In 1897, 50 years before the Roswell incident where an alien spacecraft was reported to have crashed near to a ranch in Corona, New Mexico, a UFO complete with alien passenger was said to have crashed in Aurora, Texas.
Little is known of the incident, other than that during the months of March and April 1897, there were hundreds of UFO reports in the Texas area. There were also incidents of large numbers of unexplained airships flying around Texas, California and the Great Lake states at this time. The skies were incredibly busy indeed.
On 17th April, 1897 the Dallas Morning News reported that, two days earlier, a UFO had collided with a windmill on the ranch property of Judge J. S Proctor and had crashed to the ground as a result. The pilot didn’t survive the crash and was found dead inside the wreckage of his ship. Upon examination by the landowner, an army signal service officer and presumably half the population of Aurora, the pilot was deemed to be ‘not of this world’ and even a ‘Martian’, if the signal officer was to be believed.
Instead of photographing the alien or alerting the authorities, the people of Aurora thought that the best course of action was to give the deceased pilot a proper send off. A travelling pastor called William Russell Taybor conduced the ceremony where the townsfolk gathered to bury the alien with ‘full Christian rites’. The chosen gravesite was in Aurora Cemetery, alongside the town’s terrestrial burials, where it remains today, with the incident commemorated with a Texas Historical Commission marker. The grave appears to have changed considerably over the years, originally marked with a stone featuring a crude depiction of a cigar-shaped spacecraft. However, according to a blog post by Tui Snider, sometime between 2012-13, this headstone was either stolen or deliberately removed, and has since been replaced with a large rock and a wooden cross. ‘Ned’, as he has been nicknamed by locals, is regularly visited with flowers and trinkets frequently decorating his grave.
But what happened with the spacecraft itself? Some of the wreckage was reportedly dumped into a well on the judge’s property, whereas other parts were interred with the alien pilot. A curious story relating to the judge’s well emerged when the property was sold to a Mr Brawley Oates, who moved onto the land in 1935. He cleaned out the rubble from within the well, intending to use it as a functioning water source, but soon found that something was wrong with the water. He reportedly developed a severe and painful form of arthritis, which he said was as a result of drinking the well’s contaminated water. In order to seal away the tainted water, in 1945 he closed up the well with a concrete slab and added an outbuilding on top of it.
Considering that Ned’s grave became quite the tourist draw, it raises many questions as to any hidden intent within the original news report. Little was said about the crash until a 1980 Time article where 86-year-old Aurora resident Etta Peagues was interviewed. She argued that the original Dallas Morning News reporter, S.E. Haydon, had invented the whole matter and there had been no alien tragedy in Aurora. She said that Haydon had written the short article in order to redirect some much-needed attention to Aurora as ‘The railroad bypassed us, and the town was dying.’
She also went on to argue that the judge never had a windmill on his property – a statement which has been disputed by many others, including a tv show who found the base of a windmill on the land. On later visits, other paranormal enthusiasts have suggested that the well itself is of much later construction and could not have been used in conjunction with a windmill.
Legitimate or not, few towns can boast an alien grave, and I hope that Ned’s grave continues to be a tourist draw. If the local news is anything to go by, Aurora have alien photo ops at every turn, with a local restaurant, Smokin’ Windmill BBQ serving a suitably out-of-this-world menu:
“Our top-selling item, specialty item that we run every day, is the UFO…It’s a poblano pepper stuffed with brisket and cream cheese wrapped in bacon.”
Smokin’ Windmill isn’t the only alien eatery in Aurora. They are the anchor premises for a secondary business called ‘Martian Margaritas’, an ‘alien based entertainment venue.’
Over the years, questions of the alien grave’s legitimacy have obviously been raised, but it isn’t as simple as checking to see if something’s in the burial plot. While ground radar has confirmed that something is buried in the grave, as Ned was buried with Christian rites, the cemetery cannot exhume his body without permission from the next of kin…which might be tricky if his family are millions of lightyears away. But hey, stranger things have happened.
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