Hopkinsville, Kentucky, will receive plenty of attention August 21, 2017. A total solar eclipse will occur that day, and a point just northwest of the city will experience its shadow longer than any other place in the world. Sixty-two years before that day, however, the Hopkinsville area encountered what may – or may not – have been a celestial experience of an entirely different kind.
The Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter – also known as the Hopkinsville Goblins Case and, to a lesser extent, the Kelly Green Men Case – is a piece of local folklore dating back to August 21, 1955. The incident occurred at a farmhouse located on Old Madisonville Road, approximately eight miles north of Hopkinsville. The farm was home to the Sutton family, although on this particular night there were other guests in the house.
The Taylor family, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were staying with the Suttons on the night of August 21, 1955. The Suttons’ farmhouse did not have running water, so at approximately 7 p.m., Billy Ray Taylor (the patriarch of the Taylor family) decided to go outside to get a drink from the farm’s water pump. While outside, he observed what he would later describe as a disc-shaped craft with lights on its side that featured “all of the colors of the rainbow.” Taylor watched as the peculiar object set down in a gully nearly a quarter-mile away.
Taylor immediately rushed back into the farmhouse to tell everyone about what he had seen, but his reports were primarily met with disinterest from the other occupants of the home that night. It was not until around 8 p.m., when strange noises began to be heard outside and the Sutton’s family dog began barking loudly, that they began to take notice. The dog would eventually hide underneath the house, refusing to come out until the next morning.
The commotion convinced Taylor and Elmer “Lucky” Sutton to take up their guns and head outside to investigate. The men were surprised to see what was described later as “a luminous, three-and-a-half-foot-tall being with an oversized head, big, floppy, pointed ears, glowing eyes, and hands with talons at their ends.” The approximately three- to four-foot tall creature was approaching with its hands up, as if to surrender, but the two men were so startled they both shot at it. They were even more startled, however, when the creature did not fall but appeared to flip before scurrying back into the darkness.
Both men believed they were too close when they shot to have missed the creature, so, convinced they had at least wounded it, they went looking for it. They soon noticed another creature (or possibly the same one) perched on an awning on the house. They also fired at this creature, but it was unharmed as well. The two men would later report hearing a metallic, rattling noise each time they shot at one of the creatures. They described the creatures’ legs as atrophied and nearly useless, as they appeared to propel themselves with a curious hip-swaying motion, steering with their arms.
Billy Ray and Elmer returned to the house in a disturbed state. Rather than this being the end of their encounter, though, it was only the beginning. It was not long before one of the creatures was spotted peering through a window, prompting J. C. Sutton (Elmer’s brother) to shoot out the window in an attempt to get rid of it. Witnesses in the house that night reported that for the next several hours the creatures would either approach the home by appearing at the doorway or outside windows. They also claimed to hear the creatures scurrying around on the roof and making scratching noises, as if they were trying to gain entry into the house. The creatures were shot at each time they were seen, but they continued to appear. Initial reports by the Kentucky New Era newspaper estimated the number of creatures at “12 to 15,” but no more than two were ever spotted at the same time.
There were children in the house during this ordeal, and they become increasingly agitated as events continues to unfold. Realizing something needed to be done, the families loaded into two vehicles and headed quickly to the Hopkinsville police station at approximately 11 p.m. Upon their arrival, officers noticed everyone was in a highly agitated, even terrified, state. Police Chief Russell Greenwell would later state that he believed “something frightened them … something beyond reason.”
After talking with members of the two families, Greenwell and 19 additional officers headed out to the farm to investigate. They never saw any sign of the creatures the families had described, although they did notice some property damage. Police finally left the scene at approximately 2:15 a.m., prompting the two families – who had not accompanied the officers – to return to the farm. Not long after their arrival, however, another creature was spotted. The sightings did not stop until just before dawn August 22, and after that they were never seen on the property again.
While the case of the Hopkinsville Goblins may have all the seemingly obvious trappings of a hoax made up to gain attention, there are several factors which suggest there may be more to the story than initially meets the eye. Greenwell would later say of the two families, “These were not the sort of people who normally ran to the police.” An August 22, 1955, article in the Kentucky New Era stated that officials did not believe any drinking had been involved in the incident. The witnesses were deemed to be sane, and their stories contained a remarkable consistency, even years after the event occurred.
The United States Air Force took the allegations seriously enough to dispatch officers from nearby Fort Campbell to investigate, but no definitive conclusions were reached. The Suttons eventually grew weary of even discussing the event and left the area entirely. As late as 2002, however, Geraldine Sutton Stith, the daughter of “Lucky” Sutton, still believed her father’s account:
“It was a serious thing to him,” she said. “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.”
Over the years, the color green was somehow attributed to the creatures that appeared that night, even though none of the witnesses’ descriptions mentioned them being that color. The legacy of the event lives on each year with the Kelly “Little Green Men” Days festival, which features games, musical entertainment, and even a replica of a flying saucer.
Whether or not these or any other strange visitors from another planet will decide to descend upon Hopkinsville 62 years to the day later remains to be seen. One thing that is certain, however, is that the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, will make the area the talk of star-gazers everywhere once again.