The Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter, also known as the Kelly Green Men case, is an alleged close encounter with supposed aliens and one of the most well-known and well-documented cases in the history of UFO incidents, and a favorite for study in ufology. The incidents began on the evening of August 21, 1955 and continued through to the dawn of the next morning. The incident occurred mostly around a rural farmhouse at the time belonging to the Sutton family, which was located near the small town of
Kelly and the small city of Hopkinsville, both in Christian County, Kentucky, . Witnesses include policemen and state troopers, and the incidents were taken seriously enough as to be officially investigated by the United States Air Force. United States
On the evening of Sunday, August 21, 1955, present at the Sutton farmhouse at Kelly were eleven people: widowed family matriarch Glennie Lankford (50); her children, Lonnie (12), Charlton (10), and Mary (7); two sons from her previous marriage, Elmer "Lucky" Sutton (25) and John Charley "J.C." Sutton (21), and their respective wives, Vera (29) and Alene (27); Alene's brother, O.P. Baker (30 or 35); and a
couple, Billy Ray Taylor (21) and June Taylor (18). The Pennsylvania , along with "Lucky" and Vera Sutton, had been visiting for a while, being occasional carnival workers. Taylors
Not all of the eleven were eyewitnesses to the most significant events. One of the women, apparently June Taylor, had been "too frightened to look", and Lonnie Lankford said that, during the fracas, his mother had hidden him and his brother and sister under a bed.
About seven o'clock, Billy Ray Taylor was drawing water from the well when he saw a bright light streak across the sky and disappear beyond a tree line some distance from the house. According to researcher Isabel Davis, who investigated the case in 1956, Billy Ray Taylor was different from the other eyewitnesses: He had looked at the creatures with extravagant success. He was the only member of the group who appeared to arouse immediate doubt in everyone who talked to him. Even among the family he had a low standing; when he first came into the house and reported a "spaceship," they paid him no attention. Later, during the investigations, he basked in the limelight of publicity. He elaborated and embroidered his description of the creatures (though not his description of the "spaceship") and eventually produced the most imaginative and least credible of the little-men sketches. Several skeptics who labeled the story a hoax referred to him as the probable originator. His behavior was in sharp contrast to that of the other witnesses, none of whom aroused such prompt suspicion in the investigators.
About an hour after
Sometimes, the men fired at a scary face that appeared at a window; sometimes, they went outside, whereupon, on one occasion,
's hair was grabbed by a huge, clawlike hand. Once, the pair shot at a little creature that was on the roof and at another "in a nearby tree" that then "floated" to the ground. Either the creatures were impervious to gun blasts or the men's aim was poor, since no creature was killed. Taylor
After a lull in the "battle," everyone piled into their cars and drove eight miles south to
's police headquarters. Soon, more than a dozen officers--from city, county, and state law-enforcement agencies--had converged on the site. Their search yielded nothing, apart from a hole in a window screen. There were "no tracks of 'little men,' nor was there any mark indicating anything had landed at the described spot behind the house." By the following day, reportedly, the U.S. Air Force was involved but ultimately listed the case as "unidentified". Hopkinsville
Partial Police Corroboration
There might have been partial corroboration of the Taylor-Sutton tale: at about 11 p.m., a state highway trooper near Kelly independently reported some unusual "meteor-like objects" flying overhead, "with a sound like artillery fire coming directly from them."
Hendry writes that Sutton family matriarch "Mrs. Lankford … counseled an end to the hostilities," noting that the creatures had never seemed to try harming anyone nor had they actually entered the house. Between appearances from the creatures, the family tried to temper the children's growing hysteria. At about 11.00 p.m., the Taylor-Sutton crew decided to flee the farmhouse in their automobiles and after about 30 minutes they arrived at the
police station. Police Chief Russell Greenwell judged the witnesses to have been frightened by something "beyond reason, not ordinary." He also opined "[t]hese were not the sort of people who normally ran to the police … something frightened them, something beyond their comprehension." A police officer with medical training determined that Billy Ray's pulse rate was more than twice normal. Hopkinsville
Twenty police officers accompanied the Taylor-Suttons back to the farmhouse, and several entered it to assess the damage. According to Daniels et al., "[t]he official response was prompt and thorough." In 1998, Karal Ayn Barnett wrote, "By all accounts, the witnesses were deemed sane, not under the influence [of drugs or alcohol], and in such a state of terror, no one involved doubted that they had seen something beyond far their ken." Police and photographers who visited the home saw many bullet holes and spent shells, and further discovered what Clark describes as "an odd luminous patch along a fence where one of the beings had been shot, and, in the woods beyond, a green light whose source could not be determined." Though the investigation was inconclusive, Daniels et al. writes, "Investigators did conclude, however, that these people were sincere and sane and that they had no interest in exploiting the case for publicity. The patch sample, although photographed, was never collected and had mysteriously disappeared by the noon the next day. "
Police left at about 2:15 a.m., and not long afterwards, the witnesses claimed that the creatures returned. Billy Ray fired at them once more, ruining yet another window. The last of the creatures was allegedly sighted just before dawn, at about 4:45 a.m. on August 22.
Possible Explanations1. 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 [that] escaped from a circus," and that Mrs. Lankford's imagination had exaggerated the event. Isabel Davis, for one, rejected this explanation as not only entirely speculative, but absurd: "[m]onkeys are hairy creatures, monkeys have long tails, monkeys are notorious chatterboxes, and monkeys struck by bullets bleed and die ... no amount of 'optical illusion' can explain a mistake of this magnitude."
2. An explanation for the case has been proposed recently by Renaud Leclet, a French Ufologist. It could be a misidentification of a pair of Great horned owls, which are nocturnal, fly silently, have yellow eyes, and aggressively defend their nests. Leclet argues that this explanation fits well with the details of the case, including the appearance and behavior of the "humanoids". The metallic sound of the striking bullets can be explained by the fact that some bullets hit some metallic objects of the farm, such as the fence. This misidentified bird hypothesis was echoed by Joe Nickell in a Skeptical Inquirer article.
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