On Sunday, March 27th, Kevin Randle reported in his blog “A Different Perspective” a brief critical assessment of “A Story That Won’t Die.” . . . that story was the Aurora, Texas airship crash of 1897.
The original spacecraft landing story, which was reported in the Dallas Morning News on April 19, 1897, told of an “airship which has been sailing around the country” that had crashed that morning in the dying town of Aurora. The newspaper (quite seriously) tells of a pilot who “was not an inhabitant of this world” & was killed and badly mangled in the crash. More details about the crash, the pilot and the spacecraft (from a variety of points of view) can be found at these links:
Since its publication the Aurora landing has been taken up by conspiracy theorists as evidence of governmental cover-up of alien encounters. . . that’s where my friend James Davidson & me enter the story.
While James & I were working on our Ph.D.s at the University of Texas at Austin, we did some contract work for the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL). One of these projects was an archaeological survey of the Eagle Mountain Lake training ground of the Texas National Guard.
Eagle Mountain Lake (the name, by the way, is a rip-off as there are no eagles nor mountains situated near the rather poor excuse of a damned-up river referred to as a “lake”) had started out as an US Marine glider training base in WWII. Following the war it was transferred to the Texas National Guard who used it for many years before (about 10 years ago) it began leasing it out to Texas A&M to train heavy equipment operators. In 2000, the Texas National Guard was selling the property and when governmental agencies transfer properties these days, they have to comply with certain federal laws. . . one of these makes them look for historic properties before transfer.
So. . . James & I went off (blissfully unaware of the 1897 alien encounter) to EML to conduct an inventory of the significant “cultural resources” which might be on the old base. Needless to say, if you use a small base to train heavy equipment operators for a decade, most of the archaeology gets pretty churned up. But while doing our background research on the project, we discovered that the Aurora crash had occurred near the base and, in fact, several web sites claimed that the crash was the reason that the US military had placed the base there–they we attempting to mine the crash site for the unusual metal and other alien technologies that might give them the edge in the war weapons race. In fact, we discovered, the reason that Texas A&M has been working the site site over was to discover any stray fragments that have not already been discovered!
We humorously outlined the history and web site findings in our official report on our investigations. We even got to write the phrase:
“No fragments of alien spacecraft were discovered in any of our shovel tests and excavations.”
But what is all this really about?
Mr. Randal rightly points out that it is odd that no photographic evidence has ever turned up of the crash site (despite the fact that people were “flocking” to see the site) and he also points out that the author of the Dallas Morning News article recanted the story saying that he wrote it in an attempt to save his dying town. But Davidson discovered an entire series of these sitings all around the last decade of the nineteenth century. . . Although the Aurora event specifically may have been a hoax, I believe that there was something more broadly cultural going on.
Note the the word spaceship enters the English language around the same time (1894, “Journey in Other Worlds”) and writers are filling popular culture with notions of “other worlds” right at the time that there is a lot of angst about the millennium, rapid change in American social structure, urbanization & industrialization, and a growing secularism. I think all of this comes together into a desire to believe that spacecraft were secretly visiting the west coast, the upper mid-west and finally crashing in Texas. These spaceship sittings were, in effect, analogous to the wide-spread fears of the Y2K bug at our own century’s turn. For the late nineteenth century it was a belief that there was a technology greater than ours, but in the last twentieth century it was a fear of the failure (the capricious failure at that) of our own technology.
Other authors have begun to notice interesting co-occuring patterns in alien encounters and social and politic unrest. For instance, Annalee Newitz over at Bad Subjects wrote a piece in 1993 called “Alien Abductions and the End of White People” where she correlated increases in alien abduction narratives with Civil Rights activities and other political or economic unrest.
“The alien abduction narrative,” Newitz tells us, ” is important…especially if humans are only imagining the aliens.” Her analysis sees abduction as a “cautionary racial fable for our multicultural times.” What does she mean? Read her entire article at Bad Subjects:
Am I reading WAY too much into this, eh?