The Hopkinsville Goblins

Referred to by many researchers as the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter due to the location where it took place, the Hopkinsville goblins as they became popularly known were a group of strange, glowing-eyed humanoids that terrorised a remote farmstead in Kentucky after reportedly arriving in a spaceship. After the occupants, five adults and seven children, fled to the local police station to report the encounter, an extensive search by police and concerned locals uncovered nothing but bullet holes and spent shells at the location.

In the early evening of August 21st 1955, two families that had been staying at a farmhouse owned by the Sutton family near to the small community of Kelly, Christian County, arrived at the Hopkinsville police station. They claimed that they had spent several hours defending themselves and their home from attack by a group of strange creatures. Two of the men, Elmer Sutton and Billy Ray Taylor, described a flying saucer descending from the sky and landing in a nearby field, which Taylor had initially witnessed after leaving the home to retrieve water from the nearby pump. The family dog began to bark aggressively, before retreating beneath the house, where it would remain until morning.

An artist’s impression of the ‘goblins’. Image: Tim Bertelink

A group of ‘between twelve and fifteen’ small figures began to appear around the house, scuttling up to the doorway or peering in through the windows. Terrified, both men took up the only firearms in the house, a shotgun and a .22 rifle, and began firing at the intruders, reporting that they successfully held them off for a number of hours before the frightened families made a break for the police station.

The matriarch of the Sutton family, Glennie Lankford, was the one to make the decision to stop shooting, observing that the creatures had not actually entered the home, nor had they attempted to harm anyone. The creatures were described as much shorter than a human and monkey-like in appearance, possessing long arms and clawed hands, webbed between the fingers. Their large eyes glowed unnaturally, and long ears protruded from the sides of their head.

While later press reports stated that the creatures possessed green skin, in the initial reports they were described as having either silver skin or wearing some form of metallic clothing. Moving rapidly around the homestead to avoid gunfire and attempt to gain entrance, they appeared to be able to defy gravity, sometimes hovering in place in the air or appearing suddenly on the roof or in nearby trees. When struck by gunfire and knocked from their perch they would float slowly to the ground rather than falling. One of the creatures was reportedly shot at close to point blank range in the doorway of the home but the shot had little effect other than eliciting a distinctive metallic clang.

After Sutton and Taylor finished recounting their experience to sheriff Russell Greenwell, a force of 20 police officers accompanied the group back to the farm, including members of the city police, state troopers, deputy sheriffs and military police from the nearby Fort Campbell. Despite a thorough search of the surrounding area, police were unable to find any tracks or blood that might have come from the creatures, finding only bullet holes in the nearby trees to suggest an incident had taken place. While there were no sightings of a flying saucer either, one officer reported witnessing a meteor shower overhead.

One popular theory is that the goblins were simply misidentified horned owls. Image: Greg Hume

After the police left at around 2 am, the family later reported that the creatures reappeared twice more that night. The first time, a window was destroyed by gunfire after one was seen looking in, and one appeared again a little after 4 am before finally disappearing for good. Sheriff Russell later opined that the families were clearly shaken and he believed that they had experienced something frightening, as well as claiming that the group were normally unlikely to contact police for any reason.

The story rapidly gained traction in the media with widespread coverage in both local and national publications. While the general description remained reasonably consistent, size estimates varied significantly, and it was during this explosion in press coverage that the description of green skin appears to have been added. A number of similar sightings were reported, including one from teenagers in nearby Evansville who reported seeing a group of ten creatures on the roof of their high school before driving them off by throwing rocks at them.

Another report came from local woman Darwin Johnson, who had previously reported being attacked by a water monster in the Ohio River a week previously. She now changed her story to include seeing a unidentified flying object shortly before going for a swim. Her previous account had been notably similar to a scene in the recently-released film ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’ and it was generally assumed she was simply a fantasist.

The general consensus amongst researchers is that the entire incident was either an elaborate hoax on the part of the family and subsequent copycats, or that the family were mistaken in their accounts. One popular theory is that the creatures seen were in fact great horned owls, which would be consistent with the description of large yellow eyes and pointed ‘ears’ (actually tufts of feathers called plumicorns). Some have suggested that the reason for the overreaction of the residents of the Sutton farmhouse is that they were drunk. Alternatively, they could have been startled by the meteor shower that was later seen by a sheriff’s deputy at the farm.

Some accounts of the incident claim that Air Force officers from Fort Campbell subsequently visited the farm to conduct investigations, but their is no real supporting evidence for this. Not least, Fort Campbell is a United States Army base, not Air Force. More outlandish explanations include a silver-painted monkey having escaped from a zoo or circus, or even the surviving simian participants of a test rocket flight that crashed in the area.

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