When this newcomer landed in April, 1897 at the community of Aurora, the arrival was momentous for several reasons. First, there still is speculation as to who this was and second, the mode of transportation made for even more supposition. In short, some think this was an alien who arrived in what we’d call a UFO.
The Dallas Morning News of April 19, 1897 covered the original account: “A Windmill Demolishes It” was the headline and the correspondent was listed as S.E. Haydon. The account continued. “About 8 o’clock this morning the early risers of Aurora were astonished at the sudden appearance at the airship which has been sailing through the country.”
The reporter continued, “It was traveling due north and...sailed directly over the public square [of Aurora].” Yet “...when it reached the north part of town [it] collided with the tower of Judge Proctor’s windmill and went to pieces with a terrible explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the judge’s flower garden.”
So what who was this visitor? The reporter answered: “The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one on board, and while his remains are disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world.”
The visitor’s papers were written in unknown “hieroglyphics” that could not be read. Authorities found that the craft was “... built of an unknown metal, resembling somewhat a mixture of aluminum and silver and it must have weighed several tons.”
The incidents brought many visitors but the town still felt they had a duty to perform. Haydon reported:”The pilot’s funeral will take place at noon tomorrow” and according to another source the body was interred “with Christian rites “by Rev. William Russell Taylor in the local cemetery.
That was also where the Texas Historical Commission erected a marker. After describing the history of the town and graveyard, the marker also mentions the “Aurora incident.”
So was this a unique event? Actually it may not have been. According to Texasescapes.com columnist James L. Choron the Aurora incident was actually one of many “airship” sightings in East and Northeast Texas between 1895 and 1898 and the witnesses were usually “substantial” citizens – professionals from various positions.
There were sightings in Center, Texas when several people saw strange “flashing lights” in the sky, and later in San Augustine and also in the Nacogdoches area. On April 22, 1897 near Rockland a circling craft appeared, hovering above the ground as witnessed by a local man. Choron relates: “He described it as having an elongated shape, with protrusions and blinding lights, it went dark when it landed, only a short distance from his home.” A man appeared saying his visit was peaceful, and after requesting some common hardware items to repair the craft he paid with a ten-dollar bill. Then he took off ‘like a bullet out of a gun.’”
Also, on the 22nd in the Josserand area, Frank Nichols, who lived outside the community, woke up after hearing what he called was “a machine noise.” Looking out his window he saw a “heavy, lighted object land in his wheat field.” Six “small, dark” men appeared to ask for water from his well, but when Nichols asked them about the craft he could not understand their answers.
These and other accounts came from witnesses separated by several hundred miles, and all describing a similar object. But we have to understand their descriptions as pertaining to the time. They described hearing “machine noises” because heavy equipment or other such objects were quite uncommon. In addition, East Texans would probably be completely unfamiliar with flying craft of any sort since airplanes and dirigibles were in the future.
So was this a hoax? That is of course a matter of question and one early Aurora resident had an opinion about that. In a 1980 interview an aged Aurora resident related that she believed that the Dallas newspaper correspondent Haydon had made up the whole account. According to this source, Haydon had done it “as a joke and to bring interest to Aurora. The railroad by passed us, and the town was dying.”
The incident has of course been the subject of not just controversy and speculation, but also TV programs, movies and many documentaries. Perhaps we’ll never know anything about the newcomer to Aurora, but he probably could be described as being out of this world.