Welcome to Aurora, a village that was claimed in the late 1800s of being the burial place of a crashed space alien pilot who supposedly slammed into a local windmill, located just off US 287 west of Rhome heading toward Bridgeport (near Fort Worth).
The myth was so compelling (or well-known) that the Texas Highway Department constructed a historical marker near the cemetery where the “monster” is claimed to be buried.
Does this sound like an April Fool joke? It isn’t! In fact, it may be one of the first crashed flying saucer accounts in modern history, predating Roswell by about 50 years.
We should start at the beginning of this story.
The town is described in the Handbook of Texas Online as follows: Aurora is located ten miles southeast of Decatur on State Highway 114 in southeastern Wise County. The property is situated on a gentle incline and is flanked by mesquite and live oak trees.
In the late 1850s, settlement began. The name Aurora was suggested by William O. Stanfield, who was impressed by the beauty of the location. For the first two decades, the town’s population rose fast, and it became a trading center for county farmers. On August 21, 1882, the town was incorporated and a post office was established. Aurora had two schools, two cotton gins, two hotels, fifteen shops, and a population of 750 to 3,000 people by the mid-1880s.
A spotted fever outbreak occurred in late 1888, and by 1889, dread of the epidemic had forced a widespread departure from the town. When the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad abandoned its proposal to lay rails through Aurora two years later, the majority of the few remaining residents relocated to Rhome, two miles to the southeast, the new location of a railroad stop. Ironically, as the town’s downfall progressed, it became the focus of the state’s attention.
S. E. Hayden, an Aurora cotton buyer, told a story about the crash of a mystery airship just outside of town on April 18, 1897. Hayden’s fictitious piece appeared to be an attempt to draw attention to the community, but it generated a stir because stories of unexplained flying objects near Fort Worth were already in the news. Aurora was not revived by Hayden’s story. Postal service was stopped in 1901.
Aurora was probably spared from extinction when State Highway 114 was built through it in 1939. Aurora experienced a revival in the early 1970s when it became a bedroom neighborhood for Fort Worth. It had an estimated 376 residents in 1986. The population increased to 623 in 1990.
Aurora Cemetery may have the most significant grave in the world, or it could simply be that historical monuments in Texas are more accepting than those in other states. Whatever the explanation, an official inscription outside this graveyard mentions that it may contain the grave of a pilot from a “spaceship” that crashed nearby on April 17, 1897.
The following is written on a historical marker near the Aurora Cemetery:
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.
Newspapers from April 1897 reported that the alien craft hit a windmill and was torn to pieces, along with its occupant. A 1986 movie, “Aurora Encounter,” tells the tale. The official historical marker was installed by the state, although nobody knows exactly where the grave is located.
For the 100th anniversary of the crash of an unknown airship in Aurora, the TV show “Sightings” had a special called ‘100 years of UFO Cover-ups,’ that featured the alleged recovery of an alien body in Aurora.
Here is the story fashioned from the April 19 1897 edition of the Dallas Morning News:
The sudden appearance of the airship that has been sailing across the country about 6 a.m. this morning surprised Aurora’s early risers. It was heading directly north, much closer to the ground than before. Evidently, some of the machinery was broken, because it was moving at just ten or twelve miles per hour and rapidly dropping toward the ground. It sailed over the main square and as it reached the north end of town, it connected with the tower of Judge Proctor’s windmill and exploded, throwing debris over several acres of land, ruining the windmill and water tank, and destroying the judge’s flower garden. The ship’s pilot is said to have been the only one aboard, and while his remains were terribly mangled, enough of the original has been recovered to demonstrate that he was not from this world.
Mr. T.J. Weems, the US Army Signal Service officer stationed here and an expert on astronomy, believes the pilot was a native of the planet Mars. Papers discovered on his person, which appear to be trip records, are written in an unknown hieroglyphic and cannot be interpreted. This ship was too heavily damaged to draw any conclusions about its construction or power source. It was made of an unknown metal that looked like a blend of aluminum and silver and must have weighed many tons. Today, the town is bustling with people examining the disaster and collecting specimens of unusual metal from the rubble. The pilot’s funeral is scheduled for tomorrow.
E. E. Haydon, a part-time reporter for the Morning News, wrote the piece. Despite the shocking revelation, no other newspaper covered it. The incident was practically forgotten until May 24, 1973, when newspapers across 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 91-year-old woman who had been a fifteen-year-old girl in Aurora at the time of the reported incident. She claimed she “had all but forgotten about the incident until it was recently reported in the headlines.” She claimed her parents had gone to the crash site but had declined to accompany her. She remembered the pilot’s bones, “a tiny man,” being buried in the Aurora cemetery.
Not to be outdone, the Associated Press stated in a Denton, Texas-based piece that “A professor from North Texas State University discovered some metal fragments near the Oates petrol station (former Proctor farm). One fragment was described as “particularly fascinating” because it was made largely of iron and did not appear to have magnetic characteristics.” The professor was also perplexed since the fragment was “shiny and pliable rather than drab and brittle like iron.”