The First Contact with "Little Green Men"
Updated: Apr 17
Why do people worldwide report aliens as “little green men” with bulbous heads and over-sized eyes? Is that proof they’re visiting Earth? Most likely these stories can all be blamed on an encounter in the Hopkinsville area and the power of media.
The incident, also called the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter, referring to the nearby unincorporated community of Kelly, was well documented in the media and pop culture: director Steven Spielberg even referenced the story as an inspiration for the films E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In the 1950s, a family living outside of Hopkinsville made headlines around the world after claiming they were visited by "little grey men" after spotting an otherworldly aircraft floating over their farmhouse. Grey not green? Unfortunately, the family was misquoted by the press resulting in the description of "little green men”.
The mythology specifically began the evening of August 21, 1955. Old Madisonville Road to be exact. The address was the Sutton family farm, and later that evening, the Sutton family arrived at the Hopkinsville police station breathless and telling an incredible story. Their story of a terrifying attack by extraterrestrials would become one of the most detailed and baffling accounts of a close encounter. This encounter was slightly different with the number of witnesses (11), the length of the encounter (several hours) and the proximity between the witnesses and extraterrestrials (sometimes just a few feet away). The incident quickly moved from being a regional story to International news within days.
“These aren’t the kind of people who normally run to the police for help,” police chief Russell Greenwell later told investigators. “What they do is reach for their guns.” Yet here they were, women and children hysterical and one man with a pulse of 140 beats per minute which was measured by an investigator.
According to police reports, at approximately 7 pm, a Sutton family friend Billy Ray Taylor was collecting water from the backyard well. Mr. Taylor happened to glance up to see a silvery object, “real bright, with an exhaust all the colors of the rainbow.” The object silently moved towards the Sutton home and passed over it before coming to a stop in mid-air. The craft then lowered to the ground behind a tree line.
Taylor, 21, and his 18-year-old wife were visiting from Pennsylvania to as guests of homeowner Lucky Sutton. As a side note, the two had previously worked with a traveling carnival. The Sutton household, including 50-year-old widow and matriarch Glennie Lankford, her two older sons and their wives, a brother-in-law and the widow’s three younger children (12, 10, and 7) did not take Billy Ray’s story very seriously and laughed at his UFO story.
Soon after, the dogs began aggressively barking. Lucky and Billy Ray went to the back door and noticed a strange glow, surrounding a small creature. The two men estimated the extraterrestrials height at 3.5’ with an “over-sized head, arms reaching the ground, hands with something similar to an eagle’s talons and over-sized eyes glowing with yellowish light.” The body shined in the moonlight as if made of “silver metal.”
The responded in the way any self-respecting Kentuckian would after encountering something unrecognizable - the two men grabbed a 20-gauge shotgun and a .22 rifle and began firing at the “little man”. The extraterrestrial “hands” were raised as if it were being held up by gunpoint. It slowly began to walk toward the back door. The men reported the creature did a “flip” before fleeing back into the tree line.
Shortly afterwards, the men saw a similar creature appear in a side window viewing the family. They immediately began firing their weapons into the window screen. Apparently being impervious to bullets, the “little man” flipped disappeared. “I went out in the hallway and crouched down next to Billy, when I saw one approaching the door,” Mrs. Lankford told Isabel Davis, author of an extensive report called Close Encounter at Kelly and Others of 1955. “It looked like a five-gallon gasoline can with a head on top and small legs. It was a shimmering bright metal like on my refrigerator.”
The drama escalated when Taylor stepped outside the door and family members behind saw a claw-like hand reach down and touch his hair from the roof. The group collectively screamed and pulled Taylor back into the home. Lucky quickly began shooting through the overhang and at another similar creature he spotted in a nearby tree. It floated to the ground and then scurried into the woods.
The Sutton's moved back inside the home and spent several hours listening for movements, hearing mostly occasional scratches on the roof. At 11 pm, the entire group felt confident for a breakout. As a group, they ran for the cars and headed to the Hopkinsville police station.
After the local police chief called for backup, his team was joined at the Sutton farm by Kentucky State Police, military police from nearby Fort Campbell and a photographer from the Kentucky New Era. Investigators found shell casings from the gun shots, but no other evidence. They found no proof of any alcohol being on property or consumed that evening. According to the Sutton matriarch, “liquor was not allowed in the farmhouse.”
The creatures returned around 2:30 am. Mrs. Lankford said she saw one glowing repeatedly by her bedside window, its claw-like hand on the screen.
As the Kelly story spread into the world, it took on a life of its own. The number of “little men” grew to a dozen or more. As media changed and evolved the story gained fuel leading to the movies, books and TV programs.
If you’re interested in learning more.. check out the Kelly Little Green Men Days Festival in Kelly Kentucky – approximately 30 minutes from Clarksville, TN.
Kelly Little Green Men Days Festival will celebrate the Historic Alien encounter on the Sutton Farm in Kelly, KY on August 21, 1955. Visitors can enjoy all that Kelly has to offer – the annual festival, live music from our main stage, camping, craft and food vendors, rides, games, sights and sounds from the many trains as they pass by, as well as local historians providing personal history of the area and, of course, small town friendliness and fellowship.