A Dallas lawyer is offering $1,000 for the return of a grave marker stolen from a cemetery in the small Texas city of Aurora where, according to local legend, the remains of an alien killed in a UFO crash were buried.
Stratton Horres, a Dallas civil defense attorney, said he doesn't necessarily believe the reported April 17, 1897, crash in the tiny city about 27 miles north of downtown Fort Worth involved an aircraft from outer space — or that there was even a crash at all. But he enjoys reading about and researching stories of unidentified flying objects, and wants to see if his financial offer might turn up some evidence one way or the other.
"It's a legend that persists after 120 years. It's pretty remarkable," Horres said in a phone interview. "I'm skeptical but would love to find some evidence that something has happened that we could not explain."
Horres' offer comes a little more than two weeks before the 121st anniversary of the reported crash, and about four weeks before a planned April 28 tour of the cemetery that is free and open to the public.
The grave marker was stolen in 1972, around the time that the nonprofit Mutual UFO Network published an investigative piece about the Aurora incident. A replacement marker also was stolen in 2012, said Aurora city administrator Toni Wheeler, a longtime area resident.
The marker was an asymmetrical stone that featured a crude etching of the cigar-shaped aircraft with three holes.
Today, the gravesite is marked only by a boulder, although some visitors to the cemetery have used ink to inscribe the rock with messages such as "Rest in peace, my alien brother." A small wooden cross and flowers also were seen at the gravesite during a recent visit.
On April 17, 1897, a story attributed to Aurora cotton buyer S.E. Haydon appeared in The Dallas Morning News: “About 6 o’clock this morning the early risers of Aurora were astonished at the sudden appearance of the airship which has been sailing through the country.”
The story went on to explain that an aircraft smacked into a windmill just a few hundred feet north of what is now Texas 114 and crashed into a field.
Supposedly, the pilot — who many people in the town have referred to by the nickname "Ned" for decades — was buried in the town cemetery.
The incident occurred six years before the Wright brothers’ historical first human flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., and nearly 50 years before the much more famous unidentified flying object reportedly crashed in Roswell, N.M.
Horres said he got the idea for offering a reward after visiting the cemetery on a whim on a recent Saturday. He encountered a father and young son who also were visiting the site, and shared with them tidbits of information he had read about the Aurora UFO incident during his research.
"Another generation will remember that story because of that visit," he said..
If someone comes forward with the grave marker, Horres said he will not pursue criminal charges.
"It will be no questions asked. I don't want anyone to feel like they were in trouble," he said.
Horres said he will hire an investigator he uses for legal cases to oversee an investigation of the grave marker, possibly including a study into who did the etchings of the grave marker and where the stone material came from.
Once that work is complete, Horres said he will consider donating the grave marker to either Aurora city officials or the local cemetery association, or otherwise taking steps to ensure it is kept safely for future generations.
"It would be for the return and examination to the original gravesite, for everyone to see it."
Anyone wishing to contact Horres to discuss the reward or other aspects of the case may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officials in Aurora were unaware of Horres' interest in the grave marker, but would be delighted if he turned up any evidence new or old, Wheeler said.
Two years ago, the city held an Aurora Alien Encounter to celebrate the anniversary of the reported crash. A subsequent encounter event was canceled after the 2017 death of UFO researcher and former Star-Telegram reporter Jim Marrs, who created a documentary about the Aurora incident and wrote and spoke extensively about President Kennedy's assassination and numerous conspiracies.
This year, the city will host a more toned-down event to celebrate the 121st anniversary of the reported UFO crash, with a memorial service for Marrs and a tour of the cemetery and area near the crash site, she said. This year's event is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. April 28, and more information can be found on the city's Facebook page. Later, additional information will be provided on the city's website.