On Aug. 21, 1955, a family reported a strange, seemingly extraterrestrial event at a home near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, involving “little men” and what appeared to be a spaceship.
On Aug. 21, 2017 -- the anniversary of the bizarre sighting that shook the family to its core, prompting relatives to sell the property about two weeks after the fact -- people are wondering: Could the so-called “aliens” return to the area when the sky goes black? Will the 2 minutes and 40 seconds of daytime darkness yield another extraterrestrial encounter?
Hopkinsville, which is a small town with a population of about 32,000, sits about 20 miles north of the Tennessee border. Earlier this week, its mayor dubbed the city “Eclipseville, USA,” and said the name would remain in effect from Friday through Monday. The town expects anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 visitors this weekend, as it’s not only in the path of totality, but also the only city to be declared “the point of greatest eclipse” by NASA.
So, what really happened on the night of Aug. 21, 62 years ago, in a tale that became such a local legend?
A TV station in Nashville, WSMV-TV, sat down with the adult children of the late Lucky Sutton, the subject of the so-called alien encounter, to learn about what they had been told.
As the story goes, Sutton was visiting the farmhouse where he grew up, in the nearby unincorporated community of Kelly, when a friend named Billy Ray went outside and came back into the home spooked.
The people inside thought it was a practical joke, but something really seemed to be bothering Billy Ray. So Sutton went outside to take a look around.
That’s when he saw them: either little green men, or little gray men, depending on who you ask. Some published reports say when Sutton reported the incident to Hopkinsville police a short time later, he was misquoted at the time in the press.
Sutton and Billy Ray also spotted something that appeared to be a spaceship. But it was the "little men" that really disturbed the pair.
"(The little men) were three foot tall with pointed ears and oval eyes," said Elmer Sutton, the son of Lucky Sutton, to WSMV-TV. "There was something going on, and it wasn't of this Earth."
When the incident took place, in 1955, Elmer Sutton and his sister weren’t born yet. They learned of the story later in life, but said their father didn’t like to discuss it. It made him uncomfortable, and he didn’t like how the family’s claims were dismissed at the time as a hoax. Lucky Sutton was called a liar as well, which bothered him deeply.
"Dad did not like the attention this brought," said Lucky’s daughter, Geraldine Sutton Stith, to the TV station. "He said, 'No good can come from this story. We need to let it go.'"
She added, "People started coming in, trying to talk to him about it (and) wanting to ridicule the family. He didn't want to talk about it."
Stith and Elmer Sutton said that on that fated night, their father shot at the little men, who seemed to be undeterred and uninjured by the gunfire.
"They didn't know what it was," Stith said. "Who would've? They thought maybe this was some kind of goblin from heck. They were frightened. They ran in the house (and) told everyone something was out there. The country boy instinct in him was to grab the gun and shoot -- ask questions later."
Everyone from inside the home piled into at least one vehicle, possibly two, and sped to the Hopkinsville police station to report what had happened. It was just before midnight.
Many officers and investigators from several agencies rushed to the house, along with members of the media, who had caught wind of the situation. They found shotgun shell casings from the shooting, but no “little men.”
Elmer Sutton and Stith confirmed the family property was sold two weeks later, and said their father rarely spoke about the story the rest of his life.
Now, a culture has developed around the towns of Kelly and Hopkinsville. Kelly proudly displays a large UFO replica. And an annual Kelly Little Green Men Days Festival is held, and some people are even known to attend in alien costumes.
This year’s festival, which kicks off Friday and runs through Monday, coincides with the eclipse. Usually, about 3,000 flock to the event. For this coming festival, organizers are expecting three or four times that number.
Roads are expected to be congested, schools will be closed and some restaurants anticipate running out of food.
Although it’s not clear what exactly Lucky Sutton saw that night nearly 62 years ago (some experts think it was owls), one thing is certain: the Hopkinsville area is preparing as one of the hot-spots from which to watch.
All the buzz has descended upon the town. Director Steven Spielberg has even said the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter was part of the inspiration behind such films as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, according to Country Living magazine.
As for Lucky Sutton’s adult children, are they nervous?
“My dad ran them off the first time,” Elmer Sutton told the TV station. “I believe I can run ‘em off the second time.”