By Karen Borta

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AURORA (CBSDFW.COM) – Buried in a quiet, historic cemetery in the tiny Wise County town of Aurora lies a mystery that’s almost 120 years old.

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According to local legend — and a Texas historical marker — the cemetery is the burial site… of an alien. On April 17, 1897, a flying airship crashed into a windmill on the property of a local judge. City administrator Toni Wheeler’s family has lived in Aurora for generations. Her great-grandparents were among the folks residing there who helped pass down the story.

“The townspeople went rushing up to the site, and they found debris scattered everywhere and a very charred alien body, which we’ve named Ned. And we believe Ned’s resting place is right behind us here under this tree in the cemetery,” said Wheeler.

Two days later, the story made the front page of the Dallas Morning News.

But, Wheeler said, it is not something that many of the townspeople wanted shared. “There’s lots of people who want the story to go away,” explained Wheeler. “They really quashed it for years and years. I mean, you’re in a heavily-influenced Bible community, and people… if you can’t explain it, they don’t want anything to do with it.”

Many of the residents who scoff at the alien story maintain that it was made up by their ancestors as an effort to revive a dying town — which had recently been bypassed by the railroad. But Wheeler is among those who argue that the evidence tells a different tale.

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“Something happened here,” said Wheeler. “There’s actual physical evidence of an explosion on this hill. Scientists have found debris scattered in the trees and embedded into trees and rocks up there. So, we don’t know exactly what happened, but to say something didn’t happen is probably pretty naive.”

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

A lot of people have wanted to dig up the remains, but Texas law says that they can’t.

“You have to notify the next of kin before you exhume a body. So, I’ve never met an alien that I’m aware of,” said Wheeler with a laugh. “It would be kind of hard to find a descendent of Ned in order to exhume his body.”

Two headstones marking Ned’s grave have been stolen over the years, and some say that the body was secretly moved. But, whatever the story, Wheeler just wants it to be told.

“We predate Roswell by 50 years so, you know, why not do something with this? It’s part of our history, and you can’t just erase history. You have to embrace it,” Wheeler said. “The good and the bad.”

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In April, the city held its first Aurora Alien Encounter event, which attracted hundreds of people from all over the country. And they expect that next year’s 120th anniversary will be even bigger.