By Joe NickellOn the night of August 21, 1955, during the heyday of flying-saucer reports, a western Kentucky family encountered—well, that is the question: what were the humanoid-like creatures that terrified a family at their farmhouse? What actually happened at Kelly, Kentucky, that evening?
For the fiftieth anniversary of the incident, I was invited to give a talk at a Little Green Men Festival in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, staged by its Chamber of Commerce. I determined to investigate the story that had caught the attention of the U.S. Air Force’s “Project Blue Book” (which investigated 12,000 UFO reports from 1952 to 1969) and that also inspired a novel (Karyl 2004), a video documentary (“Monsters” 2005), and even an X-Files comic book (“Crop” 1997).
My investigation included visiting the site in the company of UFOlogist and fellow invited speaker Peter Davenport. (We were each given a key to the city by Hopkinsville mayor Richard G. Liebe and chauffeured in his car on research jaunts by Rob Dollar.) I also obtained copies of original newspaper clippings at the Hopkinsville Public Library, conducted further research at the local museum, talked with witnesses to the events, studied detailed reports on the case, and much more. I even attended a Holiness Church tent revival, just down the road from the site of the Kelly incident, held in response to the Little Green Men Festival. Many of the congregation wore green T-shirts with the slogan “Son of Man Is Coming Back.” Pastor Wendell “Birdie” McCord (2005) told me, “I don’t know whether the green men is [sic] coming back, but I know the Son of Man is coming back.”
Not all of the eleven were eyewitnesses to the most significant events. One of the women, apparently June Taylor, had been “too frightened to look” (Davis and Bloecher 1978, 14), and Lonnie Lankford (2005), speaking to me at age 62, said that, during the fracas, his mother had hidden him and his brother and sister under a bed.
About seven o’clock, Billy Ray Taylor was drawing water from the well when he saw a bright light streak across the sky and disappear beyond a tree line some distance from the house. According to researcher Isabel Davis, who investigated the case in 1956 (Davis and Bloecher 1978, 15), Billy Ray Taylor was different from the other eyewitnesses:
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