Knowles Family UFO Encounter

2nd July 2023. Reading Time: 5 minutes Famous Paranormal Cases, General. 3164 page views. 1 comments.

In 1988, the Knowles family were driving along the Nullabor Plain in South Australia on a trip from Perth to Melbourne. In the early hours of the morning, something strange happened.

On January 20th, 1988, the Knowles family were en route from Perth to Melbourne on a road trip.  In the early hours of the morning while driving through the Nullabor Plain in South Australia the family says they were tormented for around 90 minutes by something 'Out of this world'. 

Mother Faye Knowles was the driver of a Ford Telstar accompanied by her 3 sons Wayne, Sean, and Patrick who were aged between 18 - 24 years old.  After a solid 13 hours on the road, most of the family were asleep.  Not far from the Mundrabilla outpost, Sean noticed mysterious lights in the distance and awakened his family in fear.  They were soon convinced that this ball of light was chasing them.

In order to escape, Sean put his foot down and speed up to around 200km per hour while the family sat in fear.  Mother Faye screamed and the passengers claimed that her scream sounded distorted, like time itself was slowing down - something commonly reported during UFO encounters.  

Nullabor Plain (Image Source ABC NEWS)

The group later reported to police that a beam of light raised the vehicle into the air, then dropped it which caused a tyre a burst making the car un driveable and stuck on the highway.

"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," a police spokesman told media at the time.

Source ABC News

They heard a loud thud on the roof of the car while a grey mist filled the car.

"I wound down the window and I felt this thing on the roof... all of this smoke stuff started coming into the car, the car was covered in black stuff," Faye Knowles told reporters after the incident.

"It was a small light and all of a sudden it became big like this, like a big ball.

"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."

Source ABC News

After changing the tyre, the family drove to Ceduna their original destination and contacted Police to report this strange incident.  Police took great interest in this case given the visible damage to the car itself.  It wasn't long before the story made worldwide headlines.  A trucker who saw the car in the distance came forward and claimed that he saw mysterious lights hovering above the car.

even their dogs were cowering in
the front seat of the car ... The whole
car smelt like bakelite or just like as if
they'd blown a fuse ... A soot was all
over the car and there were four
dents as though the car had been
picked up by a magnet.


Police recommended that the family contact UFO Research Australia who were keen to do forensic testing on the car.  Unfortunately, this didn't happen as the media got to the family first.  Channel 7 reportedly offered the family $5000 for an exclusive interview.  The terms involved no other media outlet having access to the family or the car.  For this reason, UFO Research Australia was unable to do proper testing on the car.  

It is claimed in the weeks later that the family saw their Dr due to being stressed from the incident and had to be sedated on two occasions.  It seems that the facts of the case became blurred once the media were involved and after an onslaught of media attention and interviews, the family declined interviews as they were tired of reliving the incident.  This meant that many UFO groups that wanted to study the case were too late.

Not long after the incident, it was claimed by a newspaper that the police tested the substance on the car and found undetermined results.  When the police were contacted, they gave a different version of events:

"That's all bulldust," said Supt
Schulz of the SA forensic police
(referring to the stories, not the
material under analysis). Quoted in
the Melbourne Sun, he said "There
were no volumes of substance at all
on the vehicle . For interest's sake,
we did take what we call a tape lifting
and that's only a case of pressing
tape on to the vehicle, lifting specks
of dust and grime. I have the sample
here and I've looked at it and read the

"All I have is two little slides with a
miniscule amount of grime or
substance on it. It's probably road
grime anyway . ... There has been no
examination, there will be no
examination." Therefore, the SA
police had never tested the ash/dust,
and had not discovered an 'unknown


While many believe this to be an encounter with a UFO, psychologists have offered another explanation.

They reached South Australia, where police interviewed the family who by now were making global headlines after claiming that their car had been picked up by a ‘UFO.’  South Australian police inspected the car and found only typical road grime. An investigation of the car was conducted by the Australian Mineral Development Laboratory which analyzed the ash and found particles of clay and salt, consistent with what one should expect to find in a vehicle that had recently crossed the sand-laden Nullarbor Plains near the Great Southern Ocean. 

As for the strange aerial light that appeared to follow the car, weather records reveal that at the time of the incident, there had been a temperature inversion in the area.  Former South Australian meteorologist Allan Brunt later observed that such events in the region are notorious for refracting light and distorting sizes, shapes and colors of objects.  Brunt believes that the Knowles family saw the distorted image of the headlights of a truck in the distance, which appeared to them as a UFO.

Source: Psychology Today

It is an intriguing case but like many things, becomes distorted once the media get involved.  While there is a lot of evidence to suggest it could have been a misunderstanding of a blown tyre with sleep-deprived individuals, others feel it is a typical UFO encounter and that the answers themselves lay deep within the subconscious of the Knowles family.  Then there is the fact that a witness claims to have seen lights above their car leaving dent marks consistent with a magnet which would explain the car levitating.  Others believe the 4 marks on the roof could be from roof racks that may have previously been on the car.  We will never know the real truth of what happened, which is why it remains one of the more intriguing cases.

What do you think?  Do you believe the family encountered a UFO or was it an early morning misunderstanding?

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  • William Buckley 9 months ago

    The craft that attacked the family was described and being about the size of a station wagon with a long tail, it hovered, it had a powerful searchlight, it spewed out carbon soot and hot fumes from its exhaust and made a loud humming electrical noise. This sounds like a helicopter to me. A one point during the attack the family were out of the car watching the craft and Mrs Knowles later drew a sketch of the craft. The craft had a cone shaped front and a wider body which tapered down to a long tail. Mrs Knowles also drew a yellow globe in the middle of the wide body where the light was shining from. This is exactly what a helicopter looks like from underneath so I fail to see what the mystery is.