The Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter, also known as the Kelly Green Men case, is a famous and puzzling UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) and alien encounter that occurred in 1955. The incident took place near the rural town of Kelly and the nearby Hopkinsville in Kentucky, USA.
It remains one of the most well-documented and perplexing cases in UFO lore. The incident occurred on the night of August 21-22, 1955, and extended into the early hours of August 22. A group of people, mostly family members, at the Sutton farmhouse in Kelly, reported seeing strange, small, humanoid creatures that appeared to be extraterrestrial in nature. The witnesses described the beings as having large heads, glowing eyes, long arms, and a metallic appearance.
The witnesses claimed that the beings repeatedly approached their home, and the family members fired at them with shotguns, but the bullets seemed to have no effect. There were also reports of the beings floating or hovering near the house and of mysterious lights in the sky. Five adults and seven children arrived at the Hopkinsville police station claiming that small alien creatures from a spaceship were attacking their farmhouse, and that they had been holding them off with gunfire “for nearly four hours”.
Hopkinsville Police investigated the incident. They found no tracks or marking outside of the home, only the evidence of gunshots fired from inside. Another officer reported seeing a meteor shower in the area but no flying saucer. Media quickly spread the strange news of the “Hopkinsville Goblins” or “little men.” Reporting about this incident helped to popularize the term “little green men” as a generic term used for aliens although the color green was not mentioned in the group’s original interviews.
Two of the adults, Elmer Sutton and Billy Ray Taylor, claimed they had been shooting at a few short, dark figures who repeatedly popped up at the doorway or peered into the windows. Concerned about a possible gun battle between local citizens, four city police officers, five state troopers, three deputy sheriffs,
and four military police officers from the nearby United States Army Fort Campbell drove to the Sutton farmhouse located near the town of Kelly in Christian County. Their search yielded nothing apart from evidence of gunfire and holes in window and door screens made by firearms. Law enforcement officers investigated the scene but found no evidence of a hoax. They did not witness the strange creatures but did report seeing unusual lights in the distance.
The incident garnered widespread media attention, drawing reporters and curious onlookers to the Sutton farmhouse. Some skeptics and researchers have suggested that the encounter could be attributed to owls, raccoons, or other terrestrial animals that may have been misidentified in the dark. Others have proposed that the witnesses might have been affected by alcohol or were engaging in a prank.
Eventually, the witnesses and the law enforcement officers left the scene, and the strange activity ceased. The family members were adamant that they had experienced something truly unexplainable. The Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter remains a topic of fascination and debate in the realm of UFO and alien encounters.
Although contemporary newspaper stories alleged that “all officials appeared to agree that there was no drinking involved”, psychologists Rodney Schmaltz and Scott Lilienfeld suggest that intoxication may have played a part in the sighting. French UFOlogist Renaud Leclet argued in a publication that the best explanation of the case is that the residents had simply seen great horned owls. UFOlogist Jerome Clark writes that the supposed creatures “floated” through the trees and the sound of bullets striking them “resembled bullets striking a metal bucket”.
A great horned owl, like this one, does fit the bill in some ways. It can fly, seemingly hover, has long pointy ears and in some cases a shiney silvery, metallic, color. On the other hand, they certainly cannot be shot and survive.
Clark describes “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”; however, this description was consistent with foxfire, a bioluminescent fungus on decaying wood. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the credibility of the witnesses involved and the absence of an immediate explanation make it a prominent case in the annals of UFO history.
In the late 1970s, Steven Spielberg used the event as the basis for Night Skies, an unproduced science fiction horror film. The 1986 comedy-horror film Critters is loosely based on the event. A February 2020 episode of the American television series Project Blue Book focused on the event. The Kelly community celebrates the event annually with the Little Green Men Days Festival. With live music, arts and crafts, yummy treats, and rides and activities for kids of all ages, the Kelly Little Green Men Days Festival is family fun in the summer sun!
Locally Produced Kelly-Hopkinsville ‘Little Green Men’ Film to Coincide with Eclipse (2017)
The famed Kelly-Hopkinsville alien encounter of the 1950s will be depicted in a film to premiere on the same day as the total solar eclipse. Area filmmakers are following the book ‘Alien Legacy’ by Geraldine Sutton Stith, daughter of witness ‘Lucky’ Elmer Sutton who reported the incident to the police. ‘The Invasion of Kelly’ will reenact the night little green men were allegedly seen in the backyard of Sutton’s home and Stith will narrate the events. Director Joseph Drake: “What’s really unique and strange about everything is that this encounter happened August 21st of 1955, so the eclipse is happening on the same day the Kelly green men supposedly came 62 years ago.” Drake said casting local actors is underway, Elmer Sutton Jr. will play the role of his father. The film premieres at the “Little Green Men Days Festival” in Kelly on August 21st, 2017. The total solar eclipse will be at its ‘point of greatest eclipse’ over the Hopkinsville area. The city is preparing for 50,000 visitors.
- “HISTORY LESSON: Goblins of Hopkinsville” (August 22, 2017) https://www.courierpress.com/story/life/columnists/2017/08/21/history-lesson-goblins-hopkinsville/104796526/
- “Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly%E2%80%93Hopkinsville_encounter
- Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. “The Encyclopedia of Aliens and UFOs.” Infobase Publishing, 2018.
- Clark, Jerome. “Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena.” Visible Ink Press, 2013.
- Redfern, Nick. “Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind: Suspicious Deaths, Mysterious Murders, and Bizarre Disappearances in UFO History.” New Page Books, 2014.
- “How the ‘Little Green Men’ Phenomenon Began on a Kentucky Farm” (SEPTEMBER 14, 2023) https://www.history.com/news/little-green-men-origins-aliens-hopkinsville-kelly
- “Inside The Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter, One Of The Most Bizarre And Convincing Alien Events Ever” (February 1, 2023) https://journalnews.com.ph/inside-the-kelly-hopkinsville-encounter-one-of-the-most-bizarre-and-convincing-alien-events-ever/