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Close encounters of the 3rd kind:

The Kelly-Hopkinsville case, 1955:

This is information and documentation I collected about a farm family who believed they were attacked by alien beings during the whole night of August 21-22, 1955.

In this file:



by Karal Ayn Barnett ©1998

Summers in southwestern Kentucky can often try a human's soul. The heat, the humidity, the insects - all worldly experiences that residents must endure throughout the muggy dog days of August. But what happened to the Sutton family and their friend Billy Ray Taylor in the summer of 1955, the Sutton's and Taylor's worldview changed suddenly and forever when a craft full of bizarre-looking aliens plunged into their reality.

This alien encounter is not an atypical story in Ufology, yet it is unique. According to reports, Billy Ray Taylor ventured out that fateful evening for a drink of water from the well. Before he reached his destination, some kind of alien craft flew over his head and into the ditch a few hundred yards away. Taylor raced back into the house, where 11 members of the Sutton family resided, to tell what he saw. The Suttons didn't believe Taylor was serious until their dog, equally terrorized, darted beneath the house. The elder Sutton grabbed his shogun and with Taylor, went to search the property. What they saw that night was the stuff of nightmares.

Horrified, Taylor and Sutton observed a glowing, bizarre-looking alien about 40 inches tall, with a round, oversized head, large luminous yellow eyes, and arms that dragged the ground. Its hands ended in long talons. During the ensuring hours of terror, lasting until dawn, the Suttons and Taylor observed at least two more of these creatures. They watched in horror as the aliens seemed to float in an apparent force field. Even when Sutton fired shotgun shells into the creatures, they merely somersaulted and then loped away. Temporarily.

Seemingly unaffected by the weapons, the aliens returned, crawling over the farmhouse and peering into the windows, further terrorizing the children and adults within. Finally, the witnesses all escaped into their car and drove from the tiny community of Kelly to the somewhat larger town of Hopkinsville, about 15 minutes away. There, the witnesses told their nightmarish tale to the authorities.

According to reports, local and state law enforcement were immediately on the scene. Sheriff Russell Greenwell and State Trooper Ferguson were among those investigating the scene - and the people who told such a tale. By all accounts, the witnesses were deemed sane, not under the influence, and in such a state of terror, no one involved doubted that they had seen something beyond far their ken. The military from nearby Fort Campbell was later called in to take over the investigation.

It still remains a mystery what the Suttons and Billy Ray Taylor saw that night, and the case represents one of the first examples of a Close Encounter of the Third Kind, to use Hynek's term.

Was it science fiction? Undetected drug-induced delirium? Lunacy? Alcoholism? Brain-disordered hallucination? No. I don't think so. And I am very confident of that opinion because I grew up in southwestern Kentucky, in Hopkinsville to be exact. My family moved into the area about a year after the Kelly event.

Based on my experience of the region, I would testify to the fact that no one in that area would consider making up anything remotely like what the Suttons and Taylor said they saw. The residents of southwestern Kentucky are people who even now are largely religious, and (I mean on disparagement) conformists. To make up a story like this, one would run the risk of being branded as insane or a congenital liar with a pox on their family to boot. The ridicule, the contempt, the ostracism, the media circus - no one would risk it. It just wouldn't happen. Unless it really happened.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but small town Southerners are cloistered away, and in a sense, protected from other cultures, not just alien ones. Southerners don't venture far from their homes, usually, and the constant interaction among the townsfolk tends to reinforce certain ideas. One idea that is profoundly reinforced is that there are no such things as aliens, and anyone who says that they are either bedeviled, bewitched or terminally bewildered. We need not wonder why the Suttons and Billy Ray Taylor moved from the area soon after the incident.

Something incredibly "alien" surely took place that night. It may have indeed involved beings from another world or even another dimension. We don't know. Unfortunately, the only evidence reported was some kind of glowing circle on the ground where Taylor saw the craft land. Since Fort Campbell eventually became involved in the event, it's reasonable to allow that the incident could have been a secret military experiment using holograms and other 'supernatural' effects. However, I don't give much credence to this idea because, according to Sutton's statement, his shotgun shells did knock the creatures off their feet. A holographic image would not be so affected.

There was one consideration though. The local authorities who first investigated the scene reported a strange electromagnetic charge to the area; a physical, "eerie" feeling that would indicate some change in the normal atmosphere.

I don't know exactly what the Suttons and Taylor saw that hot August night in 1955, but I do know that the creatures that they described were not a part of the world that we know. The bizarre-looking creatures were definitely alien to our understanding, if not alien to our planet.

There have been rumors and theories about dimensional shifts both manmade and natural. Some have suggested that the creatures entered our realm through a dimensional window. We just don't know. What I do know, however, is that the Suttons and Taylor saw something that changed them forever. Perhaps we will one day understand what that was.

Karal Ayn Barnett

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