By John LeMay
Historian and author
Believe it or not, UFO crashes didn’t begin with Roswell in 1947. I know what you’re thinking, you think I’m going to talk about the UFO crash in Aurora, Texas in 1897. But I’m not going to talk about that either. As it turns out, the Aurora crash was one of several reported around that time.
The April 16, 1897 edition of the Monmouth Republican Atlas, out of Monmouth, Illinois, ran a UFO crash story a few days before Aurora was reported. Also, keep in mind that back then, UFOs were called airships.
The story begins solemnly stating, “If reports be true, the airship, that ghostlike and meteoric wanderer through realms of the western sky which has startled and awed the mighty West for several months, is now a thing of the glorious past. The dull thud did it. It came, it was seen, and it blew up; so the report says.”
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The two witnesses, George W. Somers and William Chadburn, were a couple of “old soldiers” who witnessed the ship crash. The paper reports that “they remained up that night until a late hour in attendance upon a suffering horse. Now the descriptions they give of the airship are somewhat at variance, though they agree in the assertion that the craft illuminated at both ends and moved through space with wonderful rapidity.”
Unfortunately, the reporter doesn’t bother to list these “variances” in the account, but for witnesses to both pick up on different details during a high excitement situation is not uncommon.
“The men had scarcely time for a glimpse of the flying machine when a dull explosion was heard, and the craft disappeared. They declare the report was like that of a heavy cannon, and was immediately followed by a distant sound of projectiles flying through the air.
“Wondering greatly and sad at heart at the inglorious end of the pride of the West, the two men proceeded to the house, where they passed an excited and sleepless night. While Somers and Chadburn are the only ones who witnessed the dying agonies of the airy visitor, there are many corroboratory circumstances. Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, who live nearby, say they heard the explosion distinctly, but thought it was thunder.”
This detail calls to mind the ‘Roswell UFO Incident,’ where rancher Mack Brazel heard a loud thunderous boom as a crashing spacecraft exploded over a ranch near Corona, New Mexico.
Also like Roswell, there was evidence of the crash. “Then the discoveries of the morning go a long way toward establishing the veracity of the two actual observers of the explosion. In one place, two miles from Scotts, there was found a large coil of heavy wire, evidently a part of some electric appliance. At another point, a propeller blade of some very light material was discovered in a partially fused condition.
“Three men engaged in shingling a barn in Comstock Township affirm that upon resuming work on the morning following the occurrence, they found the house covered with minute fragments of steel, which had in some instances, penetrated the shingles and entered the boards beneath.”