Saturday, June 19, 2010

Night siege in Hopkinsville

Another curiosity that reads like fun fiction to me...but has a small chance of being true.

AUGUST 21st. 1955
It was evening at the Sutton homestead.  It was hot.  One must remember that certain areas of Kentucky and West Virginia did not have indoor plumbing until the latter half of the 20th Century.  Billy Ray Taylor, patriarch of the Sutton family, went to a well to get drinking water.  According to his account, that was when he saw a UFO land in the woods near the house.

Upon returning to the house, he was quite excited about his sighting.  Other members of the family were not so sure.  They accused him of over-exaggerating a "shootin' stahr."
Not long after that, strange noises arose from the woods.  The family dogs barked aggressively, then ran and hid beneath the house.  Both Billy Ray Taylor and Elmer "Lucky" Sutton loaded their shotguns and stood on their porch to investigate.  That was when they saw an alien creature emerge from the wood, a being that investigator Jerome Clark describes as a "luminous, three-and-a-half-foot-tall being with an oversized head, big, floppy, pointed ears, glowing eyes, and hands with talons at their ends. The figure, either made of or simply dressed in silvery metal, had its hands raised." 

It could be that the alien intended this gesture as one of peace.  But the men were understandably disturbed by its appearance, perhaps even fearing a home invasion, and they opened fire.  What they heard next was a noise they claimed sounded as "bullets bouncing off of steel drums."  The supposed alien flipped backward from the force of the impacts and then fled into the trees.
Believing their intruder to be wounded, the men stepped off their porch to track it down.  When they did this, the hair of both men was grabbed by "taloned hands."  Looking up, they saw another, identical alien creature on their roof.  In self-defense, they shot this creature as well.  Again the men heard the metallic, rattling noise and the alien fell from the roof.  It ran away, apparently unharmed.
The men went back inside, alarmed by what had just happened.  That was when they heard the scream of Elmer's brother, J.C.  They raced into a bedroom of the house and saw another alien face at the window.  Once more, the men opened fire.  Once more, there was the sound of "bullets hitting a metal bucket."
Again and again the aliens approached the house, skulking up around doorways or windows.  Each time, a member of the Sutton clan shot them.  Each time the results were the same: the supposed ETs would flee, moving with an odd hip-sway motion and propelling themselves with their arms and hands.  Indeed their legs seemed to be inflexible and atrophied, and the aliens did not look to rely upon them.  When one of them would be shot from a tree or the roof, they would not attempt to stand or orient themselves vertically, they would merely float to the ground.  This just kept going on.
In the hours before dawn, the Suttons got into their cars and fled the house, heading for the Hopkinsville Police Department.  Duty officers testified that the family members were sober and had indeed experienced something distressful.  Police returned to the house and found nothing, save for blown out windows and piles of spent shell casings.  With nothing left to do, the police left.  And the aliens returned.
Twice more the creatures approached the house and each time they were shot, only to scurry away just as every time before.  By morning light, the aliens were gone.
The US Air Force investigated the incident via Project Blue Book.  Oddly enough, Blue Book did not have an answer.  Not even one of their pat, "light from Venus bounced off of a weather balloon and refracted through swamp gas" acrobatic feats of logic.   No one was able to come up with an answer.  The only thing that police, Air Force, and UFO investigators could all come up with was that the family members were "sane and sincere."  One interesting corroboration of the story comes from a Kentucky State Trooper.  This trooper stated that on the same night as the Hopkinsville siege, he witnessed several "strange lights in the sky" and heard booming sounds like that of "artillery."
Shortly after this story broke in the news, the family was accused of brewing homegrown moonshine and spinning a goofy yarn.  Sick of the ridicule, the Sutton family moved away.

So what happened that August night?  When all things are considered, there are three categories of possibilities.

Misidentification: Billy Ray, Elmer, and the rest of the Suttons saw something completely natural, but given nighttime conditions and a growing state of paranoia, they believed it to be something else.  Joe Nickell of The Skeptical Enquirer suggests that it was several Great Horned Owls that the Suttons encountered that night.  Granted, this does not account for the claim of silver body suits or bullets bouncing off metallic hides, but that could perhaps be attributed to heightened emotional states and bullets bouncing off of the metal siding of the family shed.
Still, you'd think that lifelong residents of rural Kentucky would know an owl when they saw one.

Hoax: In the end, what evidence is there?  Spent shells, broken windows, and Sutton testimony.  Could they have made all this up?  Sure.  But I'd argue that it backfired on them as they made no real money on the deal and any attention they received was in the form of insults and ridicule.  Plus, you must factor in that Kentucky residents have a reputation.  True, they are known for poverty and a somewhat lacking educational system, but they are honest and hard working.  Hard working people such as the Suttons seldom have the time or the inclination to come up with stories like "attackers from outer space."

Aliens: It really all played out as the Suttons testified.

I'm trying not to be snobby, but it all does sort of sound like Aliens vs. The Beverly Hillbillies and there just isn't one shred of evidence that supports these fantastic claims, even though it is an amazing story.
There is one aspect that I find interesting.  The descriptions of the aliens are rather different from those of the stereotypical "grays."  This description is so unique that it has been given its own name amongst Ufologists: The Hopkinsville Goblin.  Here is a picture of the entities, an actual sketch that went along with the Hopkinsville report:

Each member of the Sutton clan described the same alien, except for Billy Ray Taylor who insisted that the things had "beeping antennae."  I find Billy Ray's assertion to be rather telling.  The description of the Hopkinsville Goblins more closely resembles that of a 1950s bug-eyed alien from b-movies than it does any serious UFO occupant sighting.  Still, what did all these people have to gain from making up such a story?


 Picture is from Wikipedia
Additional information from Jerome Clark's "The Unexplained."

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  1. I think that Disney was testing Stitch.

  2. If it was Stitch, I hope it bled out slowly somewhere in the Kentucky woods.
    Sorry. Just hate Disney with a passion.