Fifty years before an alien spacecraft crash-landed in the desert of Roswell, New Mexico, the rural town of Aurora, Texas dealt with its own unexpected visitor from outer space. It's a story that has gone down in history as one of Texas' weirdest, after all, it's the only UFO crash where a funeral was held for the extraterrestrial pilot.
On April 17th,1897, a strange spacecraft allegedly smashed into a windmill belonging to a local Judge, a man by the name of J.S. Proctor. The crash ended up grounding the craft and killing the pilot, a small humanoid that a local Army officer described as a "Martian" and "not of this world". Among the wreckage, first responders discovered what they believed to be the spaceman's writings, records written in an unknown heiroglyphics.
Unsure of how to handle the situation, the townsfolk did what they felt was appropriate and gave the alien a funeral, burying him in the local cemetery. Shortly thereafter, the locals disposed of the crash debris by tossing it down Judge Proctor's well. Out of sight, out of mind.
You might think that such a historical event would have been covered extensively, but other than a few newspaper articles announcing the crash and a single historical marker near the Aurora Cemetery, the story remains a little-known piece of the town's history.
From the historical marker:
The oldest known graves, here, dating from as early as the 1860s, are those of the Randall and Rowlett families. Finis Dudley Beauchamp (1825-1893), a Confederate veteran from Mississippi, donated the 3-acre site to the newly- formed Aurora Lodge No. 479, A.F. & A.M., in 1877. For many years, this community burial ground was known as Masonic Cemetery. Beauchamp, his wife Caroline (1829-1915), and others in their family. An epidemic which struck the village in 1891 added hundreds of graves to the plot. Called "Spotted Fever" by the settlers, the disease is now thought to be a form of meingitis. Located in Aurora Cemetery is the gravestone of the infant Nellie Burris (1891-1893) with its often-quoted epitaph: "As I was so soon done, I don't know why I was begun." This site is also well-known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash, was buried here. Struck by epidemic and crop failure and bypassed by the railroad, the original town of Aurora almost disappeared, but the cemetery remains in use with over 800 graves. Veterans of the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts are interred here.
Given that the crazy story was reduced to a single line of text, it's easy to see that Aurora doesn't exactly like to promote it's very own brush with the extraterrestrial. In fact, each attempt to exhume the grave of the alien pilot has been met with strong opposition. In the 70's, the International UFO Bureau arrived in town with plans to finally dig up the truth, but were met with some very, very angry townsfolk, many toting guns.
"There was quite a mess," one resident, Karen Tedrow, told NPR's Eyder Peralta. "The residents had guns and everything, because they didn't want them to do it. And I understand, because my parents are buried there, and I don't want them digging around. Earthly body or not, they ought to let it rest in peace."
Years later, cast members from the short-lived television series UFO Hunters visited Aurora, and though they couldn't convince the cemetery board to allow an exhumation, they crew made use of ground-penetrating radar in order to locate the grave. Unfortunately, the remains appeared badly deteriorated, and without DNA testing from a proper examination, the results proved inconclusive, but more mysterious than ever.
Clearly, there was someone small buried there.
Today, visitors wishing to visit the grave of the alien pilot can do so much more easily than before. A small headstone, devoid of a name or date, sits beneath the shade of a tree, one of the few reminders of Texas' first close encounter with a visitor from space.
Is there really a little man from outer space buried in the rural cemetery? Let us know what you think! Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Want to visit some more of America's weirdest graves? You can head to New England where you can check out the Jewett City Vampire Graves, make your way down South where you can pay your respects at the Grave of the Georgia Werewolf, or visit the Edisto Island Presbyterian Church where you can still view the clawmarks left by a girl buried alive.