On August 21, 1955 Billy Ray Taylor was visiting friends, the eleven-member Sutton family, at their rural farmhouse on the outskirts of Kelly and Hopkinsville, Kentucky. On his way to an outhouse, he reportedly saw several strange lights in the sky which he believed were part of an alien spacecraft. Taylor told the Suttons of his sighting but they dismissed it as just an hallucination.
Later that night, however, the people in the house heard bizarre noises outside. Billy Ray and Elmer Sutton went out with shotguns and encountered a gremlin-like being emerging from the woods. Soon more of the “goblins”, as they eventually came to be called, appeared and terrorized the family throughout the night, scratching at the outside walls and peering in through the windows. One of them even grabbed a victim by the hair when he stepped out onto the porch. At one point the police were called but the goblins quickly disappeared, only to return later to continue terrorizing the family for the rest of the night.
The goblins were described as having wide, large eyes, pointed, swept back ears and slim bodies with atrophied legs. They seemed to float with their feet just barely touching the ground, swaying their hips with arms up in the air as if wading through water. When the Suttons shot at the goblins, the creatures emitted a metallic clang and would flip backwards into the woods. If shot from a tree, they would glide to the ground rather than fall.
The Hopskinville Goblin case has become one of the most famous “alien encounter” stories in American folklore, along with the Mothman and Flatwoods Monster. It was even the basis for a planned movie by Steven Spielberg called Night Skies that would eventually evolve into the much lighter and softer E.T. Go here to check out some cool pictures of the designs for the Night Skies
|Special effects artist Rick Baker working on a model of an alien from the lost Night Skies film. Source: etonline.com|
Although the origin of the goblins was never discovered, they are commonly believed to have been extraterrestrials due to Taylor’s sighting of lights in the sky just prior to their appearance. Skeptics, however, have postulated that the goblins could, in fact, have been nothing more than a pair of large, territorial horned owls. And indeed, much of the creature’s anatomy is very owl-like. The back-swept “ears” could easily be the tufts of feathers on the heads of many owls. The way that they moved with arms over their heads and atrophied feet dragging along the ground could be a misinterpretation of an owl flying low to the ground with its wings extended. The metallic sounds the creatures made when apparently shot could merely be the sounds of bullets bouncing off the house or outhouse. Though it might seem ridiculous that so many people would mistake ordinary owls for otherworldly creatures, the fear and adrenaline rush of the encounter combined with Taylor's claims of having seen strange lights could have easily distorted the Suttons' perceptions.
|Goblin sketch based off eyewitness description. Source: theironskeptic.com|
|Great Horned Owl. Source: Wikimedia.org|
For my interpretation of the goblins, I’ve incorporated some of the owl explanation into their faces. The loping, wading gait recalled to my mind a gibbon walking, so I based some of the anatomy and pose on these apes.
(entry #4 talks about the owl explanation for the Goblins)
The Field Guide to North American Monsters by W. Haden Blackman