America’s First Roswell: The Aurora UFO Crash

Everyone is familiar with the story of Roswell, New Mexico, where an extraterrestrial
spaceship supposedly crashed and alien bodies were recovered and hidden by the US
Government. But if the flying saucer fans are to be believed, Roswell was not the first
time that alien space travelers died in a crash in the US. The first fatal extraterrestrial traffic accident happened in the tiny little village of Aurora, Texas, in 1897. And according to conspiracy fans, the dead alien pilot may still be there.


The “alien” grave marker at the Aurora cemetery.           photo from Wiki commons

In the spring of 1897, something odd happened in Texas. A local newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, began running reports by people who had seen a “Great Airship” flying around in the skies over the surrounding towns. Over a period of two weeks in the later half of April, there were over 20 different stories on the “Airship”. Some of the stories were straightforward. On April 17, theMorning News reported this account by a railroad worker named WS Hellier: “I was standing on the pavement on the north side of the public square last night about 10 o’clock when I noticed a dark object begin to pass between the earth and the moon. At first I thought it was a cloud but I noticed at the same time that it was perfectly shaped. The object was going eastward and not apparently at any great rate of speed. It was an elongated oval, perhaps six times its diameter in length. After it passed by the moon I saw no more of it.” On April 28, a local lawyer told the newspaper: “I beheld, about 1,000 ft. above me I judge, a huge black monster, from which the light emanated. It was in shape something like a cigar, but underneath there appeared to be a body similar to the body of a ship, which was attached to the object and from which the light originated. The searchlight was presently shut off, and a number of incandescent lights flashed around the lower edge of the body of the vessel or whatever it was.”

Other stories were less credible. On April 16, a story ran in which CG Williams told of how he had met the pilot of the Airship, as it sat on the ground in a field near Greenville. Three workers were doing mechanical work on the craft, which was, William reported, cigar-shaped, with wings, and some sort of wheel that looked like the sidewheel on a riverboat. The pilot told him that he was from New York, had built the airship himself, and was flying it around the country as a test flight. He was planning to take the ship back to New York for some final improvements before making a public flight. Other people claimed to have seen the Great Airship’s occupants too. Someone claimed to have seen the craft landed near Farmersville, with the crew singing “Nearer my God to Thee” and handing out anti-alcohol tracts in favor of Prohibition. A person identified as “Judge Love” from Waxahachie reported that he had come upon the Airship on the ground while fishing, where the captain told him that they were from “the land beyond the North Pole” and were descendants of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. They were, the judge reported, planning to send twenty airships to the Nashville Exposition in June.

But the most incredible (literally) story of all ran in the Dallas Morning News on April 19 (one of four “Great Airship” stories that ran that day). It reads: “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. It was traveling due north, and much closer to the ground 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 the 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. 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 officer at this place and an authority on astronomy, gives it as his opinion that he was an inhabitant 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 aluminum and silver, and it must have weighed several tons. The town is full of people to-day who are viewing the wreck and gathering specimens of the strange metal from the debris. The pilot’s funeral will take place at noon to-morrow.”

By 1897, hot-air balloons and blimps had been flying for almost 100 years, and the descriptions given of a cigar-shaped slow-moving craft with a gondola hanging underneath it would appear to be mundane descriptions of a simple blimp, and although the appearance of a blimp over Texas at that time would have been an unusual event, it is not impossible that there actually was someone flying an airship near Dallas in 1897. However, journalistic standards of the time were less than rigorous, and stories often had little or no connection to actual reality: “yellow journalism” was rampant, and newspapers often made up exciting, unusual or provocative stories out of whole cloth just to generate interest and sell newspapers. The sudden spate of “Great Airship” stories, and their equally sudden decline without any follow-up stories, indicates that the whole phenomenon was just another case of a newspaper making up something interesting and exciting. The “Airship” stories were forgotten.

Then, in 1973, Bill Case, an aviation writer for the Dallas Times Herald, rediscovered the story and began a series of articles about the “Great Airship”, culminating in the sensational story of the space alien that crashed into Judge Proctor’s windmill and was buried in the town cemetery. Soon, 90-year old “witnesses” who hadn’t said a word about it in 75 years came forward to tell their “story”. The myth arose that the space alien’s grave was marked by a particular headstone in the cemetery bearing a mysterious triangular or V-shaped mark, and that the dead Martian was still buried there along with much of the debris from the crashed spaceship.

It’s not clear whether Case actually believed the tale or was just reporting on some local color (he died in 1974)–but the flying saucer fans soon picked up the story and ran with it. “Ufologists” with metal detectors soon flocked to the Aurora cemetery looking for pieces of the “spaceship”. They became such a nuisance that town officials removed the tombstone–leading the flying saucer “investigators” to yell “conspiracy!” and “cover-up!”. Chunks of metal were produced that were claimed as pieces of the “spaceship”, but when examined they all turned out to be plain ole ordinary aluminum scrap. Researchers found that TJ Weems, the “expert in astronomy” from the US Army cited in the 1897 article, was actually the town’s blacksmith who made horseshoes. Eager for “proof”, several “Ufologists” over the years have filed court cases seeking to exhume the body in the putative “alien’s grave” for testing, to see whether it is human or Martian. Whenever those requests are dismissed out of hand, the flying saucer fans once again chorus “conspiracy! cover-up!” There are no records at the cemetery of any unmarked or anonymous graves there. Since the headstone was removed, it’s not even clear now where exactly the original grave was, and “Ufologists” with metal detectors have been unable to find it–leading to accusations that “the government” has secretly dug up all the spaceship debris (and perhaps the dead space alien).

Apparently, however, through the entire “debate”, no one had the guts to argue that if the 1897 newspaper story about the crashed space alien was true, maybe the accompanying article about the Lost Israeli blimp pilots from the North Pole was true, too…..

Alas, there is not a shred of evidence that anything actually happened in Aurora, Texas, in April 1897–other than a local newspaper making up some tall tales to keep its readers entertained. The “Aurora Space Alien” is a perfect example of pseudoscience crackpots cherry-picking the “evidence” which lets them believe what they already want to believe.

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