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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:


Time, place: Events: Brief comment:
about 07:00pm, August 21, 1955, the Suttins farm.

Billy Ray Taylor comes running back from the well behind the farmhouse and tells his friend Elmer "Lucky" Sutton that he has seen a flying saucer. He tells the saucer was bright, with "an exhaust containing all the colors of a rainbow", and has flown over the farm, continued over the fields, hovered, and was lost from sight when it descended in a gully.

He later said to the officers that he heard no explosion, only a quiet hissing sound.

Not long after, at the Suttons farm.

The story is heard by Glennie Lankford, O.P Barker, Lucky Sutton, Vera Sutton, John Charley Sutton, Allen Sutton, three Suttons children. No one believes Billy Ray's story and no one cares to go check in the gully.

After the story has been told.

The farms dog starts to bark, so Taylor and Lucky Sutton go outside. The dog hides under the house and does not show up anymore that night.

Outside the farm, minutes later.

Taylor and Lucky Sutton see a strange glow hovering out in the fields. The glow approaches, and they see "a small man" inside, about 3.5 feet. The "small man" has a large round head with two large eyes glowing with a yellow fire, long thin arms that reach nearly down to his feet. The hands are very large and shaped rather like a bird's talon than human hands.

The creature continues to move towards the house, so Taylor and Lucky retreat in in the house, grab a rifle and a shotgun, wait, and both of them shoot at the creature when it arrives within twenty feet of the back door. The creature flips back, stands up again and flees in the night.

Few minutes later, Sutton farm, living room.

After watching the darkness for a few minutes, Taylor and Lucky close the door and join the rest of the family gathered in the living room. A similar or the same creature appears at one of the windows, the men shoot at it, the creature flips back and disappears. The men decide to go out check if they injured the being.

Sutton farm, the porch.

Taylor Sutton gets under the porch under a small overhang. A claw-like handreaches down from the overhang and touches his hair. Alene Sutton grabs Taylor back in the house, while Lucky advances and fires at a creature now on the roof, knocking it away. Someone among then shouts "there's one up in the tree!" Both men shoot at it, the creature loses grip, but floats in the air instead of falling to the ground. Under more shots, the creature retreats into the weeds.

Simultaneously, Sutton Farm.

Lucky turns around and sees another creature, maybe the one that was on the roof, at the corner of the house, he fires at the creature, and when the bullet hits, he hears a metallic clang. The creature flips over, scrambles to his feet and fleds rapidly in the darkness.

Sutton farm, some time later.

The family realizes that they could not stop the creatures even with caliber 22 bullets, that the creatures seem to prefer shade than light. One of the beings appears again on the roof, they shoot at it, and the being floats away in mid-air to a fence 40 feet away instead of falling from the roof. Some of the elderly in the house are unconvinced and accuse the younger ones of some kind of pranks. Taylor suggests that Glennie Lankford, 50, gets to the windows and wait.

Sutton farm, inside, 20 minutes later.

A being approaches the front of the house. Lankford's description: "it looked like a 5 gallon gasoline can with a head on it, on top of two thin, spindly legs. It shimmered as if made of bright metal." Lankford shrieks at the sight, Taylor shoots at it through the screen door.

Sutton farm.

The harassments continues. The Suttons shoot at the creatures, but they continue to appear at the windows, on the roof, around the house. Fear and panic starts to gain the whole family.

Sutton farm, around 11:00pm.

Three hours after the first creature appeared, the family decides to escape and abandon the house. They run to the cars, on children screeming has to be carried. The family drives to the Hopkinsville police station.

Hopkinsville police station, after 11:00pm.

Police officers and their chief testified that the Suttons were genuinely scared. The police and some of the Sutton men drive back to the farm, joined later by state police, a deputy sheriff, called for reinforcement.

Road from Hopkinsville to Kelly.

One state trooper driving to join the police, a few miles from Hopkinsville, said he saw something like several meteor flashes over his car, moving with "artillery sounds", and looking up he could see two of them travelling on a slightly descending arc towards the Sutton farm.

Sutton farm.

Numerous cars are now at the Sutton farm yard, with lights turned on. The police Chief checks if anyone had been drinking, and finds no such indication. The police notes that bullets have been shot around, the hard soil does not show any footprints, and there is no alien around.

Lankford, a very religious person, later explained she does not allow alcohol in the house.

Near the Sutton farm.

A strange luminous stain in the grass at a place where a creature fell is found by the Chief of police. The trace is luminous only from one angle.

There is no indication that any soil sample was collected.

02:15, Sutton farm.

All police personal, and a member of the press, Joe Dorris of the "Kentucky New Era", leave the house, as no convincing evidence of alien invasion was found.

"The Kentucky New Era" publishes a frontpage article the very next day.

03:30, Sutton farm.

The lights of the house are now down. Glennie Lankford sees one of the creatures looking in through the window, Lucky id forbidden to shoot at it: Lankford points out to him that the creatures have done no harm. Lucky ignores and shoots, with no effect: the creatures bounce back, run away, and come again. They do so until 90 minutes before sunrise, when they are last seen.

Sutton farm, 22 August, early morning.

Police and private investigators arrive and conduct interviews, look for evidence and find none. The "Kentucky New Era" newspaper carried the story of the events.

Air Force denies that any military investigators has been here, later, Blue Book files show that at least a Major John E. Albert had a look around and wrote down some witness statements, as he was in the area.

Sutton farm, days following 22 August.

Private investigators, ufologists, and possibly one Blue Book investigator - unofficially - conduct interviews, look for evidence and find none.

People invade the Sutton Farm. Hot dog stands, souvenir shops, soda stands appear. The Sutton's newly erected "no trespassing" signs are ignored, and the family asks for police help to stop the invasion.

Radio reporters taped interviews and broadcasted then on WHOP.

The interviews tapes were all erased and reused within the following year.

Later days.

As the police is unable to protect the Suttons from human invasion, the family decides that 1 dollar has to be paid to enter the property, and 10 dollars to take pictures of the house. The police, the press, and the public immediately concludes that the whole affair is a hoax to make money.

1 years later.

J. Allen Hynek seems to have taken the story seriously as he discussed the case with two of the principal investigators of the story: Bud Ledwidth, an engineer at a radio station in Hopkinsville and a personal acquaintance of Hynek's, and Isabel Davis, an investigator from New York City.

2 years later, August 1957.

Project Blue Book starts to show interest in the case when they learn that a magazine intends to publish an article about it. Wallace W. Elwood writes a letter pointing out the "lack of confirming, factual data" and explains that the incident has not been officially reported to USAF. Blue Book records gather several documents and press articles.

Still today, nobody knows which magazine planned an article, or if the article has been published or not.

September 27, 1957.

Major John E. Albert sends his report on the case to ATIC. He does not suggest the event was hoaxed, and say that "the" alien was a "monkey painted with silver", that may have "escaped from a circus" that "Mrs Lankford, in a state of frenzy because she was at a religious meeting that evening" confused with some "alien", because she "heard an article on the radio."

Neither Glennie Lankford nor any member of the family were a religious meeting that evening. The Sutton had no radio at all. Radios mentioned the case after the Sutton family reported it, not before. A monkey would not have resisted gunshot, flown in the air, the monkey does not fit the description of the beings body.


Isabel Davis and Ted Bloecher publish their co-authored pioneering book on humanoid UFO entities, Close Encounter at Kelly and Others of 1955 based largely on her field investigation and direct witness interviewing in the Kelly, Kentucky, case.

Available at the Center for UFO Studies.

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This page was last updated on January 1, 2003.