UFO reports in history- Western Series- Texas Cowboys and Aliens?

Welcome to a new series of old accounts and stories of UFO sightings in history.  In this particular series we will be looking at the old western 1800’s period of time, and strange accounts that were recorded. Yes, I know, that they  already covered this topic on some popular T.V. shows.  In many cases only one side of the account is discussed, so we are going to take a look at the rest of the story.

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The Aurora, Texas, UFO incident reportedly occurred on April 17, 1897 when, according to locals, a UFO crashed on a farm near Aurora, Texas.    The incident (similar to the more famous Roswell UFO incident 50 years later) is claimed to have resulted in a fatality from the crash and the alleged alien body is to have been buried in an unmarked grave at the local cemetery.

 The incident as reported
A Texas Historical Commission marker outside the Aurora Cemetery, alleged burial site of the UFO pilot, which briefly mentions the incident. During the 1896–1897 time frame, numerous sightings of a cigar-shaped mystery airship were reported across the United States.

One of these accounts appeared in the April 19, 1897, edition of the Dallas Morning News. Written by Aurora resident S.E. Haydon, the alleged UFO is said to have hit a windmill on the property of a Judge J.S. Proctor two days earlier at around 6am local (Central) time, resulting in its crash. The pilot (who was reported to be “not of this world”, and a “Martian” according to a reported Army officer from nearby Fort Worth)  did not survive the crash, and was buried “with Christian rites” at the nearby Aurora Cemetery. (The cemetery contains a Texas Historical Commission marker mentioning the incident.)

Reportedly, wreckage from the crash site was dumped into a nearby well located under the damaged windmill, while some ended up with the alien in the grave. Adding to the mystery was the story of Mr. Brawley Oates, who purchased Judge Proctor’s property around 1935. Oates cleaned out the debris from the well in order to use it as a water source, but later developed an extremely severe case of arthritis, which he claimed to be the result of contaminated water from the wreckage dumped into the well. As a result, Oates sealed up the well with a concrete slab and placed an outbuilding atop the slab. (According to writing on the slab, this was done in 1957.)

Hoax theory

The hoax theory is primarily based on historical research performed by Barbara Brammer, a former mayor of Aurora. Her research (featured as part of the UFO Files episode on the incident) revealed that, in the months prior to the alleged crash, Aurora had been beset by a series of tragic incidents:

  • First, the local cotton crop (the major source of town revenue) was destroyed by a boll weevil infestation.
  • Second, a fire on the town’s west side claimed several buildings and lives.
  • Shortly after the fire, a spotted fever epidemic hit the town, nearly wiping out the remaining citizens and placing the town under quarantine.
  • Finally, a planned railroad got within 27 miles of Aurora, but never made it into the town.

Essentially, Aurora (which claimed nearly 3,000 residents at the time) was in serious danger of dying out; Brammer’s research also showed that Haydon was known in the town to be a bit of a prankster, and her conclusion is that Haydon’s article was a last-ditch attempt to keep Aurora alive.

The theory was further supported by the fact that Haydon never performed any sort of follow-up on the story, not even to report on the alien’s burial, which is highly unusual given the significance of the event.

Further, in 1979, Time magazine interviewed Etta Pegues who claimed that Haydon had fabricated the entire story, stating that Haydon “wrote it as a joke and to bring interest to Aurora. The railroad bypassed us, and the town was dying.”Pegues further claimed that Judge Proctor never operated a windmill on his property, a statement later refuted as part of the UFO Hunters episode, which found the base of a windmill constructed around the well.

The famous author Jim Marrs interviewed an eye-witness that saw the UFO crash, also the Judge’s windmill technically wasn’t a windmill it was a 3 story wooden water pump tower.

Investigations

A newspaper clipping on the incident.

The incident has been investigated on numerous occasions. One was broadcast by local television station KDFW FOX 4 and two were aired on cable television,.

KDFW report

In 1998, Dallas-based TV station KDFW aired a lengthy report about the Aurora incident. Reporter Richard Ray interviewed former Fort Worth Star Telegram reporter Jim Marrs and other locals, who said something crashed in Aurora. However, Ray’s report was unable to find conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial life or technology. Ray reported that the State of Texas erected a historical plaque in town that outlines the tale and labels it “legend.”

UFO Files investigation

On December 2, 2005, UFO Files first aired an episode related to this incident, titled “Texas’ Roswell”. The episode featured a 1973 investigation led by Bill Case, an aviation writer for the Dallas Times Herald  and the Texas state director of Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).

Investigators at alleged Alien grave site

Investigators at alleged Alien grave site in Aurora, Texas

MUFON uncovered two new eyewitnesses to the crash. Mary Evans, who was 15 at the time, told of how her parents went to the crash site (they forbade her from going) and the discovery of the alien body. Charlie Stephens, who was age 10, told how he saw the airship trailing smoke as it headed north toward Aurora. He wanted to see what happened, but his father made him finish his chores; later, he told how his father went to town the next day and saw wreckage from the crash.

MUFON then investigated the Aurora Cemetery, and uncovered a grave marker that appeared to show a flying saucer of some sort, as well as readings from its metal detector. MUFON asked for permission to exhume the site, but the cemetery association declined permission. After the MUFON investigation, the marker mysteriously disappeared from the cemetery and a three-inch pipe was placed into the ground; MUFON’s metal detector no longer picked up metal readings from the grave, thus it was presumed that the metal was removed from the grave.

MUFON’s report eventually stated that the evidence was inconclusive, but did not rule out the possibility of a hoax. The episode featured an interview with Mayor Brammer who discussed the town’s tragic history.

UFO Hunters investigation

On November 19, 2008, UFO Hunters first aired another television documentary regarding the Aurora incident, titled “First Contact”.

The documentary featured one notable change from the UFO Files story – Tim Oates, grandson of Brawley Oates and the now-owner of the property with the sealed well where the UFO wreckage was purportedly buried, allowed the investigators to unseal the well, in order to examine it for possible debris. Water was taken from the well which tested normal except for large amounts of aluminum present; the well had no significant contents. It was stated in the episode that any large pieces of metal had been removed from the well by a past owner of the property. Further, the remains of a windmill base were found near the well site, which refuted Ms. Pegues’ statements (from the 1979 Time magazine article) that Judge Proctor never had a windmill on his property.  In addition, the Aurora Cemetery was again examined. Although the cemetery association still did not permit exhumation, using ground-penetrating radar and photos from prior visits, an unmarked grave was found in the area near other 1890s graves. However, the condition of the grave was badly deteriorated, and the radar could not conclusively prove what type of remains existed.

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Headstone of “Alien Grave”

A Thought to Consider
In 1897 there were no aircraft to be seen in any skies that could achieve sustained flight for more than a short distance.  Also, at the same time as the Aurora account, reports were coming in from around the middle of the country describing cigar shaped crafts traveling at amazing speeds and altitudes.

Clement Ader

The only noteworthy account of manned flight before 1903 was French inventor Clement Ader, distinguishing himself as the first to develop stereo sound, among his many engineering innovations.  Ader constructed a balloon at his own expense in 1870. By 1873 he had turned his attention to heavier-than-air flight, constructing a winged “bird” on which he is said to have made tethered flights. Ader resigned his position with the Administration of Bridges and Roads in 1876, determined to make a fortune and pursue the dream of mechanical flight. He built his early reputation as a pioneer of telephony and an inventor of communications devices, which ranged from a microphone to a public address system.

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Aders’ Bat Wing Craft

Work on his first powered aircraft began in 1882 and continued for eight years. On Aug. 11, 1890, Ader was granted a patent covering the essentials of the steam-propelled, tailless monoplane that he named Éole in honour of the Greek god of the winds (Aeolus). Six weeks later, on Oct. 9, 1890, he achieved a powered hop of about 50 metres (165 feet) through the air. Éole was incapable of either sustained or controlled flight, but this was the first occasion on which a powered aircraft carrying a human being made a takeoff from level ground. Ader’s claims for a second hop of about 100 metres (330 feet) in September 1891 are not generally accepted.

In 1892 the Minister of War offered Ader the first payment in what would have eventually grown into a 650,000-franc subsidy to construct a new flying machine. The initial design, Avion II, was abandoned before completion. Avion III was tested on a circular track at Satory on Oct. 12 and 14, 1897. The official report of the trials noted that the machine had not flown but recommended that the tests continue. Officials of the Ministry of War, however, decided that they had seen enough and refused to fund further tests.

Nine years later, at the peak of the excitement over the first public heavier-than-air flights in Europe, Ader announced for the first time that he had flown Avion III over 90 metres (300 feet) on Oct. 14, 1897. One of the surviving witnesses now recalled that the wheels of Avion III had lifted, followed by a crash “almost immediately afterwards.” In spite of the fact that this spectacular conclusion to the day’s testing had been ignored in the original report, several historians of aviation began to credit Ader with the flight. Following World War II, Charles Dolfuss, the leading French historian of aviation, and C.H. Gibbs-Smith, his English counterpart, demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that there was little substantial evidence to support Ader’s claims for flights in 1891 and 1897.

The Wright Brother’s

The Wright Brother’s had functional gliders, not yet powered ,  by the year 1900.According to the Smithsonian Institution and Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the Wrights made the first sustained, controlled, powered heavier-than-air manned flight at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, four miles (8 km) south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903, six years after the Aurora Texas UFO report.

The first flight by Orville Wright, of 120 feet (37 m) in 12 seconds, was recorded in a famous photograph. In the fourth flight of the same day, Wilbur Wright flew 852 feet (260 m) in 59 seconds. The distance from Aurora, Texas to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina is 1,445.6 miles!   Highly unlikely this type of aircraft could make that distance  in terms of sustained flight.    The flights were witnessed by three coastal lifesaving crewmen, a local businessman, and a boy from the village, making these the first public flights and the first well-documented ones

Using a methodological approach and concentrating on the control capability of the aircraft, the brothers built and tested a series of kite and glider designs from 1900 to 1902 before attempting to build a powered design. The gliders worked, but not as well as the Wrights had expected based on the experiments and writings of their 19th-century predecessors.

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Their first glider, launched in 1900, had only about half the lift they anticipated. Their second glider, built the following year, performed even more poorly. Rather than giving up, the Wrights constructed their own wind tunnel and created a number of sophisticated devices to measure lift and drag on the 200 wing designs they tested.  As a result, the Wrights corrected earlier mistakes in calculations regarding drag and lift. Their testing and calculating produced a third glider with a higher aspect ratio and true three-axis control. They flew it successfully hundreds of times in 1902, and it performed far better than the previous models. By using a rigorous system of experimentation, involving wind-tunnel testing of airfoils and flight testing of full-size prototypes, the Wrights not only built a working aircraft, the Wright Flyer, but also helped advance the science of aeronautical engineering.

Rounding it out

Obviously, the craft or crafts that were seen during the few days surrounding April 17, 1897 were more than likely not the Wright Brother’s in their newly designed, short flight plane.  What did people think they were seeing in the skies, and where did they get the idea of a “flying machine”?  How would people have known what one would even look like, since airplanes were not in production in 1897?  I think it safe to say folks at this time were not witnessing airplanes, or any man-made air crafts for that matter.  Food for thought!  Whatever happened In Aurora, Texas on April 17, 1897 remains a mystery to this day.  It is one of those cases that can’t seem to be proved, or disproved.  In the end, you must decide for yourself!

 

 

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