Some call the event the “Texas Roswell.” According to a newspaper account, a UFO crashed and burned on Judge Proctor’s farm near Aurora, Texas on April 17th, 1897. Experts claimed that the pilot, who died in the crash, was not of earthly origin. A quick burial was held in the Aurora cemetery.
The Dallas Morning News account was written by S.E. Haydon. According to the journalist, the airship was clearly distressed and drifting “nearer the earth”—enough so that it struck the “tower” of Judge Proctor’s windmill. A local astronomy expert, T.J. Weems, assured Haydon that the pilot was a “native of the planet Mars.”[i]
Some of the wreckage was sold as scrap. (Mr. T.J. Weems was also associated with the local blacksmith shop.) Metal remnants were dumped into Proctor’s well. Some scrap was, according to reports, buried with the pilot.
And that’s where the story ended, until Time magazine did a follow-up article in 1979. Haydon’s article was deemed a joke. The regional railroad had passed Aurora by, and the town was dying. Haydon was supposedly trying to drum up publicity for local businesses. One old resident, still alive at the publication of the Time article, claimed that Judge Proctor never had a windmill. UFO enthusiasts disagreed with Time’s evaluation—more than eighty years had passed. How could the magazinedismiss the event so casually?
The issue of the windmill may have been a matter of turn-of-the-century journalistic sloppiness. The resident was correct—Proctor had a windlass to pump sump water, not a windmill. The quick burial of the airship’s pilot, derided by skeptics, wasn’t unusual for Texas—bodies could decay quickly in the spring heat. A quick burial was a sensible solution.
A sandstone marker in the Aurora cemetery that supposedly marked the alien’s grave was stolen before any further investigation could proceed, leaving the exact location of the remains in question. Requests by UFO investigators to exhume the grave were denied. Without an exact location to explore, how many graves would need to be disturbed in search of the truth?
In A Persistent Echo, August Simms investigates the alleged crash site, interviews the “astronomer” Weems, and comes to an interesting conclusion. I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that the airships make an interesting and whimsical subplot to an otherwise serious novel.
Note: The illustration is the work of Wade Dillon (https://www.wadedillonart.com/)
[i] The Dallas Morning News, April 19, 1897, p. 5.