The most important aspects of a ghost investigation
are the witness interview. In most haunting cases, the testimony of the
eyewitness will be the decision-maker in choosing what direction to go
with the ghost hunt. If the interview is handled correctly, the information
gathered can be very helpful in the rest of the investigation. You must
prepare for each interview before conducting it. Whether your interviewing
a total stranger or a member of your own family the same rules apply.
Before the interview begins there are some initial rules of ethics that
must be followed:
1. Never allow yourself to make a value judgment
of the eyewitness based solely on race, education, economic standing,
age, sex or any other external appearance.
2. Go into every interview believing that the witness is telling the truth.
3. Be open-minded and considerate of the witness's feelings.
4. Only make conclusions on the validity of the story after evaluating
the evidence gathered from the completed investigation.
5. Be prepared to keep the interview on track and explore every possibility,
natural and supernatural.
6. Always conduct yourself in a professional manner.
7. Your first key role in the interview is to making the witness feel
8. The better the witness feels about the interview the more likely they
will be to cooperate without story exaggeration.
9. Don't do late-evening interviews with a tired witness. Wait until there
is a better time and the witness is fully rested or the information you
receive may be incomplete.
Preparing for the Interview:
First, get the number of witnesses. If there is
more than one witness always do separate interviews. Each person sees
things from their own perspective and that's exactly what you want, each
witnesses own uncontaminated observations. If you do a group interview
there's always the chance that one person's testimony will influence the
next. Witnesses may feel pressured into saying that they experienced something
that they didn't, simply because the person before them said they did.
The only time that you should have the group of witnesses together is
when you return to the scene. Returning to the scene is not always a possibility.
Sometimes the witness will refuse or other circumstances just won't permit
it. If you are able to return to the scene this usually helps the witnesses
relive their experience more vividly and it will provide you with a better
visual picture of the details and events that occurred.
Don't pressure the witness to do the interview
or to return to the scene. You will run into individuals that seem willing
to cooperate, then disappear or back out at the last second. Some may
even change their minds in the middle of the interview.
That's one big reason to make the witness feel comfortable. If they feel
comfortable they'll be more likely to finish the full interview. However,
if they want to stop the interview and discontinue their arrangement with
you for any reason, then that's the end, the interview is over.
Always tell the witness that their names, addresses and other personal
information will remain private. Then stick to that statement. Never give
out a witness's personal information to anyone, for any reason, without
full permission. Interviewing a witness may be the hardest thing to do
during an investigation. As any law enforcement officer will tell you,
two witnesses rarely see the same incident in the exact
same way. Paranormal investigators run into the same situation but in
a different manner. In
our case, a witness will see and hear something frightening and something
they don't understand.
A witness should be handled in a careful and deliberate manner. They have
to be made to feel
comfortable with the investigation and the entire situation. The paranormal
is something completely bizarre to the ordinary person.
All interviews should be tape recorded unless the
witness objects. The recording allows you analyze the interview rather
than trying to write everything down. Let the witness know that the recordings
are only to ensure that the case file is accurate and that only other
investigators directly involved will have access to it.
Even if you tape the interview, take notes. Use them as points of discussion
to follow up on. The idea of the interview is to get as much useful information
Some witnesses will let you videotape the interview. This is even better
than audio recordings because it allows you to examine facial expressions
and body language, which can be very telling.
Conduct the interview in a relaxed, confusion free, atmosphere. Sit comfortably
in a well-lighted room at a table with only your video camera, tape recorder,
pen and a notepad. Make sure that any televisions or stereo systems are
turned off. Remove any other distractions and try to avoid interruptions.
Have the witness sit across from you. When the time feels right begin
The following are the procedures for a proper
interview with a witness.
1. Check all of the details of the account with
the witness and make sure that all of the outside facts are in order and
not just their immediate encounter. If they recall that it was raining
that night, check the weather conditions because if it wasn't, that might
not be the only problem with their memory.
2. Attempt to recreate the events if possible.
Place each witness in the same position they were in when the encounter
occurred. If they reported a strange noise, try to recreate that noise
by natural means and make sure the normal possibilities are ruled out.
3. Try to get a full and complete report of everything
4. Be careful when assessing this testimony. Being
careful is the best way to discover what really happened. You have to
make sure that you are objective when writing up your report.
Don't let yourself be influenced by information that you may have run
across in reading or research. Your assessment of the witness testimony
is imperative to the case. Is the witness believable? If you have any
doubts about what may have happened, you need to rule those out.
The following is a list of testimonial problems
that can occur with the witness
1. A witness may be totally unaware of how some
phenomena may occur. Check into the details... there may be something
natural about the house that is caused the lights to go on and off , ect..
2. Eyewitness testimony is not always what actually
happened... but what the witness believes to have happened. It is good
to find out ahead of time if the witness is already "sure" the
house is "haunted" or not. This kind of thinking can easily
sway their testimony.
3. A witness can be influenced by information you
give them. Be careful about what you say before the interview. Even joking
about paranormal events can be bad. You could laugh and say "that
sounds like a horror movie and the next thing you know, the witness is
reporting blood coming from the walls.
4. The witness may be mentally unstable. If this
is the case extricate the team from the predicament as politely as possible.
5. The witness may deliberately fabricate events.
This is a two-fold problem.... on one hand you have a person who has may
the whole thing up and on the other, a person who actually had a real
experience but can't recall all of the details, so they have "filled
in the blanks" with less honest information.
The interview must begin with the witness telling
their story from beginning to end without interruption. All questions
should be held off until the witness has finished recounting their full
story. During this initial retelling it's the interviewers job to be a
listener. Take notes. Write down any questions that you want to ask after
the witnesses retelling is over.
After the witness has finished telling their story
you may ask questions. The way you word the questions is extremely important.
Do not lead the witness! Most interviewers will do this without even knowing
it, and that's the real problem.
Questions in multiple-choice form or questions asking the witness to speculate
are incorrect and useless.
Here are some examples of questions that could occur in a typical interview.
Each question has two forms, a leading question and an open-end question.
Leading: Did you see an apparition, full body ghost
or a gray mist?
Open: What did you see?
Leading: Were you frightened?
Open: How did you feel?
Leading: Was the sound a banging or scratching?
Open: What kind of ordinary sound did it remind you of?
You can see the difference in the questions. The
leading questions make the witness feel that the only correct answers
are the ones offered in the question itself.
The open questions leave the witness free to give their exact observations
without the pressure that they may give some kind of incorrect answer.
Write out twenty or more typical questions and review them. Change them
so that they are open-ended questions. Make sure to practice! Like anything
else, good interviewing takes practice. Try your best not to ask a leading
question. This could corrupt the entire interview.
Some questions that you want to ask after the witnesses
· Where were you and what were you doing
at the time?
· What first caught you attention?
· What did you think it was at first?
· Describe the figure and/or any sounds, odors?
· During the account what were your actions or reactions?
· How did you feel?
· How did the account end?
· What were your reactions directly after this account?
Questions Involving Witness Sensory Perceptions:
A huge part of information from a witness will be
based on what they SAW, HEARD, FELT and SMELLED. You have the duty as
the interviewer to reasonably question the witness on the working ability
of any of their senses of perceptions.
Sense of Sight:
· Does the witness need eye glasses or contact
· If Yes: Were they worn at the time of the observation?
· What type of prescription? (Nearsighted/Farsighted)
· Is the witness colorblind?
· Are there any other physical eye problems?
Sense of Hearing:
Witnesses reporting hearing strange sounds must
be questioned about any hearing impairment or aids.
· Did the witness have any known hearing
· Does the witness use a hearing aid?
· If Yes: What kind of hearing aid? Was it worn at the time?
· Were they "actively" listening at the time?
It's also important to keep in mind that there
are numerous natural sources that create sound and strange noises. Wind
speed and direction can cause sound vibrations. Rusting trees, banging
shutters, broken pipes, animals scurrying, buzzing electric lines and
mechanical devices are all possible sources for sound misinterpretations.
Sense of Smell:
Strange odors are common in supernatural cases. Every odor needs to be
identified and cataloged along with the exact time and area.
Does the witness have a good sense of smell?
During the account what were your actions or reactions?
Was there a smell involved with the phenomena? If so, how would you describe
it? Strong or faint? Did you recognize the smell?
How did you feel?
What were your reactions directly after this experience?
Sense of Touch:
Falling into this category are sensations of tingling, numbness, levitation,
paralysis, confronting unseen barriers, as well as physical attacks.
Did the apparition make any physical contact with
any witness? If Yes: What kind of contact?
Could the feeling felt been natural? (Hair standing up, Goosebumps, etc.)
FINAL NOTES ON INTERVIEWING
After the interviews are complete find out if any witness has photos or
video evidence of the account. If they do, ask to get copies. If they
don't have visual proof, give them a piece of drawing paper and ask them
to draw and label exactly what they saw. They don't have to be artists.
Attach all the information gathered to the final report.
Don't confuse the witness with a bunch of "jargon"
that they would not understand. If you intimidate the witness you will
not get the best account. The witness may feel that they need to exaggerate.
Don't try to answer witness questions that you have no way of knowing,
regardless of your conclusions. These types of questions might be:
· Will this happen again?
· Will it come back?
· Am I safe?
· Why did this happen to me?
· What does this mean?
· Why is this happening?
No matter how confidant you feel the right thing
to do is politely decline to answer and explain to the witness that your
answers would only be speculation.
If you're able, try to interview the witnesses two or three different
times. Conduct an interview at least once at the beginning and once again
at the end of the investigation. The reason is to look for any inconsistencies
that may pop up in the story. If there are inconsistencies that doesn't
mean that the witness is lying, but they are important to note. Plus,
you should take note if anything else has happened to them during the
course of your ghost hunt.
In the ghost-hunting field you will run into people
who lie, want attention, publicity, or have some other ulterior motive
for coming forward with supernatural stories. Some people may even be
emotionally troubled to the point of mental illness. On the other hand,
you will meet people with genuine, real life supernatural experiences.
It will be up to you to determine which stories are credible and worthy
of a ghost hunt.
Questions For the Witness
Let the Witness know ahead of time that they do not have to answer any
question that they feel uncomfortable with or questions that they feel
are too personal. Let them know that the more information they give you
the better your chances will be of finding out what happened. Never try
to force a witness to answer these or any other questions.
· How many witnesses were present? List their full names.
· Where did the sighting occur?
· What was the exact date?
· What was the exact time?
· What were the weather conditions like that day?
· What were the weather conditions like during the time of the
· Was there any visible lightning or did you hear thunder?
· Was there any form of precipitation? (Rain, snow, hail, fog,
· Was there any kind of electrical problems before, during or after
· Was there any kind of temperature variation before, during or
after the sighting?
· Can you describe the apparition?
· How far away from the apparition were you?
· Did the apparition cast a shadow?
· Did the apparition manipulate or move any objects?
· Did the apparition make eye contact with you?
· Did the apparition acknowledge your presence in anyway? If yes,
· Did the apparition speak to you?
· If yes, what exactly did it say?
· Did the apparition move? If yes, explain.
· Could you see through the apparition?
· Was the apparition wearing clothes? If yes, explain, describe.
· How long was the apparition visible?
· Where you sleeping before the sighting?
· Where you tired before the sighting?
· Did you call out for help or scream during the sighting?
· Did you recognize the apparition?
· Did you attempt to speak or communicate with the apparition?
· Where you able to shot a picture or video of the apparition?
· Did you attempt to move closer to the apparition?
· What do you believed happened?
· Have you ever experienced anything similar before?
· Do you know of anyone that has experienced anything similar?
· Where there any animals present at the time of the sighting?
If yes, list them.
· What were the animal's reactions?
· How did the animals act during the course of that day?
· How did the animals act after the sighting?
· Did any objects break before, during or after the sighting? If
yes, explain, describe.
· Was there a psychical or sexual attack by the apparition? If
· Did you hear any abnormal sounds? If yes, what did they sound
· Did you hear any abnormal voices? If yes, what did they sound
like and say?
· Did anything else usual happen?