Shootout at the ET Corral: The Little Green Men of Kelly-Hopkinsville

One of the biggest otherworldly events took place in 1955 in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

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One of the biggest otherworldly events took place in 1955 in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Considered to be one of the most well-documented cases of a UFO attempted invasion it has met with controversy over the years. We have always left it up to our readers and listeners to always make up their own minds when we report things as they are documented. We only ask that the same consideration is given to this story.

This is a picture of the Sutton Farmhouse.   The Newspaper Name, Date, Photographer, and Writer information were not available.
This is a picture of the Sutton Farmhouse. The Newspaper Kentucky New Era, August 22, 1955.

On August 21, 1955, in a place near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, eight frightened and terrified adults and three children arrived at the Hopkinsville police station claiming that there had been a gun battle that lasted four hours on the farm. Their story of what happened has become one of the most celebrated and maligned events in American history. According to Billy Ray Taylor and Elmer “Lucky” Sutton, this is what happened on that fateful evening.

An explanation about the location of the event. While many sources list the event taking place either at Kelly or Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the location is actually between the two. Many cities in the nation have small townships that are located around the main location. The Sutton farm sat between the two locations.

The event happened on Elmer Sutton’s farm near Kelly in Christian County, Kentucky. The description of the farmhouse is one of simple existence. There were only three unpainted rooms in the building. There was no running water, no telephone, television, or radio.

The House Occupants

Those in the house that night were Glennie Lankford, who was a 50-year-old widow, and her children, Mary, Lonnie, and Charlton. The children were 12, 10, and 7 years old.

Billy Ray Taylor and his wife June. It has been reported that Billy Ray, who was 21 years old, and June, who was 18 years old, were traveling carnival workers who came to visit their friend, Elmer “Lucky” Sutton, on their trip from Pennsylvania.

Elmer “Lucky” Sutton, son of Glennie Lankford, and his wife Vera. It has also been reported that Vera was also a traveling carnival worker.

John Charley “J.C.” Sutton, son of Glennie Lankford, and his wife Alene. And Alene’s brother O.P. Baker.

The Landing of Something Strange

Drawing of the Spaceship as given by Billy Ray Taylor's description of what landed near the Sutton Farm in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Drawing of the Spaceship as given by Billy Ray Taylor’s description of what landed near the Sutton Farm in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky. See “How the ‘Little Green Men’ Phenomenon Began on a Kentucky Farm” for source information.

It was a hot, Sunday evening. Billy Ray Taylor had gone to the backyard well at 7 p.m. to fetch water for the family. When Taylor noticed that there was a silvery object passing over the house above his head. He witnessed the object stop in mid-air and then drop to land on the ground below. Taylor would later report that the object was “real bright, with an exhaust all the colors of the rainbow.”

Billy Ray Taylor then ran into the house to let the other people know what was going on. The occupants of the house laughed at Billy Ray because they were not taking his story seriously. This would soon change as the events began to unfold.

An hour later, the family dog would not stop barking. Taylor and Lucky Sutton began to investigate what the barking was all about. When they looked out of the back door they saw a strange glow and several small creatures.

The Creatures

Diagram of the creatures that were on the Sutton Farm in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky on August 21, 1955
Diagram of the creatures that were on the Sutton Farm in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky on August 21, 1955 See “How the ‘Little Green Men’ Phenomenon Began on a Kentucky Farm” for source information.

The creatures are described as being two to four feet tall. They are thought to be humanoid with an oversized, almost perfectly round head, large eyes that glowed with an almost yellowish light, and arms that extended almost to the ground and ended in talons. Their bodies are described as being almost metallic in appearance as they gave off a silver glow in the moonlight.

This would be one of the first descriptions of the UFO aliens and would line up with later descriptions from people who also claim to have seen them. The skin of the creatures would change from the silver and black descriptions of the witnesses over time by other people to the classic “green” color.

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The Shootout

Evening star. [volume], September 11, 1955, Page A-28, Image 28
Evening star. [volume], September 11, 1955, Page A-28, Image 28

The two men were terrified and then grabbed a 20-gauge shotgun and a .22 rifle. One of the creatures stopped, raised its talons as if it knew what the guns meant, and started walking toward the two men. The men fired their guns at the creature. It did a flip in the air after being hit with the bullets before landing on the ground. The sound of the bullet hitting the creature is described as “resembled bullets striking a metal bucket” The creature then got up and ran into the darkness. The men then went into the center of the house to take defensive positions.

Twelve to fifteen short dark unidentified figures then began appearing to peep in the windows and in the doorway. The well-armed, frightened men were crouched down in the middle of the house and opened fire upon the beings. For four hours, the gun battle raged as Taylor and Sutton would not allow the beings entry into the building. According to the Kentucky New Era the men went through four boxes of .22 pistol shells.

After a few minutes, Taylor stepped outside on the porch which had an overhanging roof. Witnesses inside the house saw a long claw-like hand come down and touched Taylor’s hair. The witnesses screamed, and Taylor was pulled back into the house. Sutton shot above the porch roof. He then re-aimed his gun and shot a creature that was in a tree. The creature floated to the ground and ran into the dark.

The next several hours were mainly silent except for the occasional scratching noises on the roof of the house. At approximately 11 o’clock that night the decision was reached to vacate the house. The group ran for the cars and left for the police station as fast as they could go.

The First Investigation

This is a picture of the Sutton Farmhouse.   The Newspaper Name, Date, Photographer, and Writer information were not available.
This is a picture of the Sutton Farmhouse. The Newspaper Kentucky New Era, August 22, 1955.

At eleven o’clock that night, the eight terrified and hysterical adults and three children arrived at the Hopkinsville police station to report the event. These were not the sort of people that would arrive at a police station in this state. The police took the pulse of the people who came into the station and found that their pulses ran close to 140 beats per minute.

Police chief Russell Greenwell would later tell investigators “These aren’t the kind of people who normally run to the police for help, what they do is reach for their guns.” He immediately called for backup to investigate the event.

Four Hopkinsville city police, five Kentucky state troopers, three Christian County sheriffs, four military police from nearby US Army Fort Campbell, and a photographer from the Kentucky New Era newspaper, drove to the Sutton farm near the town of Kelly, Kentucky. They went to the location believing that there was either an attempted group of intruders or that the family had been in a gun battle with another family in the area.

The search yielded no evidence of an attempted invasion. However, there was evidence of gunfire and many holes in the windows, door, and door screen of the residence. The house and the barn were peppered with bullet holes. There was also no evidence of heavy drinking by the adults as liquor was forbidden in the farmhouse by Mrs. Lankford.

Second Invasion

Depiction of the "Hopkinsville Goblin" by artist Tim Bertelink
Depiction of the “Hopkinsville Goblin” by artist Tim Bertelink

According to the neighbors of the Sutton farm, the occupants of the farm left the area after the creatures returned that morning around two-thirty. For an hour, the occupants of that night had heard scratching on the roof and Lankford saw a creature staring at her through her window.

There is not a lot of information as to what happened in the second invasion attempt, however, the terrified occupants of the house had enough and vacated the area. Neighbors said that the occupants of the house packed up and left the house at 3:30 am.

The family got together and decided that enough was enough. They felt that they were no longer safe at the farmhouse. Ten days later, the occupants of the house moved out and left town.

The Second Investigation

The next day, police investigators returned to the site of the event. There was no evidence of a saucer landing, scratches on the roof, blood trails, footprints, or scratch marks around the windows or doors. The eyewitnesses were kept separate from each other and gave the same stories. They were unable to coordinate with each other but gave the very same details.

Possible Explanations

There are others that think that the creatures in question were not aggressive but curious. The description of one of the creatures holding up its arms and talons in the “I give up” manner, leads the people to think that there was no malicious shown. That this was not an attack but a simple curious investigation by the creatures into our planet.

The Great Horned Owl as found on the website Shutterbug.  Photographer unknown.
The Great Horned Owl as found on the website Shutterbug. Photographer unknown.

On the flip side of the coin. There are others that think either strong alcohol was involved or it was barn owls. The Great Horned Owl, also known as the “hoot owl” has been given an explanation of the eyes and the size of the creature.

The long wing span of the owls can also explain why the arms were described as being so long with talons at the end of them. The owls are also said to have a reflective nature in the moonlight and that could explain their “metallic” appearance. Hoot owls are active at dusk and are very aggressive when protecting their nests.

Another possible explanation given is the misidentifying of a meteor strike. However, there was no evidence of a strike happening on the property.

The Believers

Diagram of the creatures that were on the Sutton Farm in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky on August 21, 1955  See "How the 'Little Green Men' Phenomenon Began on a Kentucky Farm" for source information.
Diagram of the creatures that were on the Sutton Farm in Kelly-Hopkinsville, Kentucky on August 21, 1955 See “How the ‘Little Green Men’ Phenomenon Began on a Kentucky Farm” for source information.

Considered to be a controversial case because UFOlogist declares the case to be one of the “most significant and well-documented cases in the history of UFO incidents”. The most detailed report of the event came from a report given in 1956. Ufologist Isabel Davis and co-writer, Ted Bloeher, would write a 200-page report which would include detailed maps, and drawings. They would also include in the report documentary records, summaries of similar accounts around the world, and interviews with several Sutton family members and police investigators.

It is also of note, the family had no history of making outlandish allegations, nor did they seek the limelight. They had no reason to lie about the events. It makes no sense as to why the witnesses would put on a deliberate hoax. Many point to Mrs. Lankford as the reason why this story is credible because she is described as a no-nonsense kind of person.

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Skepticism

Air Force Project Blue Book Files as found online through a Google search.
Air Force Project Blue Book Files as found online through a Google search.

Many people have called the people involved “ignorant” or flat-out “liars”. Secret drinking has also been pointed to as a possible explanation as well as delusions and a made-up hoax. While skeptics of the case point to the Air Force classifying the incident as a hoax in the Project Blue Book files.

However, the Air Force UFO investigation team never spoke to the eyewitnesses. They only spoke to the four military police officers that were on the scene that night. They also never pursued the matter beyond this point in going to the farm to investigate the area.

Psychologists to this day use this event as an example of pseudoscience. They use this case to help students to learn the difference between fact and fiction.

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Cosmic Coincidence

NASA photo of the solar eclipse over Hopkinsville, Kentucky August 21, 2016.
NASA photo of the solar eclipse over Hopkinsville, Kentucky August 21, 2016.

The 62nd anniversary of the shootout happened on a natural occurrence. On August 21, 2016, at about 1:20 p.m., the town of Kelly, Kentucky was shrouded in darkness from a total eclipse. This natural event had many residents of the area uneasy. Many felt that the aliens could come back and it would be the perfect time for them to do so.

Other residents of the town felt that Taylor and Sutton had scared the creatures away forever and they would not be seen again. That they were all safe from the actions that the two men took that night.

Conclusion

One of the most well-documented cases of an Unidentified Flying Object or UFO happened almost eight years after the crash in Roswell, New Mexico. The Roswell crash happened on June 14, 1947, and had the nation fascinated with the possibility that there was life on other planets. For many years surrounding 1947-1960, several people had been reporting sightings of strange things appearing in the skies as well as reports of seeing strange creatures. These events finally caught the attention of the US government and they formed an investigation team called Air Force UFO-investigation the program was called Project Blue Book.

Every year the residents of Hopkinsville, Kentucky celebrate the event in what is called the “Little Green Men Festival”. This is an event that is very well documented in the local and national newspapers and something that we let our readers decide on whether or not they believe the event to be truthful. We only report the facts in the case as they appear in documents.

Our question to this tale is what really happened the night of August 21, 1955? Mountain people are not known to be excitable and shoot up their houses and surrounding property for no good reason. What did Billy Ray Taylor and Elmer “Lucky” Sutton see that night that terrified them?

Thank You

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We thank you for continuing to support Kentucky Tennessee Living. As we bring to you the history of the Appalachian Mountains.

Source Information

Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly%E2%80%93Hopkinsville_encounter

How the ‘Little Green Men’ Phenomenon Began on a Kentucky Farm
https://www.history.com/news/little-green-men-origins-aliens-hopkinsville-kelly

Morning Mix
Tales from the path of totality: 62 years ago today, they say, ‘little green men’ invaded this Kentucky farm town
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/21/tales-from-the-path-of-totality-62-years-ago-today-they-say-little-green-men-invaded-this-kentucky-farm-town/

This tiny Kentucky town celebrates 1955 report of aliens with Little Green Men Festival
Kelly Kazek
June 06 | 2019
https://www.southernthing.com/this-tiny-kentucky-town-celebrates-alien-encounter-with-little-green-men-festival-2638703398.html

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