By R. J. Brown
One UFO sighting, which occurred on April 17, 1897, in the town of Aurora, Texas, achieved fame more long-lived than the town itself. The incident, as reported in the April 19 edition of the Dallas Morning News is 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.
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 newspapers in the world ran the story in their paper. News of the incident remained dormant for almost a century (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
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 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 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 of 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 Cemetery Association was successful in blocking the attempts to dig up the grounds in search of the "Martian pilot." The incident will probably go underground again (pun intended) until its centennial in 1997 will bring another round of widespread press coverage.