Kentucky's Alien Visitors

Kelly Hopkins 1955
Kelly Hopkins 1955 / Kelly Hopkins 1955

If you want to learn about someplace, you can always pick up a textbook. But if you want to get to know a place, you're going to have to dig a little deeper. And what you find there might be a little strange. The Strange States series will take you on a virtual tour of America to uncover the unusual people, places, things, and events that make this country such a unique place to call home.

This week we’re heading to the home of a chicken-loving colonel, a knife-designing frontiersman, and a really famous horse race: it’s the Bluegrass State—Kentucky.

Alien Invasion

No one believed Billy Ray Taylor. There was no way he’d just seen a flying saucer land in a nearby gully. But considering he was a guest at Elmer “Lucky” Sutton’s cabin, located between the towns of Kelly and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, he didn’t want to press the issue. Then again, he didn’t have to convince anyone his story was true after the aliens showed up.

After the Suttons’ dog started barking, Billy Ray and Lucky grabbed their guns—a shotgun and a .22 rifle—and went out to investigate. That’s when they saw a “small man,” described as a “goblin” by Lucky, coming towards them. It was about 3.5 feet tall, with a round head, round, glowing eyes, pointed ears, and long arms that ended in sharp claws. When the thing was within 20 feet of the house, the men were understandably frightened, and fired. When the shots found their target it sounded like the bullets and buckshot were rattling around in a bucket. And instead of going down, the little man did a backflip, landed on his feet, and took off into the surrounding trees.

Lucky and Billy Ray scrambled inside and the houseful of family and guests wondered what all the shooting was about. Just as they tried to explain about the “goblin” they’d seen, a strange face appeared in one of the windows of the front porch. The men turned and fired, shooting holes in the wall, but there was no goblin body outside. As Billy Ray stood on the edge of the porch, looking into the darkness, a clawed hand reached down from the roof and grabbed his hair. Lucky rushed into the yard, and spun, shooting the thing on the roof. Once again, the bullets did nothing but force the creature to flip end over end and run away.

Then, chaos erupted as two goblins were seen scampering around on the roof, in the trees, around the corner of the house, and back into the darkness, both seemingly impervious to the barrage of gunfire Billy Ray and Lucky unleashed. One creature was knocked off the roof, but instead of falling, it seemed to float down to a fence nearly 40 feet away. Lucky got a bead on it and hit it again, but it just did a backflip and ran off, using its arms in a swimming-like motion as if it was wading through the air.

After a few hours, the families inside the house decided to make a run for it. They piled into two cars and headed to town to get the local sheriff. The police investigated the scene, but could find no evidence of little silver men from Mars. After the authorities left, the goblins returned, taunting and teasing Lucky, Billy Ray, and the rest of them until the early hours of the morning. The next day, the police interviewed the occupants of the cabin and they all told the same story, described the goblins in the same way, and even drew the creatures almost identically.

Since that night in August 1955, the Kelly-Hopkinsville Goblins Case has fascinated UFOlogists. The story was quickly dismissed as a publicity stunt by most people, but neither the Suttons nor Billy Ray Taylor ever benefitted from the story. In fact, the Sutton family got so tired of curious people stopping by the cabin to see where it all happened that they wound up moving away. Even years later, no one changed their story, and no one ever copped to the whole thing being a hoax. As far as they were all concerned, the Sutton cabin was visited by aliens from another world.

Although it wasn’t uncommon for the Air Force to investigate UFO sightings at the time, the Kelly-Hopkins Goblins Case was not explored until 1957. Major John Albert interviewed the Suttons—none of whom changed their story—and did a cursory examination of the facts before determining that the goblins were not aliens, nor were the Suttons perpetrating a hoax. In his opinion, what they had most likely seen was a monkey that had escaped from somewhere—maybe a travelling circus that could have been in the area, though he could never confirm if such a circus existed.

In 2005, as part of the 50th anniversary of the encounter, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) looked into the case and determined the most likely explanation for the “goblins” was a pair of Great Horned Owls. The owls have a striking similarity to the aliens—about 3 feet tall, round heads, round eyes, and pointed tufts on either side of the head—and would have been feeding a set of young in August, causing them to defend their nest.

Have the scoop on an unusual person, place or event in your state? Tell me about it on Twitter (@spacemonkeyx) and maybe I’ll include it in a future edition of Strange States!

Peruse the whole Strange States series here.