Alien Sight Investigation Manual

This manual is based on the Italian Third Edition of the UFO Investigation Methodology Manual. Adaptations and updates have been applied during translation.

This manual is now available as a free e-book:

1 Introduction

UFO and alien encounter research activity can be broken down as follows:

  • Data collection through interviews with the witness(es) of a sighting.
  • Report write-out of the inquiries (Investigation Report)
  • Initial analysis of the reports to identify the phenomenon (evaluation)
  • Subsequent studies

Data collection through investigation is crucial because all following activity is based on it. Therefore the system used to collect the information cannot be improvised, but requires a specific method which must be followed by the investigator. The purpose of this manual is to illustrate the suggested methods of Alien Sight relative to investigating and reporting UFO phenomena.

To better clarify the chosen procedures, we shall explore an epistemological overview of the question.


With great simplification, we can outline a case as follows:

1.1 The phases of a case

In order to set up a method, we need to distinguish the various phases which concur in a UFO case.

  • Sighting: The visual perception of an unidentified aerial phenomenon by a witness. The phenomenon could be caused by conventional causes (aircraft, stars, meteors etc.) not recognized by the witness (IFO or Identified Flying Objects), or remain unidentified even after evaluation. (UFO).
  • Story: The witness recounts the sighting experience to others.
  • Report: Someone collects the story and transcribes it. In a broader sense any written account of a sighting is a report (even a newspaper article); in a stricter sense a report is a written account carried out by a competent UFO investigator.

It is evident that this chart is not always applicable: Not all sightings are recounted, not all stories are collected and written down by someone. There are a number of stories which are not connected to any phenomena (False cases). The overview is nonetheless useful to illustrate the majority of cases which are submitted to us. From the chart we can spot some important conclusions:

It is clear that the object of UFO research is given by the causes or phenomena of the sightings, with particular attention to those causes which remain unidentified after evaluation (Genuine UFOs) But the phenomena are not directly accessible to the investigator. Unless he/she is directly involved in the sighting, an indirect study, based on the stories of occasional witnesses is the only possible procedure.

To be more precise said study is based on reports, which are the only available data for the researcher. The activity of collecting and transcription of the witness's story operated by the investigator must be organized so as to obtain and present the necessary information for the analysis of the phenomenon.

Experience has furthermore proven that information is modified at each step of the chart (the blurry arrows) due to various factors, physical, psychological or social, which can bring about loss or even relevant alteration of the informative content of the case. This is the principal problem among those involved in UFO investigation. It will therefore be analyzed more thoroughly in the next section.

1.1.1 Sighting

A first series of alterations already takes place in the first phase, that of the sighting, and can depend on the qualities both of the phenomenon and of the environment, all the way to factors related to perception.

The particular conditions of visibility (light, distance, atmospheric distortions), the shape, the angle under which the phenomenon is observed, the duration of the sighting and a whole range of physical factors are one of the principal reasons why what the witness perceives (the "proximal stimulus", i.e. the optical information which reaches him) and the actual phenomenon (the "distal object") are different. Other alterations may arise from the medium of observation (air, glass, lenses) and the physiologic perception system (eye, nerves, brain).

To these "physical" causes one must add different psychological causes of alteration of the sensory input during perception, immediate re-elaboration and memorization. (A detailed illustration of all these factors will be developed in later issues.)

1.1.2 The Witness's story

A second series of alterations takes place in the following phase of story-relating, first and foremost language problems, i.e. verbalization of the memory of the experience, which actually consists in a "translation", not always faithful, due to the difficulty (common to many daily experiences, but especially evident in events outside of common experience) to render the fact into words.

The witness carries out an additional unconscious reprocessing, partially caused by the time interval between the perception and the recollection, and partially by the attempt to rationalize the content adapting it to personal beliefs (so as to make it fit in a personal view of the world) There are many cases where UFOs have been described as "Angelic presences" or "Flying demons".

To the "psychological" causes above described, a "social" cause of alteration is added, produced by the interaction with third parties. The witness finds himself/herself in the position of relating the story also based on what he wants or doesn't want the listener to think of him/her. This generates an additional rationalization aimed "outside" (mostly focused on the elimination of particularly "strange" and of all which could appear incoherent or unbelievable). Also, between speaker and listener there is full interaction. It is never a one-way flow of information from witness to listener, but also feedback from the listener to the witness, in the form of comments, questions, interruptions and even just gestures, nods and other non-verbal behavior, based on which each of the interlocutors reacts.

Take note that this phase is the one which the investigator must work most on, who also knows it is impossible to eliminate the altering effects of the previous phase (sighting), but can, during the interview, minimize his influence on the witness's story, or at least behave so as to be able to reconstruct this influence in a later moment in order to reconstruct the original experience of the witness as closely as possible.

Some techniques are illustrated in the manual section dedicated to the interview.

1.1.3 The Report

Also when filing the report some data will be altered, this time only originating from the relating investigator. For this reason it is a good idea to pay special attention to how the passage from story to report is carried out and thus limit the data distortion to nearly zero.

Practically speaking, the investigator becomes himself/herself a witness (auditory/visual) of the story, and so all the data loss and alteration causes discussed earlier turn up a second time: the conditions under which the interview took place, the personal relationship with the witness, a reorganization of data based on personal beliefs and on how the story was received, the effect of the time passed between the interview and the write-out of the report, some effects known in pedagogy such as the "authority effect" (the more authority the investigator has on the subject, the more severe his judgment will tend to be), the "halo effect" (prejudice towards a specific type of case, based on previous experiences), the "contrast effect" (caused by an exaggeration in the comparison with a previously examined case), the so called "logical error") or the influence of personal prejudicial factors (education, politeness/impoliteness of the witness, age, social status and even sex).

Bear in mind that in practice it is in this phase that some of the worst alterations of information have been verified, especially when the raw obtained data is not kept separate from the comments and opinions of the reporting investigator. Therefore special attention will be applied in the section of the manual dedicated to reporting.

1.2 Ethical Rules

Also on the moral plane the investigation on UFO sightings is laden with obstacles: sensitivity, sense of ridicule and the lack of legitimation which surround the topic and those who deal with it make caution and precise behavior rules necessary.

For these reasons Alien Sight must adopt a moral code already devised by English scholars and adopted in Europe by associations of different nations. The code, which (will be published in this website) deals both with the relationship with witnesses, colleagues and the general public.

Here are just a few extracts of some of the moral guidelines to which one should adhere:

  • Not just for the legal regulations regarding privacy, but also to safeguard the peace and good name of the witnesses, their personal data is not publicable and can be communicated for study purposes to other associations with the sole written consent of the witnesses themselves. Exceptions are historical studies where it is possible to fully mention the data based on past sources. The maintaining of the most adamant privacy for witnesses is also the best guarantee for the freedom of judgement of the researchers who can, this way, express reserve on the trustworthiness of a story without attacking anyone's honorability.
  • It isn't possible to accept requests of the press or tv-radio to invite to public talk-shows the witnesses whose identities are known by Alien Sight. In other words, the ethical ufologist will not be the "agent" of people who affirm to have seen a UFO, even if they themselves agree to appear publicly.
  • As agreed, all the Alien Sight duties performed for Alien Sight by its members are free of charge and not remunerable.
  • Due to the controversial nature of the field and of the scientific and legal status of this practice, Alien Sight repeals the use of regressive hypnosis on UFO sighting witnesses.

1.3 General Considerations

Summarizing what has been stated above, UFO research has the objective of determining and studying the causes of UFO sightings, causes which are to be found at the beginning of the "information chain" made up of the various phases, but starting from the investigation reports, which are at the end of the chain.

Reconstructing the phases must be therefore possible for the researcher who studies the reports, trying to separate and eliminate the various alterations of the information which can be introduced in each phase.

This is why the investigation and subsequent report must be carried out so as to minimize the alterations generated by the investigator (and if possible also those generated by the witness while relating his/her story), allowing the researcher who will analyze the report to reconstruct the case in the best possible way.

With time we have learnt more and more about the relevant data needed to study UFO phenomena, about the alterations which get introduced during the various phases and the methodology to adopt "on the field".

It is not, as you can guess, a simple task, a hobby for amateurs of the unusual. On the contrary, it is something extremely complex and delicate, which requires a good theoretical preparation and a certain dose of practical experience. The reward? Being there when the mysterious shroud is finally lifted.

In fact UFO investigation is an atypical practice: The duty of the ufologist is in some respects similar to both that of a journalist, a psychologist and especially of a policeman.

A certain fluency of expression and ability in dealing with others without inhibition is required. Eyes and ears for attention and the ability to summarize, as well as a little critical sense are also needed. But, as noted, all these qualities, albeit necessary, are not sufficient to form an investigator: only with experience you gain the ability to perform investigations and only experience can suggest the best techniques and methods for each occasion.

The hope is that this manual will be of help for an initial general training.

2 The Interview

2.1 The Initial Contact with the Witness

The initial contact with the witness can happen in different ways. If the ufologist has done well with public relations, the witness himself might contact him or his collaborators. More often it's the investigator who contacts the witness after receiving news of the sighting through friends in common or after being informed by police or some journalist (if agreements have been made to receive notifications from these sources when such events happen), or reading it in the newspaper or seeing it on television. Sighting news is also sent to websites, blogs, mailing lists and forums of UFO groups or single researchers.

Every sighting notification reaching the investigator through any channel should be investigated and be the object of a report. In most cases speed is important, to avoid distortion or fading of the memory of the event with the passing of time. The ideal would be for the investigation to take place within the 24 hours following the sighting. In any case all efforts should be made not to let more than a week go by.

The fundamental problem is the identification of at least one of the witnesses. In many cases the exploration of the case is blocked at the origin by total anonymity of the witness. In most cases, anyway, a skilled investigator is able to trace the identity of the witnesses in some way.

The first contact with the witness can take place by phone. If a phone number is not available then by letter or, where possible, by e-mail are the alternatives for the first approach. It's a good idea, anyhow, to seek direct contact with the witness through which the role of UFO researcher and the interest in obtaining an interview for the data relative to the sighting can be explained.

In some cases the investigator can go directly and without notice to the home of the witness. It would be much better, though, whenever possible, to make an advance phone call (both not to irritate the witness and to avoid not finding anyone at home, especially after covering long distances).

Therefore we shall generally consider the procedures to follow on the phone, referring where necessary to other methods.

2.1.1 Telephone Approach

The first approach towards the witness is essential; care should be taken to be respectful and kind.

Both on the phone and in person (and also via mail) it is good practice for the investigator to identify himself/herself immediately, providing ID and providing reasons for his/her interest in the witness's experience with honest and simple words. If the investigator starts acting mysterious it may alarm or disturb the witness into not providing all information.

Sometimes you may run into distrust on the side of the witness, especially in rural areas. In a few cases the witness already has been contacted by other researchers, journalists, curious people or assorted fanatics and amateurs. The impression which may arise isn't always positive, and often in this case the witness will refuse to cooperate. By phone or in person you can gently insist, clarifying the scientific nature of the study which is at the base of the interviewer's interest, specifying you are not journalists and reassuring them the interview will be carried out privately, guaranteeing full compliance of privacy regulations, starting from anonymity. It can be useful to reassure them you will listen without concluding they are mad, and that in fact the witness can be useful to those who seriously study this phenomenon and also to other witnesses whose stories we hope, some day, will be vindicated. The offer to redirect all future enquiries and investigations about the sighting to the investigator is often well received.

This attitude is usually successful in convincing the witness to cooperate. It is obviously impossible to be too generic, and every time it is up to the investigator to evaluate the reactions of the witness and act accordingly. In any case kindness, good manners, politeness are always to be employed, even in the event of a complete refusal by the witness to cooperate. In a few of these cases it has been proven useful not to insist, but to leave the investigator's contact information, asking to call in case of a change of heart or of new sightings.

If there are no obstacles, in the event of a personal visit the interview usually begins immediately. In case of an initial phone contact it is necessary to go through two further steps: Obtaining a quick summary of the event and, second step, eventually organizing a meeting.

Firstly already during this first contact it's a good idea to fully identify the witness and possible other witnesses (name and surname, address, phone number, age, job, education); then the sighting data, meaning time and date, starting location, development and conclusion of the sighting, description of the phenomenon (with special attention to shape, color, size, geographic direction and angular elevation) and temporal succession of the events.

The best way to do this without influencing the witness is to follow the same procedure we will describe when outlining the personal interview: First listen to a short version of the sighting without interrupting, then ask a few questions:

  • apparent size of the object if it were placed next to the full moon (or a star or other known bodies): how much bigger or smaller;
  • approximate direction in which the witness saw the object (using east and west for reference, i.e. the rising and setting of the sun, or even better asking where the sun or moon were with respect to the witness observing the object);
  • aspect of the object (shape, color, luminosity);
  • angular height an approximation between the object and the horizon;
  • possible presence of other effects

2.1.2 The Meeting

In case it is necessary to carry on with the investigation, a meeting should be agreed upon with the witnesses, letting them choose place, date and time. Bear in mind though what has been said earlier regarding the urgency and quickness needed in collecting the data, which are proportional to the "strangeness" of the case.

Meeting the witnesses in their home is generally better, both to let them feel as comfortable as possible, and to better understand their personality by observing their environment, relatives, books read etc.

It is also useful to reconstruct the event on the spot where it took place. This sometimes coincides with the house of the witness, but not usually. The details of the sighting location should be discussed with the witnesses when first contacting them, together with their consent (even during a further meeting) to perform an inspection on location, although this isn't always possible.

Regarding the duration of the interview, it is wise to plan a good lapse of time in order not to be forced to break off in the middle of it. An hour is generally enough; in any case less than half an hour is not enough to carry out something worthy of the title of investigation.

Especially when a certain lapse of time passes (more than 24 hours) from initial contact to interview and even more importantly from sighting to interview, the investigator should press the witness to immediately write down everything that can be still remembered, in order to preserve as fresh a memory as possible of the event, and in any case to immediately make a drawing of the phenomenon.1.

It will also be wise to specify how many investigators will take part in the meeting and clarify that, in case of more than one witness, it is essential for each one to be interviewed separately and for none to be present during another one's interview. This is usually not welcomed by witnesses, who suspect their accounts are being doubted. The investigator's duty is to find the right words in order not to upset them into a defensive mood.2

2.1.3 Contact by Letter

If possible, initial contact by letter should be avoided, due to the time passing before an answer is delivered, and of course the uncertainty of an answer.

For the same reasons, an investigation carried out exclusively via regular mail is not advisable. But in case this is inevitable (a witness with no telephone or computer, living in a distant or difficultly reachable area, with no fellow investigators available nearby), we suggest the use of questionnaires or forms, in order to make sure the witness reports all the information needed to file the case. The questionnaire used by Alien Sight can be found in the "Documents" section. To encourage a reply from the witness the letters should include pre-addressed and stamped envelopes to send the questionnaire back, accompanied by a letter of introduction.

2.1.4 Contact by E-mail

If an E-mail address is all that is available, and a full investigation is not possible, it is possible to email the questionnaire to the witness, or to provide a link to the online questionnaire (work in progress), asking for clarification or more detail in following e-mails. It will be in any case a good idea to ask for a phone number to collect - where necessary - a live interview with the witness.

2.2 Direct Interview

Punctuality at the meeting can be fundamental. In case of a delay the witness should be informed. An excessive delay, which involves rescheduling the interview could discourage the witness from further cooperation.

Naturally it is necessary to stay within the given time limit for the interview. In case time runs short, the investigator should make sure the witness is favorable to extending the meeting a little longer, otherwise he should try and get a new appointment.

2.2.1 Presentation

Some maintain that the investigator should be dressed accordingly to the kind of person being interviewed: Suit and tie for intellectual, educated witnesses; sporty clothes if in the suburbs; work clothes in rural areas. There are times when dressing this way can yield advantages, contributing in making the witness feel comfortable. It is generally a good idea to be reasonably well dressed in any case.3

Generally it is a good idea for each interview to take place in the presence of two investigators. In any case more than two should be avoided since this would create confusion. The job of the first enquirer is to converse with the witness, carefully following the story and trying to second him/her and create a comfortable situation, without interrupting or excessively encouraging but showing (even by simply nodding) interest and trust. The first enquirer should only take mental note of the story and of the witness's answers, while the second one should take notes. It is best if only one of the two asks questions, in order not to disorient or jump on the witness. The second enquirer, being able to follow the interview in a more detached manner and take note of lacking or unclear information, can intervene after the first has concluded.

In the case of a female witness it would be good for at least one of the two investigators to be of the same sex or that the investigator, if male, show up accompanied by a woman, always with the objective to make the witness feel at ease.

2.2.2 Interviewer Behavior

There are no universally valid and fixed rules because every sighting and every witness have peculiar characteristics, different from case to case. But there are several general principles to take into account in any case.

The interviewer's attitude during the investigation must be open in the broader sense of the term: both skepticism and strong assent should be avoided while listening to the witness's story. Other similar cases should never, ever be mentioned.

The objective of the interview is to obtain information regarding the event and determine the credibility of the witness; to ascertain if the event did or didn't take place, and if it did determine what the witness actually saw.

The investigator absolutely mustn't give way to evaluation or comments. All data must be collected before compromising himself in favor of a specific explanation or the unexplicability of the event. In any case, as a general rule, it is best for the investigator not to express any opinion to the witness, even though it is correct to ask if the witness would be interested in being informed of a possible identification if this were to come up during the study of the case.

2.2.3 Problems with Witnesses

Bear in mind that the witnesses could have problems expressing themselves, or be intimidated, be incapable of drawing, provide information with strange and unwanted methods, including irrelevant information or skipping from one phase of the observation to another without following the logical order of events, gauge time and dimension wrongly, confusing minutes with seconds etc. : These facts are inherent with human nature and as such must be tolerated; the investigators must in fact do all they can to make witnesses feel at ease.

Some witnesses could be disturbed by the experience and insist in asking the investigator what they have seen. The investigator must do his best to tranquilize, but never compromising himself with judgements or discussing ufology and his/her own ideas with them. It is only possible to confirm that many people have been witnesses to strange events which have disturbed them, and that a conventional cause can often be identified, but other times it can't and we are led to the conclusion that it was an unidentifiable event, whose nature is unknown.

Always show courtesy and politeness to witnesses, thanking them for their time and cooperation. Leaving a calling card is usually a good idea asking to be informed if anything unusual happens or if the witnesses learn of any other sightings.

2.2.4 More than One Witness

When in the presence of more than one witness it is essential to proceed with separate interviews. A confrontation might be useful later, in order to clarify contradictions and allow other details to surface, yet initially it is necessary, or rather indispensable, to hear them separately. In some cases the witnesses live far away from each other and so things are simpler, although it will require more mobility from the investigator. Most of the time, though, the witnesses are members of the same family. They must be kept separated and keep them from influencing each other during the interview. The best option would be to interview them separately but at the same time (for example in separate rooms) but large numbers of interviewers aren't usually available. In these cases it can be useful to carry interview forms for the witnesses to fill in separately.

The best way to carry out an interview is to sit at a table with the witness, which allows for writing, drawing, sketching maps, etc.

2.2.5 Caution

The investigator must take care not to put words in the witness's mouth, nor suggest answers or ask "hinting questions" (which imply in their wording a preferred answer). An example question to avoid is "was it metallic in appearance?" a better question would be "what did it look like?". Hinting questions should only be used as a last resort, when unavoidable.

It is always better to ask questions which allow for a certain range of possibility, rather than just two opposing alternatives.

2.3 The Witness's Story

The interview is divided in two distinct parts which follow a specific order: the witness's relation of the sighting and the questioning of the witness. Because of the fact that the interviewer's questions will always influence in some measure the witness's rendition no matter how much care is taken, the questioning must come after the story, that is the witness must be free to narrate the sighting with no interruption and only after he has finished he can be questioned.

After sitting down, the talk starts immediately, asking the witness to relate, in his/her own words and without omitting any detail exactly what happened. The interviewer must never intervene or interrupt, except to encourage the witness to go on. No comment or suggestion must be made. Never ever show the slightest signal of doubt regarding the story.

Whenever possible we recommend collecting the witness's testimony directly on the location of the sighting. This detail is extremely important since returning to the same circumstances of a past event can allow the mind to recall a train of otherwise irrecoverable memories.

2.3.1 Using an Audio Recorder

Notes should be taken during the narration (if with a partner as mentioned above, by the assisting investigator). It would be ideal to record the whole interview. Sadly many witnesses are intimidated at the sight of the recorder.4 Some refuse to be recorded. Usually, to convince the witness it is sufficient to explain that the recording is solely intended for a more convenient and faithful transcription of the information, instead of quickly scribbling notes, and guaranteeing that the recording will remain archived and not published or divulged. Remember in any case that in some countries it is illegal to record in secret.

The utility of a recording isn't just related to the convenience of the following transcription, but is also essential for evaluation, for example by a language psychologist who can glean much from the terminology, phraseology, the reactions and answers, etc. Furthermore the recording allows any researcher to directly review the interview, which in a certain sense provides the condition of repeatability which will be assessed later when dealing with the report. Finally, the recording remains as a document, is not alterable by memory or other subjective factors and represents a frozen snapshot of a testimony.

2.3.2 Using a Video Camera

In general the use of a video camera during an interview does not appear necessary and - on the contrary - might produce additional embarrassment for the witness.

In case the use of this equipment is still considered necessary, in addition to the usual permission, it is a good idea to place the camera off-center in order to record the scene discretely and without disturbing the witness, using a tripod or letting the second investigator handle the recording.

It is in fact inadvisable for the interviewer to use the video camera while carrying out the interview. The interview also not be organized in a "television style" with an invasive use of the camera: in this case the positive outcome of the interview could even be compromised.

2.4 The Questioning

The second phase of the interview is the questioning which is further divided into two separate operations: obtaining more details in order to complete the picture with the necessary data for evaluation (in a second moment), and the reconstruction, together with the witnesses, of what they have experienced.

The most prominent difference between the questioning with respect to the witness's account is that in this second phase the protagonist is no longer the witness but the interviewer, who now asks questions and provides observations (maybe on points which have or haven't emerged during the account, and of which a mental or written note was taken while the witness was speaking).

As noted above, it is advisable for the questions to be asked by only one person, while the other continues taking notes, holding back his/her questions only after the colleague is done.

2.4.1 Use of Forms

For the analytic phase, many investigators use the aforementioned forms or questionnaires. We strongly discourage (with the exception of specific cases discussed earlier) the compulsory use of ready-made forms, charts or questionnaires for several reasons:

  1. The extreme complexity of the UFO experience which (especially regarding its structure, or the temporal succession of events) is difficult to generalize.
  2. The vast range of possible details make it so that any fragmented reduction of disconnected data is automatically incomplete.
  3. The suggestive influence of predetermined questions may have on the witness (because of its nature the form is full of "directional" questions, especially the ones with a predetermined set of closed answers to pick from).

The form does, on the other hand offer two advantages:

  1. It serves as a reminder for the interviewer for all the necessary information;
  2. It constitutes a pre-encoding of data for the following statistic analysis (it serves as a "minimum scheme")

To this purpose, this manual provides a summarized investigator check-list in Appendix A, listing the indispensable information to be collected during an interview. The questionnaire can be found in the "Documents" section of the Aliensight wiki.

2.4.2 The Witness's Drawings


The first thing to do, once witnesses are done relating their story, is to ask them to draw what they have seen on a white sheet of paper (A4 size: 11.69" long and 8.27" wide) Witnesses must always date and sign the drawing in person. More than one attempt may be necessary before a satisfactory result is reached. Witnesses might sometimes be bad at drawing or shy about it: in any case the investigator should insist gently but firmly. Only once the witnesses have finished their drawing the investigator can replicate the scene on a separate piece of paper (if necessary, but it should be avoided except for witnesses with enormous difficulties with drawing).5

Drawings should always be at least two:

  1. a drawing of the phenomenon (object or light), from which the general shape, the color (or colors), possible details and peculiarities (prominences, spots, openings, areas with different color etc.); the drawing must have an arrow indicating which way is "up";
  2. a drawing of the scene, that is the panorama which was visible from the sighting point, indicating the horizon skyline and especially the landmarks and possible obstacles blocking vision (houses, trees, electric poles, hills or mountains, possible light sources).

If the interview takes place directly on the spot of the sighting, then this drawing can be sketched directly by the investigator or, (if a Polaroid camera is at hand) substituted by a photograph. In this case more than one photo of the surrounding area would be a good idea. The investigator will then have to ask the witness to point out (draw) the exact position or trajectory of the UFO by tracing it on the drawing or the photo, also trying to indicate the apparent size and - if observed - the position of the clouds and principal celestial bodies (Sun, moon, brightest stars) which were visible at the moment of the sighting.

An equivalent procedure could be adopted using more technological means, by taking a picture with a digital camera, immediately uploading it to a laptop computer and then working directly on the image editor to add all the information described in the above paragraph, following the witness's directions. Said image should then be printed out in high quality and attached to the report.

2.4.3 Details of the Sighting

Once the drawing phase is over it's time for the proper analytical questioning, in which we can spot two phases:

  1. firstly it's important to clarify the points which remained obscure during the witness's relation of the event, with the intent of understanding fully the time sequence of the facts which constitute the sighting, in other words, how the event is structured, what happened first, and what happened after.;
  2. then it's time to gather information of the details which the witness may have omitted during the account. The interviewer must extract all possible information from the witness's memory (but not from their imagination though, so without insisting for details which the witness doesn't remember or didn't notice), until it's possible to ideally re-live the witness's experience with all the details based on the collected data, without having to imagine further detail to complete the scene.

The investigator checklist turns out to be useful at the end of this phase: by running through it the interviewer quickly verifies what information has already emerged and what is still missing. If there are two interviewers, then the assisting one should have checked the information which arose during the witness's account and during the questioning, and can thus provide the extra questions to complete the interview.

2.4.4 The Beginning of the Sighting

A point which must always be made clear is what the witness was doing a moment before sighting the phenomenon. It is suggested to listen to an account of everything the witness did in the 10-15 minutes prior to the sighting, concentrating on re-living the mood of the moment, so as not to determine just the mere actions which were being performed, but also what the witness's thoughts or worries were at that moment or just before then.

Still relative to this point of view, it is necessary to determine what caught the witness's attention towards the phenomenon, what made him/her aware of its presence.

Closely related to this point is how the UFO reached its position, was it already there or did it reach its position along a flight path (which one) or appearing from behind some obstacle (what), did it physically enter the witness's field of view or did it just appear (how).

Even more important is how the sighting ended, i.e. how the UFO left or disappeared or what else.

2.4.5 The Actions/Reactions of the Witness

Always centering the attention on the human factor of experience, it is good practice to find out what the witness's reactions, the behavior, in the moments listed below:

  • a moment before sighting the UFO
  • during the entire duration of the sighting
  • a moment before the sighting ceased
  • a moment after the sighting

In other words both physical reactions (running and hiding, calling someone) and psychological ones (particularly: what did he think he was seeing? and why? what was the first emotional reaction? why?) at the initial perception of the event should be recorded verbatim. The same should be asked regarding when the sighting started, i.e. when the witnesses became aware of being in the presence of a UFO.

Often overlooked, yet important, is the behavior just before the end of the sighting; and just as important is the behavior and the impressions just after it.6

2.4.6 Description of the Event

Focusing on the sighting itself, all the details related to the aspect and behavior of the phenomenon observed should be made clear.

A specific problem regarding the aspect is that of determining colors, regarding which the subjectiveness both of perception and of memory is especially marked.

In order to minimize the uncertainty margin during the investigation, many scholars support the use of a color sampler based on which the witness can indicate a color with some measure of precision. Notwithstanding all the cautions relative to presenting the witness any sort of comparison "model", this procedure is considered to yield more advantages than disadvantages since, although the witness is forced (as with the UFO shape examples) to adapt a memory to a certain array of colors, the influence in this case is minimum if the color selection is sufficiently vast. Actually, it would be good to check in advance if the witness can tell colors apart. Special test cards for color blindness are available to allow this kind of test.7

In any case it's important to specify what color sampler was used when filing the report (e.g. Pantone Uncoated) since various types of samplers exist and the same color code might refer to dyes for different applications (for example print, wall color, etc.) which may at times bear significant difference.

Regarding the behavior of the UFO, the least to be done is obtain a clear idea of the various movement, light and sound emission etc. both analytically (details of each one) and synthetically (what happened before and what after).

A final relevant point is the determination of the medium of observation, that is if the witness saw the sighting through a glass (house window, car windshield) or in the open, with naked eyes or with the aid of optical instruments (glasses - what type - binoculars, telescope); if there were obstacles to visibility (a useful thing, if an on-site investigation with the witness is not possible, to obtain a sketch of the panorama as seen from the point of the sighting, with the principal details and a path with the UFO's position and route).

In case the on site investigation is possible it is advisable to take place in the exact position from which the witness spotted the sighting and take some panoramic photos of the area involved by the sighting.

2.4.7 Objective Data

Finally some objective data needs to be collected, this step is quite challenging.

In detail, the principal estimates are:

  • apparent size of the phenomenon;
  • position of the phenomenon with respect to the witness;
  • length of the observation;
  • conditions of visibility.

In general, for the greater part of this information it's wise (if not required) to carry out the interview on the site of the sighting itself. Apparent Dimensions

Unlike what many believe, it's almost always impossible to determine the real dimensions of the phenomenon or its distance (or altitude), since this data is mathematically interconnected (in addition to "relative" or "apparent" data), so that by knowing just one (for example the actual dimensions) it is possible to determine the other (actual distance) through the corresponding relative data (apparent size) applying the geometric properties of similar figures and simple trigonometry. But starting from just the apparent data and without any reference, for distances superior to a few meters, binocular stereoscopic vision (that is the perception of the third dimension or depth thanks to the information coming from two eyes) does not permit the acquisition of objective measurement data.

In some cases it is otherwise possible, by using landmarks (trees, houses, mountains or cloud layers) whose distance can be precisely measured, get a more accurate estimate at least regarding the maximum or minimum (not greater or smaller than), depending if the UFO passed in front or behind one of them.

Regarding apparent dimensions, the most objective method to obtain them is that of asking the witness to compare them to the objects visible in the same scene: the moon, the stars or a house. Comparisons with the apparent dimensions of airplanes are useless since they are extremely variable. Consider the fact that many witnesses try to provide a real measurement of the UFO (or rather the impression they had of it), and it is often hard to get them to understand what you mean by apparent dimension, which is, effectively, the visual angle occupied by the object. One system which can be used is as follows:

Ask the witness to hold out a thumb at arm's length. By looking at it with one eye, the thumb will span about 2° of the visual angle. You may ask the witness how many "thumbs" would be needed to cover the UFO completely. The result would be the visual angle which, if combined with an estimate of the distance, could provide a useful way to get an approximate measurement of the object's real dimensions. Although some witnesses might experience difficulty in overlapping images on different levels.

Also to be considered is the fact that witnesses have the tendency to overestimate the dimensions of observed objects, especially if the angular size is small. The most advisable thing is to ask "open" questions (with many alternative answers) and "multiple" ones (a higher number of comparisons with different objects): "Was it bigger or smaller than a star?, and than the moon? and of that house?"

A validation or an inconsistency of the data thus collected will also come from the dimensions indicated by the witness in the drawing of the scene discussed in 2.4.2.

(angular distance measuring device) Position of the Event

Regarding the exact position (or trajectory) of the phenomenon, this can be determined with two parameters: the angular height over the horizon (elevation) and the geographic direction (azimuth).

If it's a stationary light or object the position is defined by elevation and azimuth. If the phenomenon was in motion, at least the initial and final positions should be identified. If the flight path was not regular (for example a change in trajectory) then also the position of the course alteration (elevation and azimuth) should be identified.


The Azimuth is generally pretty simple to determine, if an on site inspection is carried out on the exact spot of the sighting, using a compass (a bearing compass is your best choice): the witness is asked to point at an object on the horizon in the direction of the phenomenon, or even better the compass is handed to the witness who must point it exactly at where the phenomenon was sighted. The azimuth is measured in degrees of deviation from the north (e.g. east=90°, south=180°, west=270°).

If an on site inspection is impossible, the witness needs to be questioned for information. Unluckily, very few people have an approximate idea of where the north is. Thus additional information becomes indispensable: the position of the sun (or the moon or of a particularly bright star), and some geographic indication (position of a particularly high mountain, or a valley, or the name of the nearest town in that direction).

Angular elevation is more complicated to determine, unless you have a specific tool, the sextant, which can be bought in specialized stores or even built at home. BUILD YOUR OWN SEXTANT The witness holds the sextant and points it where the UFO was seen, so that the sextant's sights are in line; the investigator can then read the elevation on the graduated scale, indicated by the weighed string.

Without a sextant or if an on site inspection is impossible, elevation can only be approximately estimated. If other celestial objects (especially moon and stars) an initial approximation could be obtained by asking whether the UFO was in the portion of sky above or below them. But the simplest way is to ask the witness to re-live the sighting and point at the altitude at which the phenomenon was seen: The investigator will measure the elevation while bearing in mind it's just a rough estimate.

Every measurement should be repeated (and written down) at least three times, in order to minimize measurement errors.

In addition, the investigator can use a GPS-enabled device to pin down the exact geographic coordinates of the witness's position at the moment of the sighting. Duration of the Event

Another important information is the duration of the sighting. In this case also many witnesses have a very unclear concept of the passing of time. Unless they have checked their watch at the start and the end of the phenomenon, the average witness will tend to giving grossly approximate figures, usually rounded up (one minute, five minutes) and usually over-estimated. You may even run into people who can't tell seconds from minutes.

The best way, if the duration of the event wasn't more than a couple minutes, is to ask the witnesses to pretend they are re-living the sighting, describing the various phases, while the investigator tracks time with a stopwatch. Taping or videotaping this reconstruction could be useful. Visibility Conditions

Gathering information regarding the conditions of visibility under which the sighting took place is always important. These include:

  • the witness's eyesight: questions related to the use of glasses or eyesight defects are present should be asked. In case of an affirmative answer it's necessary to collect some information regarding type of lenses and obviously ask if the witness was wearing glasses or lenses;
  • optical instruments: in case of the use of binoculars, telescopes or other similar instruments, it's wise to collect the technical specifications (manufacturer, magnifying power and lens diameter) and check that they do not carry distortion defects; if the image was different from that visible with naked eyes, separate drawings will need to be drawn by the witness, specifying the differences;
  • other interesting means of observations: it's often important to determine whether the observation took place through a glass (house window, car windshield), to determine possible reflections and distortions;
  • weather conditions: the investigator needs to ask the witness what the weather conditions were at the moment of the sighting: the presence (and type) of clouds, degree of coverage; precipitation (rain, snow, fog); visibility of stars/moon/sun; presence and direction of the wind (particularly: direction of cloud movement).

2.4.8 Additional Data

In addition to the sighting data, it is a good idea for the interviewer to collect some more information.

Firstly, it's a good idea to ask the witness's opinion on what he/she saw (what they think it was), as well as opinions (and knowledge) relative to the UFO question. (books or websites on the subject, opinions before the sighting, whether or not they changed after the sighting).

What happened after the sighting is also important: who did the witness tell about the event?, was the media informed? police, experts (with what outcome?). The investigator needs to verify if other ufologists (or journalists or other people) interviewed the witness too and what they told the witness, in order to determine their potential influence on the witness.

Then the names of other possible onlookers for the same sighting should be also collected from the witness, in order to proceed with their interviews too.

A question which should not be forgotten is if the witness had other sightings of possible UFOs (both before and after the one under examination). If the answer is affirmative, obviously each of these should also be delved into with an investigation.

It is finally possible that the witness knows other people who have had UFO sightings: quite frequently other totally independent investigations branch off from an initial one.

If the sighting has made it to the news with the witness's name, it often happens that other witnesses (of the same sighting or other ones) may turn up too. Therefore it is useful for the investigator to leave contact information (possibly with a business card made for this purpose), inviting the witness to provide this information to other witnesses who might come to his/her attention.

2.4.9 Photos

During the interview it is wise to collect adequate photographic documentation. Photos can be digital or analog: in both cases the report will need good quality prints. (If the report is filed online, the image files should be high resolution JPEG or, preferably, PNG)

It is essential to have complete photographic documentation of the place where the events took place, meaning where the witness was, the starting and ending positions of the sighting, the sight from the witness's point of view, the position of other objects used as reference during the sighting etc.

Environmental photos, although not necessary, can also be useful if the investigator judges them to be a useful addition to the report.

Taking a photo of the witness is also possible, but in this case a written authorization will be needed to archive and/or publish these photos.

In the case of traces or secondary effects of any kind, it is necessary to take the most accurate pictures of them and the surroundings, including elements only temporarily affected by the phenomenon (displaced or bent stalks of grass, etc.)

If small portions of ground or small items are photographed, it's a good idea to place a graduated scale indicator or even a simple ruler, which will allow a correct determination of the size of the object.

2.4.10 Videos

If a video camera is available it can be used to integrate, but not substitute, photographic documentation.

Because of its characteristics this instrument can be used to take a panoramic view of the sighting scene, especially where the dynamics of the observation happen to be particularly complex.

In case of traces or other effects on the ground it's a good idea to shoot video footage of the whole area, trying to show the dimension and location of the areas involved.

During an inspection (and in any case always after the interview is over) it is possible to shoot footage of the facts and places with the witness's own description, provided you take the precautions described at 2.3.2 and 2.4.9 regarding authorization.

A copy of the video (tape or CD/DVD) should also be attached to the investigation report. In case the report is filed on-line the videos can either be uploaded to YouTube, either public or private depending on the content, and linked to the report. A hard copy archive should always be kept in a safe place.

Dialogues with the witness which are only documented on video should be transcribed and filed as text in the report.

2.5 Abstract

Based on the witness's story, the following clarifications and details obtained during the questioning, the interviewer can already get a sufficiently clear global vision of the experience.

At this point, it's wise to collect all the information by summarizing the sighting with the help of the witness.

Practically speaking the investigator repeats the whole story in front of the witness, integrated with the data obtained during the interview and placing it all in order, following a chronological succession of events as reconstructed through the witness's account.

In case a recorder could not be used during the preceding phases, some suggest to use it at this point, to record yourselves as you reconstruct the sighting , which will not disturb the witness and will in fact at least partially compensate for the previous lack of recording.

3 The Report

The report is the completion of the investigation activity and is the basis of the following work of analysis and study. In other terms, it is the link between the field inquiry and the research to be carried out at the desk, by investigator and researcher.

It must, therefore satisfy specific requirements and be structured in a specific way.

The report "freezes" the testimony at a specific moment in time. It's therefore, something which remains, while the witness's memory may be altered and the account itself can change. It is necessary for who is writing an investigation report to pay attention to how it's done.

The fundamental requisite is to allow who will read the report to know exactly what was collected and how it was obtained during the investigation. This requisite responds to the well-known condition of "repeatability" of the experiment.

A sub-requisite, branching off this first one, is that the report be written down by the investigator who carried out the inquiry and not by others, and that the writing of the "discretional" parts be carried out as soon as possible.

As a matter of fact the report can be ideally split in two groups of written texts: those who depend on who writes them (therefore called "discretional") and those independent from the writer (for example the transcription of the audio with the recorded interview).

3.1 Report Structure

The logic simplified structure of a report is composed of three parts: introduction, account and comment.

3.1.1 Introduction

It is made up of three parts:

Report cover, on which time and date of the sighting, the exact address of the location of the witness (the geographic coordinates, if the investigator used a GPS receiver during the inspection), the type of case and a short summary of the event must be indicated. It is also fundamental to record the identity of who wrote the report (name, surname, full address, belonging to Aliensight or other associations), the date (or dates) during which the investigation was carried out, and the date of the ultimation of the report.

Investigation journal, in which the investigator provides a detailed account of how he/she became aware of the case and exactly what has been done, precisely specifying all the operations performed during the investigation (telephone numbers, letters, interviews, inspections, research) in chronological order and indicating timing and people involved. It's a very important discretional part, since it clears the terms and conditions and the development of the whole interview.

Personal information, of the witnesses and of the other people interviewed or involved, with the inclusion, for each one, of name, surname, address, age (or better date of birth), profession, education and possible other personal info. Take note that the personal information of the witnesses must only and exclusively appear in this part of the report.

3.1.2 Account

It too is divided in three parts:

Verbatim Transcription of the interview with the witness, taken from the recording (or video recording) which will in any case be archived. The interview must be reported word by word from the beginning, in order to analyze the flow of information and the relationship between witness and investigator, and also to exactly reconstruct what the witness said and how. If the recording was not possible, the original notes taken during the interview should be copied without modifications.

Reconstruction of the sequence of events in the sighting, made by the investigator and based on the interview, possibly using the same words used by the witness but re-writing them in a continuous, uninterrupted narration of the facts in their chronological order. (and not in Q & A form). This part of the document should be edited so as not to contain the witnesses' personal data but just their initials or first name followed just by the initial of the surname.

Surveying carried out by the investigator in case of an inspection, with special attention towards quantifiable data (time, apparent dimensions, angular elevation and starting / ending azimuth etc.) for each one of which the method of collection must be declared (how and by whom it was performed).

3.1.3 Commentary

Contains two sections:

Evaluation and impressions of the investigator regarding the witness, especially related to the abilities of critical observation. This part isn't meant to "prove" whether the witness is believable or not, but rather to provide additional information which would not be given otherwise, relative to the investigator's firsthand account, his impressions on the scene and all that which would not emerge even from a recording of the interview, but which does contribute to a clearer understanding of the interview itself and thus of the collected data, and so of the sighting itself. Determining the precise content of this section of the report in advance is not easy, and it's up to the investigator to determine. The objective is to minimize or even better eliminate the existence of details to be added verbally, even if trivial ones (for example: the conditions under which the interview was carried out, who was present, where it was done, what were the witness's reactions).
It is a highly discretional part, for which an immediate draft, right after the interview (or at least no later than one or two days) should be put down.

Opinion and comments of the investigator regarding the case: breakdown of the possible identifications, carefully analyzing the pros and cons of each one; provisional conclusions as to whether the event really took place as narrated by the witness; general impressions and any other annotation or relevant comment; results of further investigative attempts ("environment" surveys in the area; meteorological, aeronautical and astronomical data inspections; comparisons with other cases; questions left unanswered and suggestions for possible additional action to be taken in the future).

3.1.4 Attachments

In addition to the introduction, the account and the comment, the report may also include attachments which can be internal or external to the report:

Internal attachments: drawings, photos, maps, etc. must be included in the report, of which they are an integral part, and they must be numbered in the pages; it is good for each one to have a describing caption. When the report is filed online these documents can be uploaded directly to the file page and shown as images.

External attachments: letters, news items, recordings, videos are not an integral part of the report, which must be attached but not numbered in the pages, since they represent distinct and separate documents. When filed online these documents are usually composed of external links to other websites.
Also part of these attachments are other memory media (CD, DVD, flash disks) which contain part of the material which is linked to the report (texts, images, videos etc.) possibly stored in a format which is as compatible as possible with most software.

3.2 General Remarks on Filing

Every section of the report should appear distinct from the others, and in any case the collected data should always remain distinct from the comments and observations of who is writing the report. We especially recommend separating the reconstruction of the sighting (assembled by the investigator) and the raw data (e.g. the transcription of the interview).

In case the report was filed by different people or at different moments, each section of the report must carry the identification of the writer and the date of completion.

The whole report must be typed (single line interspacing) and printed on single-sided A4 sheets of paper, with correct page numbering. The report text file also needs to be saved in a CD and attached to the report, either in .txt .rtf or .pdf to allow maximum compatibility.

Filing on-line through the Aliensight Wiki website is also recommended, once the "hard copy" is complete, in order to allow all researchers to access the information as soon as possible. When filing on-line you should omit the witness's personal information unless you have explicit written permission to disclose their identity.

Remember that the complete personal information of the witnesses must only appear in the "Personal Data" section and not in other parts of the report, where the witnesses must be indicated just with their initials or with their first name and initial of their surname, in order to allow free circulation of the report (without the "Personal Data" section) without affecting the witness's privacy, in compliance with the moral guidelines at Aliensight and to avoid legal issues.

The report should be produced in two copies. One will be kept by the writer, the other will be sent, together with a copy of all attachments, to the Aliensight general archive (to be designated) a third copy may be sent to MUFON or other similar groups.

Appendix A-1 Investigator Check-List

What follows is not the list of questions to be asked during the questioning, but rather a checklist of the points the investigator needs to cover during the interview and the inspection.


* Name and Surname
* Full address and phone number
* Date of birth
* Job at the moment of the sighting
* Job at the moment of the interview
* Type and degree of education


* Date (day, month, year, day of the week)
* Starting and ending time of the sighting, specifying
whether am or pm, daylight saving or not and where
it was read from
* City, Town or precise area denomination
where the witness was


* Shape (detailed)
* Colors (detailed)
* Movement (detailed)
* Dynamics (what happened and in what order)


* Sketch of the area (event and background)
from the point of observation
* Drawing of the phenomenon by the witness, signed and
dated (indicating the upper side with an arrow)


* Starting and ending angular elevation
* Starting and ending azimuth (geographic heading)
* Apparent dimensions (angular and compared)
* Duration (if possible, stop watching a live reconstruction)

* Description of the weather
* Cloud cover (presence, type, extension)
* Presence/absence (and position) of sun, moon or stars


* Panoramic from the point of observation (especially obstacles
blocking vision, possible landmarks, light sources, etc.)
* Observation media (naked eye, through lenses, optical
instruments, windows, car windshields etc.)
* Possible eyesight defects of the witness (habitual use
of lenses. type of defect)


* Where they were and what they were doing
prior to the sighting
* How they noticed the phenomenon
* What did they think it was
* What did they do during the sighting
* Was anyone else present
* How did the sighting end
* What they did immediately after


* Who did the witness contact, who was told about the sighting
* Other possible investigators that came before
* Other sightings of the witness
* Other known witnesses (even of other sightings)
* The witness's opinion of the sighting
* Opinions and knowledge of the witness regarding
the UFO question (before and after the sighting)

Appendix A-2 Special Cases

The indications provided in this manual are usually valid for most cases, and are useful in most situations and with due measure, for every kind of interlocutor. But these are generic suggestions. The variety of the UFO experience, which we have often stressed, often involves highly structured situations, with the involvement of technology, specialized people, institutions and non standard procedures.
At this juncture it is only possible to provide just a few cues regarding some peculiarities which the investigator might run into during his activity. In Alien Sight you will be in contact with people who have direct experience in each of these case fields and who will help you obtain more precise information. As for any other discipline it isn't always possible to immediately do everything on our own. Especially at the beginning it might be hard to deal with all the questions that an investigation on special cases will require. In these cases it's wise to refer to the Alien Sight community for suggestions and advice or to be aided by expert personnel.


Appendix A-3 IFO - Quick Identification Guide

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