The Hopkinsville Goblins

A story of a family's night of terror

On the night of August 21, 1955, Russell Greenwell, Hopkinsville’s (Kentucky) police chief received an unexpected call at his home from the officer on call. He jumped into his clothes and drove to the station. There he met several scared adults and children. The family lived a few miles away in an area known as Kelly Station. He could tell by the look on their faces that something really happened to this group of people.

The adults were Glennie Lankford, 50, owner of the house, her children, Lonnie, Charlton and Mary, two stepsons from a previous marriage, Cecil Elmer “Lucky” Sutton, John Charley “J.C.” Sutton and their respective wives, Vera and Arlene, Arlene’s brother O.P. Baker and Billy Ray Taylor and his wife June.

“Lucky” Sutton begged the chief, “For God’s sake, chief, get us some help, we’ve been fighting ‘em for four hours!”

Chief Greenwell asked him to start at the beginning. Lucky Sutton told him that the group including Mr. and Mrs. Bill Ray Taylor, visitors from Pennsylvania were enjoying a quiet evening at Mrs. Lankford’s home. It was a three-room frame and shingle farmhouse. At about 7:30 PM he went to the well to draw some water, however he never got there.

Sutton said, “I heard a hissing noise and saw a brilliant light. Then all at once I saw this big saucer over the field, about a city block away.”

He described it as an “egg-shaped washtub”.

And then he said he saw them. Chief Greenwell asked who he saw.

The man’s reply left him speechless, “The little men.”

Sutton described them as being “three feet tall with huge eyes and hands, large pointed ears and arms that hung almost to the ground. Their eyes glowed a luminous green. Their skin or clothing was sorta like nickel-plated. They walked or ran with a curious floating motion, their feet touching ground,  just every so often, if then.”

Lucky dashed inside and called the others. The occupants inside turned to look out the screened back door. They later told the chief they saw “about a dozen little men, who bound, leapt and floated across the field between the landed saucer and the house.” Without a moon, only a weird green light from the saucer lit up the yard.

They were all quiet, and then something attracted Lucky’s attention to a side window. They all scrambled to look in the direction he indicated. There, a creature with glowing green eyes looked back at them.

Sutton reached for his shotgun and Taylor found a .22 target pistol.

Glennie Lankford screamed at them, “Don’t shoot it. They haven’t harmed us. Maybe they won’t if we act peaceable!” She turned, looked through the screen and asked it to leave, but it didn’t, instead it kept staring at all of them. In a statement give to a Lieutenant from the USAF, she said that after seeing the silvery, short creature she fainted and had to be carried to her bedroom.

The tension was overbearing and Lucky Sutton fired his shotgun at the face in the window.

The creature disappeared, and Lucky ran outside to look at what he shot. As he stepped outside, Taylor screamed, “Look out! He’s trying to grab you!” At that moment Lucky Sutton felt a hand grab his hair. He looked up and saw a creature sitting on the ledge.

With a jerk he pulled free and ran into the yard. Taylor joined him there and they both started to shoot at the figures in the yard.

He told Chief Greenwell, “I saw one sitting on the rain barrel and I let him have it. I heard the pellets ricochet off. The creature fell off the barrel and then sort of scooted up into a tree. I fired again and he floated over to the top of the house... “

Four hours later the men had run out of ammunition. The only option was escape. They all ran to the two cars in the driveway, and a few minutes later they sat tensely at the Hopkinsville police station.

Chief Greenwell said, "Something obviously had scared the stuffin' out of them, I couldn't just ignore their story as something they dreamed up."

After hearing the story the chief headed to the home. Several cars full of state highway patrolmen and military police from Fort Campbell accompanied him. The Suttons came along, but refused to go near the house once they arrived.

Not knowing what to expect when they arrived, the lawmen found neither little men nor a flying saucer but they all described “a strange, eerie feeling.”

Greenwell said, “Shootings and fights are our bread and butter, and we have a workaday experience with death and strange incidents. We don't scare easily. Yet out at the Sutton place that night, it seemed the atmosphere was charged... I know that sounds strange, but it was a strange feeling."

Later the chief questioned each of the adults separately, but their story remained the same. There was no evidence anyone had been drinking. They were all sober and terribly scared.

Chief Greenwell said some troopers shortly after arriving heard a “loud whirring” noise over their car, “sort of like a low-flying airplane but different… “

Sgt. Gray Salter from the Hopkinsville Police Department recalled seeing a green light in the woods close to the Sutton farm. A group of police went towards the light, but then it faded away.

Without any other place to stay the family returned, still vigilant, and they claimed the ETs returned once again that night. They left at daybreak.

By the next morning more than 400 people were wandering around the property, taking pictures and souvenirs.

​The family suffered a large dose of derision, despite having a reputation as trustworthy citizens. Even Police Chief Greenwell became subject of kidding about the “little, green men”.

The family had been sharecroppers on the land for decades, and after the incident Glennie Lankford decided not to buy the property, which she’d been considering before.

There were reports the family was charging 50 cents to wander around the farm, but after the second day they disappeared. According to Henry Hudson, the Hopkinsville postmaster, “They didn’t leave a forwarding address. They just left.”

An astronomer from the University of Louisville Astronomy Department said the report was possible but not probable. Other astronomers said that farmer may have seen a bolide, a meteor that explodes fairly close to the earth. Officials at Fort Campbell said there was no basis to the report.

Cecil Elmer “Lucky” Sutton died Jan. 16, 1994 at the age of 62 and Glennie Lankford died in 1977 at the age of 72.

Steven Spielberg felt inspired by what happened on the Kelly farm, and incorporated it into E.T. The Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since 2010, an annual A Little Green Men Days Festival is held in Christian County. Lucky’s daughter, Geraldine Sutton Stith has written two books about the family’s encounter.


Close Encounters | Interview with Derrel Sims | Podcast

Beyond the Door and Another Terrifying Tale | Podcast

Stories to Listen to When You Drive | Volume 7 | Podcast E155