Some 3,000 visitors were beaming into his tiny hometown this weekend, snapping selfies outside the secretive Area 51 military test base, running through sagebrush in alien costumes and dancing to throbbing club beats as part of a viral online joke bewitched to life.

Mr. Day pointed to the signs nailed to his front gate in Rachel, Nev., population 40ish (50 on weekends).

People in this sparsely populated expanse of scrub desert and sun-blasted mountains have gotten used to the conspiracy theorists and U.F.O. chasers who make the two-hour drive from Las Vegas hunting for an extraterrestrial truth behind the secrecy and security of Area 51 — and leave with nothing but an alien tote bag or a roll of little-green-man toilet paper from the souvenir shop.

But in late June, law enforcement and residents here began bracing for an onslaught, after 2.1 million people said they would rush the base on foot at an event organized on Facebook called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The event creator later said the whole thing had been a joke, but the online masses committed to launch anyway.

The police officers stationed just outside the back gates laid down the ground rules — Do not cross that line. Watch out for rattlesnakes — and politely deflected selfie requests from hundreds of people who drove up throughout the day.

When a green alien asked if he could get a photo of one of the officers pretending to handcuff him, the officer offered these terms: “Once the handcuffs go on, they don’t come off.” The alien demurred.

“They’re hiding something,” said Noah Nelson, 16, who drove from Alberta, Canada, and took part in the storming-not-storming. “Maybe it’s aliens.”

“Or the moon landing set,” his brother, Austin, 21, said.

Like a lot of people here, they were joking. Sort of. A few visitors in alien goggles said they accepted the reality that Area 51, part of the Nevada Test and Training Range, had been used to develop spy planes, not hide alien spacecraft. But like the “X Files” poster said, they wanted to believe.

“We just wanted to see people like us,” said Mike Main, who drove with his mother from Tampa, Florida.

This content was originally published here.