25 November 2009
The Kelly-Hopkinsville Incident
This incident is one of the most famous in the annals (that's with two "n"s!) of ufology as well as unexplained creature encounters and general high strangeness, it's also one of my personal favorites, since the victims shot back! :D
Here's part of the rather lengthy wiki entry:
On the evening of August 21, 1955, members of the Taylor family from Philadelphia were visiting friends, the Sutton family of Kentucky. The Sutton family home was a rural farmhouse located near the towns of Kelly and Hopkinsville, in Christian County, Kentucky (the farmhouse still stands today although the Sutton family moved soon after the incident). There were a total of seven people in the house that night, including the children of the two families. The Suttons had no running water in the farmhouse, and due to it being a warm evening Billy Ray Taylor, the patriarch of the Taylor family, went to an outside water pump for a drink. It was about 7.00 p.m. Taylor said he observed strange lights in the sky to the west, which he believed to be an unusual craft. He excitedly told the others about his "flying saucer" sighting, but no one believed him, instead thinking that he had become overly excited after seeing a vivid "shooting star".
At about 8.00 p.m., the families began hearing strange and unexplained noises outside. The Sutton family dog which was on guard outside began barking loudly and then hid under the house, where it remained until the next day. Going outside a few minutes later with their guns, Billy Ray Taylor and Elmer "Lucky" Sutton then asserted that they saw a strange creature emerge from the nearby trees. Jerome Clark describes the creature as:
a luminous, three-and-a-half-foot-tall being with an oversized head, big, floppy, pointed ears, glowing eyes, and hands with talons at their ends. The figure, either made of or simply dressed in silvery metal, had its hands raised.
Disquieted by the creature's bizarre appearance, the pair were further unnerved when it began rushing towards the house holding its hands up in the air, which the men took as threatening behavior. When the creature approached to within about 20 feet, the two men became scared of a home invasion and began shooting at it, one using a shotgun, the other man using a .22 rifle. There was a noise "sounding like bullets being rattled about in a metal drum", and the creature, they said, then flipped over and fled into the darkness and shadows. Sure that they had wounded the creature, Lucky and Billy Ray went out to look for it. Hendry writes that as the men were stepping from the porch, "a taloned hand reached down from above and began grasping at their hair." They again shot at the creature—it was perched on an awning over the porch—and it was knocked from the roof. Again they heard the rattling noise, although the creature was apparently unharmed.
Lucky and Billy Ray returned to the house in a disturbed state. Within minutes, Lucky's brother J.C. Sutton said that he saw the same creature (or at least a similar creature) peer into a window in the home; J.C. and Billy Ray shot at it, breaking the window, whereupon it too flipped over and fled. For the next few hours, the witnesses would assert that the creatures repeatedly approached the home, either popping up at the doorway or at windows in an almost playful manner, only to be shot at each time they did. The witnesses were unsure as to how many of the creatures that there were; at least two, as two were seen at once, but there may have been as many as fifteen. At one point the witnesses shot one of the beings nearly point blank, and again would insist that the sound resembled bullets striking a metal bucket. The floating creatures' legs seemed to be atrophied and nearly useless, and they appeared to propel themselves with a curious hip-swaying motion, steering with their arms. Clark writes that "[i]f the creatures were in a tree or on the roof when hit [by gunfire], they would float, not fall, to the ground."
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 Hopkinsville 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.
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 afterward, 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.
The August 22, 1955 Kentucky New Era claimed that "12 to 15 little men" had been seen. Clark writes that none of the witnesses ever claimed this, rather that "[t]he observers had no idea how many of the creatures there were. They could only be certain that there were at least two because they saw that number at the same time."
Later on August 22, Andrew "Bud" Ledwith of WHOP radio interviewed the seven adult witnesses in two different groups. He judged their tale of the events as consistent, especially in their descriptions of the strange glowing beings. Ledwith had worked as a professional artist, and sketched the creatures based on the witnesses descriptions. Their descriptions were generally consistent, though the female witnesses insisted that the creatures had a somewhat huskier build than the male witnesses remembered, and Billy Ray Taylor was alone in insisting that the beings had antennae. Hendry describes Ledwith's efforts as "fortunate … because the publicity soon grew so obnoxious to that Sutton family that they later simply avoided telling the story and refused to cooperate [with UFO investigators, excepting] Isabel Davis."
As reports reached the newspapers, public opinion tended to view the story as a hoax and showed only brief interest in the event. Some residents of the local community, including members of the police department, were skeptical of the Sutton's story and believed that alcohol (possibly moonshine) may have played a part in the incident, although to date no evidence has been found to support this belief. The fact that some of the witnesses worked for a carnival somehow contributed to the belief in a hoax.
The farm became a tourist attraction for a brief period, which upset the Suttons who tried to keep people away, eventually attempting to charge people an entrance fee to discourage them. That only convinced the sight-seers that the family was attempting to make money from the event, and increased the public view that the event was a hoax. Finally, the Suttons refused all visitors and refused to discuss the event further with anyone. To date, family members who survived the event rarely talk to reporters or researchers, and by given accounts have stuck to their version of the event. As late as 2002, Lucky Sutton's daughter, Geraldine Hawkins, believed her father's account, stating,
It was a serious thing to him. It happened to him. He said it happened to him. He said it wasn't funny. It was an experience he said he would never forget. It was fresh in his mind until the day he died. It was fresh in his mind like it happened yesterday. He never cracked a smile when he told the story because it happened to him and there wasn't nothing funny about it. He got pale and you could see it in his eyes. He was scared to death."
The United States Air Force took the allegations seriously and officers from nearby Fort Campbell inspected the case, but could find no rational explanation and to this day is still labelled an open case. The official UFO investigation office, Project Blue Book, never officially investigated the case, although a file has been kept on it and is labelled "unexplained" Prominent Ufologist Allen Hynek had interviews with two persons with direct knowledge of the event a year after the event took place.
Okay, so what's the "rational", skeptical position on the encounter? Well, there are a few opinions I've found.
First, there's the possibility that the family members were partaking of some of Kentucky's famous moonshine, and imagined the whole thing. But the police officers who responded didn't observe any signs of alcohol or drug consumption. Besides, how often does it happen that multiple individuals share identical delusions? Granted, I don't have any experience with hallucinogens (does mescal count?), but I'm pretty sure that the "trip" is particular to the individual.
Next, it has been posited that the encounter was in reality an owl (yep, owls again!). Given the description of the "goblins" appearance and behaviour, I'm ready to toss that one as well. Owls don't hang around once bullets start flying.
And finally, (I just LOVE this one!), the witnesses actually encountered a silver painted monkey that had escaped from a circus. Let's think about this...how many circuses feature silver painted monkeys? Remember, this was a very rural, isolated area, not exactly freakshow central. Just what are the odds that, on the same night as several UFO or meteor sightings, a silver painted (and apparently bullet-proof!) monkey escapes from a travelling circus in the middle of nowhere and makes its way to an isolated farmhouse, wreacking havoc and panicking the locals? Occam's Razor, people?
I have another possible thought on the incident. (Put on your "Think Weird" hats for this one). Some researches into strange phenomena have voiced the possibility that the event is entirely subjective, that it occurs solely in the experience of the observers or witnesses. This isn't the same as calling it "imagination", the events are percieved as completely real, but are taking place somewhere outside of objective reality. This can apply to alien abductions, bigfoot and other creature sightings where no physical evidence is found, "missing time", and practically any other brush with strangeness. Maybe sometimes these entities aren't entering our reality, rather, some of us stray into theirs.
The case is officially labelled as unsolved, but I like to think that a stalwart band of armed rednecks did indeed save the earth from hostile alien invasion. It's just too bad they were only armed with a .22 and a shotgun. Remember, there's no such thing as "too much gun"! Had they been packing magnums, it might have been a case of "Well, it's dead, whatever it was!"