UFO Investigations- Obtaining Evidence
Regardless of what type of case you get, all begin with a witness interview. From this you can determine the direction your case will proceed. If there are multiple witnesses, treat each as a separate case, interviewing them apart from each other. Minimize the contact between them to the extent possible. As you interview do not give any of your opinions, save that for the conclusion phase of the investigation. Whenever possible interview the witness face to face to better assess their responses and help in determining their credibility. Do they maintain eye contact with you? Are they nervous? Pay attention to their body language. Much as we would like to believe everyone is truthful, as an investigator you need to be aware that there are people out there who do hoax reports and will fabricate stories. You can't be judgmental before hearing them, but on the other hand why waste time with an obvious hoax?
Begin the interview process by obtaining the basic information about the witness and the sighting. A General Report form is often helpful here. Have the witness complete the form, which should include at a minimum the following responses:
- Witness name and address
- Establish a confidentiality level regarding what may be disclosed to others
- A basic description of what was seen, lights, sounds, etc.
- Date and Time of sighting
- Where it was observed from, (outside, through glass, from car, etc.)
- Weather conditions at the time of the sighting
- Any other witnesses present? (If so, treat each as a separate case.)
- Significant nearby structures. (Malls, highways, power plants, towers, etc.)
- Any samples retrieved? If so, list
- Any previous sightings similar to this one?
- Has the witness discussed this with anyone else? (Neighbor, reporters, authorities?)
- The narrative portion of the report.
The narrative section is the most important. Generally it is recommended that the witness complete it at his leisure, since this where most of the detail is documented. The witness should document everything he recalls regarding the sighting. That includes what was seen, heard, smelled, felt, and even his emotional responses such as fear, happiness, or confusion. The detail here will comprise the bulk of the evidence, so it is advisable to obtain whatever you can.
It is usually recommended to have the witness complete the General Report form as soon after the sighting as possible while details are fresh and the chance of others influencing his story is minimal. In any event, the report should be completed and the researcher read through it before conducting the face to face interview.
Most UFO cases consist of little more than a witness description of the event. The report form and witness narrative make up the bulk of this data so it is important to assure that it is accurate and complete. This was covered in detail under the "Methods" Topic, so I won't repeat it here.
Once you have read through the initial narrative, you can use the data to draw out additional details. Care must be used not to "Lead" the witness, but also watch for discrepancies between his face to face comments and what he put in the narrative. If you find a disparity ask for details to clarify it. The discrepancy does not necessarily mean the witness is fabricating the story but it does require closer scrutiny. Sometimes its not a matter of fabrication but simply remembering details previously overlooked. As an investigator you need to sort through these points and use your judgment to arrive at the truth.
In the cases of any physical evidence there are some factors that must be considered to insure the evidence is untainted and that a trail is provided to prevent any opportunity to hoax the data. In addition, weather or any conditions which may have altered the evidence should be noted and made a part of the investigation data. This should take into account anything from the time of the occurrence up until the time of your field investigation.
Once the area can be entered safely, it should be done as promptly as possible to prevent either contamination of the sample or possible danger to the witness. Photographic records should be made of the entire area as the search for evidence goes on. If anything is found it should be photographed before any attempt is made to move it. The investigator should have available clean containers which can be sealed to hold any specimens. Any material recovered should be considered hazardous until proven otherwise. The investigator should wear protective gloves when handling any specimens both to protect himself and also to prevent contamination of the sample. The witness retains ownership of the sample unless he specifically says otherwise. Therefore the investigator should give a receipt to the witness before removing any samples for study. If destructive testing is to be performed, the witness must be made aware that his sample may be destroyed before such testing is carried out.
In the case of imprints or tracks, these should be photographed individually and as a group if that is applicable. Plaster casts may be made if conditions warrant it. Soil moisture content and compaction should be tested and noted in order to determine the approximate weight of whatever made the impression. Also take note of any vegetation which has been broken or bent over. Samples may be taken of this as well.
The entire investigation should be logged for tracking purposes. Every person present should initial samples at the time they are sealed. No person should be left alone with the samples at any time until they are sealed. No matter how good the evidence, debunkers will call it a hoax just because the opportunity existed, not because it actually is hoaxed. It's best to have answers when those questions come up. An uninterrupted evidence trail will ensure no unanswered questions.