Towards the end of December 2019, Living Life in Full Spectrum blogger and my Supernatural Synchronicity co-author, Sarah Chumacero posted about an Australian UFO case that I was not previously aware about. This was the Knowles family UFO encounter on the Nullarbor Plain in South Australia, which occurred in 1988.
This UFO encounter case is centered around the Knowles family as they travelled from Perth to Melbourne on the 20th January 1988. It was during the early hours as the family drove through the Nullarbor Plain that they say a UFO was engaged with their car for around ninety minutes.
The occupants of the vehicle during this event were Faye Knowles (driving at the time) and her three son’s Sean, Patrick and Wayne. All of them were of an age to be considered by the media in their reports as being adults.
The four family members claim that initially the UFO appeared as a small ball of light that suddenly grew in size. It chased the car and also connected with the roof of the Ford Telstar, lifting it into the air, shaking it violently and then returning it to the road with such force that one of the tyres was burst.
Faye also told the media that; ‘smoke stuff’ filled the car and it was covered in ‘black stuff.’ Interestingly looking at a few of the points in Sarah’s post on this case, more of the elaborate theories pertaining to the involvement of an actual UFO does appear to be media driven. As Sarah states, ‘it becomes distorted once the media get involved.’
Often with cases such as these, the fact we have four adults presenting the same information should add validity to the witness statement. However, this is not necessarily the case, especially as they are family and could potentially all benefit from the story. That said, what would be the motive for such a hoax? Also, if it was a potential hoax then we might assume that details consistent with classical historical UFO cases would have been presented. Equally so, more verifiable evidence – rather than the particles of salt and clay, which are consistent with the sand-laden Nullarbor Plain. So, from the little information available I do not believe this to be a pre-meditated hoax.
That said though, the Knowles perception of events could have brought them to the conclusion that they all experienced a terrifying encounter with a strange craft. Especially when you take into consideration that they had already spent about thirteen hours on the road. At that time of the morning, fatigued and driving through unfamiliar territory may have distorted their understanding of the events that occurred. This could explain an accident that caused the blown tire, but I do struggle to make a suggestion regarding the object connecting with the car roof and lifting it into the air. Is it possible that as the car increased speed on an unfamiliar road due to the lights, the car hit a bump on the road. The bump could have caused the car to lift into the air momentarily, returning to the road with force enough to burst a tire. This may have caused the car to lose control, in which case the breaks would have needed to be applied. As the breaks were pushed to help regain control it could have generated the burning smell reported. Now all these possibilities seem rather normal, so why would the Knowles family claim it was a UFO! Let us return to the likelihood of fatigue and possible stress that may have been caused by thirteen hours on the road. They may not have been expecting to see any lights on the road, and if they did it was likely to have been a predetermined understanding of them in relation to vehicle headlights. If for example, they were struggling to keep awake or even that some were already asleep, then identification of vehicle headlights or even far off lights could be obscured. Depending how tired the driver and rest of the Knowles family were, this could lead to paranoia and even hallucinations. In a way we return to our favorite subject of perception on this website. That is to say that the possibility of this being a UFO could be based on the state of mind of the Knowles family and their perception of events as they occurred.
The only thing that maybe slightly adverse to this is that the family seemed to describe the object in close proximity to them; as it was on the roof and looked for them. However, when they left the car and hid behind a bush, it could not find them. Something that seems a little odd to me, as given the technology described here by the Knowles – simply hiding behind a bush stopped the encounter. Seems like an odd ending to me.
As the object had gone, although I have not found a description of its exit just yet; the Knowles changed the blown tire and continued on with their journey, observably shaken.
They eventually report the events to the Police who take it seriously and before long it hits the media. A truck driver that also witnessed a ball of light is also thrown in as a witness, but with little additional information from him.
Now there are some interesting theories on this cause; from it being an actual UFO encounter to the car being lifted by a helicopter fitted with a large magnet. The events that night on the Nullarbor Plain have certainly stirred the enthusiasm of UFO researchers and even some conspiracy theorists. There are certainly plenty of UFO cases that claim that those involved were tormented by objects described as balls of light of varying and changing sizes. So, I guess this could quite easily be such a case. However, there are for me a few factors that cast a shadow over the events that occurred on the 20th January 1988; the probable fatigue and unfamiliar surroundings of the Knowles family to start with.
We must also consider that if fatigue is an important element here then memory equally becomes important too. As they believed they encountered a UFO, the trauma and distance travelled before they reported the event; means that its likely their memories may not have been entirely accurate either.
In 1887, Hodgson and Davey published a paper in the Proceedings of the SPR; ‘The Possibilities of Mal-Observation and Lapse of Memory from a Practical Point of View.’ Even back then they showed how our memory of events fails us, how we can remember them out of sequence and even add elements that never even occurred. This concept of our memory being flawed still received pushback as recently as the 1990’s; showing the faith that would have still been placed on memory alone by the Knowles and those interviewing them. If your not sure about this then you’ve likely encountered it without realising it. When recalling an event that hit the media over ten years ago, I recently realised that my own memories of those events were highly wrong. Glad I keep notes now!
The point being, is that although one could argue that an event as traumatic as that which all of the Knowles experienced would possibly remain vivid up to the point they reported it; it is actually likely two things occurred. 1) From the moment they left the location all of their memories of the events began to deteriorate; 2) when they gave their statement they probably made it together, meaning the Police collected information from them all, collating it as one statement. Even though they had travelled together and probably discussed the matter, they should have been interviewed separately – to determine patterns between their statements. I am assuming they were interviewed together, simply based on when it occurred as in the 1980’s, the type of event they were reporting and because the Police would likely not have treated is as a crime. Hence they can all make the statement together.
Whilst this is an interesting UFO case, I am not entirely convinced of its validity or that it holds enough to make it a distinct possible encounter case. Of course this assumption is purely based on what I read on Sarah’s website and a few others from a simple Google. I must agree with Sarah’s closing comments; it does seem to point towards an accident in unfamiliar territory by fatigued individuals. The physical evidence supplied, is simply consistent with logical explanation, like a roof rack making dents on the roof and the ash deposits being sand from the road. Although we do have four adult witnesses that claim it to be a UFO encounter. What is the truth about this event? Is there a truth or do the Knowles believe what they perceive to have happened? What do you think happened on the Nullarbor Plain in 1988?