Area 51 and the Enigmatic Black Mailbox

the-black-mailbox-once-an-area-51-ufo-mecca (Image: Mr Larrington; the white-painted Black Mailbox)

At Urban Ghosts, we’ve always approached the remote military test site at Groom Lake, Nevada (better known as Area 51) as exactly that: a proving ground for cutting edge – though ultimately terrestrial – aircraft and other black projects. But over the past 30 years, the enigmatic facility has become steeped in conspiracy theory surrounding crashed alien spacecraft, reverse-engineered extraterrestrial technology, new world orders and more. The desert, after all, a mysterious place. Outside the invisible fence of Area 51, little green men and UFO spotting have become a full-blown cottage industry.

One seemingly-ordinary installation, located on a dusty strip of road between Alamo and Rachel known as ‘The Extraterrestrial Highway’, was destined to become an unlikely symbol of Area 51. The installation in question was a black mailbox, which marked the junction of SR-375 and Mail Box Road, near the boundary of the Nellis Range. Lonely and isolated, it was said to be the only landmark in about 40 miles.

the-extraterrestrial-highway (Image: Jrmichae; the Extraterrestrial Highway)

The Black Mailbox, which was owned by rancher Steve Medlin, became a mecca for UFO spotters after the wild claims of a man named Bob Lazar put the remote test site near Groom Lake firmly on the map. For some, the mailbox was simply a meeting place, where people would congregate and turn their attention to the night sky. But for others, it became a place of pilgrimage that symbolised Area 51 itself.

Some visitors even left dollar bills in the remote container in a manner not too dissimilar to the votive offerings left at stone circles by modern pagans. But when Medlin tired of his mailbox filling up with messages to extraterrestrials (not to mention his personal mail disappearing), he added a second drop box marked “Alien” so that the more troublesome Area 51 enthusiasts might keep their hands off his property.

the-black-mailbox-before-it-disappeared (Image: Craig Mirkin; Steve Medlin’s heavily vandalised Black Mailbox)

As Atlas Obscura reports: “Despite spurious reports of lights in the sky and other such extraterrestrial signifiers, the box’s owner, rancher Steve Medlin, does not believe that aliens have anything to do with the sightings. The mailbox (once black, now painted white) is constructed out of thick, bulletproof metal and shuttered with massive padlocks, measures taken after alien hunting fanatics began stealing his mail and even firing guns at the box.”

Unfortunately, despite these added security measures, Medlin’s not-so-black mailbox continued to receive unwanted attention. It finally disappeared in early 2015, apparently stolen. As a result of ongoing vandalism and theft, the Black Mailbox is unlikely to be replaced. Having taken its place in UFO lore, it’s just one of many unusual objects in the mysterious iconography of America’s western deserts.

Related: The Weird History of the Mojave Phone Booth, Where the Number Lives On



  • 2nd amendment vs evil govt

    TWA 800 had an exploding center wing tank….yeah right! no directives from the FAA or NTSB on any of the 1300 747’s flying at the time-including air force 1………only a silly third rate cartoon from the CIA/FBI! to keep the silence the Clintons allowed the Boeing/MacDonnel-Douglas merger to go through after many years of NO by the gum-mint! USS Sea Wolf shot it down, (by accident) now that is a real urban ghost story!

  • Seawolf shot it down? That’s a new version to me. It’s as silly as the other versions, given that US subs don’t carry surface to air missiles. And the NTSB issued 15 safety recommendations in its final report on the crash, including calling for the development of nitrogen-inerting systems for new and existing aircraft.

  • 2nd amendment vs evil govt

    read the new book out TWA 800-The Crash, The Cover Up, and the Conspiracy. amazon books. it is interesting to note that former Sen John Kerry referred to TWA 800 on three separate occasions as it being shot down, as did Anderson Cooper, and George Stephanopolos. Kalstrom, as he gets older, has made a few veiled statements on TV regarding political pressure on him to get the results the Clintons wanted. Your 15 safety recommendations and nitrogen-inerting systems may sound great to useful idiots…..but none ever happened. FBI/CIA/White House controlled the NTSB like a puppet on a string. Hall was a political hack! there was never an exploding center fuel tank before TWA 800, and there has never been once since. while law suits dragged on for years with Pan Am Lockerbie 103…..US Government paid off all claims at a very high rate of $$$ so TWA 800 would never go to tort trial. no trial-no discovery.


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