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 sound conclusion.

5.2 PERSPECTIVE

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.

5.3 PREPARATION

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 pursued.

5.3.1 Before embarking on the interview, if at all possible:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Visit the site (if not the home of the witness) to note factors in the environment that might shed light on the report.

  5. 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.