7 Old West UFO Encounters That (Probably) Actually Happened

    July 28, 2011 at 6:00 am

    cowboys and aliens

    Cowboys & Aliens opens this weekend, and moviegoers are already chomping at the bit for a chance to see cowboys duke it out with UFO’s. As crazy as this genre-blending fantasy world seems, American history boasts a fairly healthy collection of Old West UFO stories during the 1800’s. Even before Roswell and Area 51, people were seeing strange things in the sky, describing them to their local papers, and coming up with wild theories as to what the mysterious objects could be. Of course, there were no video cameras in the 1800’s, and even still photography technology was in its infancy, so collecting documentation of Old West UFO encounters was nearly impossible. Nonetheless, newspapers from the 1800’s are jam-packed with awesome Old West UFO encounters. Here are 7 Old West UFO Encounters That Actually Happened…(maybe).

    The Aurora Incident

    Aurora, Texas, 1897

    aurora texas ufoThe Aurora Incident is one of the more famous Old West UFO Encounters. The incident occured on the morning of April 17, 1897 in Aurora, Texas, a small town in the northeastern corner of the state. According to the Dallas Morning News, Judge J.S. Proctor was preparing his breakfast when he heard a loud crash outside of his farmhouse. Upon investigating, Judge Proctor discovered a strange airship that had collided with his windmill, causing it to crash to the ground. In the wreckage, the Judge found the ship’s pilot, who was dead and described as “not of this world”. Of course, that could just mean “horrifically burned”, but who knows for sure. The Judge buried the wreckage in an old well on his property and the pilot’s body was reportedly buried in a nearby cemetery, with a plaque marking the grave site that briefly describes the incident. Because of the popularity of this legend, there have been numerous follow up investigations (especially in recent years) that have yielded no conclusive evidence to support the theory that a) the pilot of the mysterious craft was an extraterrestrial, or b) that the event ever happened in the first place, aside from a plaque in the cemetery describing the event as it was reported in the papers. Nonetheless, the town of Aurora considers the incident to be a local precursor to the Roswell incident, which occurred nearly 50 years later, because the two stories bear a remarkable resemblance to one another.

    John Martin’s “Flying Saucer”

    Denison, Texas, 1878

    ufo sightingMany people attribute the term “flying saucer” to Kenneth Arnold, a pilot who used the term to describe an object he encountered while flying a plane in 1947. But the term was used almost 70-years earlier in a Denison Daily News article about a strange object that Texas farmer John Martin spotted on a recent hunting trip. Martin, a reputable local farmer, was out hunting one morning when he suddenly noticed a strange, shiny object in the sky.  As he watched it, the object gradually moved closer to him. When the object silently flew overhead, Martin clearly saw the craft and later described it as dark and saucer-shaped, using the term “flying saucer” for lack of a better explanation. Despite Martin’s solid reputation, nobody else saw the craft and no evidence of its existence was ever unearthed.

    Lumley’s UFO

    Great Falls, Montana, 1865

    lumley fur trapper ufoThis story appeared in a few different newspapers in 1865. The papers reported the story of a fur trapper named James Lumley, who claims to have witnessed a UFO crash in the deep woods of Montana in 1865. Lumley was in the forest trapping animals for his fur trade when he suddenly noticed a brilliant, bright light in the sky. The object streamed across the sky, then broke into several parts and crashed to the ground out of view. So far it sounds like a meteorite, right? That’s what Lumley thought too, until he investigated the crash site the following day. As Lumley approached the site where the object crashed, he noticed a huge stretch of land that had been completely cleared of trees and other foliage. The object had forcefully cleared a path in the woods upon touching down. Lumley followed the trail of devastation and eventually discovered its source: a large stone-like object that had smashed into a mountainside. Upon investigating the object, Lumley discovered that it was sectioned off, almost as if it had rooms inside of it. Lumley said that the object was also covered with “heiroglyphics” that could only have been made by humans or other intelligent creatures. In other words, they weren’t just random scratches on a rock. He also stated that the hunk of rock he came upon appeared to be a small part of a much larger object that he could not find in the area. While sifting through the debris, Lumley found a number of glass-like shards and chunks of what seem to resemble melted metal. Despite Lumley’s claims, the “ship” was never found, and besides his awesome story, there’s no evidence of his extraterrestrial treasure.

    The Niagara Falls Lights

    Niagara Falls, 1833

    frozen niagara fallsIn 1833, a series of strange incidents were reported near Niagara Falls in New York. The incidents involved sightings of luminous objects in the sky along with reports of a strange, jelly-like substance falling from the sky. At around 2am on November 13th, a strange luminous object was spotted hovering in the sky near Niagara Falls. The object looked like “a square table that hovered in the sky and emitted bright rays of light”, according to one eye witness. Later that day, a series of jelly-like blobs were discovered littering the ground throughout New York, Newark, and New Jersey. The blobs were described as flat, jelly-like transparent blobs about 4 feet in diameter that fell from the sky, then dissolved within a few hours of exposure to air. Despite numerous eye witness accounts of the blobs and other mysterious lights, no samples of the jelly substance were taken and, aside from eye witness accounts and newspaper reports, there is no concrete evidence to substantiate the sightings or the mysterious jelly blobs.

    The Mystery Airships of 1896

    San Francisco, California 1896

    mystery airship 18961896 was a great year for mysterious airships. Hot air balloons and crude airships had already been invented by this time, although it would be another 7 years until the Wright brothers would record their first successes in their flying machine. But something else was flying around in Northern California in 1896. Hundreds of eye witnesses reported seeing a massive airship slowly floating about 1,000 feet over the city on the night of November 18, 1896. Most of the witnesses were drawn by the ship’s light, mainly because people just weren’t accustomed to seeing anything besides a bird flying around in the sky in 1896. The following night, Colonel H.G. Shaw was driving in his buggy in Stockton, California (near San Francisco) when he came upon a large airship that had landed in a field. He later described the ship as being cylindrical shaped, about 150 feet long and 25 feet in diameter, and made entirely of metal. Not exactly an every day sight in 1896. He also claims that three very tall, slender men were accompanying the ship, and that they examined his car briefly before boarding the ship again and taking to the skies, and eventually out of site. For the next few weeks, numerous mysterious airships were spotted all along the west coast, in western Canada, and even as far east as Nebraska. While airships had already been invented in 1896, nobody had one that could cover such vast distances and reach such heights, which is why the incident is referred to as The Mystery Airships of 1896.

    The Mysterious Lights of 1897

    Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska & Illinois, 1897

    Old ufo picturesThere were a lot of “mysterious” things happening in the late 1800’s. A tidal wave of “mysterious lights in the sky” sightings were reported throughout the Midwest in April of 1897. The first reports came from Omaha, where hundreds of eye witnesses reported seeing the same thing: a 12-foot wide egg-shaped metallic object flying through the air. That night, hundreds more reported being awakened by a blinding bright light flooding through their bedroom windows, apparently coming from a moving object in the sky. Similar reports came in over the next few nights from Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and even Chicago, where thousands of people stood in the streets and stared at the mysterious object in the sky with one bright light at the “front”, and a red and green light on either side that seemed to rotate around the object. Apparently, two photos were taken of the object by a Chicago resident, but the photos have since disappeared.

    U.S. Cavalry vs. Aliens

    Southwestern U.S., 1909

    cavalry ufoThere’s an unconfirmed story floating around regarding a U.S. Cavalry unit that encountered a UFO, and possibly even some pesky little aliens, in 1909. As the story goes, a Cavalry unit was in hot pursuit of a gang of Mexican bandits in the Southwestern U.S. in 1909. During their pursuit, the Cavalry unit came upon a cave that they’d never seen before, despite being familiar with the region. Upon entering the cave, they discovered a number of metallic, horseshoe-shaped flying vehicles, along with a small collection of “little grey demons”, which may have been aliens. The Cavalry unit’s horses were spooked by the ships and the creatures, and the Cavalry immediately left the cave. Upon returning the next day, the cave was empty and the ships and aliens were nowhere to be found.


    1. Bushy Tail says:

      Now your telling me aliens are real?

    2. SkackerKeith says:

      Please provide proof that these events happened. Your “(probably)” isn’t good enough …

      • A) If you’re seriously asking for “proof” about UFO stories you read on the internet, you’re doing it wrong.

        B) Many of these legends are pretty well documented, or at least as well-documented as paranormal events from the 1800’s can be. We don’t have “proof” of UFO encounters that happened yesterday, so how would we have proof of one that happened 150 years ago? However, you can easily find a lot of info on the Aurora Incident, the 1896 airships, and the 1897 mystery lights in particular, as those three were very heavily reported (because thousands of people saw them all across the country). A simple google search on any of the other legends in this article can give you a basic overview of the information.

        My general rule of thumb for this article was: if the story was reported in more than a few small papers, then there’s probably at least some validity to it (meaning the witness actually reported the story, at least, and that it wasn’t just entirely made up by one bored, lazy reporter). Just because there are multiple sources doesn’t mean the story is true, but it’s better than a single 150 year old blurb in one solitary newspaper. The exception is the Cavalry story. I couldn’t find a solid source on it, which is why I presented it as “unconfirmed”, but I still think it’s an interesting read.

        Thanks for your interest!

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