In the mid-1950s two families in rural Kentucky made headlines across the country when they told police that their home had been approached by small metallic creatures that could not be killed or scared away. The media coverage of the incident helped draw attention to neglected reports of UFO landings and entity encounters and the strange goblin-like creatures excited the public imagination. At the same time however hostile and sensationalized reporting on the incident served to discredit stories of contact with anomalous entities and help direct the veil of ridicule that now surrounds them.
In the fall of nineteen fifty-five fifty-year-old Lenny Lankford lived in a simple farmhouse about 12 kilometers north of Hopkinsville Kentucky in the small hamlet of Kelley. She owned a small farm about 400 meters from each of her nearest neighbors and lived with her son from her first marriage JC Sutton who ran the farm and his wife Aileen as well as her three children from her second marriage Lonnie Charlton and Mary. They kept a few pigs a dog and some farm cats the family had no radio phone or TV and their only water came from a well in the backyard.
On the evening of August 21st, 1955 Mrs. Langford had some guests staying at the house Elmer Sutton, the eldest son from her first marriage and his wife Farrah as well as Elmer’s friend Billy Ray Taylor and his wife June Aleene’s brother Opie Baker was also staying the night for a total of 11 people. Mrs. Langford allowed no liquor in the house, and no one was drinking.
Around 7:00 p.m. Lyrae went out to the well for a drink of water and saw a bright silvery saucer-shaped object gliding silently through the air it flew 9 to 12 meters off the ground and left behind it a trail of multicolored exhaust the object flew in from the south and stopped over the neighbors field to the north of the farm. It then descended straight to the ground and appeared to settle into a gully some 90 meters from the house though Billy Ray could not see it land through the trees. He ran inside and told the others that he’d seen a flying saucer, but everyone said to him that was just a meteor.
Within an hour of the sighting, the dog began barking violently, and Billy Ray and Elmer went out the back door to investigate the dog ran under the house with its tail between its legs and the men noticed an eerie glow approaching from the field. As it came nearer they could make out the figure of a small creature about a meter tall with a large round head resting directly on its shoulders and long arms that reached almost to the ground.
It had huge hands with talons on its fingers and large floppy ears its eyes pointed 45 degrees out from Center and emitted a yellow light. Its upper body was muscular, but its legs were thin and spindly and had no knees. The entire creature was silver in color and gave off an eerie glow in the darkness. The creature walked slowly to the house with its arms raised to the sky, so Elmer grabbed his 20 gauge single barrel shotgun, and Billy Ray grabbed 22 they moved inside the back door and shot it when it came within six meters of the house.
The men claimed that the creature did a backward somersault then fell to all fours and ran back into the weeds around the yard. Billy Ray went back inside with Elmer who gave his gun to JC and grabbed the 12-gauge shotgun. Billy-ray and JC then shot a creature peering in through the window which also flipped backward and ran away. The men went out the front door to see if they’d killed the thing, but his Billy Ray walked out past the overhanging roof a clawed hand reached down and touched his hair. They pulled Billy Ray back inside an Elmer ran out and shot the creature on the roof. Billy Ray then noticed a second creature on a branch of a maple tree in the yard and the men shot it they said the creature didn’t fall but floated to the ground so they shot it again and it scurried off into the weeds.
At the same time, another creature appeared from the northwest Elmer shot it at almost point-blank range and said that it sounded like shooting a metal bucket. Later the men shot another creature on the roof when they hit it the creature floated twelve meters across the yard and landed on the back fence then scurried away when they shot it again. The men gave up on trying to kill the things, but for the next three hours the creatures repeatedly approached the house, climbed over the roof and peered in through the windows.
The witnesses noticed that the creatures only approached in the cover of darkness and did not step into the glow cast from the yard lights. They had two distinct forms of locomotion when approaching the house they walked slowly with an upright posture after being shot however they dropped to all fours and ran away by propelling themselves with their arms rather than their legs. The beings seemed to give off more of a glow when shot and even when just looked at. There were never more than two of them seen at once.
By about 11 o’clock the group is becoming hysterical, so they piled into the two vehicles on the premise and drove to the Hopkinsville police station. The officers on duty remarked that everyone looked to be in shock. The officers immediately called the Chief of Police Russell Greenwell then notified the Kentucky State Police. Greenwell, two state troopers, and all the witnesses but June Taylor, who was particularly shaken, drove to the scene. The Christian County Sheriff’s Office also sent a deputy sheriff and called the staff photographer at the local newspaper who arrived with his wife. Four military police from Fort Campbell, a reporter from Madisonville, and one or two curious locals also arrived on the way to the farmhouse. One of the state police said that he heard a whining sound like artillery fire and saw two streaks of light flying downwards to the farm. Later the officer claimed that these were only meteors, several other locals said that they’d seen meteors as well at different times.
The small army of witnesses, reporters, police, and investigators converged on the farmhouse and flooded the scene with light. The witnesses remained outside while Greenwell led the investigators in a search of the house yard and some of the surrounding fields, though they saw the evidence of a firefight, they found no evidence of the creatures. However, Greenwell and others found a small patch of grass by the back fence that was luminous at a certain viewing angle, which was later suggested to be a type of bioluminescent fungus. Greenwell who had his own UFO sighting in 1952 believed that the witnesses had seen something strange, but he had no proof of anything investigators began to leave once it became clear that there was nothing left of the creatures and by about 2:00 a.m. the exhausted witnesses were finally free to sleep.
Around 2:30 Mrs. Langford was lying on her bed with her head towards the window when she noticed a light from outside, when she opened her eyes she saw one of the creatures peering in with its claws on the screen. She alerted Elmer who shot it in spite of her protestations. More shots were fired in the next two hours, but the creatures were not deterred. They showed no hostility whatsoever and never once attempted to enter the house, only to look inside they were last seen just before dawn around 5:00 a.m.
Later that morning investigators returned for a more extensive search of the grounds, and the story hit the news. It was first reported by the local radio station WHOP in their early morning broadcast, and their news reporter interviewed the witnesses later that day. The engineer and announcer arrived the same day with the station owner’s son he spoke with Lankford and the Sutton women and drew a sketch of the creatures based on their descriptions documenting the witness’s earliest recollections. He later did two more drawings based on the men’s suggested Corrections.
Over the next few days, newspaper and radio reporters poured into Hopkinsville from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. An officer from Campbell Air Force Base arrived on the scene after hearing WHOP’s coverage through the Public Information Office denied that there had been an official investigation. Green will also claim the two men arrived from Standiford a commercial airfield. Despite the attention, the family declined most interviews as did most of the neighbors.
Some neighbors, however, claimed to hear gunshots and another saw lights on the farm shortly after Taylor’s sighting. Investigators found nothing not even a footprint of the little creatures but other forms of evidence went undocumented. For example, there was no effort to collect the bullet casings littering the house and yard on the second day after the incident. Project Blue Book the UFO research group of the US government put out a press release claiming that there was no basis to the story no official Air Force report and no investigation underway. It is now listed in the blue book files as unidentified; still, the media coverage created a buzz and drew sightseers from the area people drove into Kelly in such numbers that parked cars lined the roads for nearly half a kilometer on either side of the property and crowds of visitors surrounded a house.
For days entrepreneurs wanted to set up merchandising booths in the front yard, but Mrs. Langford turned down every offer and never appeared on TV or radio after the WHOP interview. She put out a plea in the Kentucky newspapers begging people not to visit, and she repeatedly called the State Police to clear away to sightseers.
Much of the reporting was inaccurate and often hostile especially in the National Press, reporters referred to the unknown entities as little men and exaggerated their number and intent a few papers said that there were 12 to 15 of the things and most described the event as an invasion despite the creatures non-violent nature. Out of state papers refer to the creatures as little green men a term used in Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast even though no one had described the beings as green.
Despite the flippant coverage from governments and journalists the case received at least one thorough investigation. In June of 1956 Isabelle Davis, an investigator with civilian saucer intelligence spent four days in Hopkinsville with a follow-up ten months later she spoke with Glenn Ian Aileen the only two cooperative witnesses as well as met with the neighbors a few reporters and the three police departments on the case. Davis also later obtained all Air Force documents on the Kelley Landing case which showed that the commander of the air technical Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base home of Blue Book, requested information on the incident in 1957 after learning of Davis’s upcoming report. The reply confirmed that a reserve officer had visited the scene but made it clear that the higher-ups didn’t believe in saucer landings.
Davis produced the definitive report on the Kelly Hopkinsville incident in “Close Encounter at Kelly” which was published by the Center for UFO studies in 1978. The case has no easy explanation. Most UFO sightings end up being explained as misidentified natural phenomena such as planets and meteors but it’s impossible to account for the Kelly Hopkinsville goblins with any natural causes. It is extremely difficult to believe how any person object or animal could have been seen and shot at so many times and for so long a period and still be mistaken for a shiny floating goblin. Still the debunker Joe Nickell has suggested that the creatures were merely great horned owls defending their territory, how these owls survived multiple gunshots is left unexplained. Others have suggested that the event was a hoax many investigators found Billy Ray Taylor to be an unreliable witness and accused him of either exaggerating his story or of hoaxing the event outright, other witnesses, however, showed no signs of exaggeration or of attempting to capitalize on the encounter. Lankford in particular was considered to be an unimpeachable witness by all investigators even if Billy Ray or some of the others had invented their parts of the story it seems unlikely that all the participants went in on the hoax together and kept up the ruse for the rest of their lives after all they gained nothing from it.
A few days after the encounter the Suttons put up a sign in their driveway demanding an admission fee with additional fees for pictures and interviews. The papers took this as a sign that the whole story had been hoaxed for profit, but only Billy Ray was seen to have collected payments. Everyone else just wanted to get rid of the visitors if the families contrived the story to make themselves rich and famous then they almost completely failed to capitalize on an ideal situation at the same time.
There is also no physical evidence to verify the eyewitness accounts not even claw marks on the ground or the houses corrugated iron roof. Still the ground was dry and hard and even the investigators left no prints on the scene, what’s more, the witnesses showed clear signs of shock and terror. One of the medically trained investigators who rode to the farmhouse with Billy Ray measured his heartbeat at 140 beats per minute twice the normal average. All but one of the 11 family members saw the silver creatures for themselves investigators found no signs that the witnesses were intoxicated in any way and had ruled out drug-induced hallucinations.
Whether they were physically real or not the little goblin creatures left their mark in popular culture as did the people who saw them. The entities inspired many movie and video game monsters including the monsters and critters and gremlins the Pokemon Sableye and the farm invasion scenario in the popular Nintendo 64 game Majora’s mask. Reporters use of the term little green men caused a revival in its popularity and forever associated it with cases of alien contact. Kelly now hosts an annual little green man festival that embraces the stereotypical image of the green-skinned alien, though it pays homage to the encounter, the witnesses themselves and especially Billy Ray the most imaginative reteller lived on as the basis for the stereotypical UFO witness. A southern gun-toting country boy with a meager education and a wild imagination. Despite the negative spin the case helped to bring reports of entity encounters into the mainstream media and compelled the US Air Force to acknowledge them. People everywhere had reported seeing unknown entities since the summer of 1947 and there was a wave of entity sightings across Western Europe in 1954.
Whatever happened that night it’s clear that the witnesses felt it was something wholly unusual. Hounded by tourists and afraid if the beings returned Lankford sold the home within a few months of the incident and everyone did their best to move on. The Kelly Hopkinsville encounter became an instant classic in UFO lore. The strange goblin creatures have inspired many pop culture monsters, and the families that saw them became the basis of the modern stereotypical UFO witness anyone who thinks that only gun-toting hillbillies see UFOs and aliens owes a lot of their bias to the media’s coverage of the events at Kelly Kentucky in 1955.
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Siege of ‘Little Green Men’: The 1955 Kelly, Kentucky, Incident – CSI
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Macabre Grimoire Chapter 21 Kelly Hopkinsville Encounter, The Goblin “Invasion” of 1955
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