A while back I had the opportunity to appear on the late night radio show, Coast-to-Coast. I bring this up only because, apparently, the next night the host had on Jim Marrs who talked about the Aurora, Texas airship crash of 1897. I wouldn’t have known this but someone who heard my interview the night before mentioned to me in an email that Marrs had talked about Aurora and suggested that it was a real event. That person wanted to know if Marrs was correct and if there is anything to the story of the crash.
And this provides us with an opportunity to examine one of the major problems in UFO research. No case ever dies, no matter how many times it is exposed as a hoax. This is true even when those exposing it range from the skeptics to the believers in extraterrestrial contact. And it continues even when no evidence for the reality of the case has ever been found... or none was found until people began to realize they could get their names in the newspaper or their faces on television if they said something to confirm the case.
The stories of the flight of the Great Airship of 1897 provides us with proof of both theories. Although many of the tales have since been shown to be jokes, there are a few that are repeated in the UFO literature with such regularity, and almost with such awe, that it is necessary to provide, once again, all the information about them so that we can work to remove them from that same literature. One of the most famous, and probably the most reported, is the Aurora, Texas, UFO crash that had been the subject of that email correspondence.
Typical of the airship sightings was that told by Patrick Barnes to the Fort Worth Register, "which hardly cares to repeat it." He claimed that he was traveling near Cisco, Texas, and spotted several men standing around a large cigar-shaped craft. He went over to talk to them and learned they were on their way to Cuba to bomb the Spanish. They had landed to make some repairs, and soon took off. Their immediate destination was the Ozarks where they planned to train for their self-designed mission.
The Aurora crash story, as it is told just days later, suggests the airship appeared about dawn on April 17, 1897, came in low, buzzed the town square and then continued north, toward the farm owned at the time by Judge Proctor. There it hit a windmill and exploded into a shower of debris, damaging the Judge’s flower garden, and house, not to mention his windmill. The townspeople rushed to the scene and found the badly disfigured body of the pilot. T.J. Weems, a Signal Corps officer (think intelligence officer here in 1897), thought the pilot was probably from Mars.
Being good Christians, and apparently because no one had anything else to do, they buried the pilot after a short memorial service that afternoon. They also gathered several documents covered with a strange writing found in the wreckage, and picked up tons of material including silver and aluminum that came from the airship. All that evidence has long since disappeared.
And that’s it. No follow up stories as tourists flocked to Aurora. No mysterious scientists arriving to inspect the wreckage. No Army response, though one of their own was on hand to report what he had seen. And finally, most importantly, no one ever produced those documents or bits and pieces of the wreckage, though there had been tons of it, at least according to the newspaper report.
The story died at that point, and then was resurrected in the 1960s by UFO researchers who stumbled onto the airship tales which had been dormant for about six decades. Suddenly the story of the tragedy reappeared and Aurora, Texas was now on the map with those scientists, researchers and tourists finally making the trek.
A large number of people, including Hayden Hewes of the now defunct International UFO Bureau, Jim Marrs, who had most recently suggested the story was real, and even Walt Andrus, the former International Director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) at various times journeyed to Aurora in search of the truth. They all reported they found a strange grave marker in the Aurora cemetery, they found strange metal with metal detectors, and they gathered reports from long time Aurora residents who remembered the story, remembered seeing the airship, or remembered parents talking about the crash. There was also discussion of government attempts to suppress the data. To them, that made the story of the crash real.
The problem here is that I beat most of these people to Aurora by several years to conduct my own investigation. I talked to some of those same longtime residents who told me in the early 1970s that nothing had happened. I talked to the historians at the Wise County Historical Society (Aurora is in Wise County) who told me that it hadn’t happened, though they wish it had. I learned that T.J. Weems, the famed Signal Corps officer was, in fact, the local blacksmith. I learned that Judge Proctor didn’t have a windmill, or rather that was what was said then. Now they suggest that he had two windmills. I wandered the grave yard, which isn’t all that large (something just over 800 graves) and found no marker with strange symbols carved on it, though there are those who suggest a crude headstone with a rough airship on it had been there at the time. I found nothing to support the tale and went away believing, based on my own research and interviews, this to be another of the airship hoaxes.
Metal collected by all those others, when analyzed here, turned out to be nothing strange or unusual. Some of it was later analyzed in a Canadian lab and their results mirrored those of American labs. So much for the idea that the government, in the guise of the CIA, the Air Force, or the mythical MJ-12, conspired to suppress evidence of the Aurora UFO crash.
Isn’t it interesting, though, that none of the metal supposedly gathered by the town’s residents has ever surfaced. The metal analyzed was always recovered by researchers with metal detectors. Isn’t interesting that the strange grave marker has since disappeared and there is no real photographic record of it. There should be for all the research that has been done and the single picture that has turned up showed not an airship but a coarse triangle with circles in the center. And isn’t interesting that there were never any follow up reports from Aurora. First the big splash with the crash and then nothing for more than sixty years.
The final, fatal blow for the airship and Aurora crash comes from the original reporter. H.E. Hayden, a stringer for the Dallas Morning News, who claimed to have invented the story in a vain attempt to put his dying community back on the map. He hoped to draw attention, and people, to Aurora, Texas. He was successful. The problem was that he succeeded sixty years too late and those who arrived only wanted to learn about the airship, not settle down to rebuild the community as he had hoped.