On the night of August 27, 1986, Whitley Strieber had an experience in which he heard nine very loud knocks in three groups of three. He recounts the story in his 1988 book Transformation:
I returned to the house, took a shower, and then went downstairs to do some reading. Dr. [John] Gliedman had given me his essay "Quantum Entanglements: On Atomic Physics and the Nature of Reality," and I had been reading it. I sat in a chair by a window and picked up the manuscript. A glow came around the house, but it was so brief that I ignored it.
It became very quiet. I was awake and alert, perfectly normal in every way. Anne and Andrew were asleep. My cats were sitting on the couch nearby.
The cats both got restless. . . . The Burmese was crouched, staring up at the back wall of the room. The Siamese was walking slowly along with his entire tail stiff and puffed up like the tail of a raccoon. . . . perhaps a deer. I returned to Dr. Gliedman's essay.
I read the following sentence: "The mind is not the playwright of reality."
At that moment, there came a knocking on the side of the house. This was a substantial noise, very regular and sharp. The knocks were so exactly spaced that they sounded like they were being produced by a machine. Both cats were riveted with terror. They stared at the wall. The knocks went on, nine of them in three groups of three, followed by a tenth lighter double-knock that communicated an impression of finality (pp. 129-130).
Mr. Strieber goes on for several pages, ruling out all possible conventional explanations for the knocks and describing his failed attempts to duplicate the sounds. He concludes that "the knocks were an absolutely clear indication that something entirely and physically real was present and that it was taking an interest in me" (p. 132).
In Mr. Strieber's 1995 book Breakthrough, he revisits the nine knocks, first noting, "I reported this experience in Transformation, which was given to the publisher in late 1987 and published in March 1988." During the window between those two dates -- after the book was finalized but before anyone in the general public had read it -- this happened:
On February 27, 1988, eighteen months to the day after the incident of the nine knocks at my cabin, but before they could have been publicly known, a large number of people in Glenrock, Wyoming, were awakened at 2:45 a.m. by a series of nine knocks in three groups of three on their cars, on the sides or roofs of their houses, or on their doors. The Glenrock Independent reported on Thursday, March 3, that "strange, unexplained noises interrupted the slumber of many Glenrock residents early Sunday morning. The three part series of three dull thuds at 2:45 a.m. was reported by many residents who believed it was made by direct physical contact on the outside of their dwellings."
In other words, despite the near-simultaneity of the sounds, numerous people thought that their individual homes were being affected. That they all heard the sounds at virtually the same time is supported by the sudden surge in police calls. All this only adds to the strength of my proof, because it requires that any hoax be extremely elaborate and that it involve many people, all knocking on houses at the same time. Residents hearing the knocks, "discounted the possibility of a hoax being performed on a seemingly random number of houses. The residents quickly either looked outside or physically inspected their property." A UFO was also observed in the area.
In the end, the Independent said, "The UFO, like the knocking, remains a mystery."
Although this happened in early 1988, it was not until nearly a year later that I became aware of the incident through a clipping service. . . . It could not have been an accident, not something so distinctive and precisely timed (pp. 23-24).
Today, following up a passing reference in The Hidden Springs by Renée Haynes, I found a strikingly similar story in the Memoirs of the Wesley Family (1824), edited by Adam Clarke. The following passage, from p. 137, is taken from the personal journal of Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley (1662-1735), the father of the two brothers who founded the Methodist movement..
An Account of Noises and Disturbances in my House at Epworth, Lincolnshire, in December and January, 1716.
From the first of December, my children and servants heard many strange noises, groans, knockings, &c. in every story, and most of the rooms of my house. But I hearing nothing of it myself, they would not tell me for some time, because, according to the vulgar opinion, if it boded me any ill, I could not hear it. When it increased, and my family could not easily conceal it, they told me of it. When it increased, and the family could not easily conceal it, they told me of it.
My daughters Susannah and Ann were below stairs in the dining room; and heard first at the doors, then over their heads, and the night after a knocking under their feet, though nobody was in the chambers or below them. The like they and my servants heard in both the kitchens, at the door against the partition, and over them. The maid servant heard groans as of a dying man. My daughter Emilia coming down stairs to draw up the clock, and lock the doors at ten at night, as usual, heard under the staircase a sound among some bottles there, as if they had been all dashed to pieces; but when she looked all was safe.
Something, like the steps of a man, was heard going up and down stairs, at all hours of the night, and vast rumblings below stairs, and in the garrets. My man, who lay in the garret, heard some one come slaring through the garret to his chamber, rattling by his side as if against his shoes, though he had none there; at other times walking up and down stairs, when all the house were in bed, and gobling like a turkey-cock. Noises were hears in the nursery, and all the other chambers; knocking first at the feet of the bed, and behind it; and a sound like that of dancing in a matted chamber, next the nursery, when the door was locked, and nobody in it.
My wife would have persuaded them it was rats within doors, and some unlucky people knocking without; till at last we heard several loud knocks in our own chamber, on my side of the bed; but till, I think, the 21st at night, I heard nothing of it. That night I was waked a little before one by nine distinct very loud knocks, which seemed to be in the next room to our's, with a sort of pause at every third stroke. I thought it might be somebody without the house; and having got a stout mastiff, hoped he would soon rid me of it.
Getting a mastiff proved not be an effective way of getting rid of the knocking. When more knocks came, "our mastiff came whining to us, as he always did after the first night of its coming; for then he barked violently at it, but was silent afterwards, and seemed more afraid than any of the children" (p. 138). The disturbances continued to the end of January, and the family took to referring to the poltergeist as "Jeffrey," a name given it by Miss Emily Wesley. Particularly loud knocking often accompanied their prayers for King George I, from which they gathered that "Jeffrey" must be a Jacobite.
In 1720, Samuel's son John Wesley, having heard of the knocking incident, went to the house in Epworth and "carefully inquired into the particulars. I spoke to each of the persons who were then in the house, and took down what each could testify of his or her own knowledge" (p. 141). The results of his inquiry were published in the Arminian Magazine and are reproduced in the Memoirs, from which I quote.
A few nights after, my father and mother were just gone to bed, and the candle was not taken away, when they heard three blows, and a second, and a third three, as it were with a large oaken staff, struck upon a chest which stood by the bed-side. My father immediately arose, put on his night-gown, and hearing great noises below, took the candle and went down: my mother walked by his side. As they went down the broad stairs, they heard as if a vessel of silver was poured upon my mother's breast, and ran jingling down to her feet. Quickly after there was a sound, as if a large iron ball was thrown among many bottles under the stairs; but nothing was hurt. Soon after, our large mastiff dog came an ran to shelter himself between them. While the disturbances continued, he used to bark and leap, and snap on one side and the other; and that frequently before any person in the room heard any noise at all. But after two or three days, he used to tremble, and creep away before the noise began. And by this the family knew it was at hand; nor did the observation ever fail (pp. 144-145).
Notice that the Wesleys' mastiff, like Mr. Strieber's cats, exhibited unusual fear just before the knocking began.
The nine knocks are referred to again in a letter from Samuel Wesley's wife Susanna to their son Samuel Jr., dated "January 12, 1716-7":
At first [your father] would not believe but somebody did it to alarm us; but the night after, as soon as he was in bed, it knocked loudly nine times, just by his bed-side. He rose, and went to see if he could find out what it was, but could see nothing. Afterwards he heard it as the rest (p. 146).
She does not mention that the nine knocks were in three groups of three, but later in the letter she says repeated groups of three knocks were typical.
Sometimes it would make a noise like the winding up of a jack, at other times, as that night Mr. Hoole was with us, like a carpenter planing deals; but most commonly it knocked thrice and stopped, and then thrice again, and so many hours together (op. loc.).
Emily Wesley, in an undated letter to her brother Samuel Jr., does not mention the nine knocks but does say that the knocks typically came in threes:
I heard frequently between ten and eleven something like the quick winding up of a jack, at the corner of the room by my bed's head, just like the running of the wheels and the creaking of the iron work. This was the common signal of its coming. Then it would knock on the floor three times, then at my sister's bed's head in the same room, almost always three together, and then stay. The sound was hollow, and loud, so as none of us could ever imitate (p. 153).
This is from Mrs. Wesley's account, dated August 27, 1726:
Upon my looking under the bed, something ran out pretty much like a badger, and seemed to run directly under Emily's petticoats, who sat opposite to me on the other side. I went out; and one or two nights after, when we were just got to bed, I heard nine strokes, three by three, on the other side of the bed, as if one had struck violently on a chest with a large stick. Mr. Wesley leapt up, called Hetty, who was up in the house, and searched every room in the house, but to no purpose (p. 156).
Several of the other accounts also mention the appearance of something like a badger -- sometimes a headless one! -- and also a white rabbit. I have not quoted all of these, since my main concern is the knocks.
The Rev. Mr. Hoole, a houseguest, also briefly mentions the pattern of three knocks:
Quickly it was in the nursery, at the bed's head, knocking as it had done at first, three by three (p. 160).
John Wesley notes:
The first time my mother ever heard any unusual noise at Epworth was long before the disturbance of old Jeffrey. My brother, lately come from London, had one evening a sharp quarrel with my sister Sukey, at which time, my mother happening to be above in her own chamber, the doore and windows rung and jarred very loud, and presently several distinct strokes, three by three, struck. -- From that night it never failed to give notice in much the same manner against any signal misfortune, or illness of any belonging to the family (p. 162).
Just as this phenomenon apparently began long before the main "Jeffrey" disturbances of December 1716 and January 1717, it seems to have continued long after. In a letter dated February 16, 1750 -- 34 years after the main disturbances -- the former Miss Emily Wesley (now Mrs. Harper) wrote to her brother John:
Another thing is, that wonderful thing, called by us, Jeffrey! You won't laugh at me for being superstitious, if I tell you how certainly that something calls on me against any extraordinary new affliction: but so little is known of the invisible world that I at least am not able to judge whether it be a friendly or an evil spirit (p. 164, italics in original).
I am quite certain that Mr. Strieber had no knowledge of the Wesley family's experience 270 years before his own. In all his books, he is always eager to point out parallels between modern encounter experiences and similar event occurring before what we think of as the "UFO era." If he had known of the nine knocks in Epworth, there is no way he would have failed to mention them in his books. Still less can we suppose that the Glenrock incident -- affecting a whole town of people, most of whom we may presume lacked any particular interest in paranormal footnotes in the history of Protestantism -- was in any way influenced or suggested by the Wesley story.
I have no idea what to make of these parallels at present. I merely document them for future reference.