In 1865, a St. Louis newspaper reported that a trapper named James Lumley was working late in the mountains, much like the dudes from Fire in the Sky, when he spotted a “bright, luminous body in the heavens,” followed by an explosion. Instead of sticking around to get picked up by it, though, he kept his distance, and the next day he found a large stonelike object with “curious hieroglyphics” carved into it, broken glass, and traces of a dark liquid. But perhaps the most amazing story of old-timey UFOs is the one that took place in Aurora, Texas, in 1897: As reported by the Dallas Morning News, a mysterious “airship” crashed down on the small town, and when the authorities examined the remains of the pilot inside, they found him to be “not an inhabitant of this world.” The pilot was buried in the local cemetery, and supposedly his grave is still there, although unmarked.
We’re not saying it was a real spaceship; we’re just pointing out that even this story predates The War of the Worlds. The sci-fi tropes that this seems to be referencing didn’t even exist yet.