by Annie MacFie
The term "high strangeness," frequently tossed around in current UFOspeak, aptly applies to a Kentucky CE-III (close encounter of the third kind) incident more than 30 years old. This is the one often referred to as the "Hopkinsville Case," although it took place seven miles to the north at a wide-spot-in-the-road called Kelly.
Because of outlandish exaggeration and derisive treatment in the press, the story was generally disbelieved at the time, but careful investigation by responsible researchers has turned up no evidence of hoax or deceit on the part of the witnesses. That they were uneducated "hillbillies" seems to have been most people's reason for doubting their word.
We return now to the hot, clear evening of August 21, 1955, one of the wilder nights in UFO history…
Pennsylvanians Billy Ray and June Taylor were visiting the Cecil Sutton family at a tenant house in western Kentucky. Sutton's 50-year-old mother, Glennie Lankford, lived with the family, and some kinfolks were over, making a crowd of eight adults and three children at the farmhouse.
Around 7 p.m. Taylor went to fetch water from the backyard well and came back excited, saying he'd seen a brilliant flying saucer come whizzing in from the southwest and drop into a gully not far from the house. The others dismissed the sightings as a falling star, but within the hour, the violent barking of Sutton's dog brought the men out in time to see the animal hide under the house.
Approaching from the fields was a luminous shape - a humanoid figure three and a half feet tall, shining all over as if "nickel-plated." Large, pointed ears extended from its oversized head, and its eyes, set more laterally than human eyes, glowed with yellow light. Its thin arms reached almost to the ground, displaying big, webbed hands with talons at the ends of the fingers.
Apparently, the creature had seen its share of cowboy movies - it raised its hands high over its head in an attitude of surrender. Ignoring Mrs. Lankford's pleas not to shoot at it, her son and Taylor opened fire on the intruder with a shotgun and a .22. To their astonishment, it flipped over, righted itself and ran off into the darkness.
Presently, it - or a second one like it - appeared looking in at a window. Sutton's younger brother J.C. discharged the shotgun through the window-screen, knocking the being out of sight.
Certain it had been hit, Taylor, followed by Cecil Sutton (nicknamed "Lucky") started outside to find it. As he hesitated beneath an overhanging roof, those in the house began to scream at the sight of a claw-like hand reaching down to touch his hair. He was quickly pulled back inside, and Lucky Sutton, leaping out into the yard, blasted the creature off the roof with the shotgun. Taylor spotted another being, and both men shot it out of the maple tree in which it was perched. It floated, rather than fell to the ground and scurried away on slender, inflexible legs that seemed to move from the hip only.
Just then, another entity (possibly the one that had been on the roof) appeared around the corner of the house near Sutton. His shotgun pellets struck it point-blank with a sound like that of a metal bucket. Nonetheless, it jumped up and ran away unhurt.
Several more times the aliens advanced on the house, never making any sound nor behaving with any overt hostility and each time they were repelled by a hail of gunfire. At last, the unnerved defenders fled from the farmhouse in two cars and raced for the Hopkinsville police station where, in a state of near-hysteria, they told their bizarre story.
By 12:30 the still-frightened family was back on the scene, accompanied by state and local police, a deputy sheriff, a newspaper photographer, and two military police from Ft. Campbell. A thorough search of the house and grounds turned up a lot of spent shotgun shells and a hole blasted through a screen, but no glowing little men. A luminous patch of grass was observed where one of the creatures was shot off a fence, but no cause for it could be determined. Apparently, no samples were collected.
Chief of Police Russel Greenwell stated that he and the other investigators admitted sensing a "weird feeling" that permeated the entire area that night. Although he couldn't find any evidence of what, exactly, happened, "Something scared those people," he said. "Something beyond reason - nothing ordinary."
With the excitement over and nothing more to do, everyone but those occupying the farmhouse left around 2 a.m. The exhausted Sutton family retired, but by 3:30, the little metallic guys were peeking in the windows again. Lucky Sutton blew one more hole in a screen, to no effect. The inquisitive visitors persisted in their forays until just before dawn.
Morning brought various investigators who conducted an extensive, but fruitless, daylight examination of the farm. It also brought a hoard of news reporters, and after their stories - some of them blatantly sensationalistic and erroneous - went out, the curiosity seekers arrived. Fed up with harassment and ridicule, the witnesses soon refused to talk about the incident and, within 48 hours, packed up and left the area.
Fortunately, one of the first persons to interview the percipients was Andrew "Bud" Ledwith of radio station WHOP, a man with artistic ability and a broad-minded attitude toward UFOs. Before the issue was clouded by the "chaff" of so many careless reports, Ledwith obtained firsthand most of the informational "wheat" from which today's researchers can put together the closest-to-complete account of what really went on at Kelly. He also made drawings based on witness descriptions and received signed statements of their testimony.
Almost a year later, Isabel Davis managed to locate and interview Glennie Lankford and J.C. Sutton's wife, Alene, as well as Chief Greenwell. The 196-page report of her investigation, "Close Encounter at Kelly and Others of 1955," co-authored by Ted Bloecher, is available from CUFOS (the Center for UFO Studies).
Far from the preposterous tall tale of "gun-toting hillbillies shooting it out with a dozen or so green monsters," that the press of that day put out, the Kelly-Hopkinsville Standoff has gone down in serious UFO literature as one of the more credible, although highly unusual, close encounters of the century.