EXCERPT FROM SECTION V, INTERVIEWING THE UFO WITNESS
by Dan Wright
5.1 THE INTERVIEW
The single most important aspect in the investigation of a UFO
report is the witness interview. Properly conducted, it can resolve
the incident as a case of mistaken identity or, conversely, lend
substance to a genuinely anomalous event. If handled poorly, the
interviewer might falsely infer a UFO presence or simply fail to
substantiate the real circumstance.
No single formula can be devised for arriving at the truth, for
every interview poses a unique set of circumstances. Still, adherence
to some basic tenets can greatly increase the chance of reaching a
Foremost among the principles of a proper interview is
objectivity. In preparing for, conducting, and evaluating the
interview session, the investigator must not allow value judgments to
color the witness statements or other factors in the case. For,
regardless of the person's age, education and profession, character
traits, or familiarity with the UFO subject, the claimed experience
may have been mistaken; it might be genuine; or it could be a
hoax. Any preconception as to the actual nature of a given report
makes one highly susceptible to errors in gathering the evidence.
A cornerstone of successful interviewing is the awareness that a
typical witness description comprises error-prone perceptions during
the event and (unintentional) selective recall thereafter. The
interview is usually the best single method of ferreting out the truth
of the matter.
The interview process begins prior to introductions in the home of
the witness. Without adequate preparation, valuable time is spent in
familiarizing oneself with the circumstance and deciding what
questions to ask. The result may be a wasted discussion omitting
essential points. A prepared investigator has a game plan to keep the
interview on course and explore every possibility.
Generally, some information about the case is available beforehand,
either from the client directly or via referral from a third party
(e.g. police agency). Related information is also obtainable from a
variety of sources to ascertain what potential explanations should be
5.3.1 Before embarking on the interview, if at all possible:
- Recontact the referring party to (a) determine whether anyone else
reported the same or a similar incident, and (b) obtain the person's
impressions of the witness when the initial contact was made.
- Initiate other collateral contacts to police, airport tower,
and/or military base personnel to identify aircraft near the site at
the time and other witnesses able to verify the observation.
- Contact the National Weather Service office (listed under
U.S. Department of Commerce in the telephone directory) for accurate
data on the cloud cover and ceiling, wind speed and direction,
visibility, temperature, and any atmospheric disturbances at the
time and location of the sighting.
- Visit the site (if not the home of the witness) to note factors in
the environment that might shed light on the report.
- Prepare a checklist of natural and man-made sources which might
(a) explain the event as a normal occurrence, or (b) otherwise have
affected the witness' sight or hearing in some manner.