Back in 2005 when I told my husband I was going to write a column on unidentified flying objects, he told me not to do it because it would open a real can of worms. He was so smart. Today when I pulled my UFO file out of the cabinet, it is at least an inch thick.

But here goes again. This morning, I read an article by Dana Branham in The Dallas Morning News about a Dallas lawyer looking for a gravestone for a Martian named Ned that had been stolen from a cemetery in Aurora, Texas. It rang a bell.

Sure enough, about half the articles in my file contain information, not about a gravestone, but about a sighting in January 1878 in the Denison Daily News. That’s pretty close to the April 1897 date that Ned, the Martian is supposed to have crashed his spaceship in Aurora, northwest of Dallas.

An early day article in The Denison Herald questioned whether the 1878 sighting could have been the first printed report of a UFO sighting that took place, quoting John Martin, a farmer living some six miles north of Dallas, who said on a Tuesday morning, while he was out hunting, his attention was directed to a dark object high up in the northern sky.

He said the peculiar shape and the velocity with which the object seemed to approach riveted his attention and he trained his eyes to discover its character. He said it was about the size of an orange and continued to grow in size. After watching it for some time he said he became blind from long-looking and left off viewing it for a time to rest his eyes. When he resumed looking, the object was almost overhead, he said, and had increased considerably in size as it went through space at what he called “a wonderful speed.”

When it was directly over him, it was about the size of a large saucer or as he could judge at such a distance, a balloon that seemed to him to be the most reasonable solution of the strange phenomenon. It left as quickly as it had appeared and he soon lost sight in the southern sky Martin said.

This “saucer” hadn’t yet been associated with UFOs and wouldn’t become a part of the UFO craze for almost 75 years. But unexplained objects high up in the sky have been around a lot longer that that, at least in the North Texas sky.

Bonham in Fannin County had a sighting even before the 1878 one in Denison. According to an Internet timetable of the “unexplained.” In 1873, it is said that a huge cigar-shaped object swooped low over Bonham on two occasions in broad daylight then disappeared quickly to the east.

A Bonham farmer in June of that year said he looked up from his work and was astonished by what looked like an enormous flying snake, banded with brilliant yellow swipes, writhing and twisting in the sky above him.

Another Internet article titled “Serpents in the Sky,” went into greater detail about the “sighting.” It related that in broad daylight a fast moving object appeared in the sky southwest of Bonham. The people there first stared at it, not believing their eyes. It is believed that they may have seen drifting balloons before, but this was so large and traveling so fast that it was almost a blur, according to the article.

The story goes that farmers were so scared that they dived under their wagons and towns people ran inside. Only a few of the braver were said to have stood their ground and watched as the object circled Bonham twice then vanished. Some said the object was round and others said oval to cigar shaped. Twenty-four hours later, a device of the same description was sighted over Fort Scott, Kansas.

Another article from the internet headlined “The Aurora Crash” takes us back to the April 17, 1897, spaceship crash in Aurora that was seen approaching the city heading in a southwest direction. This was a long time before such a crash had taken place in Roswell, New Mexico.

In Aurora, the UFO was said to have crashed into a windmill early one morning and broke into many pieces, destroying the UFO and the only inhabitant that was inside. However, once an investigation was begun, it was said that the farm on which the craft crashed had no windmill.

When word got out of the crash and Aurora citizens went to see for themselves, they found what was described as a “small being not of this world” that was badly disfigured. They called the being a “Martian pilot” and buried the body in the local cemetery and even gave it a headstone. That is what Dallas attorney Stratton Horres wants to find and is offering a $1,000 reward for, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

It’s a little ironic, but the missing grave marker that accompanied the Dallas News article and a sketch given to the Denison Herald by Jim Shelton in 1981 are almost the same. Shelton’s sketch depicts a UFO that he saw in May that year that he described as “cigar-like shaped” with fire streaming in sparks from the rear and green and yellow pulsating lights. Ned’s grave marker, according to the photo, was a large irregular shaped boulder with the cigar shaped craft carved into it. It appears to have three windows where Shelton’s drawing is the same shape with six window openings in it. Someone has written on the Aurora marker, “Rest in peace, my alien brother.”

A free tour of the UFO crash site and Ned’s grave are on tap in Aurora for April 28 this year to mark the 121st anniversary of the reported crash.

There have been lots of other so-called “sightings” in the North Texas area, one even sighted on long-range radar at Perrin Air Force Base in 1953. A radar technician at Perrin said he was performing routine maintenance on a Plan Position Indicator when he saw a huge blip in the New York area. At the time, Perrin was a long-range early warning base.

Radio contact told Denver and Salt Lake bases of the sighting and they confirmed it. F-86 fighters from Perrin and others from Denver and Salt Lake were ordered to intercept and destroy. They were staggered at altitudes of 500 feet to try to get the sighting.

The last report that I found was written in 2005 and said the formation seemed to be heading toward Dallas. The radar technician said they watched as the fighters headed toward the objects that had crossed the border of Oklahoma into Texas. The object stopped, made a right turn and took off toward the northwest at a terrific speed.

He said there were eight officer radar operators and three radar techs in the tech’s hut during the episode and within 10 minutes of the last sighting, a group of about eight men in civilian suits and 14 uniformed armed guards came into the hut, separated the group and took them at gunpoint to a hangar on the back side of the field where they were interrogated for about four hours. During that time they had to draw diagrams of what they saw and write a narrative of everything that took place. He said the “fear of God” was put into them to NEVER talk about it to anyone. In fact, he said they had to sign a document that threatened them with a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison for violating the Official Secrets Act.

The radar operator, who would be in his 90s or older now, has spoken in defiance of the document that he signed. He continued to say that the objects violated the laws of physics and he doubted that they were from this earth. It’s not known whether he is still living.

Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.