There has been a serious resurgence in UFO interest recently. Now referred to as UAPs, or Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, everyone right up to national intelligence and defense officials are talking about them in the halls of Congress. Whether it’s legend, lore, tall tales, or real, Texas has long been a hotbed of UFO sightings for more than a century. While there was never a system outside of local authorities or the military to report such sightings, today there is the Mutual UFO Network or MUFON. With chapters throughout the world, including a Texas chapter, as well as outlets in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas, one now has alternatives for reporting the strange sites they might see overhead.
THE FIRST FLYING SAUCER
One of the earliest published reports of a “flying saucer” came during a front-page report in the Denison Daily News on January 25, 1878. Local farmer John Martin was hunting six miles north of town when he spotted something in the distance. Looking high in the southern sky, he noticed a dark object moving at an incredible speed. Growing in size and brightness as it closed in, Martin stared at it so long that he was temporarily blinded; his sight not being restored until the object, which was “about the size of a large saucer” and resembling a balloon, was directly overhead. The story appeared the following day in The Dallas Weekly Herald and was picked up by the Daily Oklahoman soon after. This sighting led to the first-ever mention of a “flying saucer”, at a time when no one had heard of a UFO, much less reported on them.
AURORA UFO CRASH
On April 19, 1897, the Dallas Morning News featured an article by S. E. Haydon, describing the crash of an “airship” that struck Judge J. S. Proctor’s windmill at 6 a.m., two days prior. The airship’s pilot, whom Haydon described as “not of this world”, was discovered deceased in the debris. The pilot was buried by local citizens at the nearby cemetery while the wreckage was dumped into a well under the damaged windmill, with some being placed in the pilot’s grave. Brawley Oates purchased Judge Proctor’s property in 1935, eventually deciding to use the well as a water source. Oates cleaned out the debris; later developing a severe case of arthritis, which he claimed came from the contaminated well water. As a result, Oates had the well sealed with a concrete slab and topped with an outbuilding in 1945. In 1980, Time magazine interviewed Etta Pegues, an Aurora resident. She claimed Haydon made up the whole thing to generate interest in the town, which the railroad had recently bypassed. The incident continues to be investigated. A historical marker is set inside the cemetery; the alien grave’s tombstone has been lost twice over time.
The Marfa Lights are among the most well-known mysteries of Texas. As the Visit Marfa website states, “Ranchers, Native Americans, high school sweethearts, and famous meteorologists alike have reported seeing seemingly sourceless lights dance on the horizon southeast of town, an area that is nearly uninhabited and extremely difficult to traverse. The mystery lights are sometimes red, sometimes blue, sometimes white, and usually appear randomly throughout the night, no matter the season or the weather.” See the Authentic Texas article in the Summer 2018 issue specifically about the Marfa Lights at authentictexas.com/mystery-lights.
Nearly one year to the day after the Roswell UFO incident, Laredo experienced a similar occurrence. On the afternoon of July 7, 1948, a silver disc-shaped object was sighted above Albuquerque, New Mexico. Moving at a reported 2,000 miles per hour, the object was tracked making a 90-degree turn before heading towards southwest Texas. At least two US military aircraft were dispatched and chased the 90-foot diameter craft before witnessing it wobble and slow before crashing about thirty miles southwest of Laredo. The military was dispatched from Carswell Air Force Base to cordon off the crash site until a special retrieval team could arrive. When the debris was collected, the badly burned body of a non-human being was reportedly retrieved and transported to a San Antonio military base. Talk of the crash first came in the 1950s with later details emerging in 1978.
As the sun settled into the horizon on the night of August 25, 1951, a group of Texas Tech University professors gathered at one of their homes for an evening get-together. Standing outside, around 9:20, the professors saw twenty to thirty bluish-yellow lights flying towards the south; bright as stars. At a nearby drive-in, Pat Allgood saw a similar sight, later stating that he and his date saw the lights coming up over the movie screen in a “formation of lights…maybe a little bit smaller than a Frisbee.”
Five days later, Texas Tech freshman, Carl Hart Jr., was standing in his parent’s backyard when he saw two V-shaped lighted formations flying overhead. Hart grabbed his camera and waited outside until two more lights eventually crossed overhead; snapped a few shots, processed them, and took them to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Hesitant to publish them, they eventually acquiesced; and a few months later, LIFE magazine did the same. The professors contacted the Air Force, confident they were not meteors. All witnesses were interrogated multiple times by the government’s Project Blue Book. Despite finding Hart’s photos were unedited and that the lights were nothing militarily, their official conclusion was that the lights were birds reflecting luminescence from Lubbock’s newly installed streetlamps.
Remember in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfus’ character Roy Neary investigates a series of power outages, and his car goes haywire as he sees a UFO fly by? That scene was based on an incident from November 2-3, 1957, when dozens of Levelland citizens reported seeing either a rocket or a series of strange lights that interfered with their vehicles; causing lights to cut out and engines to die. Local police thought the reports were a hoax; until they too saw the lights. The federal government investigated, and their conclusion was that the cause of the lights and interference came from an electrical storm and ball lightning; despite no thunderstorms being reported in the area.
In October of November of 1966, eight men who were digging a gravel pit for a North Texas company reported an experience so frightening that when rescued from a nearby truck stop, they refused to return to the site of the incident and left town the following day.
The men were working on a ranch north of Edinburg and about 4 miles west of Highway 281. They told deputies they had seen bright lights in the sky, heard a loud throbbing sound and experienced strong winds on what had been a calm night. Flames shot down from the sky in a beam and set fire to an area about a quarter mile long that burned their vehicles, mobile home and equipment. Prior to this incident, the crew of eight and local residents had noticed strange lights hovering over the fields on other occasions. On the night of the beam of fire, a local resident reported having seen a “cigar-shaped object” hovering over the field.
Inspired by the 1966 incident, the Annual Edinburg UFO Festival is hosted by the Edinburg Library and Cultural Arts Department and is ranked third in the United States and third in the world. Held this past August, the festival included conferences, celebrity UFO speakers, planetarium presentations, a tin foil hat station, costume contests and an “out of this world” laser light show. Plans are in the works for the next year’s festival to be held April 5th and 6th.