Near midnight on the evening of August 21st (over sixty years ago now), twenty different police officers from various divisions hastily arrived at the scene of the rural farmhouse belonging to the Sutton family, located in Kelly, Kentucky near Hopkinsville. The screen door was torn, a previously placid home reportedly riddled throughout the course of the evening with broken windows and bullet holes by open fire from both a shotgun and .22 caliber target pistol, (enough for four boxes of spent ammunition). Strange luminous lights reportedly lingered around the house perimeter and into the woods at the scene, the only remaining refuse from an unidentifiable assailant. What exactly transpired that particular evening may never be officially proven, but the story described by the Sutton family remains, exactly sixty years later, as one of the most widely publicized and well-corroborated incidences of it’s kind.
THE KELLY-HOPKINSVILLE ENCOUNTER
It was two decades after the initial incident when a young director named Steven Spielberg began searching for his next big idea. Following the incredible success of his first major blockbuster motion picture about a man-eating shark called “Jaws,” Spielberg’s production studio began pressuring the still-fledgling director to create another big blockbuster. They’d hoped for a “James Bond type adventure,” but what they got instead was the manifestation of a story Spielberg had concocted as a teenager. No monstrous shark this time, instead a much more ominous subject… aliens. Over the course of his research for what would ultimately become “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Steven Spielberg spoke to astronomer, professor, and UFOlogist Josef Allen Hyneck about what had since become notoriously categorized as the “Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter.”
Also referred to as the “Hopkinsville Goblin Case” or the “Kelly Green Men Case,” the specific incident transpired during late summer of 1955 in
Christian County, Kentucky. Centering around members of the Sutton and Taylor families (who were both occupying the aforementioned farmhouse at the time), on the evening of August 21st at around 7 pm, the quaint country homestead was allegedly visited by a flying saucer spacecraft reported to have landed in a nearby field. Around the same time, various local law enforcement officials, a state trooper, and residents of neighboring farmhouses also noticed the presence of strange lights or an unidentifiable air craft within the area. Shortly thereafter, a ghostly face appeared in the home’s window, then quickly disappeared. Strange noises coming from outside and the restlessness of the Sutton family dog prompted Elmer “Lucky” Sutton and Billy Ray Taylor to venture out to investigate, their guns in tow. Some reports say the two initially noticed the creature in question as it emerged from a nearby patch of forest. An original article from the Kentucky New Era newspaper claims that a large hand reached down from the roof awning and pulled Billy Ray up by the hair. Despite discrepancies in how initial contact was made, all parties afterward agreed on what happened next.
The day after the incident, an interview was conducted with the family by local radio personality and professional sketch artist Andrew “Bud” Ledwith. The various 7 adult members of the household who had witnessed the initial extraterrestrial approach were split into groups and asked to separately provide descriptions of what they’d saw the night before. The sketch drawings were consistent: the gremlin-like creature described was around 3 feet tall with pointy-ears, large claw-like talons, long limbs and legs apparently atrophied as it hovered ghost-like while “swimming” through the air. Metallic skin, but with a green aura. It was a mere stone’s throw away from Taylor and Sutton whenever the two opened fire on it. Another creature appeared on the roof, bullets merely ricocheted off the beings with the sound of a metal clank as each casually “floated” rather than fell to the ground and retreated, only to return moments later to be shot at again. The family quarantined themselves inside the home where over the course of the next several hours the bizarre creatures seemed to play a terrifying game of “peek-a-boo,” their ghostly metallic faces appearing outside windows and doorways only to be shot at by those inside. They’d disappear and reappear, though never passing the threshold of the house. Hours later the two families were able to flee the home where they rushed to the local police station, visibly shaken, begging the assistance of sheriff Russell Greenwell. A fellow officer with medical training noted Mr. Taylor’s pulse to be twice that of a normal resting rate, the family children on the verge of hysteria. It was noted that the families, although obviously terrified, didn’t appear to be under the influence of alcohol. Officer Greenwell attested that they weren’t the type known to run to the police for help, but rather reasonable folk. Four officers followed the group back to the house, calling for radio backup which culminated in sixteen other county and state officials tagging along as the story piqued the interest of local press.
The aliens had vanished and left no evidence of their appearance. Because they hovered, there were no tracks. Although the home had suffered noticeable signs of a gunfire battle, the only physical evidence left to be found was an odd luminous area near a fencerow that was initially photographed, but one that quickly dissipated. The only real excitement during the investigation came when an officer accidentally stepped on a cat’s tail in the dark, sending all those already on edge into a scuffle of startled yet momentary confusion. After two hours, the officers dispersed with little more to report, although most agreeing they believed the authenticity of the families’ claims. It was alleged that the aliens later returned to terrorize the family, spawning another battle before finally disappearing forever at around 5 am. By the next morning the story had broken wide open anyway, sending the entire town and both families into a wide-spread media firestorm. The humble farmhouse became a tourist attraction. Most claimed “hoax.” Ultimately, those who were there that night largely refused to discuss the incident to the media. In a 2002 interview with the Kentucky New Era newspaper, Lucky Sutton’s granddaughter Geraldine Hawkins defended the story passed down to her, pointing out that it was something Lucky never joked about and was still terrified by until his dying day.
E.T. PHONE HOME
Lightning had struck twice. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” proved to be yet another huge commercial success for Steven Spielberg, so much so that he began toying with the idea of a sequel. The project was to be called “Night Skies,” a fantastical horror movie derivative based specifically on the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter about eleven aliens that descend on a Kentucky farm and terrorize the animal and human inhabitants. The film had been green light, the production company having already spent $700,000 on pre-production for conceptual artwork and high tech animatronics during the same time that Spielberg was in Tunisia filming “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Amidst the excitement and chaos of elaborate sets, the special effects explosions, story lines about Nazis and violent aliens, Spielberg decided he’d lost touch with his tranquility. He abruptly morphed the story about malevolent rural aliens into a different creature entirely, one that was intelligent, inquisitive, and sweet.
Although the project was initially referred to as “ET and Me,” it would later be dubbed “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial,” a movie that would go on to surpass even Star Wars as the highest grossing film of all time and be ranked by critics as the greatest science fiction film ever made.
Kelly Kentucky will be celebrating “Little Green Men” Days Festival on Friday, August 17th & 18th with earth-bound fun for the whole family including arts & craft booths, good food, and great live music!