The year was 1897, during the era of the “great airships”, when an event occurred in the small town of Aurora that redefined the entire city. In the late 1800’s, people all over the United States had begun reporting sightings of blimp like aircraft floating above their cities. On April 17, 1897, word spread from Aurora, Texas that an airship had tumbled through space and crashed into a local windmill located atop a small hill on the outskirts of town. The event triggered newspaper reports in both nearby Dallas and Fort Worth and eventually grew into a National story headline.
The most accurate account of the incident can be found in an April 19, 1897 article, written by S. E. Haydon, a part-time news reporter, in the Dallas Morning News. A similar story appeared the same day in the Fort Worth Register. The text of the Dallas Morning News article read as follows:
About 6 o’clock this morning the early risers of Aurora 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 Service officer at this place and an authority 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. This 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 aluminum and silver, and it must have weighed several tons. The town is today 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.
Several items in the story have been verified by modern day researchers. It was a well-known fact that this period of time produced many reports of “cigar shaped” aircraft (remember, this was pre-airplane days) and in fact, many reports of a blimp like aircraft were reported during the immediate days before and following the Aurora event. Reports from Aquila, Hillsboro, Merkel, Jossarand, Nacogdoches, and Swift Texas all occurred within days of the Aurora crash.
In addition, later day interviews with witnesses (who were young children at the time of the crash) produced several eye-witness reports of persons swarming the site to view the wreckage and one report, from a 10-year-old boy at the time, who witnessed the craft crashing while working on his father’s farm. During the 1970’s there was even a report of crash debris being removed from the “alien’s” grave site by government officials. Some have countered that existing public records cannot prove that a windmill was ever even present on the Proctor farm – persons from Texas are quick to point out that before municipal water supplies delivered water right to their homes, windmills were erected on virtually every farm in the Texas area.
The Aurora story was quietly forgotten but in a May 24, 1973 UPI release, the story was revived by the national media:
“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.”
Fortunately for modern-day researchers, UPI followed up on the story 2 days later after finding a living witness to expound on the event. A 91-year old woman, who had been 15 years old at the time of the crash, told the reporter “I had all but forgotten the incident until it appeared in the newspapers recently.” She remembered that her parents had gone to the crash site and described the debris that littered the area around the windmill. They had also told her that a “small man” with a large head had been removed from the debris and buried in the local cemetery. A headstone had been manufactured for the man that was “not of this world” – the headstone was stolen sometime in the early 1970’s. Jim Marrs, author of the book and movie JFK, viewed the headstone before its disappearance and said, “The stone had like an inverted `V’ on it with three circles. If you duplicate it and put it together with a mirror image, that design makes a little saucer with portholes in it.”
In the Jim Marrs classic, Alien Agenda, Marrs recounts how he painstakingly researched the Aurora incident during the early 1970’s (right before the headstone was mysteriously stolen). Marrs was able to locate three living witnesses, including the 91-year old woman mentioned above, who basically recanted the same story as was printed in the media. One of the witnesses indicated that her grandfather had later told her it was a hoax. Another witness described in detail how he and his father had visited the site and witnessed the debris field first-hand.
Following the 1973 UPI news release, a North Texas State University professor responded by traveling to the site and examining it with a metal detector. Small fragments of an unusual metal were found “near the Oates gas station” – the former site of the Proctor farm. Some of the metal was identifiable but other fragments were very puzzling. It was reported that they tested to be iron but possessed no magnetic properties as would be expected with earthly iron material.
The town of Aurora is located just off US 287 west of Rhome, on Highway 114. The town has a distinct military flare to it including a 1940’s era military airport and military style housing. Some have pointed out that the presence of military compounds in this area further strengthens the validity of the story. Others note that Carswell Air Force Base, where the Roswell wreckage was taken, lies only 10 miles south of Aurora.
At the entrance of the Aurora Cemetery, where the alien was supposedly buried, there is a historical marker that includes the word “spaceship” at the site. The complete text of the historical marker reads:
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. 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 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.
Several attempts have been made to dig up the body of the Aurora alien but each attempt has been successfully blocked by the Aurora Cemetery Association and/or the Aurora City Council. Their reason for blocking the exhumation requests? The association stated that the graveyard contains many graves, particularly those that date to the mid-1800’s, that are not properly marked. Any exhumation request could not possible be carried out with reasonable accuracy.
Many believe the Aurora case is a hoax. After reaching a peak population of 3,000 people, a post office was granted to Aurora in 1873. In 1888 a spotted fever outbreak nearly emptied the town. Three years later, the railroad had disappointingly bypassed the town and and instead opted to place their depot in nearby Rhome. Something had to be done to draw people back to the city. The mayor of the town owned the Proctor Farm where the airship supposedly crashed and it was well known that the Mayor was actively looking for some means to draw people back into the city. True or not, the event did raise quite a stir; the event spawned a 1986 movie titled “The Aurora Encounter”, that put the town of Aurora firmly on the map and in people’s minds.