Culture  /  Retrieval

The Long, Surprising Legacy of the Hopkinsville Goblins

Or, why families under siege make for great movies.

One main theme of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic Jurassic Park may be that amusement parks are incredibly hard to operate, but an equally important lesson of that film (and the Michael Crichton book on which it is based) is that monsters bring families together. Alan Grant has no interest in having children with Ellie Satler, at least until he has to rescue the grandchildren of the park’s founder. They form a makeshift family and the rest is cinema history. Families under stress are a recurrent feature of Spielberg’s movies, from 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind to the 2005 adaptation of War of the Worlds, and the countless films they have inspired. Fractured or broken, they come back together as something monstrous or terrifying emerges, re-binding through shared adversity. Spielberg, who was himself deeply affected by his parents’ divorce, seems to ask: What kind of monster or world-shattering event would be enough to keep a family together? So one can see why he might have been attracted to the story of the Hopkinsville Goblins.

The story comes to us from the local newspaper Kentucky New Era, which, on August 22, 1955, reported strange goings-on the previous night, eight miles north of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. At about 11:00 pm, two cars arrived at the local police station, blasting out of the night filled with at least five adults and several children, all of whom were highly agitated. “We need help,” they told the police. “We’ve been fighting them for nearly four hours.”

Once they’d calmed down enough to talk, they unfurled a strange story. One of the men, Billy Ray Taylor, had been visiting from Pennsylvania. At one point, he went outside to fetch water from the farm’s well. As he walked through the failing light, he saw a circular-shaped object hover through the air before coming to rest in a nearby gully.

Concerned, Taylor retreated inside and returned with a shotgun to investigate. As he walked into the gloom, a strange, goblin-like thing with glowing eyes appeared and moved toward him. It had “huge eyes,” and hands out of proportion with its body, and looked to be wearing some kind of “metal plate.” Taylor retreated to the house yet again and grabbed a .22 caliber pistol, while Lucky Sutton grabbed a shotgun and joined him.