nevada 375, between the tiny towns of Rachel and Alamo hoping to see flying saucers.
Morton, a 30-year-old screenwriter from Hermosa Beach, jokingly refers to the group as the "Johnny Quest Adventure Club."
Visitors to this area near the Nevada Test Site park their cars by the side of the road, plop lawn chairs near a lone mailbox that serves as a landmark, and stare up at lights popping over distant hills and traveling through the sky.
Many say the lights are coming from Area 51 or from an adjacent even more secret, military facility known as S-4. Air Force officials will not comment on current operations in the area, other than to say the land is used for training.
But Gary Schultz, founder of Los Angeles-area Secret Saucer Base Expeditions--a loosely knit group of people who document saucer sightings--says he is convinced the government is operating "Project Redlight." According to Schultz, this is a secret facility at the perimeter of Papoose Lake, just south of the dry Groom Lake bed where he says testing is done to duplicate the technology of UFOs.
He says the government patrols the area in unmarked Bronco trucks, but on the last trip the only visible law-enforcement officials were Nevada Highway Patrol troopers and Lincoln County sheriff's deputies who chatted with group members and advised them not to park on the road.
"People are welcome to come to Lincoln County as long as nobody breaks the law," says Undersheriff Gary Davis, who says he has never seen any UFOs in his eight years with the department. He and other deputies say they don't mind if people come out to look.
Schultz, a chemical physicist with his own business in Los Angeles, first became a believer in UFOs about a year ago after he and his wife reportedly saw six flying saucers here.
"We were totally mystified and awed," Schultz, 45, said. "My summary was: 'This is outrageous. There's nobody up here. There should be hundreds and thousands of people up here watching flying saucers.' "
Since then, Schultz has encouraged others to make the trek, most often on Wednesdays because that is supposedly the heaviest day for saucer testing, he says.
Air Force officials will not offer explanations for Schultz's UFO sightings near Area 51, a 38,400-acre section of the Nellis Air Force Base bombing and gunnery range. It has been used for years for the development of sophisticated aircraft and was first withdrawn from public use more than 25 years ago by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and is now under the jurisdiction of the Air Force. Since the 1980s, the Air Force has had jurisdiction over the Groom Mountains as well, contending the range offered visibility of Area 51 below.
Recently, Schultz began organizing trips to a spot in the Antelope Valley, where he claims there is another secret saucer base. But the bulk of his trips have been to the Nevada site.
Last month's trip yielded mixed results with some people claiming they saw UFOs. But even the UFO crowd has its skeptics.
"Those could be headlights," said a man who asked to remain anonymous because he thought watching UFOs might hurt his career.
"Headlights don't bounce up and down and there's no road over there," Morton retorted.
The man looked puzzled.
Some of the regulars on this trip were convinced no saucer flights had occurred.
"Several people thought they saw things but I'm sure that they didn't," said Anthony Hilder, a radio talk show host from Anchorage, Alaska, who is researching what he says is a government cover-up of the saucer operation.
"As far as I'm concerned, no flights took place because of inclement weather and wind," said Norio F. Hayakawa, a Los Angeles funeral director who has made five trips to the area. Hayakawa claims the patterns of aircraft he has seen in the area--sudden acceleration, deceleration, zigzagging motions and 90-degree turns--indicate advanced technology with control over gravity.
But, calling himself a "doubting Thomas," he said he does not believe that visitors from other planets are involved.