There is no reason to drive hundreds of miles into the Nevada desert, just to see a battered mailbox that has been covered with stickers by other people who made the same seemingly pointless trip on State Route 375. But that metal box—which has been called "the most photographed mailbox in the world"—has become a must-visit destination for tourists who find themselves in this part of the Tikaboo Valley, where they take selfies in front of the 'Extraterrestrial Highway' signs and buy alien-shaped novelties from the Little A'Le'Inn in nearby Rachel.
Now the owners of the black mailbox are selling the longtime landmark, along with the 80 acre cattle ranch that stretches out behind it, and a permit to graze 250 cows in Area 51. Yes, this $4.5 million property is adjacent to that Area 51, the top-secret military base where alien spacecraft have supposedly landed, where alien technologies have been developed, or some combination of the two. And in addition to the continued interest of conspiracy theorists, the next owner will also get two "newer manufactured homes," a barn, 750 cattle, and all the equipment needed to keep the ranch operational.
Steve and Glenda Medlin bought the property in 1973, before most people had ever heard of the nearby U.S. Air Force facility. As Mystery Wire reports, a decade-ish later, the Air Force helped itself to 89,000 acres of public land, including some that Medlin had been using for his cattle. "They say it’s never going to make no difference,” a young Medlin told KLAS in 1984. “I’d like to see something in writing saying that, but I haven't got it yet.” (He later worked out a compromise with the U.S. government; they allowed his cattle to enter Area 51, but he had to contact them in advance, using a radio that they provided.)
What did make a difference, to Medlin and a handful of other locals, were the interviews given by Bob Lazar, a self-described scientist who claimed to have worked at Area 51 where he tried to reverse-engineer the technology found on the nine extraterrestrial flying saucers that he said were being housed at the base.
Lazar's allegations were widely publicized, and the alien-obsessed started materializing in the desert, driving up to the fenced-off boundaries of Area 51, and sometimes camping overnight, in the hopes of seeing...something streaking across the black sky. Some of those UFO enthusiasts also convinced themselves that the black mailbox—Steve Medlin's mailbox—had something to do with Lazar's claims, with Area 51 itself, or both. Sometimes the visitors stole Medlin's mail, sometimes they left their own letters for extraterrestrial visitors, and sometimes they just shot the shit out of it.
"For some reason, Tuesday nights was when they thought the aliens came out. Then it was Wednesdays,” Glenda Medlin told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. "They were waiting for the aliens to abduct them, and they were anxious to meet them [...] We’d just shake our heads. It was so asinine.”
In the mid-1990s, the Medlins replaced the black mailbox with a white one that was both padlocked and bulletproof. They also attached a smaller mailbox that has been alternately labeled "ALIENS" and "DROP BOX," in the hopes that visitors from any planet would use that one for their correspondence. In more recent photos, the larger mailbox is black again—and the Medlins have also long since stopped using either box for their own mail.
The ranchers and their mailbox have also been a topic of conversation on the Dreamland Resort Discussion Forum. (Area 51 has had a number of names over the years, including Dreamland and Paradise Ranch.) "The farmer painted it white in hopes that people would stop being fascinated with this mysterious black mailbox in the middle of nowhere," one user wrote in 2003. "Steve Medlin has a government contract to provide cattle for the space aliens to mutilate," another added, five years later. "Aside from grazing rights inside the restricted area, he has nothing to do with 'Area 51,'" a slightly more rational user chimed in. "He get's [sic] enough grief from tourists messing up his mailbox. Don't bother the folks at the ranch."
So now anyone with $4.5 million to spare and a willingness to graze several hundred head of cattle can be the source of eternal internet speculation too. If this sounds good to you, contact the ranch broker who listed the property. Whether or not the mailbox stays in place will presumably be up to the new owners and how willing they are to indulge the fantasies of strangers, but accommodating thousands of alien enthusiasts still sounds better than dealing with a single H.O.A.