The Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter, also known as the Hopkinsville Goblins Case or the Kelly Green Men Case, was a series of UFO/alien sightings that took place in the fall of 1955, the most famous and well-publicized of which centered around a rural farmhouse at the time belonging to the Sutton family, which was located between the hamlet of Kelly and the small city of Hopkinsville, both in Christian County, Kentucky. Members of two families at the Sutton farmhouse alleged to have seen unidentifiable creatures and other witnesses attested to lights and disc-shaped objects in the sky (some accompanied by odd sounds). The events that occurred are regarded as one of the most significant, well-known and well-documented cases in the history of UFO sightings, and a favorite for study in ufology, as many reputable citizens, including local policemen and state troopers, were witnesses to the events. Even the United States Air Force investigated the unusual incident.
The Sutton-Taylor family sighting
On the evening of August 21, 1955, members of the Taylor family were visiting the Sutton family in their rural farmhouse located near the towns of Kelly and Hopkinsville, in Christian County, Kentucky. Altogether, eleven people were present during the Sutton farmhouse UFO/alien sighting. At around 7:00 PM, Billy Ray Taylor went outside to fetch a drink from the residence’s well (the house had no running water at the time). While outside, he reported seeing a strange, brightly lit, disc-shaped object in the sky that descended to the ground about 400 yards from the house.
Billy Ray rushed back into the house and explained his sighting to the families who laughingly passed it off as a “shooting star”. About an hour later, the families began to hear strange sounds outside at which time the fathers of the two families, Billy Ray Taylor and Elmer “Lucky” Sutton, went outside with their guns in hand to see what was up. To everyone’s surprise, both reported seeing strange creatures emerge from the woods.
The men shot at the creatures and noted that each time the creatures were hit with their bullets, the impact sounded like “rocks rattling in a tin can”. Seven people in the farmhouse (not all of the eleven witnessed the strange events of the night – June Taylor was too frightened to look, and Lonnie Lankford, and his brother and sister were hidden during the encounter) recounted being terrorized by several creatures described as being three feet tall, with upright pointed ears, large eyes, long thin mouths, thin arms and legs, with claw-like hands. They believed the creatures were either silver in color or wearing some sort of metallic suit.
Movement of the creatures seemed to “defy gravity” with the creatures sometimes “floating” above the ground or descending slowly to the ground from trees or other farmhouse structures. The creatures never entered the farmhouse but periodically “popped up” in the windows and doorways.
The family continued to shoot at the creatures through the windows and doorways but still, the bullets had no effect on them. After a few hours of this “cat and mouse” game, the members of the families had enough and fled the house around 11:00 PM to the local police station. Sheriff Russell Greenwell noted they were visibly shaken and a police officer with medical training determined that Billy Ray’s pulse rate was more than twice the norm (the sheriff later told reporters that “these were not the type of people who could be easily frightened”).
Other witnesses report lights in the sky
Unknown to anyone, during this encounter, a few miles away, another incident was also taking place. Shortly before the families arrived at the local police station, a state highway trooper patrolling near the police station independently reported some unusual “meteor-like objects” flying overhead, “with a sound like artillery fire” emanating directly from them. Authorities realized something strange was occurring in their sleepy little town and gathered up all on-call officers to investigate the bizarre goings-on.
The authorities investigate
The sheriff arrived at the farmhouse along with a dozen police officers and reported that the Suttons “seemed sober and were genuinely frightened by something”. The officers noted extensive damage to the house and as such, began going from door to door to gather additional statements from nearby neighbors. During this time, the officers themselves witnessed the strange lights in the sky and in the nearby woods (although later, some would refuse to talk openly about it). To their surprise, the officers found that nearby neighbors were also terrified and reported seeing the same strange lights in the sky, and strange sounds, at their homesteads.
After a few hours, the police, satisfied that they had gathered enough reports from witnesses, concluded their investigation at about 2:15 AM and left the Sutton farmhouse at that time. Not long after, the families reported that the creatures again returned to the farmhouse and continued to terrify the residents until around 4:30 AM that morning.
The following day, investigators worked with the witnesses gathering statements and producing sketches of the creatures from the descriptions they obtained from them. They noted that all witness descriptions matched, and all accounts of the incident were consistent (female witnesses tended to describe the creatures as a bit huskier than the male witness descriptions). Other witnesses, including diners at the local Shady Oaks restaurant, also reported seeing strange lights in the sky. Soon thereafter, the Air Force was called in to investigate but did little more than search the farmhouse and nearby grounds.
Still a mystery
As publicity of the case grew, the Suttons, who police described as “a very honest family”, sought to return to their normally “quiet” existence and began to avoid telling the story and would no longer cooperate with UFO investigators. Nearly 50 years later, one of Lucky Sutton’s daughters, who was just a toddler at the time of the sighting, explained that she believed the story to be true. She explained how she remembered her father’s reaction to the events.
“It was a serious thing to him. It happened to him. He said it happened to him. He said it wasn’t funny. It was an experience he said he would never forget. It was fresh in his mind until the day he died. It was fresh in his mind like it happened yesterday. He never cracked a smile when he told the story because it happened to him and there wasn’t nothing funny about it. He got pale and you could see it in his eyes. He was scared to death.”
Comically, in 1957, U.S. Air Force Major John E. Albert concluded that the Kelly-Hopkinsville case was the result of the witnesses seeing a “monkey painted with silver paint” that had escaped from a travelling circus. Regardless, more than a decade after the incident, all witnesses stood by their stories and in the decades following, took the story with them to their graves.
Article in The Kentucky new Era, August 22, 1955
All kinds of investigations were going on today in connection with the bizarre story of how a spaceship carrying 12 to 15 little men landed in the Kelly community early last night and battled occupants of a farmhouse.
Most official of the probes was reportedly being staged by the air force.
More than a dozen state, county, and city officers from Christian and Hopkins counties went to the scene between 11 p.m. and midnight and remained until after 2 a.m. without seeing anything either to prove or disprove the story about the ship and its occupants.
The farmhouse is located on Old Madisonville Road about eight miles north of Hopkinsville. The property is occupied by Cecil (Lucky) Sutton, one of those who reported experiencing last night’s phenomena.
There were some 10 or 12 persons at the house, including several children, but investigating officers were not able to determine exactly how many of those present actually claimed to have seen any of the little men from the spaceship.
Only other person whom officers quoted directly was identified as Billy Ray Taylor. One account said Taylor is a visitor from Pennsylvania, which recently had a similar report of a spaceship. Neither Sutton nor Taylor was home when officers returned to the scene this morning.
The story broke around 11 o’clock last night when two cars, one bearing a Pennsylvania license drove up to Hopkinsville’s police headquarters. Officers then at the station sad the two autos contained at least five adults and several children. All appeared highly excited.
Spokesmen for the crowd told of how something resembling a spaceship or flying saucer had landed at the back of their house near Kelly and 12 or 15 men, who appeared to be about 4 feet tall, had gotten out of the ship and come up to the house and done battle with the occupants.
“We need help,” one of the men said, “we’ve been fighting them for nearly four hours.”
Four city police, Chief Russell Greenwell, T.C. Gross, Dorris Francis, and Gray Salter, drove to the scene to see about the “little men.” By radio, contact was made with State Troopers R.N. Ferguson Jr. and G.W. Riley and Deputy Sheriff George Batts, all of whom joined the motorcade to Kelly in their own vehicles. Four MP’s also went.
The radio discussions also brought two Hopkins County deputy sheriffs and at least three state troopers from the station at Madisonville.
First arrivers found the scene deserted. The two cars which had brought the report to Hopkinsville did not return to the Kelly farm until after officers had arrived and looked the situation over.
Officers reported they found no tracks of “little men,” nor was there any mark indicating anything had landed at the described spot behind the house. There was a hole in the screen at the window through which occupants said a shot had been fired at one of the strange little men.
Both Chief Greenwell and Deputy Sheriff Batts said they got approximately this story from the still terrified and excited Sutton and Taylor families.
A short time later somebody reported some little men with big heads and long arms were approaching the house. The men were described as having huge eyes and hands out of proportion to their small bodies. The visitors were wearing what looked to be metal plates.
The men got their guns, a shotgun for Sutton and a .22 caliber target pistol for Taylor. By and by one of the little men pressed his face against the window and the shotgun was fired through the window. The face disappeared.
The men decided to go outside and see if the visitor had been hit. Taylor was in front and when he emerged from the front door, a huge hand reached down from the low roof above the door and grabbed him by the hair. He pulled away, and the two men went on out of the house.
One of the strange little men was in a nearby tree, another on top of the house. A blast from Sutton’s shotgun knocked another one of the men down but he did not appear hurt. He disappeared in the darkness.
Taylor reportedly opened fire on other members of the invading party, also with little effect. The battle went on for some time. When the occupants of the house saw their chance, they jumped into their cars and drove to Hopkinsville for help.
Deputy Sheriff Batts said the men told him that in all they fired up about four boxes of .22 pistol shells. The officer quoted a neighbor saying he heard shooting over at the Suttons but distinguished only about four shots and mistook them for firecrackers.
Most of the officers remained at the site for more than two hours. During that period there were approximately 25 people at the scene.
Only excitement during the period the officers were there came when an MP happened to step on a cat’s tail while walking in the darkness near the house. The cat let out a squall and for a few seconds there was much activity and scurrying around on the part of those present.
Two officers who returned to the Kelly area early this morning reported hearing that the “little men” had reappeared around the Sutton home about 3:30 a.m.
Other investigators who went to Kelly later during the morning said they were told Sutton and Taylor had gone to Evansville today.
Officers who visited the scene during last night’s excitement were reluctant to express any opinion today in regard to the reported invasion of Kelly. All officials appeared to agree that there was no drinking involved.
Only outspoken comment came from Frank Dudas, city police desk sergeant, who was not on duty last night and had not visited the scene so far. He said, “I think the whole story is entirely possible.”
Sergeant Dudas was one of two city policemen who reported seeing three flying saucers early one morning last summer. He said, “I know I saw them. If I saw them, the Kelly story certainly could be true.”
In-Article Image CreditsKelly farmhouse scene of alleged raid by strange crew last night via Kentucky New Era with usage type - Public Domain. August 15, 1955
Little man described by Billy Ray Taylor via History.com by J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies. March 1978
Little Man as described by Elmer Sutton, J.C. Sutton, and O.P. Baker via J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies
Little Men as pictured in area newspapers via J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies
The spaceship as drawn by Ledwith from Taylor's description via J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies
Glennie Lankford's firsthand account of the encounter reported in the Project Blue Book case file via USAF with usage type - Public Domain. August 22, 1955
Featured Image CreditHopkinsville Goblins via