Residents of Aurora will tell you that the story of what happened in the small town in Wise County on April 17, 1897, is either the truth or a remarkable hoax.
Whether true or false, Wise County has received international attention because of it, and people from around the world have traveled to investigate the story for themselves.
According to legend, a “cigar-shaped” alien ship crash-landed in the town of Aurora in the late 19th century. Several residents of the town were said to have witnessed, or at least heard, the crash during the early morning hours, and children in the community were told to remain in their homes while adults examined the wreckage.
The residents of the town who were brave enough to approach the ship found a deceased extraterrestrial being, and they later gave the alien a Christian burial at the Aurora Cemetery, where the body may still lie.
The Dallas Morning News reported the crash two days later, but most residents forgot the story until current Wise County resident Jim Marrs, then a reporter, resurrected the tale in the early 1970s and created a media sensation.
“People back then approached me and said they were around at the time of the crash. They told me they’d had pieces of the spaceship since they were kids, and some even used those pieces for their chicken pens,” Marrs said.
Researchers at the University of North Texas in Denton said pieces of metal found at the reputed crash site were made of fused aluminum – a substance that didn’t exist on Earth in 1897, Marrs said.
“Even in 1973, the people who were alive at the time (of the supposed crash) were divided between those who thought it was real and those who thought it was a hoax,” Marrs said.
Marrs’ stories about the Aurora alien attracted organizations that research UFOs, as well as many other visitors. The alien’s headstone was still visible at the time, and all of the out-of-town visitors had hoped the authorities would dig the body out of the ground and see what, if anything, was really there.
“The representatives from the Aurora Cemetery board got angry – they feared we were trying to dig up grandma, so they got an injunction against anyone who would try to dig the body up.
“A lot of people began driving around the cemetery, so law enforcement had to stand guard out front,” Marrs said.
“The story died down after two weeks, and the police guard went away. The alien’s headstone went missing later that night and hasn’t been seen since.”
He added that visitors can still find the burial site directly beside an old oak tree.
Former Aurora Mayor Barbara Brammer calls the legend “a good story, but one without proof.”
She has her own theory as to what may have really happened.
The town had once thrived with almost 3,000 residents, but many had left for other opportunities by the end of the 19th century.
“There are rumors that someone made up the story as a reason to get people to move back to Aurora,” Brammer said.
While Brammer remains skeptical, Marrs said there are good reasons to believe the story is true.
“There were witnesses. This was six years before the Wright brothers flew, so there was nothing man-made in the air,” Marrs said, adding many newspapers across the country at the time also published reports of a “cigar-shaped” spaceship seen flying across the country, with some of the reports coming from as far north as Seattle.
“There were no more stories (about the UFO) after the crash. This does not prove that a ship crashed in Aurora, but it proves something was flying around the skies of Aurora, six years before airplanes were around,” Marrs said.
Books have been written about the supposed alien crash, and a 1985 movie, “The Aurora Encounter,” was based upon the story that originated in Wise County.