Australia is home to many strange stories and creatures. From the Bunyip to the strange Black Mountain. But did you also know it is home to one of the strangest UFO stories I’ve come across? Enter the Knowles family. The Knowles family was driving deep in the Australian outback on the Nullarbor Plain when their lives would forever change.
To set the scene, let’s talk a little bit about the Nullarbor Plain. The Nullarbor Plain is the world’s largest single exposure of limestone bedrock, is quite arid, and nearly treeless. It is not the most inviting or habitable place in Australia.
In the early hours of January 20th, 1988 the Knowles family had been driving for roughly 13 hours with very few stops. In the car were Faye Knowles and her three young adult sons Wayne, Sean, and Patrick who were all between 18 and 24 years old. They were making the trek from Perth to Melbourne.
At this point, Sean was behind the wheel and the rest of his family was soundly asleep in the car. While the typically plain landscape flashed by Sean he noticed something eye-catching in the distance: a light. Now, a light seen while driving at night might not seem out of the ordinary but this particular stretch of land was sparsely and barely populated and the Knowles hadn’t seen another car for some time. So, the sudden appearance of an inexplicable light caught Sean’s attention.
The light continued to grow and become more prominent until it became apparent that it wasn’t something as simple as light. Sean, scared, woke up the rest of his family to witness what was happening. This initial sighting turned into a 90-minute ordeal that left the family shaken.
According to Faye Knowles, the large glowing object looked “like a big ball” and followed the family and terrorize them for almost two hours. During the chase, the ball of light continued to grow larger and create more of a presence. The culmination of the event occurred when the ball of light landed physically on top of the Knowles’ car. Faye rolled down the window and noted that “all of this smoke stuff started coming into the car, the car was covered in black stuff.”
When the object made contact with the car the car was briefly lifted into the air. Sean, unsure of what could be done in their state of suspension, pushed his foot on the accelerator hard. He and his mother screamed but according to reports their screams were distorted and changed as if they were in slow-mo mode.
A police spokesman who took the Knowles’ witness accounts later told media, “It apparently picked the car up off the road, shook it quite violently and forced the car back down on the road with such pressure that one of the tyres was blown.”
The family fled from the car. Even after the event, Faye’s fear is palpable when she says "We thought we were dying, then we got out the car and we hid behind a little tree and the bushes and it couldn't find us."
Once they believed they were safe the family re-entered the car and had almost no issue getting it back up and running. They drove to the nearby Ceduna and went right to the police station. The police took the report seriously namely because of the physical evidence. What physical evidence, you may ask? Well, the car was strangely dented and had an inexplicable dust-like film over most of it.
But what really happened that night? Skeptics and believers have yet to come to an answer but Psychology Today believes it was a shared hallucination. According to them, “Given the lack of corroborating physical evidence, and the frightened state of the occupants, it appears that family members, fatigued from a long trip, under the cover of darkness while traveling on an unfamiliar road, mistook an anomalous light for an extraterrestrial spacecraft that they believed was pursuing them. It is also notable that based on interviews with the family, they were all in an extremely emotional state, “shouting and crying.” Mrs. Knowles even said she thought they were going to die.”
While this is admirable, I was surprised that the article lacked the rarity and potential implausibility of shared hallucinations. Additionally, if they were just fatigued and were frightened by a small light why don’t we have dozens and dozens of reports from long-haul truckers in Australia and across the world with similar stories? Perhaps I am not keeping an eye on the news as much as I need to, as I have come across very few possible UFO-sightings like this.
Whether you believe the Knowles encountered a UFO or other non-human tech that night or that they simply had an extremely powerful shared hallucination both answers seem fascinating and the Knowles case is certainly a unique one in UFOlogy.
The featured image is from Paul Banfe and is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). It is of the Nullarbor valley.