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W-File: ms _arena.html

Type: Miscellaneous
Date: 1981
Location: Arena, Wisconsin

Source: Madison, WI Wisconsin State Journal, August 26, 1981

Legend of Knight Hollow: Beeps in the night

It's quiet now in the hills that close in around Knight Hollow Road in rural Arena, but for a while there, things got a little curious.

It wasn't haunted or anything like that, said Helen Knight, but still, "we never said anything to anybody, they would think we were a couple of loonies, you know?"

First there were the sounds, a sort of intense beep-beep-beep, coming from across the field behind the house, juas past the old flag pole that may have once been onsite, from a hollow, late at night.

Mrs. Knight's husband, Burdett, mentioned it to some buddies in nearby Arena, and some called out to listen, and for a while it was a conversation topic at the Sandbar Tavern in Arena about 30 miles west of Madison.

So then the theories started.

"It sort of roused these young boys from town," she said. "They thought it was some sort of foreign object maybe, they thought they were going to find some space thing or something."

There were other theories. Some thought the noise was made by a large piece of earth-moving machinery working late at night in the thick woods, making a beeping noise that some equipment makes.

But no, there wasn't any machinery, and the beeping continued until some guys from Arena decided to check out Burdett's tall tale.

"We've had people up here listening for it" Mrs. Knight said, "but these boys, Ronnie Miller and his brother, came up from Arena and took their flashlight and went up on the hill."

"They said they scared something up, must have been a bird, and they figured it was a whippoorwill," she said.

"If it is, we've got one that whips, and doesn't will," she said with a hearty laugh, "it sure would be interesting to find out."

Jeff Baylis, a zoologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also suspects that a bird is the key to the nocturnal noises on Knight Hollow Road.

"Yes, it could be a whippoorwill making a partial call," Baylis said, explaining that even the "whip-poor-will" call is actually five notes instead of three.

Or it could be a type of bird that imitates sounds, he said, though the prospect of a bird camping out and learning the call of an earth-mover is unlikely.

Baylis said a more probable answer is the nighthawk, also called a "goatsucker", or "nightjar". (The goatsucker handle comes by way of the myth that the birds were thought to suck milk from goats.)

He described the nighthawk call as a "beepy-type buzz", which fits the description provided by Mrs. Knight.

Also, the nighthawk, though normally nesting in cities, is a relative of the whippoorwill, and makes its beeps at night.

But Burdett Knight said he had never heard anything like it and he has been on his farm for 60 years.

"I've never heard a nighthawk," he said. "Could be, could be. Maybe the whippoorwill just picked up a buddy over the winter or something. I wasn't too alarmed, just curious, you know. No use getting excited by it."

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