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Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview from March 10, 2011 with Josh Gates from Destination Truth.

Josh Gates

Question:
What are some of the challenges that are involved in filming a live episode as opposed to a taped one?

Josh Gates:
Well, I think a lot of the challenges haven't happened yet, and that's sort of the high wire act of doing a live show, is I'm sure a lot of those challenges will present themselves the night of the show. But, this is the first time we've ever done a live investigation. I serve as the host of Ghost Hunters live on Halloween Night. I've done that for four or five years now and it's a pretty complex machine. I mean, you're trying to really bring the viewer in and let them experience what it's like to do an investigation in real time, and broadcast that live. It's sort of the anything can happen saying, and I'm sure anything will.

We're obviously up against the challenge of filming internationally and trying to broadcast that, weather is always a factor in Ireland, and really our focus is about the investigation. And so, we're trying to use interesting technology. We have these wireless backpack cameras that are able to transmit live and actually show viewers various people investigating throughout these ruins.

And so, it's going to be a really challenging night, but we're really excited about it, we're ready for it, and excited to get over to Ireland and see what happens.

Question:
What's been your favorite place out of all the different places you've ever visited.

Josh Gates:
That's a tough question. I have a sort of standing bucket list of places that I'd like to go to, and actually one of our new episodes that's coming up is in Antarctica and it's a place I've wanted to go to for a very long time. And we were really fortunate to be able to bring the show there and it's an incredible episode.

There are these amazing ghost stories about these abandoned whaling stations and disused science facilities down at the bottom of the world, and we actually sailed from the bottom of South America. And it's a one-hour special where we're going to be going down to Antarctica and investigating these locations. And for me, it exceeded all expectations. It's this absolutely stunning place that is just sort of hidden from the rests of the world.

And so, we're thrilled about the episode, it's a really exciting and funny episode actually, and you get to sort of see what it takes to try to bring a crew of people across the Drake Passage and over to Antarctica.

Question:
What are some interesting things you discovered researching banshee before you headed over to Ireland?

Josh Gates:
I think we experienced some of the same surprises that we experienced when we were investigation the leprechaun story last year, which is that there's this really intense connection in Ireland to their folklore. And you meet a lot of people who really are invested in these paranormal reports. They really believe that these ghosts are there, they believe that the banshee is there, and they claim to have had these first person experiences that are really compelling when you listen to them. And so, I think that the real challenge for us is to be as respectful as possible of these beliefs. These are stories and legends that really define Irish culture.

And so, we're excited to go over there and take these great stories, some of which you'll be seeing on the night of the live show from these eye witnesses, and going in and investigating their claims and seeing if we can put a face to what it is that they're seeing and hearing and experiencing.

Question:
Aside from the ice and snow, how is Antarctica different from other isolated places you've investigated?

Josh Gates:
I think one of the things that makes it so impressive is how pristine it is. It is a place that really has benefited from being removed from human contact. It has an unbelievable amount of actual wildlife. It's a place that you think of as being sort of barren, but when you get there you realize that it's actually this flourishing ecosystem.

And it's a desert essentially, as well, a snow covered desert, but it's just a really unique environment. I think for me, the other thing as a guy who is a traveler that is so impressive about is the amount of fortitude and bravery that it has taken people to go and explore that place. When you go to these old explorers' huts and these old whaling huts, there's this unbelievable legacy of intrepidity. I mean, these people who risked, and many times, lost their lives trying to explore this extremely hostile environment.

Question:
When you're in a foreign land investigating ghosts, why do you ask questions in English and expect to get a response back in English?

Josh Gates:
Well, we don't always expect a response back in English. When we go and we do these investigations we bring a lot of different recording equipment, we set both audio recorders and video recorders up throughout the place where the sightings have been purported. And we take all that data back and we look for anything that sounds like speech, anything that sounds like it might be an EVP.

And so, there's not an expectation on our part that it's going to be in English, it's just there actually have been a few instances where we've tried to speak in the native language as well. But, I think for us it's about validating eye witness claims, so if eye witnesses are claiming to see and hear what sounds like speech we're just seeing if we can see and hear what it is that they're seeing and hearing.

Question:
What goes through your mind when thinking about this live shoot? Is there a fear that maybe nothing at all is going to happen, or do you see it more as you're still in the process of letting the fans be with you on an investigation?

Josh Gates:
I think exactly what you just said. One of the things that we're really intent on doing with this live show is making it about the investigation. And when we go to investigate these locations we have to boil that down to a very small amount of what actually happened. And so, for us to be able to show you in real time what happens out there, I think it's going to be really interesting. Our investigations are typically exciting, they're typically funny from time-to-time, so I think it's going to be an unexpected night and I think that this is a place that has a pretty interesting reputation for a lot of strange activity. So, we're very hopeful that we'll be able to showcase some of that.

Question:
When you go to a place like this, does the team kind of spend some time coming up with possible theories that could debunk this? I assume you probably look at wildlife in the area and things like that, or do you just kind of go into it to see what happens?

Josh Gates:
Well, no we certainly do that, and I think we do a lot of that while we're doing it. I think what we'll be doing during the live investigation is talking about the specific reports in and around Duckett's Grove, which is this sprawling parcel of land with this really kind of imposing ruined estate on it, and talking about, "Well, could it be this, could it be that?"

Certainly, I think that the simplest explanation for people's experiences is often the right one, and so we'll be looking for ways to debunk these claims. But, a lot of these claims are very dramatic. They are things that you wouldn't expect people to mistake for something in the natural environment. So, I think we're also on the lookout for, you know, will these things happen for us? Will we be able to see these things that so many people claim happen there?

Question:
About the banshee, is there actually a visual element to it or is it mostly auditory?

Josh Gates:
The sort of auditory element of the banshee is what's she's famous for, right? She has this piercing wail that really defines the banshee. And the sound of the banshee is something that if you walk down the street in Ireland and polled 100 people and asked them about the banshee's whale, you'd be amazed at how many people will have something to say about it.

There are a lot of people who claims that just before a death they have heard this keening or this whaling, but there is also a visual element to this ghost. She is reported as being sometimes a young woman, sometimes an old woman, but always with this cloak and always with the sort of long flowing hair. And there have been a lot of visual encounters, specifically at Duckett's Grove, the place we're going. So, for us a lot of different reports, both visual and auditory to follow-up on.

Question:
What originally inspired you to sort of get into this investigative line of work?

Josh Gates:
I'm in it for the women and the money. No, that's not true. I'm a travel nut. My father worked overseas when I was a kid. He was a commercial diver. He's retired now. My mom's British so we would go over to England once a year. And from a really early age, I just had this real intense desire to go and see what was outside of those airplane windows.

And so, I've always wanted to work in travel television in particular, and to be able to go to places and bring stories back for viewers. And I came to Destination Truth in sort of a roundabout way. They were looking for someone to helm a show like this and I met with them, and I think what they liked is that I am a travel enthusiast and not a Big Foot aficionado, right? I don't rubberstamp the stories, I'm just as apt to say that I think something doesn't exists, as to say that it does.

And they really wanted someone who could stand in place of the viewer and go out there and ask the questions that the viewers can ask and say, "Well, wait a minute, could it be this? Could it be that?" And really, try to bring back these cultures, or just a little sliver of these cultures for our viewers to take in and to learn about some of these places that are not often exposed on TV. And so, that's really how I came to it. For me, I have a real passion for travel and that made me in the eyes of the channel a good fit for the show.

Question:
Your work takes you all around the globe and the world has changed a lot in the past few years. Has that affected your way of doing things?

Josh Gates:
In a lot of ways it hasn't. There are obviously political hotspots around the world that sometimes become off limits for us to film in for obvious reasons. There are some dangerous spots here and there. But, I will say that I think that one of the things that's always amazing to me is how no matter what the particular political conflict in the world is, people everywhere we go are almost universally unbelievably hospitable and welcoming. They want to share their stories. They want to work with us. They want to have their history and their culture featured and celebrated.

And so, I think that's a little bit our kind of secret mission on the show is to get people excited about travel and excited about going to far away exotic places, and soaking in their culture. And I'll tell you, I've been really amazed that as much as the world has changed, for the most part you go to towns and villages around the world and it hasn't, right? People are still pretty great everywhere you go.

Question:
A lot of the time you go to these exotic places, and when you talk to the locals and you get these stories sometimes the accounts come out that the creatures are seen during daytime, but a lot of the time your investigations take place at night. Why you mostly focus on night expeditions if in case the creatures may actually be daytime creatures?

Josh Gates:
Yes, it's a good question. In the instances where they tend to be seen during the day, we do go out during the day and investigate. And you have to also remember kind of what makes it to the screen is not usually the full complement of what we've done out there. I mean, I think that's probably part of the answer is that the night investigations are more compelling. I mean, without beating around the bush it's certainly more interesting to go look for things at night than to look for them during the day. A lot of these animals though are purported to come out at night.

Most of the eyewitness sightings for these types of creatures and phenomena happen at night, and there's a lot of reasons for that. It could be that the things that people are seeing are nocturnal, it could also be that things are harder to see at night and people mistake things more. But for the most part, if there's a preponderance of daytime sightings we'll go out and investigate during the day. It's especially true of our water creatures where a lot of people see stuff during the day on the water, and we try to do a number of day dives in the area where people have seen things.

Question:
Would it be easier to collect evidence during the day than at night?

Josh Gates:
Sure. I mean, and instances where people claim to see things during the day we do investigate during the day. For us part of the problem is that what's a great challenge of the show for us is trying to boil down these big expeditions to an hour. And the times when we're able to spend one hour on one topic, we're able to feature a bit more of that daytime journey. But, if we go and spend a night in a location and investigate there, we typically the day before we set up or the day after, we'll go and sweep the whole area again and look around during daylight.

Question:
Most of your shows are spent on the adventure and there's a little follow-up that wraps things up. Do they plan on having any kind of follow-up with any of the evidence to say, "Hey, this looks bad," or anything like that?

Josh Gates:
That's a great question. We mull that over in the early stages of the show a lot when we do a second show where we reveal the evidence. And what we've decided do is actually to try process a lot of the analysis in real time. I think because the appeal of the event is to see a live investigation, we want to be able to give viewers live analysis as well. So, we have a few special guests appearing on the show and we're going to have some familiar faces from other shows on the channel. And we're going to have some of those people while we're investigating, working on the evidence, listening for EVPs, scrubbing through tapes.

And we're going to take, at the very end of the show, we're going to take a little bit of time and kind of do a reckoning and go through everything that we found out in the field and everything that they've found back at the analysis station, and we're going to see if we can render a verdict.

Question:
Have there been any really wacky ideas that you guys just said, "No way we're going to do that," and can you tell us about any of them?

Josh Gates:
Well, usually the channel tells me that we're not going to do it. I'm the one that wants to go do the wacky idea. We've wanted to do something in Iraq for a while, but it just doesn't seem to go over very well. We have a lot of fans in the armed forces, and so we would love to do a story in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it's hard for me to get that over the bow of the channel. But, we just really want to do something with the armed forces, but for obvious reasons that's very difficult.

And we did a great underwater paranormal investigation out in the Pacific last year in this World War II site in Truk Lagoon. So, there's a lot of discussion about trying to do more things in difficult places like that. And I think Antarctica is really a good example of an episode that we had talked about maybe two seasons ago, and had determined that it was too difficult to do and we just kept revisiting it.

We have a number of stories that are pinned up on the board to revisit, and that's one of them. And look, that was a really, really challenging trip for us to do. But yes, there is a sort of a little file cabinet of ideas that are difficult, I guess we'll say.

Question:
\You have the cameras attached to your body and on your face, have you guys ever considered having the camera seeing what you're looking at, or angled out that way?

Josh Gates:
We have. In fact, we've experimented and try to evolve our camera package every season. Part of the problem is that the camera is a little technical, but the main cameras, which are the green ones that we shoot with, are night vision cameras. And they sort of compete with the cameras that are pointing at us on the backpacks because the cameras that point at us have infrared emitters that kind of put out some infrared light.

If you flip those around so they're facing forward, it tends to blast the other cameras. So, what we try to do is film that forward POV using those larger cameras, but of course the camera operators are sort of jockeying between covering what we see and actually covering the investigators themselves.

So, I think one of the things we're really excited about is the way we we've tried to evolve that kit for the live show. I sort of alluded to it earlier, but we're going to be broadcasting these modified backpack cameras in real time. The backpack is going to have a transmitter in the back of it now that will go back to the truck and broadcast it out. So, that's something we've never obviously tried to do before, and I think assuming it works, it's going to be really cool looking.

Whatever camera you use out there has to have some sort of light intensifying. Whether it's night vision or whether it's infrared, and if you put too many of them together pointed out into the world they tend to kind of argue with each other and overrun each other.

Question:
What is your biggest fear about doing a live show?

Josh Gates:
Swearing. I swear a little too much, and Ryder, who's on the show with me swears a lot, so that's always a challenge. When I host the Ghost Hunters Live show on Halloween, there's an enormous burden in the sense that there's a lot of things that have to be talked about and promo'd, and as the host of that show there are a lot of responsibilities as a host.

What's really exciting for me about Destination Truth Live is that I'm no longer serving as the host, I'm in actually doing the investigation, which means I can be myself. I can go and I can do the investigation and work with my team, talk about the things that we're finding, so in some ways, I don't want to say the pressure's off, but we're going to go in and do the job that we always do during an investigation.

Obviously there are always these sort of concerns about the technical aspects when you do live show, but I think that's what makes it fun. You don't really know what's going to happen, and that's what makes it exciting.

Question:
What's the one thing you hope to find during this investigation?

Josh Gates:
Obviously we're looking for evidence of the banshee, so it would be exciting to be able to find some really interesting evidence. But, I think more than anything what we really want to accomplish is what we try to accomplish on the non-live shows, which is making the viewer feel like they're out there with us.

Our big goal when we make Destination Truth is to get the viewer to feel like they're on the journey with us, they're a part of the expedition team, and on this live show they're going to be part of our investigation team. And we want them to feel like they're looking at a largely, raw, unfiltered, look at what it's like to be out there in this really dynamic, kind of unknown environment overnight. So, my goal is that we're able to satisfy the viewers and that they really feel like they were out there with us on St. Patrick's Day in Ireland, and that they have a great time.

Question:
For the live show, four hours is a big chunk of time. Can you talk about maybe some of the special things you're doing to keep viewers engaged?

Josh Gates:
First of all this is a really expansive property. There are a lot of different areas to this castle. There is this, of course sort of central imposing structure, which has rooms and towers and it's a really impressive site. But beyond that, you have these huge walled gardens. You have a forest that actually lies beyond that. And we're trying to be able to wire all these areas, or make them all wireless I should say, so that we can actually travel around to these different parts of the site.

So, I think the first thing you're going to be seeing is a lot of dynamic different areas. We'll be able to send teams into structures and into forest. Beyond that, we're going to be able to transmit our thermal imager live. We're going to be using night vision goggles live. We're going to have a bunch of new gizmos and toys that we're going to have out there, so you'll be able to see and hear things in different parts of the site using different technology.

We also have special guests with us throughout the evening, and we'll be able to mix our teams up as we go along, so I think it's going to be a very dynamic night. As we go into investigate and hopefully it's also a dynamic night because we'll have interesting things happen to us.

Question:
Can you tell me who those special guests might be?

Josh Gates:
Wwe're going to have a couple of our good friends from Ghost Hunters International Barry FitzGerald and Kris Williams who are both friends of ours and Kris has appeared on Destination Truth before. And Barry is obviously going to be the local authority, seeing as he's Irish, so we're really pleased to have both of them there. They've got a lot of experience investigating internationally, and Barry is going to be able to draw on a lot of local experience as well, in terms of the folklore and the history, so really excited to have both of them involved with the show.

During the live Ghost Hunter show this last year in Buffalo, I had the pleasure of co-hosting with Allison Scagliotti from Warehouse 13. And Allison is going to come back and join us as well and she's going to be with us at our base camp, and hosting the show. And, she's terrific, she's sensational, and she's got a great attitude and she's super enthusiastic, and so I know she's going to bring a lot to the show as well.

So, it's going to be a really exciting night, and of course, my Destination Truth team will be there. We have a few new team members that we haven't met before, so the viewers will be able to meet a couple of new folks as well. As well as, folks like Erin Ryder who is really part of the heart and soul of Destination Truth, who hasn't been on the show this last season, and this will market the beginning of her return for all of the new episodes to come.

Question:
How is that you have not shot in Central America before? It's closer, it has some middle income countries, so itt seems like it'd be an easier place to shoot. Is there a reason why you never went there before?

Josh Gates:
I have no good answer for that. We had shot in Mexico before and we have shot extensively in South America on the show, but we always were sort of missing Central America in between and there's nothing that kept us from investigating there. Part of it is we go where we find interesting current relevant stories. And so, we just happened to have a couple of things come across our radar from Panama, this great very notorious abandoned prison off the Coast of Panama, which was a sight of really terrible political torture and is now being kind of overgrown by the rain forest, is the spot, according to a lot of eyewitnesses, of intense paranormal activity.

So, that was a really interesting, challenging story for us to be able to go to Panama and do. And I'm very hopeful that we can go back and film more there in our next seasons.

Question:
You've done so many investigations, is there one that has a special place in your heart, or has a little bit more meaning than some of the other ones?

Josh Gates:
There have been a number of them. I look back very fondly on our investigation of King Tut's tomb, as well as our trip to Chernobyl. Even though that was a very difficult place to investigate just because I just feel so amazed that we were able to achieve our goals of going to those places, negotiating the permissions to spend time there, and actually filming and bringing those experiences back.

There are a few episodes from this coming season that I'm really proud of as well. We were able to visit Namibia in Southwestern Africa, which is a country that is just almost not featured on television at all. It's an amazing place, incredible dunes and deserts. It's a really barren lanDISCape. And we have a couple of great stories there; a really interesting creature sighting in the northern part of the country, and a very cool paranormal story as well. And so, that is another place that I was so excited to visit. It's a place I've wanted to go for a long time. So for me, I think the more difficult and exotic places always kind of stand out.

Question:
Is there any investigation you've done that you didn't feel was completely answered or that you weren't satisfied with the answer and you'd like to revisit?

Josh Gates:
There are a lot of episodes we'd like to revisit and we talk about that from time to time. We've never revisited an episode yet in the show, having done it for four years, and so I think there's a lot of opportunities for us to go back. Certainly, there's plenty of episodes that have unanswered questions. I think a lot of the time we're able to make determinations at the end of the show that Creature X, or paranormal Entity X doesn't exist, because we can explain it away with alternate explanations, or natural things that are happening in the environment.

But, there are plenty of places where we're not able to make that determination and we're left feeling like, either we weren't able to fully realize what the eyewitnesses had seen, or we had seen things ourselves that we weren't able to fully explain. And I think that's also part of the fun of the show is that you're not going to throw a net over these animals at the end of every hour. You're going to be left sometimes with more questions than you came in with, and that invites us to go back and maybe take a look at some of those stories again.

So, I think in the coming year or two you might see us revisit a few of the places that we've gone to. There are a number of places that people frequently request that we go back and check out again as well.

Question:
Is there going to be any kind of interactive aspect to this with the fans? IIs anybody monitoring a Twitter feed or a Facebook page or anything as part of the show?

Josh Gates:
Yes, we are going to have some interactive elements to the show, and what we're trying to do is really make the focus about the investigation. We don't want to step away from the investigation too much and get too bogged down in stuff that doesn't keep our focus on the show. But, we found all these interesting ways to creatively involve the team out in the field while they're investigating with the viewers back at home.

So, there will be a Twitter component. The viewers are also going to be able to track the teams in real time while they're investigating. There will be a banshee button, which is sort of a way for viewers to actually at Syfy.com monitor some of the cameras from around the site, and weigh in if they see anything unusual while we're investigating. So, there's going to be a lot of ways that people watching the show can interact with the show, which is really cool.

Question:
How do you pick new team members?

Josh Gates:
We pick them very carefully. We obviously ask the question of why we have to swap out team members sometimes, and it's not a very exciting answer. It's just that the nature of the way we film is that we come home for wide stretches in between the times that we go out, and our crew are people that are in demand on all sorts of projects.

So, we have a rotating group of people that come on and off the show. And we also try to bring people that are tailored to each of the expeditions that we're doing, people who speak different languages and have different regional expertise. But, it's a difficult thing for us to do because you're not only hiring someone who you want to be a good investigator, you want them to be good on TV and all those sort of things as well.

But, you really want them to be someone who you're going to be able to live in close quarters with for two or three months at a time, and who is going to have a lot of enthusiasm for working in really difficult environments. So, we meet people that are recommended to us or that are referred to us and we screen them really carefully.

It's a little family out there and we want everyone who's in that family to really fit in well and enjoy the experience as much as we do. So, we also sort of know them when we see them, I think. The kind of people who work on DT are people who really have this wonderlust and they really want to do these sort of things and kind of put themselves in harm's way and get out in the world, and turn over some rocks and look in some dark corners. And so, those are the kind of folks that we're after.

Question:
We've seen you go to sort of a wide variety of places and occasionally you're in a truly developing country where life is very different. What is it like for you to inhabit a place where the clothes on your back are worth more than most people are going to make in a month there.

Josh Gates:
It can be a challenge sometimes. There are countries in Africa that leap to mind, places where you come up against a lot of poverty and low amount of resources. And it can be, especially for some of our team members who aren't as well traveled, that can be a real shock to the system. But, I said this earlier and it's really true, I can't emphasize enough how, and it almost seems like the places in the world where life is more difficult the people tend to be, contrastingly extremely welcoming and hospitable.

And so, I'm always impressed by the fact that we are welcomed inside modest homes and small villages, and welcomed into these cultures. And these people, even if they're resources are limited, but want to share the resources that they have. And so, I think sometimes you find that there's an offset to seeing some places that really are struggling with the amount of warmth that comes from them. I mean, that's really been my experience almost exclusively.

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