Amanda Smith is on a mission. A resident of the tiny Wise County town of Aurora, Smith and a few other townsfolk have taken it upon themselves to host the elusive Aurora Alien Encounter. Yes, alien encounter.
At the event Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Smith and her collaborators will come in peace to the the MD Resort in Aurora and present otherworldly entertainment and education in honor of the 119th anniversary of the Aurora Alien Encounter.
The what? Way back in 1897, The Dallas Morning News reported that a UFO crashed on the property of Judge J.S. Proctor. Supposedly, Proctor discovered a dead alien pilot and proceeded to dispose of the wrecked spacecraft in an old well. Residents took the deceased alien and gave him a proper burial in the nearby Aurora Cemetery.
Seemingly ever since, people have ventured to Aurora to see the grave and look for wreckage. "A lot of people come to visit the gravesite," says Smith, a local marketer. "They like to look for clues."
Much to the annoyance of some locals, this extra-terrestrial hunt has brought unneeded attention to the close-knit community. Some locals have grown tired of the ridicule spewed by UFO skeptics and would rather see the alien story go away for good.
"It's a big deal," Smith says. "Some people do not want the alien ever mentioned. They want the story to die. "
The Aurora Alien Encounter on April 16 is designed to teach a younger generation about the supposed 1897 event.
With the help of former Aurora Mayor Steve Derting and City Administrator Dr. Toni Wheeler, Smith has secured several guest speakers (including Marrs), invited vendors with alien-related products to push, and created a full day's agenda of tours and extraterrestrial education. Buses will also shuttle visitors to the cemetery and the crash site.
Also speaking at the event will be Travis Walton, a logger who claimed to be abducted by aliens in 1975 in Arizona.
Walton wrote a book about his experience that was turned into the 1993 film Fire in the Sky.
Aurora's alien encounter was also made into a film, the rather undistinguished The Aurora Encounter released in 1986. The movie "seemed to treat the event like a joke," says former mayor Derting.
Derting opened an alien-influenced shop in the '90s called Area 114, named in honor of the highway close to the crash site. When pressed on whether he believes an alien crashed in Aurora, Derting was cautious.
"Anything is possible," he says.
"It all happened before any of us were around. People believe about it happening in Roswell. It's just like that."
By DARRYL SMYERS