The Aurora, Texas UFO Incident — What to Know

One of the most enduring UFO stories comes from Aurora, Texas, but it is so clouded in history that it may never be fully explained.

Modern UFO sightings have been a part of the United States' pop culture for over a century, but few have ever lasted as long as the story of Aurora, Texas. The quiet town reported a UFO crash on April 17, 1897 – long before the technology to prove or deny the truth was widely available. It's up to each UFO enthusiast to make up their minds about this controversial story, so here are all the facts you need on the Aurora incident.

This story was first published in an article in the Dallas Morning News on April 19, 1897 by writer S.E. Haydon, titled "A Windmill Demolishes It." Haydon cited local eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen an "airship" flying overhead early on the morning of April 17. They claimed that the ship crashed into a windmill and exploded, but even more incredibly they claimed that they recovered some pieces of the destroyed aircraft as well as the body of its pilot. They claimed that it was an extraterrestrial, and they buried it with a proper funeral rather than calling on scientists.

"The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one on board, and while his remains are badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world," the original article reads. Haydon even cites a local U.S. Army official and "authority on astronomy" T.J. Weems, who "gives it as his opinion that [the pilot] was a native of the planet Mars. Papers found on his person – evidently the record of his travels – are written in some unknown hieroglyphics, and can not be deciphered."

Haydon's article mentioned that locals were gathering to observe the crash and helping themselves to "specimens" of the unusual metals that the aircraft was made from. Weems later filed a report saying that the alien was buried in the local cemetery "with Christian rites." The rest of the wreckage from the crash was reportedly gathered up – after being spread across "acres" – and dumped into the well underneath the destroyed windmill.

The next major investigation of this story was conducted in 1973 by the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Investigators spoke to the owner of the property where that windmill had once stood and heard accounts of what had happened there since. In 1935, a man named Brawley Oates purchased the property and cleared all the debris out of the well in the hopes of using it as a water source once again. However, Oates soon developed a severe case of arthritis, which he attributed to the water. He then sealed up the well with a concrete slab which was dated 1945.

MUFON also took a look at the cemetery where the extraterrestrial remains were reportedly buried. They found a grave marker that seemed to show a flying saucer on it, while their metal detectors picked up readings underneath. This led them to believe there were pieces of aircraft debris buried with the pilot. However, local authorities denied them permission to exhume the grave, and shortly after that, the grave marker disappeared without investigation. Since then, metal detectors have not picked up readings at this site either.

Finally, MUFON took accounts from two surviving eyewitnesses of the UFO crash, both of whom were children in 1897. The investigators concluded that they could not determine whether this was a hoax or not in 1973, but years later their work was edited into a 2005 episode of UFO Files which aired on The History Channel.

On the other hand, another major piece of this puzzle is a 1979 article in Time Magazine which featured an interview with 86-year-old Aurora resident Etta Pegues. She told reporters that she knew for a fact that the UFO story was completely fabricated – primarily by Haydon. Pegues claimed that Haydon "wrote it as a joke and to bring interest to Aurora. The railroad bypassed us, and the town was dying." Presumably, others simply carried on the lie from there. It's worth noting that at the time of Haydon's initial article, the entire nation was in the grips of a viral story known as "the mystery airship" or "the phantom airship," where thousands of people claimed to have seen a massive aircraft flying over the country.

While that was conclusive enough for many people, the next investigation cast some doubt on Pegues. Pegues claimed that even the windmill had never really existed, but in 2008 History Channel's UFO Hunters went back to the scene and found she was wrong. Revisiting the site of the sealed well, they found the remains of a windmill base and foundation suggesting that it really had been there. Additionally, the property owner at the time allowed investigators to unseal the well and search inside. They found no large pieces of debris but their tests showed a slightly elevated amount of aluminum in the well.

The UFO Hunters team also brought the latest technology to the cemetery for another look around. Again, they were denied permission to exhume the grave, but their use of ground-penetrating radar showed that there was definitely something buried there. The remains they detected were badly deteriorated and they could not draw any conclusions about what they were seeing, except that something was there.

To this day, the Aurora crash remains one of the most hotly-debated stories in UFO culture. While modern technology has allowed more recent reports to come closer to closure, Aurora has persisted because it is shrouded in the fog of time. It also has a considerable cultural footprint – perhaps second only to the story of Roswell.

The most notable fictionalized version of this story is the 1986 movie The Aurora Encounter. The movie is available to stream now on Tubi, and is available to rent or purchase on digital stores including Amazon's Prime Video and Vudu, but you can watch it for free on the Encourage TV YouTube channel where it was recently uploaded for free. Meanwhile, you can watch UFO Files with the Prime Video Channel add-on HISTORY Vault, while UFO Hunters is included with the basic Prime Video subscription. You can also find the UFO Hunters episode in its entirety for free on YouTube, where History uploaded it last year. If you still can't get enough, you can always visit the historical marker in Aurora, Texas to draw your own conclusions.