Over one hundred years ago, a most unusual incident occurred in the tiny North Texas town of Aurora. It was here that one of the earliest documented encounters with an alien life form took place, in the early morning hours of April 17, 1897.
Aurora, Texas, is literally “the town that almost was” as the town’s tiny history book states, and one of its few, if not its only, claim to fame is the burial site of an alien pilot that crashed there in his “airship”, the most memorable event in a string of UFO sightings which covered a three state area between 1895 and 1898.
Aurora Texas is located just off US 287 west of Rhome, about a mile south, on State Highway 114 to Bridgeport. There is a sign beside the highway that says CEMETERY, and points south toward the graveyard. Interestingly enough, the historical marker at the site actually includes the word “spaceship”. Newspapers, along with diaries and letters by local residents, reported that an alien craft hit a windmill and was torn to pieces, along with its occupant in April, 1897. A 1986 movie, ” The Aurora Encounter,” produced by Charles B. Pierce, tells the tale. The official historical marker was installed by the State of Texas, and although nobody knows exactly where the grave is located, it is certain that the alien was, in fact, buried in the Aurora Cemetery, after the efforts of the local doctor failed to save it’s life following the crash. There is, unfortunately, no sign of the tombstone. It was stolen some years ago and never recovered. There are, however, picture records of its existence. There is currently a renewed movement in town to exhume the body of the alien, replace the headstone and do a complete search for remains of the crash. Also, there have been several interesting pieces of metal found in the area that have been confiscated for analysis by the military and never returned.
Aurora Texas Cemetery
“The oldest known graves, here, dating from as early as the 1860s, are those of the Randall and Rowlett families. Finis Dudley Beauchamp (1825-1893), a Confederate veteran from Mississippi, donated the 3-acre site to the newly- formed Aurora Lodge No. 479, A. F. & A.M., in 1877. For many years, this community burial ground was known as Masonic Cemetery. Beauchamp, his wife Caroline (1829-1915), and others in their family are buried here. An epidemic which struck the village in 1891 added hundreds of graves to the plot. Called “Spotted Fever” by the settlers, the disease is now thought to be a form of meningitis. Located in Aurora Texas Cemetery is the gravestone of the infant Nellie Burris (1891-1893) with its often-quoted epitaph: “As I was so soon done, I don’t know why I was begun.” This site is also well-known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash, was buried here. Struck by epidemic and crop failure and bypassed by the railroad, the original town of Aurora almost disappeared, but the cemetery remains in use with over 800 graves. Veterans of the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts are interred here”.
Aurora Texas brings up images of high-speed space travel. In fact, one of the newest space shuttle in the NASA fleet is named ‘Aurora’ after the UFO incident that took place in 1897. In 1997, the 100th anniversary of the crash of the unknown “airship” in Aurora, the TV show “Sightings” brought renewed interest to the topic with a special called “One Hundred Years of UFO Cover-ups”, that featured the crash, the efforts of the local doctor to help the dying alien, and the burial of his body in the town cemetery.
This incident has been covered up and ridiculed by the U.S. Government (a standard operating procedure of the MAJESTIC 12 group) and has been widely reported to be a hoax (a weather balloon?). This, to say the least, sounds a lot like Roswell in 1947? The US government has a long history of cover-ups in regards to such occurrences. It is hoped that the current, renewed interest in the incident will last, and that a new investigation will clear up the Aurora Texas event for good, although much time has passed. It is tragic that most, if not all of the original witnesses are long dead, for, at one time, up until around the early seventies, there were quite a few people still living who had been children at the time and not only remember the crash, but remember a rash of “airship” sightings, all over East and North-Central Texas, as well as the stories which were passed down to them from their “elders”. Almost everyone who grew up in those parts of the state have heard stories from their grandparents, or other “old folks” about such events, many of whom were “substantial” citizens, including doctors, clergymen, judges, army personnel, sheriffs and other professionals.
The Aurora Texas crash was, in fact, the culminating event in a rash of “airship” sightings in East and Northeast Texas, Oklahoma, North and Central Louisiana in the period between 1895 and 1898. Robert Atkinson, of Center, Texas, a veteran of the Spanish American War, often told of seeing, as a teenager, strange, “flashing lights” in the sky, as did Polk Burns of the same city. Similar incidents were recountered by Bud Knight, a prominent resident of San Augustine, Texas, who died in 1981 at the age of 108. Lee Choron, who died in 1976 at the age of 94 recalled seeing “moving lights flashing in the sky” while living in Swift, Texas (near Nacogdoches) while in his “teens”. Nor, were civic records and town newspapers of the time completely silent on the matter. Reports, although not common, do exist. On April 22, 1897 in the small central Texas town of Rockland, John M. Barclay was intrigued when his dog barked furiously and a high-pitched noise was heard. He went out, saw a flying object circling about 20 feet above ground. He described it as having an elongated shape, with protrusions and blinding lights, it went dark when it landed, only a short distance from his home. Barclay was met by a man who informed him that his purpose was peaceful and requested some common hardware items to repair the craft. He paid with a ten-dollar bill and took off “like a bullet out of a gun.”
On that same day, April 22, 1897, some one hundred miles away, in the community of Josserand, Texas, Frank Nichols, who lived some five miles east of Josserand, and was one of its most respected citizens, was awakened by what he called a “machine noise”. Looking outside, he saw a heavy, lighted object land in his wheat field. He walked toward it, but was stopped by two men who asked permission to draw water from his well. He then had a discussion with half a dozen “short, dark men”, apparently the crew of the strange machine. He was told how it worked but could not follow the explanation.
Three days later, on April 25, 1897, in Merkel, Texas, people returning from church observed a heavy object being dragged along the ground by a rope or cable, attached to a “cigar shaped” flying craft. As the assembled crowd watched, the line managed to get caught in a railroad track. The craft was too high for its structure to be visible but protrusions and a light could be distinguished. After the craft hovered in place for about 10 minutes, a man came down along the rope, cut the end free, and went back aboard the craft, which flew away toward the northeast. The man was described by all witnesses, as being small and dressed in a light blue uniform.
The next day, late in the evening of April 26, 1897, near the town of Aquila, in South Texas, a local lawyer, whose name was not reported by the press, was surprised to see a lighted object fly quietly overhead as he was riding from his office to his home, just outside the city limits. His horse was scared and nearly toppled his carriage. The object was large, and “oblong”, and sported a bright light that was observed to be sweeping the ground below the object. When the main light was turned off, a number of smaller lights became visible on the underside of the dark colored, metallic craft, which revealed an elongated, transparent canopy. It continued forward, toward a hill, some seven miles to the south of Aquila. When the witness passed the same way, approximately one hour later, he saw the object rising. It reached the altitude of the cloud ceiling and flew to the northeast at a fantastic speed with periodic flashes of light.
These accounts, all given by respectable witnesses, separated by several hundred miles, yet all in a direct line with Aurora, Texas, describe a very similar object. It must be remembered that in 1897, distances were much greater than they are today, and news traveled at a much slower rate. It is inconceivable that there could have been any collusion between witnesses, and highly unlikely that people living in towns separated by several hundred miles could have heard news or read accounts of happenings in other towns within the space of two or three days. This was a time, it must be remembered, when most news traveled by wire, or by railroad, and unless there was a critical need for residents of one region to have news of another, the expense of wiring such news was avoided.
Much may be made, in some quarters, of the “quaint” descriptions given of the object. it, indeed, must be a single object, or at least identical objects. such as the presence of “machine noises” and “ropes”. This is perfectly understandable in light of the fact that this was a time before sophisticated machinery, especially sophisticated flying machinery was common, or even, for that matter, known. It would be six years before the Wright Brothers would take their first, halting, leap above the ground, and the dirigible airships of such pioneers as the Count Von Zeplein, were in the very early stages of development, a continent and an ocean away. Certainly no native of East, Central or South Texas had ever seen such an object. It is highly unlikely that very many of them had even heard of such things. Science Fiction of the day was limited to the works of Jules Verne, and the very early works of Herbert George Wells, and it is unlikely, in the extreme, that residents of a tiny Texas town, only a few years removed from fighting for it’s survival with the Apaches and Comanches would have access to such current works.
The point, is this. The residents of Aquila, Hillsboro, Merkel, Jossarand, Nacogodoches, Swift and Aurora, would describe what they saw in terms that they understood, and could relate to. Any unusual sound, emanating from an obviously “manmade” object would be described as a “machine sound”. Likewise, any form of line, tie-down or connector would be described as a rope, cable or line. A classic example of such a description would be the existence of the “cargo” cults of the South Pacific. religious sects of islanders who being members of a pre-industrial, stone age culture, worship the airplanes that their ancestors first saw during the Second World War, and revere the crews as Gods who brought gifts. “cargo” from the sky. Far fetched? Not at all. Imagine how anyone living today might describe an object from a thousand years ago, or so, in our own future.
It is also worthwhile, at this point, to repeat the fact that people of this time and place, late 19th Century Texas, were extremely conservative in nature, skeptical by necessity, and most unlikely to take off on flights of fancy. There would simply be nothing to be gained from concocting a story concerning such a thing as an “airship.” They would not only not be believed, their sanity, sobriety and competence would have come into serious question. Unlike today, when, as one must admit, such accounts are commonly hoaxed as an attempt to gain attention and momentary fame, this simply would not have been the case in 1897. The most likely result of such a story, unless absolutely and verifiably true would have been shunning by the community as the “village idiot” or as the “town drunk”. Worse, in the primarily Protestant Fundamentalist religious atmosphere of the time, which, by the way, has changed but little since that time, one would have been considered “blasphemous”, “sacrilegious” and possibly even “Satanic”, and definitely shunned by most “upright” and “upstanding” citizens of the community.
The old “Judge Proctor” place in Aurora,Texas, site of the crash, is still locatable, and the town square is still in its original position, but unfortunately most of the original buildings of the town, those dating to the 1890s, are long gone. Some evidence, however, does endure to the present day. The original article, reporting the Aurora,Texas Incident, as written in 1897, in the April 19th edition of the Dallas Morning News reads as follows:
“About 6 o’clock this morning, the early risers of Aurora, Texas were astonished at the sudden appearance of the airship which has been sailing around the country. It was traveling, due north, and much nearer the earth than before. Evidently some of the machinery was out of order, for it was making a speed of only ten or twelve miles an hour, and gradually settling toward the earth. It sailed over the public square and when it reached the north part of town, it collided with the tower of Judge Proctor’s windmill and went into pieces with a terrific explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the judge’s flower garden. The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one aboard, and while his remains were badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world.
Mr. T. J. Weems, the U. S. Army Signal Services officer at this place and on astronomy, gives it as his opinion that the pilot was a native of the planet Mars. Papers found on his person. evidently the records of his travels. are written in some unknown hieroglyphics and cannot be deciphered. The ship was too badly wrecked to form any conclusion to its construction or its motive power. It was built of an unknown metal, resembling somewhat a mixture of aluminum and silver, and it must have weighed several tons. The town, today, is full of people who are viewing the wreckage and gathering specimens of strange metal from the debris. The pilot’s funeral will take place tomorrow”.
The article was written by E. E. Haydon, who was a part-time reporter for the Morning News. As startling as the news was, no other newspaper in the world ran the story in their pages. This is, to say the least, unusual considering the widespread sightings of the “airship” and other aerial phenomenon in the time and place which was completely devoid of even the primitive air transport which was prevalent at the time. It should be remembered that in 1897, air travel consisted of hot air balloons and very early experiments in lighter than air craft such as the dirigibles of Count von Zeppelin in Germany. Neither of these were known to the Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana area. Needless to say, the first airplane was still more than six years in the future, and it is highly unlikely that anyone had experimented with one anywhere near the area. Even at that, the primitive flying machine of the Wright brothers was hardly capable of the speed, altitude or maneuverability of the Aurora, Texas “airship”.
Another story that circulated in the area, at the time, but was not recorded in the pages of the press, has it that the pilot actually survived the crash, briefly, and that Aurora’s town doctor attempted to render aid to the strange being. His anatomy was so vastly different from our own, the story goes, that the ministrations of the local physician were pointless, and the being died within a few hours of the crash, never regaining consciousness. To support this story, which was widely told at the time, persistent rumors have circulated about a diary kept by the doctor, which disappeared in the late 1940s or early 1950s, when a team of United States Air Force officials made an examination of the crash site and collected all remaining evidence, both on the site, and from private individuals, that could be found. Likewise, there have been numerous reports that the United States Air Force did, in fact, recover some fragments of the mysterious metal that the “airship” was built of, and took them away for evaluation. Many local residents say, to this day, that the only thing that prevented these government representatives from exhuming the body of the pilot was the fact that the grave was unmarked, and the exact spot unknown, or at least claimed to be so.
This is, to say the least, unusual, considering the widespread sightings of the “airship” and other aerial phenomenon in a time and place which was completely devoid of even the primitive air transport prevalent at the time. It should be remembered that in 1897, air travel consisted of hot air balloons and very early experiments in lighter than air craft such as the dirigibles of Count von Zeppelin, in Germany. Neither of these were known to the Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana area. Needless to mention, the airplane was still some six years in the future, and even at that, the primitive flying machine of the Wright brothers was hardly capable of the speed, altitude or maneuverability of the Aurora, Texas “airship”.
This area, especially Texas, is, however, known as an ideal place for flying. This is evidenced by the fact that Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio (formerly Kelly Field) was one of the first training centers for the fledgling Army Air Corps in the period following the invention of the heavier than air flying machine in 1903, and it’s initial acceptance by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1905.
News of the Aurora, Texas incident remained dormant for almost a century, until May 24, 1973, when newspapers around the country published the following United Press International account:
“Aurora, Tex. — (UPI) — A grave in a small north Texas cemetery contains the body of an 1897 astronaut who “was not an inhabitant of this world,” according to the International UFO Bureau. The group, which investigates unidentified flying objects, has already initiated legal proceedings to exhume the body and will go to court if necessary to open the grave, director Hayden Hewes said Wednesday.
“After checking the grave with metal detectors and gathering facts for three months, we are certain as we can be at this point [that] he was the pilot of a UFO which reportedly exploded atop a well on Judge J.S. Proctor’s place, April 19, 1897,” Hewes said. He was not an inhabitant of this world.”
A few days later, another UPI account datelined Aurora quoted a ninety-one-year-old who had been a girl of fifteen in Aurora, Texas at the time of the reported incident. She said she “had all but forgotten the incident until it appeared in the newspapers recently.” She said her parents had gone to the sight of the crash, but had refused to take her along. She recalled that the remains of the pilot, “a small man,” had been buried in the Aurora, Texas cemetery.
Not to be outdone, the Associated Press, in a story datelined Denton, Texas, reported that “a North Texas State University professor had found some metal fragments near the Oates gas station (former Proctor farm). One fragment was said to be ‘most intriguing’ because it consisted primarily of iron which did not seem to exhibit magnetic properties.” The professor also said he was puzzled because the fragment was “shiny and malleable instead of dull and brittle like iron.”
The Aurora, Texas Cemetery Association was successful in blocking the attempts to dig up the grounds in search of the “Martian Pilot” , and the incident once again went underground (pun intended) until its centennial in 1997, which brought about another round of widespread press coverage.
In 1997, MUFON , the “Mutual Unidentified Flying Object Network” made a field investigation in the small town of Aurora, Texas, just north of Fort Worth. The results of our research were “unusual” to say the least… One of the first things that any visitor would notice when arriving in Aurora, Texas is that there are military traces everywhere in the town. It even boasts a small military type airport, circa 1940’s, which was one of a chain of such minor installations built as emergency landing sites for aircraft being ferried from one coast to the other for wartime transshipment to Europe or Asia. Even the streets of town are laid out in typical “base” fashion. To anyone who ever served in the military, the signs of military habitations are clear. Of course, this is not unusual for the area, and as most researchers realize, it is extremely common for UFO activity to center around areas of military activity. The Roswell incident of 1947 occurred near the (then) only nuclear capable bomber base in the United States, as well as the U.S. nuclear test range, not to mention the primary aircraft test facility. This trend in Unidentified Flying Object activity continues to the present time, with numerous sightings taking place in, or near military reserves or facilities.
North Central Texas has always been a staging area for troops, going all the way back to the Indian Wars. Notably, there was an outpost in Aurora, Texas, or near it, during the Spanish American War of 1898, less than a year after the “airship” incident, and again during the 1916 “Border Action” against General “Pancho” Villa. This post was reactivated for the First World War, and again during the Second World War to service the small military airfield located near the town. Connally Air Force Base (now closed) in Ft. Worth, (which is less than 10 miles from Aurora, Texas as the crow flies), was for some time the headquarters of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, and it was there that the debris from the Roswell, New Mexico crash of 1947 were taken. Even now, Eighth Air Force headquarters is located in the same geographic area, only 180 miles away, at Barksdale Air Force Base, in the Shreveport/Bossier City, Louisiana area, which lies well within the area covered by the 1895/98 UFO sightings, and is still a hotbed of UFO activity.
Ft. Worth, itself, derives its name from a pre-civil war era army post, established to defend the area against marauding Indians. The installation was an active military reserve, actually made up of Fort Worth proper and several outlying outposts, on and off, until the mid 1880’s. One of these, Fort Phantom Hill, was known, even as early as the 1850’s for unusual sightings in the night sky.
Was the Aurora Texas incident a hoax? Was it the result of some natural occurrence? Was it simply the crash site of some primitive, experimental airship? It seems highly unlikely that the citizens of a tiny Texas town would combine their efforts to fabricate a story concerning something which had, up to then, been mentioned only rarely in fiction. One must ask what the possible gain from such a fabrication would be, and the answer is, of necessity, “none”. The likelihood of a fabrication becomes even more remote when one considers the overall makeup of the local population at the time. The people who settled Texas were a resilient and resourceful group. However, flights of fancy of this nature were, in general, beyond them. Less that thirty percent of the population of Texas in the 1890’s was functionally literate. It is highly unlikely that any of the citizens of Aurora, Texas had ever heard of an airship, of any kind, let alone seen one. Those who were literate, and had, therefore, possibly been exposed to the works of Wells and Verne (the most prominent writers of that time of what is now known as Science Fiction), were generally doctors, clergymen and teachers. men and women unlikely to engage in flights of fancy. It must also be remembered that almost the entire population of the town witnessed the crash, and saw the body of the pilot. Even though Aurora, Texas was small, even by the standards of the time, it is unlikely that a group of such numbers could consistently maintain the same, identical story. With regard to the other sightings of the time, the geographic area, while small, by today’s standards, was great enough, at that time, to effectively eliminate any collusion. In short, the Aurora, Texas incident, and the sightings of 1895/98 have the ring of truth, given the circumstances of the time. It is hoped that future investigation will remove the stigma of ridicule that the U.S. Government has so laboriously applied to this event, and that the facts will, at long last, be known.-