April 17, 1897
A UFO crashes
The cigar-shaped airship and its pilot, “a native of the planet Mars,” were reported to have crash-landed on a local judge’s property after destroying a windmill in its path. The body of the alleged Martian was examined and buried, and the wreckage of the destroyed spacecraft were thrown down a well (for some reason). Decades later, a man who purchased the property complained of arthritis and blamed the wreckage, claiming it was contaminating the water in the well. He sealed the well and placed a concrete slab over the supposedly toxic water source in 1957.
In 1979, Time magazine published an interview with an elderly resident who confirmed the crash was a hoax, started as a joke “to bring interest to Aurora. The railroad bypassed us, and the town was dying.” Barbara Brammer, former mayor of Aurora, also stated the hoax was created to inspire visitors to the small town in an effort to stimulate the local economy.
The hoax didn’t seem to work. Aurora had a population of approximately 3,000 at the time of the UFO incident, down from its height of 4,000 when it was the largest city in Wise County. As of 2016, the town is home to 1,356 people, according to the Census Bureau.
The original newspaper clipping from the Dallas Morning News, April 17, 1897, reads:
Aurora, Wise Co., Tex., April 17. — (To The News.) — 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 nearer the earth than ever before. Evidently some of the machinery was out of order, for it was making the speed of only ten or twelve miles an hour and gradually setting toward the earth. It sailed directly over the public square, and when it reached the north part of 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. Seems, the United States signal service officer at this place and an authority on astronomy, gives it as his opinion that he was a native of the planet Mars.
Papers found on his person — evidently the record of this 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.
S. E. HAYTON.