Something in the Air (Part 1): “Oh, Bury E.T. on the Lone Prairie”

You probably have heard of the mysterious airship that was reported to have crashed into Judge Proctor’s windmill at Aurora in Wise County on April 17, 1897—fifty years before Roswell.

On April 19 of that year the Dallas Morning News printed the story as submitted to the newspaper by Aurora resident S. E. Haydon, who was a cotton buyer.

Wow! A strange airship piloted by “a native of the planet Mars.” Pilot killed in crash. Funeral tomorrow.

Pretty interesting, eh? Front-page stuff, you say? “Stop the presses!” “Extra, extra. Read all about it,” right?


Not even close.

In fact, the Morning News buried the story on page 5 of an eight-page edition, next to the classified ads. And that was the only report that local newspapers would print about the Aurora airship sighting. The Morning News printed the report as submitted by S. E. Haydon and never printed a follow-up. In Fort Worth the Register didn’t print word one.

Why not?

“Well,” you might reasonably reason, “the newspapers suspected a hoax.”

But in fact the purported close encounter at Aurora, although perhaps the best known to us 125 years later, was only one of hundreds of airship sightings reported in the Midwest and dozens reported in Texas in April of 1897. Note that the Aurora report’s first paragraph refers to “the airship which has been sailing through the country.” That tells us that the Aurora sighting was not unique.

Indeed, from Kalamazoo to Chicago to Kansas and south into Texas, people reported seeing an airship.

In fact, on that same page 5 of that same April 19 Morning News, the Aurora airship sighting report was just a small part of almost four columns (see full page at bottom) of such reports about “the great aerial wanderer” datelined April 16 and 17 from around Texas: (deep breath) Stephenville, Greenville, Granbury, Austin, Ladonia, Cameron, Ennis, Waxahachie, West, and Wortham.

Clearly, sailing the skies of Texas in mid-April 1897 was either a whole fleet of airships or one overachiever airship.

So full of airship reports was page 5 of the April 19 Dallas Morning News that the poor little Wortham report got buried just above classified ads for complexion powder, a lost obstetrical case, and buggy horses.

Yes, in April of 1897 from Kalamazoo to Chicago to Kansas City to Cameron, there was something in the air. And possibly in the punch.

But what was it?

Something in the Air (Part 2): “Nearer, Dios Mio, to Thee”

airship full pageReports of airship sightings took up almost four columns on April 19, 1897.

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4 Responses to Something in the Air (Part 1): “Oh, Bury E.T. on the Lone Prairie”

  1. Rachel says:

    Hello Sir,

    I believe you have stumbled upon something great here.
    Where is this newspaper from? Is there a hard copy of it somewhere maybe? The first clipping you have shown is a clipping from Arizona while the clipping on the bottom is from Texas. If you read the full newspaper it talks of two men name S.F Tilman and A.K dolbear of human origin. HOWEVER, if this paper is real then this is in fact proof that the Wright brothers were not the first to invent the plane.

    • hometown says:

      It is a fascinating story, isn’t it? In Part 1 the first and last clippings are from the Dallas Morning News. I have tried to cite the newspapers used in each of the three parts. I don’t find a clipping from Arizona. Tilman and Dolbear are mentioned in Part 3. The clippings are from digital archives. I do not know if paper versions of the newspapers still exist. Sometimes libraries scanned newspapers and discarded them.

  2. Pingback: Denton’s 1897 Aeroship Invasion | Denton Haunts and Ghost Stories

    • hometown says:

      Enjoyed your take on this episode in our history, Dr. Treat. I have done almost one thousand posts over six years now, and “Something in the Air” is perhaps my favorite because the episode defies explanation and offers more questions than answers.

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