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Edgar and Gertrude Cayce, aglow with their mysterious auras.
Edgar and Gertrude Cayce, aglow with their mysterious auras.

Edgar Cayce and the Hopkinsville Goblins

Field review by the editors.

Hopkinsville, Kentucky

Hopkinsville -- or "Hoptown" as locals know it -- is a place where strange things happen. People with mysterious powers have lived there. It's been invaded by space aliens (1955), tobacco-terrorists (1907), millions of blackbirds (1975), and a one-man Confederate army (1864). The town's unofficial greeter walks around barking at cars like a dog. When the 2017 solar eclipse crossed America, it lasted longer in Hoptown than anywhere else -- and it happened on the anniversary of the alien invasion.

Life-size rendering of space alien or goblin; it terrified locals in 1955.
Life-size rendering of space alien or goblin; it terrified locals in 1955.

We thought that no place could top Delphos, Kansas, for long-term oddness, but Hopkinsville does -- and unlike Delphos, which avoids its past, Hopkinsville embraces its offbeat history in the town's Pennyroyal Area Museum. When it was remodeled and re-opened in 2020, we feared that all of the weirdness would be remodeled out of it. We'd seen it happen before.

But the Pennyroyal Area Museum resisted the forces of normalcy and stayed true to itself. "The community is proud of its weird things," said Executive Director Alissa Keller. "And so are we."

"Trail of Tears" was carved by a local man from a single log.

Prominently featured in the museum is Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) the town's best-known citizen, variously labeled a clairvoyant, psychic, prophet, mystic, or seer (He called his powers "The Work"). According to the museum's exhibit text, he could he talk with the dead, see fairies, and diagnose diseases by taking a nap. Cayce would memorize books by holding them in his hand or against his head. "At least once, his clothing caught fire for no apparent reason other than he was angry at his father."

"He would say," Alissa said, "that we all have these abilities, we just have to know how to tap into them. But he was kind of a one-shot."

Clairvoyance testing tube crosses the high ceiling of the museum.
Clairvoyance testing tube crosses the high ceiling of the museum.

Cayce was born just outside of Hopkinsville, met his future wife, Gertrude, in town, gave his first "reading" there, and is buried in the city cemetery. For such a paranormal guy, Cayce had a normal job as a Hopkinsville photographer. The museum displays a wall of his snapshots, including pictures of President Teddy Roosevelt and president-wannabe William Jennings Bryan when they came to town. The photos have no visible orbs or ghosts. The politicians were apparently in Hopkinsville for reasons other than the supernatural.

Enlarged portrait-photos of Edgar and Gertrude in the exhibit glow with simulated auras; Edgar's color-shifts with his mysterious energy; Gertrude's stays an angelic bluish-white. Relics on display include Edgar's Dictaphone machine (he recorded thousands of his readings), a monogrammed Edgar Cayce laundry bag with a needlework butterfly, a ceramic pot used by Edgar to drink coffee, and a card game, "Pit," invented by Cayce, which he sold to Parker Brothers for $6.

To test the mind-reading abilities of visitors, the museum runs a blue speaking tube up one wall, across the ceiling, and down the wall on the other side of the building. A person at one end looks at some pictures; the person at the other then describes what they've "seen." Our attempt at clairvoyance failed, but we're not from Hopkinsville.

Black tobacco cures over a sawdust fire in a miniature barn.
Black tobacco cures over a sawdust fire in a miniature barn.

Unlike Edgar Cayce, Hoptown's space alien visitors hung around only briefly -- but like The Flatwoods Monster in West Virginia, they left a lasting impression. A dozen of them attacked a farmhouse north of town on August 21, 1955, according to the people inside, who arrived at the Hopkinsville police station in a state of panic. The authorities investigated, but all they found at the house were multiple bullet holes in the window and door screens. The museum displays a life-size artist's rendering of one of the little monsters, described as short and dark with glowing eyes. Newspapers at the time called them "The Hopkinsville Goblins" and "Little Green Men" -- the first time the press used that term to describe space aliens. "And they weren't even green!" said Alissa, who added that one of the men in the house, Elmer "Lucky" Sutton, had a daughter who now dresses up as an alien for local events.

Night Rider goon has a classy Buffalo Nickel hatband.
Night Rider goon has a classy Buffalo Nickel hatband.

More dangerous than the visiting hobgoblins were the Night Riders, a local group of tobacco farmers turned vigilante goons. Nearly 500 of them, wearing ghastly disguises, took over Hopkinsville on December 7, 1907, burning tobacco warehouses and terrorizing people. "You get a bunch of men putting on masks and getting away with stuff," said Alissa, "and they start doing things that have nothing to do with tobacco." A series of newspaper headlines in the museum's exhibit scream, "A Night of Horror," "Unheard-Of Atrocity," "Fiends Wipe Out Family." On display is a dummy wearing one of the Night Riders' ghoulish head sacks, and a rifle kept under the front steps of a Hoptown church in case the thugs tried to attack it.

Most of Hopkinsville's memorable citizens, however, are quirky, not violent. All are welcome in the Pennyroyal Area Museum. There's "Blind Mary" Blakey, another Hoptown psychic, and Col. Thomas Woodward, a diehard Confederate who tried to single-handedly invade the town and failed (Thanks to a hail of non-Confederate bullets). John Wesley Venable Jr. lived with a dominating mother for 50 years in Hopkinsville and compensated by building a miniature circus in his attic; the museum has all of the pieces. George Barrett Floyd's "Trail of Tears Log" -- a notable example of obsessive folk artistry -- takes up a good chuck of the museum's floor space.

And then there's the Charles Steven Page (a.k.a. "Bird Dog"), the car-barking town greeter, who's clearly a candidate for a future Town Ambassador statue. He's not yet a historical figure in Hoptown and doesn't yet have a place in the Pennyroyal Area Museum. But you don't need a prophet to predict that someday he will.

Edgar Cayce and the Hopkinsville Goblins

Pennyroyal Area Museum

217 E. 9th St., Hopkinsville, KY
Pennyroyal Area Museum. Downtown, on the southwest corner of E. 9th and Liberty Sts.
By appt Tu-Sa 10-4 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $5.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Big Wheat ShockBig Wheat Shock, Hopkinsville, KY - < 1 mi.
Grave of Edgar Cayce, Famous ProphetGrave of Edgar Cayce, Famous Prophet, Hopkinsville, KY - < 1 mi.
King Arthur's Round Table - Literary ParkKing Arthur's Round Table - Literary Park, Hopkinsville, KY - 1 mi.
In the region:
Hillbilly Garden, Calvert City, KY - 56 mi.

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