The 1897 Aurora UFO Incident
Today marks the 117th anniversary of the Aurora, UFO Incident, a mysterious series of events that put the small North Texas town on the map and sparked decades of investigations and debate. But was this really one of the earliest examples of a documented UFO crash, or was it all a desperate ruse created to save a struggling town from extinction?
While the events of April 17th represent the climax of the Aurora UFO incident, the story actually began some six months earlier with nationwide sightings of a cigar-shaped object buzzing through the skies. In a time when man made aircraft were non-existent (it would be five years before the Wright Brothers flight), such reports of objects in the sky caused a great deal of excitement in a nation that was undergoing a rapid transformation. But when a report by Auroran S.E Haydon was published in the Dallas Evening News stating that a UFO had crashed into a windmill in his town, the excitement swiftly centered on one small corner of Texas, not far from Dallas.
S.E Haydon's Report
"About 6 o'clock this morning the early risers of Aurora were astonished at the sudden appearance of the airship which has been sailing through the country," reads Haydon's report. "It was travelling due North and much nearer the Earth than ever 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 directly over the public square, and when it reached the north part of town collided with the tower of Judge Proctor's windmill and went to 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."
S.E Haydon's account continued by describing, in great detail, the events immediately after the crash in the town's main square.
"The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one on board, and while his remains are 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 United States signal service office at this place and an authority on astronomy, gives it as his opinion that he was a native of the planet Mars. Papers found on his person - evidently the record of his travels - are written in some unknown hieroglyphics, and can not be deciphered.
"The ship was too badly wrecked to form any conclusion as to its construction or motive power. It was built of an unknown metal, resembling somewhat a mixture of aluminium and silver, and it must have weighed several tons. The town is full today of people who are viewing the wreck and gathering specimens of the strange metal from the debris. The pilot's funeral will take place at noon tomorrow."
So, not only had the townsfolk recovered a great deal of wreckage, but they had also recovered the body of the ship's Martian pilot. Understandably, this news spread like wildfire through much of Texas and the surrounding areas. Aurora was flooded with visitors, but depending on which reports you read, Aurora's new visitors were not just tourists. Some researchers say that military officials swiftly arrived onto the site and started to confiscate materials from the crash.
Away from the military rumors, it is widely reported that the wreckage from the crash was loaded into a nearby well, which lay beneath the famed windmill. But, considering that the townsfolk were so certain this was an alien craft, such behaviour certainly seems a bit odd. Was it placed there for safekeeping or was this just a flimsy way of explaining a lack of physical evidence at the site when investigators turned up? In the 1940's, a Mr. Brawley Oates purchased the building and claims that, upon clearing out the contents of the well he was struck down with a severe case of arthritis, an affliction he associates with the wreckage contaminating his water supply.
As for the alien pilot, his body was buried at the local cemetery in a plot which, even to this day, has always been fiercely protected by the townsfolk of Aurora. The cemetery is now the proud owner of an official plaque from Texas Historical Commission that recognizes, among other things, the legend of the 1897 crash. The plot that is rumored to hold the alien pilot was marked by a small, rough-cut gravestone that features nothing but an engraved image of a flying saucer on front of it. A number of parties, including MUFON and a numerous documentary filmmakers, have asked permission to exhume the grave, but every single request has been instantly turned down by the local cemetery commission. More recently, the gravestone disappeared sparking fears that the grave itself had been tampered with, however the earth surrounding the grave showed no signs of being disturbed.
When UPI picked up the story over 70 years later in 1973, their report breathed new life into a case that had long since become overshadowed by more modern incidents such as Roswell. The UPI report followed a case study by the International UFO Bureau, which had carried out unofficial investigations at the grave site.
"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," reads the UPI report. "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 17th 1897,'" Hewes said."
Despite the lack of evidence put forward by the UFO Investigation Bureau, the UPI's report had put the small town of Aurora back on the map and before long, eye-witnesses to the event had come forward to have their say. A professor at a nearby university claimed to have witnessed the crash wreckage, exclaiming that the material was surprisingly shiny and malleable. Unfortunately though, this was about as convincing as the eye-witness reports got and the lack of hard evidence started to strengthen the resolve of those who believed the Aurora incident to be a hoax.
Was It A Hoax?
The lack of physical evidence was not the only reason for people's lack of faith in the 1897 accounts. In the late 19th century, Aurora was a town on the brink of collapse and in desperate need of funds. Prior to the alleged UFO crash, Aurora, which boasted a population of around 3,000 citizens, had been hit by tragedy after tragedy. The town was ravaged by failing crops, a devastating fire and a brutal spotted fever epidemic. The traumatized town had one hope of saviour, the construction of a new railroad which could open up valuable new trade routes for Aurora and its few remaining citizens. But in early 1897, it became clear that the railroad would not be making it to Aurora and the town seemed destined for extinction.
Could it be that the town's leadership pounced upon the growing rumors of mysterious flying objects, in a desperate effort to bring people to the town? Why weren't there more eye-witnesses to this magical malleable material, and why did we have to wait over 7 decades for a follow up article to be published? These are all questions that UFO documentaries have tried, and failed to answer in a convincing manner. The end result being that without conclusive evidence to the contrary, the Aurora, Texas UFO crash is consigned to legend, and nothing more.