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TIKABOO VALLEY, NEV. -- The only landmark for about 40 miles on a barren stretch of highway is a mailbox battered by time and desert gusts. It's known as the Black Mailbox, though it's actually a faded white.
Over the years, hundreds of people have converged here in south-central Nevada to photograph the box -- the size of a small television, held up by a chipped metal pole. They camp next to it. They try to break into it. They debate its significance, or simply huddle by it for hours, staring into the night.
Some think the mailbox is linked to nearby Area 51, a military installation and purported hotbed of extraterrestrial activity. At the very least, they consider the box a prime magnet for flying saucers.
A few visitors have claimed they saw celestial oddities. But most enjoy even uneventful nights at the mailbox, about midway between the towns of Alamo and Rachel. Alien hunters here are surrounded by like-minded -- meaning open-minded -- company. In a place where the welcome sign to Rachel reads, Humans: 98, Aliens: ?, few roll their eyes at tales of spaceships, military conspiracies and extraterrestrials that abduct and impregnate tourists.