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Texas | Ghosts

The Aurora Incident
Page 2

by James L. Choron

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The old “Judge Proctor” place in Aurora, site of the crash, is still locatable, and the town square is still in its original position, but unfortunately most of the original buildings of the town, those dating to the 1890s, are long gone. Some evidence, however, does endure to the present day. The original article, reporting the Aurora Incident, as written in 1897, in the April 19th edition of the Dallas Morning News reads 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 Services officer at this place and on astronomy gives it as his opinion that the pilot was an 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. The ship was too badly wrecked to form any conclusion to its construction or its 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, today, is 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 newspaper in the world ran the story in their pages. This is, to say the least, unusual considering the widespread sightings of the “airship” and other aerial phenomenon in the time and place which was completely devoid of even the primitive air transport which was prevalent at the time. It should be remembered that in 1897, air travel consisted of hot air balloons and very early experiments in lighter than air craft such as the dirigibles of Count von Zeppelin in Germany. Neither of these were known to the Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana area. Needless to say, the first airplane was still more than six years in the future, and it is highly unlikely that anyone had experimented with one anywhere near the area. Even at that, the primitive flying machine of the Wright brothers was hardly capable of the speed, altitude or maneuverability of the Aurora “airship”.

Another story that circulated in the area, at the time, but was not recorded in the pages of the press has it that the pilot actually survived the crash, briefly, and that Aurora’s town doctor attempted to render aid to the strange being. His anatomy was so vastly different from our own, the story goes, that the ministrations of the local physician were pointless, and the being died within a few hours of the crash, never regaining consciousness. To support this story, which was widely told at the time, persistent rumors have circulated about a diary kept by the doctor, which disappeared in the late 1940s or early 1950s, when a team of United States Air Force officials made an examination of the crash site and collected all remaining evidence, both on the site, and form private individuals, that could be found. Likewise, there have been numerous reports that the United States Air Force did, in fact, recover some fragments of the mysterious metal that the “airship” was built of, and took them away for evaluation. Many local residents say, to this day, that the only thing that prevented these government representatives from exhuming the body of the pilot was the fact that the grave was unmarked, and the exact spot unknown, or at least claimed to be so.

This is, to say the least, unusual, considering the widespread sightings of the “airship” and other aerial phenomenon in a time and place which was completely devoid of even the primitive air transport prevalent at the time. It should be remembered that in 1897, air travel consisted of hot air balloons and very early experiments in lighter than air craft such as the dirigibles of Count von Zeppelin, in Germany. Neither of these were known to the Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana area. Needless to mention, the airplane was still some six years in the future, and even at that, the primitive flying machine of the Wright brothers was hardly capable of the speed, altitude or maneuverability of the Aurora “airship”.

This area, especially Texas, is, however, known as an ideal place for flying. This is evidenced by the fact that Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio (formerly Kelly Field) was one of the first training centers for the fledgling Army Air Corps in the period following the invention of the heavier than air flying machine in 1903, and it’s initial acceptance by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1905.

News of the Aurora incident remained dormant for almost a century, until 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 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."

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" , and the incident once again went underground (pun intended) until its centennial in 1997 which brought about another round of widespread press coverage.

In 1997, MUFON , the “Mutual Unidentified Flying Object Network” made a field investigation in the small town of Aurora, Texas, just north of Fort Worth. The results of our research were “unusual” to say the least... One of the first things that any visitor would notice when arriving in Aurora is that there are military traces everywhere in the town. It even boasts a small military type airport, circa 1940's, which was one of a chain of such minor installations built as emergency landing sites for aircraft being ferried from one coast to the other for wartime transshipment to Europe or Asia. Even the streets of town are laid out in typical "base" fashion. To anyone who ever served in the military, the signs of military habitations are clear. Of course, this is not unusual for the area, and as most researchers realize, it is extremely common for UFO activity to center around areas of military activity. The Roswell incident of 1947 occurred near the (then) only nuclear capable bomber base in the United States, as well as the U.S. nuclear test range, not to mention the primary aircraft test facility. This trend in Unidentified Flying Object activity continues to the present time, with numerous sightings taking place in, or near military reserves or facilities.

North Central Texas has always been a staging area for troops, going all the way back to the Indian Wars. Notably, there was an outpost in Aurora, or near it, during the Spanish American War of 1898, less than a year after the “airship” incident, and again during the 1916 “Border Action” against General “Pancho” Villa This post was reactivated for the First World War, and again during the Second World War to service the small military airfield located near the town. Connally Air Force Base (now closed) in Ft. Worth, (which is less than 10 miles from Aurora as the crow flies), was for some time the headquarters of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, and it was there that the debris from the Roswell, New Mexico crash of 1947 were taken. Even now, Eighth Air Force headquarters is located in the same geographic area, only 180 miles away, at Barksdale Air Force Base, in the Shreveport/Bossier City, Louisiana area, which lies well within the area covered by the 1895/98 UFO sightings, and is still a hotbed of UFO activity.

Ft. Worth, itself, derives its name from a pre-civil war era army post, established to defend the area against marauding Indians. The installation was an active military reserve, actually made up of Fort Worth proper and several outlying outposts, on and off, until the mid 1880’s. One of these, Fort Phantom Hill, was known, even as early as the 1850’s for unusual sightings in the night sky.

Was the Aurora incident a hoax? Was it the result of some natural occurrence? Was it simply the crash site of some primitive, experimental airship? It seems highly unlikely that the citizens of a tiny Texas town would combine their efforts to fabricate a story about concerning something which had, up to then, been mentioned only rarely in fiction. One must ask what the possible gain from such a fabrication would be, and the answer is, of necessity, “none”. The likelihood of a fabrication becomes even more remote when one considers the overall makeup of the local population at the time. The people who settled Texas were a resilient and resourceful group, however, flights of fancy of this nature were, in general, beyond them. Less that thirty percent of the population of Texas in the 1890’s was functionally literate. It is highly unlikely that any of the citizens of Aurora had ever heard of an airship, of any kind, let alone seen one. Those who were literate, and had, therefore, possibly been exposed to the works of Wells and Verne (the most prominent writers of that time of what is now known as Science Fiction), were generally doctors, clergymen and teachers… men and women unlikely to engage in flights of fancy. It must also be remembered that almost the entire population of the town witnessed the crash, and saw the body of the pilot. Even though Aurora was small, even by the standards of the time, it is unlikely that a group of such numbers could consistently maintain the same, identical story. With regard to the other sightings of the time, the geographic area, while small, by today’s standards, was great enough, at that time, to effectively eliminate any collusion. In short, the Aurora incident, and the sightings of 1895/98 have the ring of truth, given the circumstances of the time. It is hoped that future investigation will remove the stigma of ridicule that the U.S. Government has so laboriously applied to this event, and that the facts will, at long last, be known.

© James L. Choron August 5, 2004

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