The 13th Floor

Was CRITTERS Based on a Real Story? Exploring the Kelly-Hopkinsville Alien Encounter

Was there genuine truth to the Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter? It’s one of history’s greatest questions and time has left it surprisingly powerless. That’s not a complete mystery when you consider today’s technology, the elaborate depths one will dive too in order to create the most believable hoax, and what can be presented and spread like wild fire via social media.

But 2017 presents an incredibly different societal landscape than 1955.

Way back in 1955, alleged alien encounters weren’t surfacing with the frequency in which they do these days. And when outlandish claims did arise, they rarely mirrored the details of this mind-boggling incident.

Source: the Kentucky New Era – Monday, August 22, 1955

Hopkinsville, Kentucky may have played host to one of the strangest, and most unique extraterrestrial encounters ever documented. That is to say, if you believe the dozen people who witnessed the onslaught or the few who showed up at the local police station to claim they’d spent the previous four hours defending their farmhouse from small but aggressive, alien-like creatures that had descended on the Sutton farmhouse with apparently malicious intentions.

A whole lot of gunfire reportedly took place as Elmer Sutton and Billy Ray Taylor claimed they’d been busy shooting at “twelve to fifteen” of these strange creatures, which were apparently savvy enough to pop up in window and door frames presumably looking to make entrance, but also slick enough to manage unscathed escape.

A horde of police officers traveled to the scene of the mysterious incident. Not a single life-form that appeared abnormal or potentially extraterrestrial was discovered, though police did confirm an awful lot of bullet holes and spent shells from what looked to be a recent shootout of some sort.

It’s a strange story with a whole lot of directly involved eyewitnesses and essentially nothing in the way of irrefutably proving an encounter with celestial beings. But the story quickly gained national attention, and everyone from UFOlogists to psychologists have interesting theories as to what truly unfolded in those late hours of August 21st, 1955, and nearly all of those theories conflict.

What UFOlogists believe occurred isn’t easy to swallow if you lean in the direction of the skeptic. If the noted UFOlogist Jerome Clark is to be believed, there was plenty of evidence to be found at the scene, including “an odd luminous patch along a fence where one of the beings had been shot, and, in the woods beyond, a green light whose source could not be determined.” Apparently, Clark isn’t very familiar with Fairy Fire which sounds like just what the man described and was also mentioned by other “specialists” who surveyed the scene.

Psychologists reached an entirely different conclusion that really has no common ground with Clark’s assessment, but seems to be more in line with “common sense,” that perhaps a sizable amount of alcohol was involved in the incident. Psychologists Rodney Schmaltz and Scott Lilienfeld shared that line of thinking in the open-access peer-reviewed academic journal, Frontiers in Psychology. “The ‘aliens’ were in fact, Great Horned Owls, and the eyewitnesses were probably intoxicated during the ‘alien attack’.”

Who hasn’t seen something a little “out of this world” after sucking on too much Moonshine? Those not directly involved in the incident may never know the cold hard facts of the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter, especially if those at the scene back in 1955 might have been under the influence of alcohol when this strange phenomenon occurred.

But even if that is the case, a few questions do come to mind, at least for those uninformed in the habits of owls (or just about any form of bird, for that matter): Would a number of these nocturnal beauties simply loom around an essential open target range for an extended period of time, like four hours? Is it even possible to confuse a few frantic moments for a four hour stretch of time?

Great Horned Owl, Source- Istock

My bird knowledge isn’t too comprehensive, but it sure as hell seems to me that a single gunshot would send just about anything with wings fleeing deep into the night (or sunlight) hoping to keep self-preservation at the top of their instinctual priority list. And even if the original recollection of the duration of said “attack” wasn’t accurate or was distorted by the effects of alcohol, it’s tough to imagine the drunkest of men mistaking mere seconds for four hours.

The ideas, and outright challenges to the claims made by Taylor and Sutton initially sound like stellar points that easily deflate the claims of the perceived victims. The problem is, there isn’t a wealth of proof coming from any specific direction.

It’s easy to label this group of alien foes as drunkards, too hammered to know the difference between an owl and an angry little green men (the color of the “aliens” didn’t actually become a discussion point until the media had begun to embellish in open news breaks and publications), but there isn’t anything in the way of documented intoxication on the night in question.

The whole debacle is left up to a series of imaginations and a string of conflicting opinions from numerous field specialists. But, perhaps that’s really all that matters. For whatever it was that truly happened in a busy little farmhouse on a warm summer night in Kentucky in 1955, it’s gone on to spill over into pop culture, in a sense taking on an air immortalization.

The nearby Kelly community now celebrate the occasion annually in August, the event being branded the Kelly “Little Green Men” Days.

Writer Bruce G. Hallenbeck claims that the cult favorite flick, CRITTERS is loosely based on the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter… which is quite believable, really.

Hell, the physical descriptions of these creatures have even wriggled their way into the world of the Pokémon and other role-playing games that directly borrow the description of earth’s supposed visitors.

So, while this specific day in history, and this specific incident has never been proven or debunked with concrete evidence, it has taken on a life of its own. It’s become a small sliver of pop culture, whether many of us know it or not. And this case, unlike others that were indeed able to be argued for or against with tangible evidence, continues to discreetly play a role in American lives. Remember that the next time you throw Stephen Herek’s CRITTERS in the disc player, you might just be seeing a reasonable reenactment of a factual alien encounter.





Enjoying this article?

Sign up for our newsletter now and soon you’ll get the best stuff from in your inbox.

There was an error in your submission. Please re-type your email address.


Thanks for signing up to our newsletter.
We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.