Sunday, December 2, 2018

The dawn of the UFOs

“Aurora: The UFO Crash of 1897” is a slow-paced yet sensational documentary narrated by Jim Marrs (who passed away last year). It´s available above or at YouTube. Marrs was a Texas ufologist and conspiracy theorist of some standing. Personally, I considered him a bit too extreme. “Aurora” deals with the so-called mystery airships seen in the United States during the late 1890´s. They are often considered precursors of post-World War II UFOs.

I honestly don´t understand why. The mystery airships didn´t look like flying saucers, their crews were human, and many crew members spoke English. A few claimed to be from Mars (at the time, even scientists speculated about intelligent life on the red planet) but more often, the airship crews would introduce themselves as Americans on the way to bomb the Spanish in Havana! The airships had huge anchors and occasionally crashed, leaving debris of metal behind, which is what you would except of a downed dirigible. The similarities with UFOs and aliens aren´t obvious. 

Instead, the mystery airships can easily be used by *skeptics* to debunk the later UFO phenomenon. Just like people around 1897 saw non-existent “airships” (representing the logical next step in technology at the time), people around 1960 saw non-existent “space ships”. If we go further back in time, people saw Odin or the fairies riding horses in the sky… 

Thus, the airship flap proves that these phenomena are culturally conditioned, not real. Many concrete cases seem to have been newspaper hoaxes. Of course, another possibility is that they actually were airships, kept secret by their inventors or by the US government, a bit like Stealth bombers were kept secret (and sometimes misidentified as “UFOs”) before the Gulf War.

Jim Marrs obviously begs to differ. He has tried to investigate one particularly dramatic mystery airship case in the small Texas town of Aurora. The year was 1897 and one of the airships supposedly crashed right into a windmill owned by a prominent Aurora resident. The dead pilot, who was described as being of very small stature (a bit like later “humanoid” observations), was promptly buried in a grave marked by a stone with a UFO-like carving on it. 

There is no doubt that the actual grave is real, but nobody knows who is buried there, and the attempts by Marrs and others to have the body exhumed were rebuffed by the Texas authorities. The mysterious carved stone was stolen at a later point, and a small piece of unusual aluminum found close to the gravesite has also vanished. Marrs claims that the Deep State took them both. I admit I find that hard to believe – why would the federal government confiscate supposed “evidence” of an 1897 airship crash? Unless it really does prove aliens exist – presumably the point Marrs is trying to make.

Marrs managed to track down the last surviving eye witness to the airship crash, but also talked to many townspeople who believe the whole thing was a hoax, that no windmill even existed at the crash site, and so on. I admit that the eye witness testimony sounds genuine, but all it proves is that something really weird happened in Aurora that day. 

Marrs should be commended for trying to get to the bottom of this story so long after it transpired (it´s interesting lore even for non-believers in aliens) and I certainly don´t rule anything out, not even banshees shape-shifting from Wotan´s horse-riders to American airmen with an anti-Spanish grudge. As it stands, however, I think the story is inconclusive. Obviously, one cannot rule out the skeptical explanations either. Note also how Marrs combines the mystery airship lore of 1897 with modern lore about MIBs and government conspiracies in all matters ufologic. Smoking gun? Or just overheated brain?

Ultimately, that´s for the viewer to decide.

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