High Strangeness: UFO Truth

Monday, February 17, 2014

UFO Truth

Just spent a snow day working on my Hynek book, and today's pages were real challenges.

I'm still in the midst of recreating the famous 1955 Kelly-Hopkinsville "Little Men" encounter, in which a family of 11 found themselves trapped in their Kentucky farmhouse by one or more little men with huge heads, shiny silver bodies and glowing yellow eyes. The fact that the episode lasted almost an entire night and involved many characters and entailed as may as six separate encounters with the strange little men means that it's an extremely complicated tale... The fact that the 11 members of the Sutton family were so scared out of their wits that they couldn't always reconstruct the sequence of events with complete certainty doesn't help.

But, for the most part, those who were there and those who investigated the case found the Suttons' testimony convincing, and no one has been able to explain what happened.

The case has been written up by many writers and researchers over the years, but only two UFO researchers ever actually interviewed the witnesses. Both Andrew "Bud" Ledwith III and Isabel Davis were amateur UFO investigators who took the initiative to study the case and preserve the testimony of the witnesses on their own time and on their own dimes. They both wrote up very detailed reports on their experiences with the Suttons, and Dr. J. Allen Hynek used their accounts on which to base his own study of the case (sadly, Project Blue Book never investigated the case, although four M.P.s from a nearby Army base were on the scene the night of the incident).
These were actually drawn by Bud Ledwith himself, based on the descriptions given by the Sutton family.
Here's my challenge: Bud Ledwith interviewed the Suttons within hours of the incident, when they were still in shock, but his report focuses more on the visual appearance of the little men than on the actual sequence of events. Isabel Davis didn't interview the Suttons until a year later, when they were much less willing to speak about the experience, but her account of the sequence of events is much more complete and detailed than Ledwith's.

Davis' report, published in 1978 by Hynek's own Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), used Ledwith's report as its basis. Ledwith had, in fact, given his interview notes to Davis. But as I try to recreate the sequence of events, I have to continually compare Ledwith's account with Davis', because Ledwith's narrative is very short: UFO is sighted; alien appears at door; shots are fired; alien does a 'flip' and runs away; alien tries to grab a man's hair from the porch roof; men shoot at two aliens on the roof and in a tree; aliens continue to approach the house for the remainder of the night. Davis' narrative includes all those beats and a few more, including a chilling moment when the family hears a scraping sound on the tin roof over the kitchen, and they run outside to see one of the creatures crawling across the roof.

The big discrepancy, however, concerns the first sightings. In Ledwith's account, the family first saw the creature through a screen door, but in Davis' account two of the men first saw the creature approaching while they were out in the yard. In Davis' account there is a subsequent sighting through the screen door and then through a window. Ledwith's account leaves this out.

Maybe it's not such a big deal in the end. Both Ledwith and Davis interviewed the witnesses, after all, so it's not as though I can consider either account more valid than the other. What I decided in the end was that, since Hynek used Davis' fuller account on which to base his analysis of the case, and since Davis' account used Ledwith's account as its own basis, I would go with Davis' account.

And that's how it's done.


Dr. X said...

Even though the Kelly-Hopkinsville case is only one incident, and your book is primarily about Hynek the man and his career/UFO consulting history, it's always very important to try to go back to whatever diversity of original source materials exist in any case or bio, I would suggest.

So, whatever actual recordings, if any at this point, that may still exist, original Sutton family written accounts or direct interviews, and of the people who later became involved on the scene should all be reviewed and cross-referenced, as much as possible or practical, depending on what weight or role these kinds of incidents may have had in Hynek's career and conclusions about such cases, so as to provide better insight into Hynek's own capabilities to interpret the evidence and his perceptions about such unusual or "high strangeness" cases, such as any personal notes by Hynek himself, or from former close colleagues.

Always go back to original, initial sources as best you can or feel the need to, depending on what role or importance they may have into a better take on Hynek's psychology and investigatory acumen is my humble advice.

Others' belated and second or third-hand analyses and opinions often do not provide the accuracy and sufficient data upon which to judge a case or an investigator as well as the original sources except as contributory and peripheral information or data points. I speak from long experience in this area.

Saucerspud said...

This was one of the classic UFO cases that kept me awake and hiding under my covers as a kid. Creepy stuff.