The Knowles Family (1988)
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January 20 1988 was the day that the Knowles family and their two dogs had an unexplainable experience whilst travelling across the Nullarbor Plain in the early hours of the morning.
At about 4.00am, Faye Knowles and her sons Patrick, 24, Sean, 21, and Wayne 18 were between Madura and Mundrabilla with Sean driving and Patrick next to him in the front seat when a bright light was seen ahead of them. Sean thought the light strange and asked his brother if he thought it was a spaceship. This idea was rejected by his brother, but Sean’s interest was piqued and he sped the car up in order to catch up to the object and get a closer look. At about 20 metres from the object the family say they were confronted with a white blinding light that moved along in front of their moving vehicle. It was about 1 metre wide and described as a slightly angular egg in an egg-cup shape with a yellow centre. The object, which at first appeared to be either on the ground or immediately above it then began to move back and forth. Sean swerved the car to the opposite side of the road to avoid a collision with the object, but then nearly collided with a station wagon towing a caravan coming in the other direction. (The occupants of this second car have never come forward) The object then circled around to the right side of their car and appeared to give chase to the second vehicle towing the caravan. The Knowles made at 2 u-turns at this point, the first to give chase to the object, and the second to abandon this idea as they had grown frightened. They had at this point gained the idea that the object was after them.
At some point the family felt that the UFO had returned and had landed on their vehicle. They heard a clunking sound and felt that the car was being pushed down by a weight that rested on top of it.
By now the family was understandably frightened, and the following events are difficult to unravel in retrospect. The family believed that the car was lifted above the road, though none of them were able to estimate for how long or how high. Mrs Knowles wound down a rear window and reached for the roof. She felt something soft and rubbery that was hot but did not burn her hand, and when she brought her hand back into the car she found it covered in a blackish dust. This event caused a panic in the rest of the family. Patrick wound down his window, only to be covered in the fine dust, which was accompanied by a foul smell that was likened to dead bodies. A high-pitched sound was then heard, which sent the dogs into a frenzy. The family became disoriented and felt that their voices had become slower, and lower in pitch. They believed at this point that they were going to die. Patrick said that he felt that his ‘brain was being sucked out’, and Mrs Knowles likened it to having something ‘going into our heads’.
A while later, the family felt the car forced back down onto the road, bursting the rear right tyre. Sean brought the car to a sudden stop and then blacked out. The family left the car hurriedly and hid in some bushes by the side of the road. They remained there for 15 minutes before changing the tyre and continuing on to the nearest town.
Unknown to the Knowles’, a truck driver, Mr Graham Henley also saw, at the same time and in the same area, a strange light in his rear view mirror. He described as being like a strong spotlight and like a ‘big fried egg hung upside down”. He kept the object in view for 5 minutes and did not see any car headlights beneath it. Shortly after Henley pulled into Mundrabilla, he saw the Knowles’ car arrive, and was confronted by the frightened family all trying to describe their experience. He looked over their car and confirmed the presence of black ash in various areas, both inside and on the exterior of the vehicle, and likened it to fine silicon sand with a burnt odour to it. He also noted four indents in the roof of the car and the damaged tyre. Henley and two of his friends also surveyed the scene of the incident, finding skid marks, footprints and tread tracks that they felt confirmed the Knowles account of their incident.
The family had by this time arrived at Ceduna and been interviewed by the police there, who confirmed that the family were visibly shaken. They also reconfirmed the presence of the four dents and the fine dust. UFO Research South Australia was contacted and arrangements were made for the Knowles’ to continue to Adelaide for further investigation. Keith Basterfield was at this stage brought into the investigation, and he stated that it “appeared to be an extraordinary example of a close encounter that had left physical traces.” However, owing to the story reaching the media, serious investigation became obstructed by chequebook journalism, with investigators needing to mediate with a television station to be able to talk to the Knowles’. The TV station did, however, commission a laboratory investigation of the vehicle, which concluded that ‘no significant dust was observed on the vehicle as presented for inspection’. UFO researchers did manage to obtain samples themselves, which they forwarded to Dr Richard Haines, a NASA scientist at the time, who concluded that the dust taken from the interior of the car was different to the dust sampled from the exterior. Further tests by different analysts have provided no evidence of it being alien or unusual.
Unfortunately none of this is conclusive. There were other UFO reports in the same area at the same time, which tends to imply that something unusual occurred. The only conclusion we can safely come to though, is that something happened, and that the family witnessed an unusual light and were extremely frightened by its effects. All we have is an interesting story, and still no clear idea of exactly what happened.