A county jail in Nevada may not be another planet, but it was alien territory for the pair of Dutch YouTube personalities who ended up in lockup after being arrested Tuesday on accusations of trespassing at the Nevada National Security Site outside Area 51 — the Air Force facility that’s best known for conspiracies about UFOs and alien encounters.
One of the men said in a jailhouse interview with a Nevada TV station that a local woman who told them about “Storm Area 51″ — the alien desert festival turned viral Internet frenzy — stoked their interest in checking out the secure government site.
Ties Granzier, 20, and Govert Sweep, 21, were each charged with trespassing and held at the Nye County Detention Center, roughly 250 miles north of Las Vegas, according to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.
Granzier, who goes by Ties online, hosts a popular YouTube channel with more than 730,000 subscribers. Sweep is also a video blogger and told 13 Action News he thinks his and Granzier’s status as YouTube personalities is affecting their situation, suggesting the trespass would not have been a big deal otherwise. A Nye County sheriff’s deputy confirmed the two were still being held as of Thursday morning.
“They said we were going to go out of jail this morning, but we’re still here and we don’t know anything,” he said Wednesday night.
On Tuesday, deputies found Granzier and Sweep’s rental car parked near a gate about three miles into the property, the department said in a statement. In their car, deputies found several cameras, a laptop and a drone. After confirming they understood and could speak English, the pair consented to deputies searching their cameras, in which the Nye County deputies saw video footage taken from the NNSS property, according to the department.
“We didn’t realize this was going to happen,” Sweep told 13 Action News in the jailhouse video interview Wednesday night.
The day of the arrest, Granzier posted a photo of himself at the Grand Canyon, teasing a visit to the site known as Area 51.
In the jailhouse interview, Sweep said he and Granzier were on their way from Tonopah, Nev., when they saw a sign for the Area 51 Alien Center, which Sweep observed as “kind of a big deal here.” That’s where an employee told them about the Storm Area 51 event: an Internet sensation started by a college student as a joke that eventually swelled to some 2 million interested attendees. The day Granzier and Ties were arrested, Storm Area 51’s creators pulled out over fears that the mass of visitors would overwhelm the small rural Nevada town and potentially create a “humanitarian disaster.”
Sweep said in the interview that a woman at the alien center told them they could go into Mercury, Nev., where they could get a closer look. When they arrived, Sweep said, they weren’t alone and “there were a lot of cars going there.”
Despite seeing a sign barring entry, Sweep said he interpreted the warning as applying to nonresidents, and thought they could ask a live person if they might enter anyway. Though both of the men read, write and speak English, Sweep chalked up their alleged trespass to a simple misunderstanding.
“There were no bad intentions. We saw the military post and then had to turn back at that point. We thought we could ask someone,” he told 13 Action News.
A Nye County sheriff’s deputy told The Washington Post on Thursday that trespassers to the NNSS site are rare, with the exception of an occasional stray protester.
The NNSS website describes the Mercury location as a “premier outdoor, indoor, and underground national laboratory” located in a “remote, highly secure area of southern Nevada.” While scheduled tours are open to the public, foreign nationals are required to submit advance paperwork to visit — and all visitors are barred from bringing recording devices such as cameras, cellphones and laptops.
Perspective: UFOs exist and everyone needs to adjust to that fact