Saturday, March 5, 2011
Interviewing witnesses is the key to a successful investigation. The information gathered from the eye witness will generally determine what direction is necessary for conducting a proper evaluation of the reported claims. The information must be obtained properly in order to be useful throughout the entire investigation. Personal relationships or general differences should never be allowed to contaminate the interview.
Before any interviewing can begin get the number of witnesses. If there is more than one always conduct separate interviews. The reason for this is to be able to have the witness relive in detail what they experienced without being influenced by other witnesses testimony. The interviewing process only works if the individuals are willing to cooperate. Always insure the witnesses that their identities and other personal information will remain confidential. At no point should anyone be asked for their date of birth, social security number, or banking information during the assessment. It is the interviewer's responsibility to retrieve as much uncontaminated testimony from the witness as possible. Also, keep in mind that ordinary people who have just had a paranormal experience usually are frightened and should be handled carefully. If they are made to feel comfortable they will be more likely to agree to be interviewed. At any point, the witness may request to stop the interview. If this does occur, respect their wishes and ask to do a follow up at a later date.
The interview must take place in a confusion free environment. Make sure the witness is seated comfortable in a well lit area. If the witness gave their consent to be recorded\videotaped during the interview, you will be able to reference the data for body language and examine facial expressions that will aid you in your final conclusion for the written report.
The interview will begin with the witness telling you what they viewed during the event. Its the interviewer's job to listen and not interrupt the witness while taking detailed notes. All questions should be asked after the witness is finished telling you what they experienced. Your questions should be based on the witnesses paranormal experience, nothing else.
After the witness is finished recounting the event, it is the interviewers responsibility to get the details in order, but first you need to understand what the details are. Each witness has their own unique sense of perception. This means that a huge part of information from the witness will be based on what they SAW, HEARD, FELT, and SMELLED. So in order to gain a better perspective on the details in the witness account, your questions should target their perception of the event.
The questions below are designed for this purpose:
1. How many occupants at location:
2. Occupants names and ages
3. Occupants rent or own
4. Time of occupancy at the location
5. How many rooms in the site
6. Age of the site:
7. How many previous owners (if known):
8. History of site: (tragedies, deaths, previous complaints)
9. How many pets
10. Has there been any recent remodeling (if so, what and where):
11. Is anyone on prescribed medication (anxiety, depression, pain, etc)
12. Is anyone using illegal drugs
13. Is anyone drink alcohol heavily
14. Are you interested in the occult
15. Are you currently seeing a psychiatrist or in therapy
16. Is anyone with frequent or unexplained illnesses
17. Has there been any media involvement
18. Have there been any other witnesses
19. Have there been any odors:
20. Describe to me what you felt
21. Describe to me what you heard
22. Has there been any movement of objects
23. Describe to me what you saw
24. Have there been any uncommon cold or hot spots:
25. Have there been any problems with electrical appliances:
26. Have there been any problems with plumbing:
27. Are you having trouble sleeping
28. Have there been any physical contact
29. Are your pets being affected
30. Describe the first occurrence of the phenomena
31. Who first witnessed the phenomena:
32. What time was the first occurrence of the phenomena:
33. What is the witness's reaction during the phenomena:
34. Were there any other witnesses during the first event:
35. How long is the average duration of the phenomena:
36. How often does the phenomena occur:
37. Do you feel the phenomena is threatening?
38. What do you believe is happening?
39. Does everyone agree on what is happening?
40. What would you like to see accomplished from our visit?
Tips and Techniques for Interviewing Witnesses
Always conduct yourself in a professional manor
Your key role in the interview is to show compassion and make the witness as comfortable as possible
Pressuring or badgering a witness, will only result in misinformation
Gaining the trust and confidence of the witness, will ensure more accurate results
Never allow yourself to believe the witness is lying during the interview
Judgment of an eyewitness solely based on race, education, economic standing, sex, age, or appearance, is unethical and also unprofessional
Always explore every possibility when conducting interviews, keep an open mind, never make a conclusion before all the evidence is gathered and the investigation has been completed
In general, the majority of paranormal claims reported have a logical explanation. That is why doing the initial walk through of an alleged haunted location, gives the investigator time to sort through the details and take a reasonable approach to discovering what is factual and what is not.
Unfortunately, you are going to meet eyewitnesses that love to cry wolf. Some do it intentionally while others feel the need to exaggerate. A good way to be sure you are receiving accurate information is by reinventing what the witness said to you. For example, the witness: "The lights were turning on and off, and I heard a voice say "Hey, you!". Interviewer: "Ok the lights were flickering, your dog was barking, and you were sure the voice said "Hey, you!" ?". If the witness agrees and continues you are going to realize phantoms are not the only problem.
Before, during, and after the interview, be careful what you say to the witness. You should never discuss any other paranormal events outside of what the witness has experienced. Do not give them any ideas.
Uptain the witness consent before recording or taping. Consent is needed whether this is to be done by phone or in person. Recording or taping a witness without their consent is unethical and even illegal in some states.