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Interviewing

Once you find an actual witness, you will want to interview him or her. I prefer to write to the witness first to set up an interview at a convenient time, but it may be easier to just phone and ask for an interview. If you do phone, be sure you have some questions clearly written out beforehand. The impression you make on the witness will determine how much you'll get from the interview, so politeness is extremely important. If you are conducting the interview in person, ask if you can tape record the conversation. This is much easier than trying to write down everything the witness says.

Ask the witness to describe the incident in his or her own words. Find out whether others witnessed it, and to whom the incident was reported. (You can always write for information on investigations done by police or wildlife officers.) Assure the witness that you will keep names confidential, but ask if you can give names to other investigators who will also maintain the confidentiality.

When you finish with the interview, ask the witness to fill out the report form. That will leave a permanent record of the sighting. If a videotape or photographs were taken by the witness, ask if you can make a copy of them. Just don't publish a witness' photograph without their written permission.

 

Evaluating Witnesses

This isn't an easy task. Every witness must be carefully evaluated. Yes, listen to everything they say. Even an unreliable witness may tell you something of value. Just weigh everything carefully. A witness may be prone to error or may be trying to pull off a hoax.

Misidentifications are much more common than lies. Analyzing reports may show a deviation in recognized patterns, so there are a few things to keep in mind while you are conducting an interview.

  • Does the witness seem to want publicity? (Has the witness already contacted the media?)
  • Does the witness have any prior knowledge of cryptozoology?
  • Does the witness seem prone to exaggeration?
  • Does the witness remain faithful to the story throughout the interview? (Or when telling the story to different people?)

None of these questions will prove that a witness can't be trusted. Shock, pressure, fear of negative publicity, or an active imagination can all color a witness' reaction. Try to understand the witness' point of view. Here is a chance encounter that has brought the witness to a point where he or she must decide "Did I actually see what I thought I saw?" How the witness answers that question is a determining factor in the story that is told.

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