Josh Gates is the host of Destination Truth. Season four premiers on Syfy tonight on its new night – Thursday, September 9 at 9pm.
How did Destination Truth and your part in it come about?
Gates: Yeah, it was started by a guy named Neil Mandt, who’s a producer here in Hollywood and a guy that I happened to know. And he had a concept for the show and the channel was looking for a show that could sit alongside Ghost Hunters, and they needed a host. And Neil said, “You should meet this guy Josh. He loves to travel.”
And I met the channel and that was really the genesis of it. They wanted somebody that was first and foremost a guy that was a traveler and not necessary a guy that was a monster hunter, or a guy that was a paranormal expert.
They kind of wanted someone that was just willing to go and look, and the kind of be someone the viewer could identify with and go and ask these questions, and go and look in these dark corners and sort of see what was there.
So, that’s really how it started and as a guy who loved to travel before the show, you know, it’s been an amazing job for me because it’s allowed me to travel for a living, which is, you know, a pretty great deal.
What got you started in traveling and exploring?
Gates: I think my parents probably got me started. My father, who is retired now, was a deep sea diver for his entire career. So as a kid growing up, my father was always working overseas, and then coming home from these really exotic places.
And, as a little kid he would be working in Africa somewhere or in the Middle East and would come home with gifts and stories, and I think from an early age had this sense that, “Wow, there’s kind of a big world out there.” And my mother’s British, and so we would go over to Europe every year to visit our family over there.
And so, I was kind of flying around on planes and hanging out in my parents shadow, who are both people that had traveled a lot, and I think that’s really what got me into it. And then got hooked on Indiana Jones and things like that and just decided that that was something I really wanted to get into was seeing the world, exploring the world.
According to press releases, you’re going to be doing an underwater paranormal investigation.
Gates: Yeah. Well, look it was a really challenging episode for us to shoot, and a challenging investigation for us to do because it’s never really been done before. And it’s something that we had wanted to get into because we really try on Destination Truth to approach stories of the paranormal in a really unique way, whether it’s by going to a very exotic location, and just the types of places that we go.
And there are lots of stories around the world of paranormal instances that are, you know, involving water; shipwrecks and things like that. And we found this great site in the Pacific in Micronesia, which was the site of a huge battle from World War II, part of what was called Operation Hailstone, where an enormous amount of Japanese ships and planes were sent to the bottom of the ocean in this pretty terrible fight.
And there are these long-standing rumors that this place is haunted, and so we thought, “Well, let’s roll up our sleeves and figure out how to do, you know, a paranormal investigation under water. So, we have a lot of, obviously, underwater cameras that we’re down there with.
We also used, for the first time, a really advanced ROV, which allowed us to kind of fly into some of the tighter, you know, spaces in these shipwrecks, record really high quality audio, capture high definition video, so a lot of that kind of nuts and bolts paranormal investigating of just, you know, “What do we see? What do we hear?” All of that is going to be captured down there.
We also did underwater EVP sessions using underwater hydrophones, which are essentially underwater microphones, and so we’re able to use a lot of the same technology that we used on land. And I think for a first effort for considering it’s never been done before, it turned out to be a great episode. It’s really one of my favorites from the season.
It’s actually the – where is it in the lineup – I think it’s the fifth episode of the season. It’s the lead story in the fifth episode of Season 4, and it’s terrific. It’s really good. It’s just a really different way into a paranormal story.
Do you guys ever get scared in some of the places you investigate at night, or are you used to it? Has anybody ever tried to prank and scare a cast-mate when you’re out there all alone?
Gates: We sometimes prank each other, from time to time on the show in kind of little ways. But, really the way I always sort of think of it is like there’s something kind of – it’s like the Hardy Boys. It’s like you’re out there and you’re explorers and you have your flashlights, and when we get out there to the night investigation part we’re all kind of excited, you know?
And it’s sort of scary more in retrospect when you, “What were we doing up there,” you know? But at the time, there’s this great sort of liberty to, “We’re going to go out and have an adventure and we’re going into the unknown, and no one knows what’s going to happen.”
And we’re all there as a group and we’re all a very tight knit group, and so I think that what really it is in the moment is excitement. And there are instances where yeah, things start moving around or your hear strange things or see strange things where suddenly you snap out of that into a feeling of real trepidation.
But, I think more often than not I get scared in retrospect, you know, after I’ve done it.
Which investigation this season were you looking forward to the most?
Gates: For me it’s probably that underwater investigation. The place that we went to is a place that is kind of among scuba divers, like an oft talked about, but seldom visited location, you know, this amazing underwater graveyard in the Pacific. And so, I was really jazzed to go and do that underwater paranormal investigation for the Japanese ghost fleet.
I think I was also really excited to see – to go to Siberia. We did an 11-day trek, I think, across Siberia and that’s a part of the world that I certainly had never been to, and haven’t really seen very much of on TV or in film. And I was just really excited to – I’m always excited when I get to someplace I’ve never been before, especially someplace I may never get to go to again.
So, we had this great one-hour episode on the Siberian Snowman, which is sort of the Russian iteration of the Bigfoot, and this kind of great big adventure across Siberia. I always like it when we can do a big one-hour, one-topic story where we get to really kind of, go the extra mile across some really difficult geographies. So those were for me, big exciting places to go to this season.
How much input do you have in choosing where the team will go and which topics you’re going to follow?
Gates: A lot. We’re a very tight knit group over here. I’m actually in our production offices right now and it’s really a team effort, you know? Myself, the Executive Producer of the show, Brad Kuhlman, we really get together and we sit down and sort of talk about first and foremost, stories.
What’s in the news? What’s something that’s kind of relevant that we can go and look for right now that there have been some recent stories on? What part of the globe do we feel like we want to go to? Where do we not want to go back to because we were just there? And we really work as a team, along with Erin Ryder, our Producer here, and you know, a couple other folks in-house to develop where we’re going to go.
And, typically it’s just a question – there’s a million places we want to go, and then we try to kind of whittle that down to a route that makes sense, and a good collection of stories that gives us a broad pallet of topics to bring to the viewer.
Has there ever been any place that you’ve wanted to go that for one reason maybe political or financial, or whatever that you couldn’t go, somewhere you really wanted to go?
Gates: Oh, plenty. Plenty. There’s a lot of great crypto stories in Central Africa, which unfortunately, there’s just a couple of those countries are a little too touch and go for us to be able to go to. So, you know, Congo, places like that where there are some of the great sort of African cryptid stories. It’s just a little bit difficult to bring a television production there.
We have pitched the channel on going to Iraq a number of times and they laugh in our face every time we say it, but I keep trying. And, yeah, I mean typically it’s just – like there’s a couple of hot spot places that have been hard for us to get to.
What is the scariest thing that’s ever happened during a shoot?
Gates: That for me was in Season 3, in Romania, when the roof ripped off our airplane that we were flying in. We were in an old Russian plane and the front section of the roof tore off in flight, and that for me was definitely the moment I thought the series was probably coming to an end.
Can you give us a preview of the Cambodia episode this year?
Gates: Well, we went there to investigate Angkor Wat, which is a really large temple complex in the Siem Reap, and you know, it’s a very iconic building. You’ve probably seen in a lot of films. It’s in the Tomb Raider series. And, it’s this beautiful, ornate temple and it’s a place that has long been associated with spirits.
It’s believed that it was a funerary temple, locals really revere it, and it’s not a place that is entered into at night very often. It’s never been filmed at night before, and so when we first thought of the idea of Angkor Wat we really entered an initial phase of going, “Well, is there any way we’re going to get permission for this?”
And we have some great contacts on the ground in Cambodia and the permission had never been written before for a film crew to come in after dark. So, along with being the first paranormal investigation of Angkor Wat, it’s really the first time it’s been filmed at night, and so that makes it a really cool episode.
It’s a sprawling complex, it’s a huge building, and it was really for us about getting in there at night and determining – you know, people say they see strange lights, they hear strange noises, and for us it was about kind of putting boots on the ground and just making our way through there and seeing if we could corroborate any of those experiences.
Cambodia is an amazing country obviously, and Siem Reap’s a really rich part of the country, so the episode is filled with really neat temples and some beautiful spots. So, I think it’s one of the best of the season.