Situated in Western Australia, Perth is one of the most isolated cities on the planet, with vast, largely desolate land stretching out from it for thousands of miles. For anyone who has regularly traversed truly remote areas alone at night, it’s a given that you probably won’t meet a soul from point A to point B. It’s best to turn up some music to drown out fears of breaking down without a cell phone signal.
In the early morning of January 20, 1988, Faye Knowles and her three adult sons, Sean, Patrick, and Wayne, along with their dogs, were driving from their home in Perth through what might be some of the most desolate landscape en route to Melbourne. Along the Eyre Highway on the Nullarbor Plain—nullarbor meaning “no trees” in Latin—they saw a bright light in the sky. Sean, who was driving, sped up to see an illuminated egg-shaped object hovering above. Realizing the mystery object had begun following them, the terrified family sped away in an attempt to outrun it. So far pretty typical for a UFO encounter. Whatever emotions are beyond sheer terror, that’s what soon riddled the family as the UFO set down on the roof of their moving car, picked up the vehicle, and began to shake it.
Patrick reported at this point that he felt his brain was being sucked out, and family members described how their voices became distorted as if they were talking in slow motion. Fearing death, Faye Knowles gathered up the wherewithal to roll down the window and reached up to feel something warm and spongy. In opening the window, the car filled with a putrid dust and dark mist. A high-pitched sound sent their dogs into a frenzy. After an indeterminate amount of time, the car was suddenly released back onto the road, bursting the rear right tire.
A truck driver and some motorists reported seeing a UFO in the area, but what gave even more credibility to the family’s experience was a report by the crew of a tuna fishing boat. Within half an hour of the family’s encounter, about 50 miles away, the crew claimed a UFO buzzed their boat and, notably, they too suffered strange voice distortions. Authorities were certain it was impossible for the fishing crew to know what the Knowles family experienced.
The fishing crew’s report should in itself be enough to cinch the Knowles’ encounter as genuine. However, investigators somehow determined the four indentations on the roof of the Knowles’ car, believed to be imprinted when the UFO picked up the vehicle, were not recent. Dust samples proved to be particles from the blown out tire and worn brake linings.
Did exhaustion from the long drive convolute a less fantastical experience, or was the Knowles family harassed by a UFO? Why aren’t there more detailed reports of the fishing crew’s experience? And concerning the most curious common denominator, what accounts for the strange voice distortions both the family and the fishing crew experienced? Voice distortions aren’t something you hear with most other UFO encounters.
Answers to these questions are hard to come by. Sensationalized media attention hampered attempts to seriously investigate the Knowles’ encounter. Yet because of this media frenzy, the news made it even to my middle-of-nowhere home in rural America. I remember listening with rapt attention as my older sister read the story aloud from our local newspaper one dark winter night. One of the more frightening aspects of rural life for me is that if something goes wrong, no one is around to hear you scream. Needless to say, the Knowles’ encounter resonated with me.
I should add that my nearest neighbor growing up was several miles away, and my childhood home is eerily similar to the house in the movie Signs—prime UFO abducting conditions for sure. Late one night I was driving home and saw something metallic and shiny flutter down to earth in my rear view mirror—no idea what it was—but icy butterflies fluttered like hell in my stomach. There was nothing I could do but keep driving and keep an eye on the dashboard clock to make sure I wasn’t experiencing missing time.
More than half the world’s population lives in urban areas now. Certainly many still live in rural hinterlands, but driving across remote landscapes like the Nullarbor Plain is becoming a rarer occurrence for most people. I can’t decide which is more unsettling, UFO encounters in the middle of nowhere, or alien abductions in a major city with multiple witnesses. At least in a city people can hear you scream—that is if you get a chance before the aliens paralyze you.
The Knowles Family
UFOs on the Nullarbor Plain (Part 1)
UFOs on the Nullarbor Plain (Part 2)
UFOs on the Nullarbor Plain (Part 3)