Inside The Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter, One Of The Most Bizarre And Convincing Alien Events Ever

February 1, 2023 People's Tonight 2107 views

Hannah Collins

In 1955, two families in Hopkinsville, Kentucky survived one of the craziest alien encounters ever recorded. Not only did they see a flying saucer, but they engaged in a gunfight with the group of mysterious creatures and survived multiple attacks on their home. The story of the Kelly-Hopkinsville visitation is one of the most interesting tales of an extraterrestrial meeting. It fits into an interesting narrative of the many cryptid and UFO sightings that plagued the Eastern Seaboard in the mid-20th century.

At the time of the attacks, the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter turned the nation on its head. The visitation happened in the middle of UFO fever, when everyone was seeing flying saucers. But there was something different about this case; not only did the people involved see a spacecraft, but they came face-to-face with the creatures who were piloting it.

Did 11 people really fight off aliens in 1955, or did they make the whole thing up?


• The Streak Across The Sky

Sky1Photo: Beastankar / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

As night fell on Kelly, an unincorporated area outside of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on August 21, 1955, Billy Ray Taylor was taking a trip to the family well. He was staying in Glennie Lankford’s farm house with the Sutton family and others, some of which, like Taylor, had recently left the carnival life. As Taylor drew his water, something bright shot across the sky.

Taylor believed that he saw a spaceship zip through the clouds and land behind a patch of trees. However, when he told everyone inside about the “round, metallic object, with rainbow-colored streaks trailing behind it,” no one believed him. Apparently, Taylor was known to tell tall tales, so everyone assumed he was trying to get a rise out of them.

• Alien Creatures Tried To Break Into The House

HousePhoto: RWTurenne / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

No one believed Billy when he told them about seeing a spaceship pass overhead, but he was convincing enough that his friend Lucky went back to the well with him to check it out. There was nothing at the well, but on their way back to the house, the two men saw a glowing figure walking out of the woods, holding its hands over its head. The two men ran back to the house and began to barricade the doors.

The initial news report of the case claims that there were 12 creatures surrounding the household that evening. The “little grey men” seemed confused; they approached the house one by one and acted very strange. They peeked through the windows, tried to get in through the front door, and even floated up into a tree at one point.

• A Firefight Broke Out In The House

FirefightPhoto: Thomas Hawk / f

The families armed themselves with a 12-gauge shotgun and a .22 caliber rifle, and they waited. When one of the creatures pressed its face against a screen window, Billy Ray Taylor fired, but nothing happened. The screen was destroyed but the creature simply disappeared.

Taylor, Lucky, and some of the other men went outside, where they were nearly ambushed by a creature waiting for them on the roof – a taloned claw allegedly swiped at Taylor before floating away. After going back inside, more creatures appeared and more shots were fired, but the bullets didn’t affect the creatures. They family said the sound of the bullets hitting the creatures was similar to that of ammunition hitting a sheet of metal.

• The Police Actually Investigated The Alien Attack

PolicePhoto: brizzle born and bred / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

After the one-sided gun battle, the families settled down and tried to figure out what to do next. The elderly Glennie Lankford came to the conclusion that the small gray creatures with “spindly, useless legs, and human-like hands” weren’t trying to harm anyone, but she also didn’t want them on her property. When the group felt the coast was clear, everyone piled into their cars and drove to the police station in Hopkinsville.

When the family arrived, they were pretty freaked out. The police didn’t know how to handle the situation; it occurred 8 years after the Roswell incident, and everyone was seeing flying saucers.

The cops went out to the farmhouse to investigate, but all they found were signs of a gun battle.

Information travels quickly in a rural area like Hopkinsville, and within the hour, the small farm house was crawling with police and members of the local media. From there, the story exploded.

• Hopkinsville Is Obsessed With Their Weird History

HopkinsvillePhoto: nasamarshallphotos / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

Rather than shy away from the fact that their town plays a part in a very strange UFO case, the good people of Hopkinsville, Kentucky have leaned into their mysterious past. In 2010, the town began hosting the Little Green Men Festival, a four day event filled with UFOlogists, hayrides, and crafts. There’s even live music.

Hopkinsville, not a town to shy away from the press, dubbed itself “Eclipseville” in 2017 to draw in tourists hoping to witness the totality of the coming eclipse. When asked if the celestial event might bring extraterrestrials to the area, Joann Smithey, vice president and chairperson of the Little Green Men Festival said, “As far as aliens returning, you never know. Some people say they are already among us, and others say they don’t exist, period.”

• The Aliens May Have Been Owls

OwlsPhoto: jkirkhart35 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

Critics of the encounter note that the details about the creatures, from the way they floated to the mention of glowing eyes to the talons with which the family was attacked, sound incredibly similar to that of a great horned owl. These owls are noted for their aggressive behavior and have been confused for aliens before, most notably in the Mothman case.

Great horned owls are fairly large; they can grow up to two feet tall and have little tufts of feathers on top of their heads that look similar to ears. They’re nocturnal, so it makes sense they would attack at night. The little gray men “floated away” when shot at, which sounds a lot like owls flying.

• Alcohol Allegedly Wasn’t Involved

AlcoholPhoto: christ-o-phile / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

While some have tried to combat the claims of an encounter with paranormal beings by claiming those involved were likely drunk, there’s no evidence to support that theory. When the police investigated, they reportedly concluded alcohol wasn’t involved. And despite a spurious rumor of moonshine, the police didn’t find that, either.

For Joann Smithey, the idea of alcohol being involved is ludicrous: “We all laugh at that because [Lankford] didn’t allow alcohol, or even cursing, on her property. They were a very quiet, trustworthy family.”

• The Aliens Came Back

AliensPhoto: © Stranger / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

Late in the evening on August 21, after the police and local media had gone home, the family tried to settle in for the night, but they weren’t able to rest. Around 3 am, the creatures allegedly returned. The began running across the roof and scratching at the house. The neighbors claimed that instead of fighting off aliens for the second time in one night, the families decided to pack up and head for Evansville, IN.

The families were definitely afraid of something, but whether it was aliens, gremlins (another claim), or owls is up for debate.

• Billy Ray Taylor May Have Seen Foxfire

BillyPhoto: f.rohart / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

One of most consistent details of the Kelly-Hopkins event is the idea of an eerie glow. Billy Taylor saw a rainbow light following the spaceship, and after the shootout, the family claims they saw an emerald glow illuminating the woods. Not to mention the glowing figures and their glowing eyes.

Some skeptics believe the family was actually witnessing “foxfire,” or a bioluminescent fungus on decaying wood. The color of foxfire tends to be a bright green, which looks unworldly – even when you know what you’re looking at.

• Project Blue Book Thinks The Encounter Was A Hoax

ProjectPhoto: be creator / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

Project Blue Book, spearheaded by the United States Air Force from 1952 to 1969, sought to research claims of unidentified flying objects. It was the third project of its kind, following Project Sign and Project Grudge. According to researchers, the US military never found evidence of UFOs or extraterrestrial life.

Project Blue Book didn’t officially investigate this case, because they thought the whole thing was a hoax. They recorded the sighting with the notes “C.P.” – for “crackpot.”

• ‘Critters’ Was Likely Based On This Case

CrittersPhoto: New Line Cinema

Even though the Kelly-Hopkins sighting didn’t convince the world of extraterrestrials or little gray men with talons, it did inspire a rash of sci-fi stories. Supposedly Critters, a 1986 Gremlins knock-off about a farm family fighting off a bunch of creepy aliens who crash-land while riding a meteor, is based on the Kelly-Hopkinsville story.

The Kelly-Hopkinsville events also found their way into The X-Files comic book in an issue subtitled “Crop Duster.”

• The Details About The Aliens Kept Changing

DetailsPhoto: Kentucky New Era

Despite what the people in charge of the Little Green Men festival say, many in Hopkinsville didn’t believe the story when it was first told. The details changed depending on which person was recounting them, and newspaper stories at the time were inconsistent.

Skeptics cling to these discrepancies, claiming they prove the families were all imagining things.

• The Little Green Men Weren’t Green At All

GreenPhoto: Topps Comics

Over the course of the local news cycle, the descriptions of the creatures that attacked the farmhouse changed drastically. They were initially described as a little over two feet tall with thin legs and gray coloring. But then things changed. The beings went from gray to green in one newspaper article, and they were given a “greenish silver glow” in a later version of the story.

In one article, the creatures were described as four feet tall and were given bulbous heads, while in others they had pointed ears and claws for hands. It’s hard to tell if reporters were adding embellishments to the creatures to make the story more interesting, or if the various family members just saw different features – or imagined different things.