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Destination Truth - Interview with Josh Gates & Neil Mandt

Date of publishing: 23rd May 2007

Destination Truth - Interview with Josh Gates & Neil Mandt Destination Truth (Six 1-hour episodes) is a weekly adventure series that invites viewers along on one man’s search for the truth while investigating stories of the unexplained across the globe. Every week, Josh Gates, a world adventurer and eager truth-seeker, and his small crew of production buddies visits a different destination around the world that is home to notorious, supernatural and mysterious stories, such as the Chilean Chupacabra, as well as some lesser-known phenomena like the dinosaur-like creatures reported in the skies over Papua, New Guinea, a haunted village in Thailand and the wolfman of Argentina. Josh searches for evidence to either prove or debunk these stories by talking to witnesses and experts and immersing himself in the local culture. The series, executive produced by Neil and Michael Mandt for their Mandt Brothers Productions, is slated to premiere June 6, 2007 @ 10 PM, following all-new episodes of the hit reality series Ghost Hunters. The Scifi World had the opportunity to speak with Neil Mandt & Josh Gates about the show.

Question: Is this an expanded version of Matt Lauer’s ‘Where in the World is…’? To a degree where in the world is Josh Gates? And why do people find this so fascinating?

Josh Gates: I think that the reason people find these kinds of stories so fascinating is that they’re really exotic stories. And they’re things that we hear about often in the news and this show is an opportunity to come along with me and in a sense just kind of see what’s behind these stories -- see if there’s any truth to them, see if those truths can be brought to light. And so I think what we really do on this show is we invite the viewer to come along with me and to go to some really exotic and really dynamic places to look at these really, really interesting stories.

Question: Have some of these places that have long fascinated you, also surprised you? You’re an avid scuba diver and you’ve been off the coast of Israel, have any of these expeditions really shaken you up?

Josh Gates: Yeah -- I think that what’s really surprised me in a lot of cases is that some of these stories are so fantastical and there is in some ways it’s difficult not to have preconceptions and say well this sounds like a pretty out there story. And I’m not sure if this is going to bear out. And really what’s most surprising in a lot of these cases are the people that we’ve met. And we met some very credible people, educated professional people who had had experiences that really shook them up – and to bear witness to their stories and to come in contact with them made for really interesting investigations. Because what we came across in a lot of cases was people who had a really legitimate experience. People who were very scared or very frightened by coming up against something that they couldn’t explain.

Question: Could you give an example?

Josh Gates: Certainly we – one of the episodes takes place in Papua New Guinea and there are reports in Papua New Guinea of a couple of different dinosaur-type creatures. Papua New Guinea is a largely unexplored country. Huge sections of its rainforests have not been scientifically cataloged. But you hear these stories…

Question: Is that the Iguanadon?

Josh Gates: The Iguanadon and there’s also a Pterodactyl type creature there. And you hear these stories about lost worlds and dinosaurs roaming the Earth. And they sound very much like fiction but some of the people that we met in Papua New Guinea as I said were educated, professional people who had these very vivid descriptions. And interviewing them and talking to them there is a real sort of fear associated with their stories and a real kind of concern and confusion about what they saw. So that really propelled us forward in a way that was unexpected because there was a real legitimacy to the experiences that the people were having.

Question: Are there certain parts of the world which are more apt to fascinate an adventurer like you than others? The Mideast, parts of the Pacific?

Josh Gates: For sure, for me I’ve always been a big fan of Southeast Asia and of the Pacific. And in fact I think any place that has not been widely explored or widely exposed is always a more interesting place to do investigations. Because you are more apt to come across things that have not been fully laid down in record. But yes so for me I think the corners of the globe that still have a lot of exploration to do are the most interesting.

Question: How the project has started? How did you get the idea to explore all these supernatural stories around the globe and to create a show of it?

Neil Mandt: I work as a television producer and a while back I was meeting with the Sci-Fi channel about this show, about bringing these things to life. And as we were developing the project we were trying to find somebody who would be the right host. And I’d known Josh for a while and I’ve known about his travels. And he shares the same kind of passion for this project that I do and so we developed it with him in mind. And that’s how it began.

Question: What is the most out there claim that you guys are investigating as part of ‘Destination Truth’?

Josh Gates: That’s a tough one, and I think one of the reasons it’s tough is because, something being out there or being really wacky is certainly we learned on this show definitely in the eyes of the beholder. Even the kind of most out there story that we come up against there are fervent advocates in these countries for these stories. I think often what was the wackiest kind of stuff we came up across – came up against excuse me was really versions of each of the stories. We went and looked at the Chupacabra in South America which is a very widely, publicized story of this creature that attacks livestock and in certain cases has, purportedly attacked people. And some of the instances of Chupacabra attacks seem relatively straightforward. You have a bunch of livestock that’s been mutilated and killed and it’s very easy to document. And there is legitimately something going on. There’s some sort of obviously a slaughtering going on. But we met with one individual who had a very kind of outlandish idea that these Chupacabras were aliens. And that they were – they had these backpacks that they wore. He had this very, very intricate mythology worked out as to the origin of these creatures and where they came from and what they were doing. And so I think that’s kind of the wacky stuff that you run up against is that these stories are so juicy if you will that certain people really run with them and really make really kind of wild mythlogies out of them.

Question: And are you guys doing any kind of like ghost-related inquiries?

Josh Gates: Yes we do only one on the show and that’s in Thailand. There was a lot of the ways in which we came to find each of these stories was by looking for things that were relevant that were in the news recently. We didn’t want to go after a creature that hadn’t been sighted in 100 years. So we looked for things that were kind of hot button issues in the cryptozoological world. And there was this village in Thailand that kind of kept coming on our radar which had numerous reports of hauntings and of even people dying in this village. And it was a little bit outside the realm of the creature investigations we were doing but it was so prevalent in various news outlets that we kind of did a little detour in Thailand and did an investigation of that as well.

Question: And what do you think has been the most scary or will be the scariest one to do?

Neil Mandt: Going back to Papua New Guinea again, like Josh said they’re all unique. It’s like somebody asked me they said what’s your favorite country to travel to? I’ve been to 71 countries and it’s impossible to say I have a favorite because they’re all very different and unique in their own way. And to say what’s the scariest moment out of this it’s tough to say because they all had moments for us on a personal level. But there was one time when we were in Papua New Guinea and we were looking for this Pterodactyl that had been sighted. And we were in a very, very remote area. I mean I wish I could tell you that these things happened at the Four Seasons but they don’t. I mean they are deep in the jungles far away from everything. And we were in a place that had kind of it’s own remoteness to it. And we were camping out. And at night we were setting up our night stakeout and we saw something that really kind of rocked all of us. We couldn’t figure out what it was. And we had our night vision equipment and our thermal imaging equipment all working properly. It was all tested. And we just really came across something that really kind of caught all of us off guard and I don’t want to tell you what it is. You have to check out the show. It’s one of the episodes but it really blew us away. To this day I talk to people about it. And when we took it back and we showed it to some experts and they were shaken by it. They were like we just don’t know what that is. So that moment I think with the Pterodactyl -- they call it a Ropen there -- for me, I think and most of the crew was the moment where we were really kind of rocked. And then also again in Papua New Guinea when we were looking for the Iguanadon I know for Josh that was – I mean a very scary close encounter. I’ll let Josh tell about that.

Josh Gates: Yes, as Neil was saying, Papua New Guinea is a really remote place. And I think that a lot of times the encounters on this show that are the scariest are the ones that are farthest from safety and civilization. And we did a night investigation for this Iguanadon which is a dinosaur. And we came across something in the jungle and a dinosaur or not if you’re alone out in the jungle in the middle of Papua New Guinea which is a pretty rough place to be and you come across something that’s ripping trees apart in front of you. It’s certainly cause for alarm. So we all as a crew had a very close encounter with some sort of creature out in the jungles. And certainly that’s really scary stuff.

Question: When you were young what brought about your interest in sci-fi?

Neil Mandt: For me the show ‘In Search Of’ -- I mean it was a big influence in my life when it came to certainly sci-fi and also travel. And it made me really want to travel and again this goes back to the first question about how this show came to be. There’s no doubt that that show influenced myself as well as Josh and my brother who has been my producing partner on this show, Michael. And I mean while I wouldn’t say this is that much like that show other than we are traveling the world looking for things. It’s very different the way it’s produced. The spirit of that show is certainly living well within us as we produce this show. And when Josh and I were talking about how we would make the show that we kept talking about that and our experiences in watching that as a kid. So I mean for me that show certainly was a big influence. Josh?

Josh Gates: Yes. For sure that’s true and I’ve always had a real love of both travel and of science fiction. My mother’s British and we did a lot of traveling when I was a kid across the Atlantic. And so from a very young age I was interested in travel. And from a very young age I was reading Ray Bradbury who was a big influence on my life and so I think the combination of really seeing the world at a young age and also reading some of the great sci-fi masters like Asimov and Bradbury and stuff really instilled a real love for adventure and for science fiction in me.

Question: Have any of the stories that you’ve heard about since you were a child ever been proven or debunked and is there something that really stands out in your mind?

Josh Gates: That’s a really good question. I think I’ve always had a fascination with extraterrestrial stuff. And I think from a young age I was always interested in Bigfoot stories and things like that that I would hear about. And I think the funny thing is that those stories have really neither been – well again it really depends on who you talk to. I mean a lot of people would consider those stories to be debunked and a lot of people would really aggressively argue that they’ve never been debunked. And so I think there’s still a lot of gray area which is why a show like this is really a terrific opportunity to go out and visit a lot of these stories that are still in the news and that people are still having experiences with and to be able to go out there and see if we can either debunk or confirm some of these stories.

Question: And what about you Neil?

Neil Mandt: Yes I would kind of echo Josh’s thoughts. I mean as to whether or not things have been debunked it’s the same thing. I would say it really depends on who you talk to. I mean there are people who say the Loch Ness Monster the initial photo was faked and that there’s never been any Nessie. But then there’s so many other people who have other sightings on their own. And the same thing with the Bigfoot people are like "oh well its own footage may be faked". But then other people have – we’ve met with lots of people who have footprints and handprints I mean all kinds of other evidence that these creatures exist. And it’s not just here in this country -- in other countries. I mean that’s the thing that’s interesting to me is that there tends to be in some creatures there tends to be a similarity around the world. And the same thing with aliens I mean everybody in history can’t be drawing the same pictures of the same guys and be wrong, I mean in my mind. That’s how I feel -- it just doesn’t make any sense that all these people have a similar shared experience but yet have never met each other. And in some of these cases we’re talking again we go to some places where people they don’t have the internet. They don’t have cell phones. They don’t have electricity. So they’re not getting the same information that they could be copying.

Question: And yet they’re saying exactly the same thing.

Neil Mandt: Yes. I find that to be very, very surprising and very interesting. And so that is one of the things that propels us on this show.

Question: The fact – everything that you’ve found out or you’ve discovered along the way, has that changed your mind about how the world began or religion?

Josh Gates: No it hasn’t changed my mind about anything. But I do think that one of the great things that came out of this show was looking at a lot of different religions. And we certainly went to enough countries that we came up against some of the world’s, major religions. And so seeing how different people integrate their religion with mythology. And how they integrate religion with these kind of experiences is really varied and really different. And so I think, in some ways, that was a great education. But no it hasn’t changed my world view. My world view has always been that there’s just an enormous amount of cultural and religious diversity out there, all of which is really worth taking in. And certainly I think this show helps to foster an appreciation of a lot of different cultures in the world.

Question: Does this popularity or the feasibility of the program like this making it big reflect well on today’s kids? Because it’s often been said that children today just have no interest in science or the unexplained.

Josh Gates: I think that what this show is primarily is an adventure show. It’s a travel show. And it’s looking at the unexplained. And so I think to whatever degree that people are interested in learning about things that are beyond their daily experiences, I think that this show reflects well on them. I think that this is a show which encourages curiosity. It’s a show which encourages open-mindedness. And so I think that to the extent that we’re making shows about reaching out into areas that we don’t understand and trying to shed some light on some mysteries. I think that it is a show that’s really worthwhile in that sense.

Question: How did you find the topics for the show? How did you find the things that you used in the show? And how did you eliminate the ones that you decided not to go with?

Neil Mandt: That just comes out of basic journalism to start with. And that’s my background and so as a team – obviously, Josh included -- we all sat down and just started doing research through phone calls to people on the ground in different countries. Obviously the internet was very important for us. I mean just any way we could find out through newspaper articles what has been topical. That was the key thing for us is to find – okay, somebody’s seen something but have they seen it recently? So we wanted – because we wanted to talk to witnesses and hear their stories first hand. And that’s how we would decide whether or not we thought something was worth going after. And there were some things that sounded really exciting to begin with. But the more we dug the more we decided all right well that’s not – it’s not going to hold up. And if we feel like we can end the project right on a phone call then there’s no point in us flying halfway around the world. So that’s really kind of what got us started with everything. And then as we would go through it that we would dig deeper and deeper and ultimately try and set up an investigation to find out some answers.

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© 2007 Report by Gilles Nuytens for The Scifi World
Transcript by NBC Universal.


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