Briar Patch

THE SPACEMAN’S LAST GASP

CRAIG RASPBERRY IS NINE YEARS OLD and strikingly reminiscent of Mr. Peabody’s pet boy Sherman on the old Bullwinkle show, down to an air of scientific detachment which seems to be a trait he shares with his fellow citizens of Aurora, Texas, of whom there are not a great many. Aurora is a former small-potatoes boom town a little to the northwest of Dallas that was squeezed into virtual oblivion near the turn of the century when the railroad came to the bordering towns of Boyd and Rhome and siphoned out its lifeblood and its people, even its buildings. Now, 75 years later, Aurora is barely there at all, unmapped and largely unheard-of even by hard-core truckers.

But the ghost town image is not wasted, especially in light of the context it forms for what some people might consider some fairly spooky events.

In 1897, late in the spring and early in the morning, a large cigar-shaped aircraft came flying through the air over Aurora, powered by two propellor-type engines and displaying a row of windows on its bottom half. It was flying low enough to plow into Judge J.S. Proctor’s 18 feet high windmill and explode in the air, scattering debris and burning out the better part of a hillside.

According to the story, which was recounted soon after in a Dallas newspaper, there was some sort of pilot inside, variously described by the people who saw it as non-human, charred, tiny, with a disturbing number of dismembered limbs. Eyewitnesses seem to drop out of the story here, but somebody apparently decided that, human or not, the thing deserved a decent burial and interred it in the Aurora cemetery, which was burgeoning from the effects of a spotted fever epidemic.

The newspaper story sparked a flurry of sympathetic sightings (including one in which the aliens wore sailor suits

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