In American Cosmic, an ethnographic study of UFO culture, D. W. Pasulka describes a spot in the desert by Area 51, a classified U.S. Air Force facility, where pilgrims mine the sand for pieces of crashed spacecraft. Pasulka calls it a “sacred space because it marked the location where it is believed that nonhuman intelligence revealed itself to humans.” Such an event, known as a hierophany, confers its setting with lasting divinity. “Where hierophanies appear, consumerism often follows,” Pasulka observes, hence the outer-space-themed beef jerky at Area 51. The opening of Area 15, a shopping-cum-entertainment center in Las Vegas, sees a reversal of this phenomenon, offering up a commercial experience so transcendent that the mall has taken UFOs for its theme. Though it’s hard to imagine that anything could seem alien in a city as far-out as Vegas, the venue adds outer Nevada’s spacey strangeness to the Strip’s sleazier oddities. —C.J.F.
Area 15 3215 S Rancho Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89102, United States Get Directions »