Meet the original little green men: The Hopkinsville Goblins

When the modern UFO era began after Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 sighting of objects near Mount Rainier, Washington sightings of flying saucers began to be reported from all over the world. Not long after these sightings people also began to report seeing the occupants of the disks. People from all different walks of life were apparently sighting a myriad of strange creatures. In South America little hairy dwarves were sighted, while in other parts of the world the sightings of 9 foot tall monstrosities were reported.

Still from the Great Kentucky Goblin Spree © Duane Brown

But whenever anyone refers to the occupants of these crafts, especially in the ‘mainstream’ media they only speak of “little green men”. The reason for this is the events of the Kelly- Hopkinsville encounter, the aftermath of which is that the term “little green men” would enter the vocabulary of the population and became an infective meme that would be with Ufology for years to come.

Billy Ray Taylor treated the alien visitors to both barrels of some good 'ol fashioned southern hospitality

On an August night in 1955, Billy Ray Taylor and his wife were visiting the family of Lucky Sutton. The Suttons; Vera Sutton, JC Sutton, Alene Sutton, and three Sutton children, lived in the rural town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Glennie Lankford, June Taylor and O.P. Barker were also visiting the Lucky Sutton house.

The flying saucer descended into a gully in the woods

Early in the evening Taylor went outside of the Sutton house in order to get some water from the outside pump. Just a few minutes later Taylor rushed back into the house exclaiming that he had just seen a flying saucer fly over the house, hover around the woods, and descend into a gully located nearby the home. No one in the family took Taylor’s claim seriously and no one went outside to investigate. An hour later the Sutton’s dog began to bark, so Lucky and Taylor grabbed their guns and went outside to see if they could find what was upsetting the dog. The frightened dog ran under the house and would not return until the following morning.

First Encounter With The Hopkinsville Goblins

While outside of the house, Lucky and Taylor were amazed to see a 31⁄2 ft tall being approaching them with its arms raised up. They later described the being to researchers as having a large round head, long thin arms that extended nearly to the ground, and legs that did not appear to move. The hands of the being were out of proportion to the rest of its body, and looked more like the talons of a bird than human hands. While the being’s eyes appeared to be glowing with a fire that was the shade of yellow.

Editors Note: These inital descriptions of the creatures are interesting, as this incident occurred a number of years  before the first ‘grey’ references ( see Barney & Betty Hill and later Whitley Streiber’s book  ‘Communion’) started entering into the public consciousness.  Although the Hopkinsville goblins, as they were later dubbed were superficially very different to the ‘greys’, like greys they were still very short with large disproportionate heads.

Being the good country folk that they were, Lucky and Taylor decided to shoot first and ask questions later. When the bullets from their rifle and shotgun struck the creature it back flipped, landed on its feet, and ran back into the darkness.

..Suddenly, from the roof, a talon reached down and grabbed his hair…

At this point the men went back into the house to check on the family and tell them what had happened. When they rejoined the group in the living room they were astonished to see the same, or similar to it, being at the window. Again, Lucky and Taylor took a shot at the creature. This caused the being to flip backwards and retreat into the shadows.

At this time the men were certain that they had either killed or at least wounded one of these so called Hopkinsville Goblins, so they went outside to see if they could locate the bodies. Taylor walked outside, but paused on the porch for just a moment. Suddenly, from the roof, a talon reached down and grabbed his hair. Alene pulled Taylor back into the house. Lucky fired upon the creature which caused it to release Taylor and fall from its perch.

 Fleeing In Terror

At this point, it’s not clear who, but someone noticed that one of the beings was in the tree. So both Taylor and Lucky fired at the creature knocking it from the limb, however, instead of falling straight down, the being appeared to float in a falling leaf motion to the ground. This attack lasted for a little,while longer before the group could no longer stand it.

Everyone ran to their cars and took off towards the police station in Hopkinsville. When they arrived and began telling their story, it was obvious to the officers on duty that something had happened to these people as they were clearly shaken. A few sheriffs’ deputies and the chief of police, Russell Greenwell, accompanied the Suttons and Taylors back to the house.

Once the police arrived they searched for a long time, but could find no apparent trace of anything out of the ordinary. They did, however, see plenty of buckshot meaning that shots had been fired on the grounds of the home that night. The police couldn’t directly tie the buckshot to the sightings of the numerous beings, however in a few places that Taylor and Lucky had fired on the creatures there appeared to be a strange green luminescence on the ground, the source of which the police were never able to determine.

Ledwith’s Original impression of the Hopkinsville Goblins 1955

A photograph was taken of the luminous patch of grass but sample was not collected, upon returning the following day the patch had mysteriously disappeared. Police also interviewed neighbors that live close to the Sutton house, most reported not only seeing strange lights flying around in the sky that same night but also heard the gunshots that came from Lucky and Billy’s guns. Ultimately unable to truly prove anything, the police left the family to resume their duties.

A little later that night once the police had finally gone and the family tried to go to sleep, Glennie Lankford spotted another one of the creatures back at the same window and told her son Lucky. Of course Lucky wanted to shoot it, but Glennie told him not to as the creatures, although certainly bizarre, had actually done nothing to harm them that night. Lucky fired at the creature anyway and once again the bullet had no effect and the creature retreated back in to the darkness.

The being’s presence at the home lasted until dawn. The following day the story was repeated in the Kentucky New Era Newspaper and the Sutton Farmhouse became a huge tourist attraction. The family was interviewed about the events of that night and no matter how many times the story was recounted it was always the same. A man named Andrew Ledwith, who worked with WHOP a radio station in a nearby town, interviewed each of the seven adults involved in the incident separately and each told the same story and described the Hopkinsville Goblins almost identically. Except that the female witnesses thought that the creatures had a more husky build than what the male witnesses described. Ledwith, who was also an artist, was one of the first people to illustrate what the witnesses saw.

Unwelcome Attention

How the encounter was reported in the papers

As later newspapers picked up the story over the weeks and months that followed, they began to refer to the Hopkinsville Goblins as “little green men” although the original descriptions had been that they were in silver suits or were silver themselves. After the initial media attention, people began to swarm the Sutton house. If the Suttons believed that the worst of their ordeal was over they were sadly mistaken.

They were inundated with people seeking proof, stories, or in some cases even autographs. Sadly this was not all that the Sutton family had to deal with. Local public opinion almost immediately labeled the incident as a hoax. Eventually the family could no longer take all of the negative publicity and they started to charge the thrill seekers that came to see them. This only fueled the charges that the family was hoaxing the entire event simply to exhort money from people.

The Sheriff’s department, to its credit, took the family at their word. Chief of Police, Russell Greenwell had a few things to say about what had happened that night. When he described his initial meeting with the Sutton Family the night of the events he said that they appeared to have been frightened “beyond reason, not ordinary”.

He would also remark to Ufologist Isabel Davis that when he and the other officers arrived at the Sutton household that,

“In and around the whole area, the house, the fields, that night, there was a weird feeling. It was partly uneasiness, but not entirely. Everyone had it. There were men there that I’d call brave men, they felt it too.”

The Air Force Investigates

Project Blue Book was more about debunking UFO’s than investigating them

The local police were not the only group to get involved in the investigations or to take what happened seriously. The US Air Force, upon hearing about the incidents, sent officers from the nearby Fort Campbell to do some investigations. Although the Air Force investigation also turned up empty handed for any kind of concrete evidence, this incident remains as an open case to this day.

Project Blue Book, the official Air Force UFO investigation from the time period, never did an official investigation but kept a file on the incident none the less. They labeled the case as an ‘unknown’ which is something they were not very fond of doing at the time. Eventually the family got completely fed up with all of the attention they were getting, so they sold the property to extended family and moved away.

To this day, the surviving witnesses to the event are hesitant to ever talk to anyone about the case. Although on the rare occasion that they have told anyone their stories, they are exactly as they were on that late night oh so many years ago.

Persons that were skeptical of the case almost immediately came forward with alternative theories as to what the Suttons may have actually seen that night. One of the most obvious alternative explanations was that the family simply hoaxed the entire event. As it stands, although others may have also seen unidentified lights in the sky that night, only the families involved in the incidents ever claimed to have actually seen the beings.

The local community seemed to accept this theory pretty readily at the time, as a matter of fact they wrote the entire saga off as a drunken hoax that had simply gotten out of hand. It’s unlikely that this was the case as Glennie Lankford was known for not allowing the consumption of alcohol at her house, especially when young children were present.

In any event it wasn’t too long before a member of the Air Force was ready to offer a very down-to-earth explanation for the strange firefight that had occurred on that August night just two years prior. Speaking in 1957 U.S. Air Force Major John E. Albert came to the conclusion that what Lucky and Taylor had been shooting at was none other than an escaped monkey from a circus that was dressed in silver.

It was a Monkey in a Silver Suit !

The Air force explained it as an escaped circus monkey!

There are a few problems with this explanation however. While it is true that a circus was in town during the week of the sightings, the circus never reported losing a monkey. Additionally if Lucky and Taylor shot nearly as many times at the Hopkinsville Goblins as they have said, there would have been a body of some kind that was discovered by the Police or other investigators that night. Of course even id the circus had lost an imaginary monkey, this still wouldn’t explain the luminescence patch of ground that was seen, nor the very eerie feeling that was reported by all present at the house the night of the siege.

As with most cases of UFO occupant accounts, the skeptics are still skeptical and the believers still believe in the basic validity of the story. No official explanation has ever been offered by either the police that investigated nor by the Air Force. The surviving members of the incident still maintain that the testimony that was given on that fateful night in 1955 is what actually occurred to them. The legacy of the case, besides offering yet another anecdotal story of human / non- human interaction, is the term ‘Little Green Men’. The term has become a meme that has been picked up by people ever since. To this day you will still hear people mockingly refer to the occupants of UFOs as little green men. The next time you hear this, you can smile knowing where this term originated…


By Tony Morrill / Fortean Writer & Blogger

Blogger. Fortean Philosopher. Interested in any and all Fortean topics, and sometimes Conspiracies too

(Source:; May 25, 2018;
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