In his latest book, 'Scary Monsters and Super Creeps', comedian and author Dom Joly goes in search of the world's most legendary monsters... and finds one
After the success of his last travel book, The Dark Tourist, Dom Joly set off again to probe the stranger corners of the world, this time in search of the planet's most legendary – and elusive – creatures.
From the redwood forests of California to the thick jungle of the Congo, Dom went in search of legendary creatures and the people who devote their lives to finding them. He talks to Peter Moore about the difficulty of being taken seriously as a cryptozoologist and his love of travel and photography.
The Dark Tourist saw you holidaying in danger zones. In this book you’re off searching for monsters. What is it that attracts you to off-beat travel destinations?
I'm not much of a beach person and get easily bored. I like to travel with a purpose and hate being anywhere that feels like it's easy to get to. I think it must come from growing up in Lebanon and travelling into places like Syria as a kid. To my mum, everyone else was a tourist whereas we were travellers.
You say that travel is one of your great loves. What is it about travelling that appeals?
I can't really put it into words... travel is adventure, knowledge, experiences... there is nothing that beats that feeling of getting off a plane in a strange new city.
What did you find stranger: the monsters you were seeking or the people you met who have devoted their lives to finding them?
Most of the "monster hunters" I met were a tad on the mental side and tended to also have beliefs in global conspiracies and new world orders...
A lot of the witnesses to sightings however, were curiously sane and surprisingly loathe to tell anybody about what they'd seen which gave them far more credibility.
What were your favourite moments from the journey?
Seeing Everest for the first time, being rescued after crashing my car way up a mountain in Humboldt County and the first time I handed over one of my business cards that read: "Dom Joly, Monster Hunter" to an official.
On your first trip researching the book, you were distraught to learn you'd left your precious Leica at home. How important is photography in your travels?
It's huge. I'm a photograph nut and love my cameras. Sometimes I wonder who I'm taking these photos for as my wife won't look at them, but one day I'll look back and go- "Wow, I was away from home a lot." I am a little bit too over-reliant on Snapseed.
Did you get to see any of the monsters you were searching for? And was that even the point of the journey?
There was a basic flaw in my quest – this was that I was actually worried that I did get a sighting because, being a TV practical joker, who would believe me? As it happened I did get a sighting of Ogopogo, the Canadian lake monster, and I filmed it (it's on my Facebook page).
Honestly though, the point was not to find any monsters but more to embark on a Tintin-esque adventure. Everything else was a bonus.
Your trip towards Lake Tele in the Congo could have been in your last book. Why do you think things got so nasty there?
Well the Congo is pretty synonymous with things getting nasty as it is. When some idiot turns up and starts looking for dinosaurs you've got to expect him to get into trouble... and I did. There were a couple of moments when I genuinely didn't think I'd be going home alive...
The book has its share of super creeps, but also a lot of people who went out of their way to help you. In your travels do you find most people want to be helpful?
People are inherently nice. The basic rule is that the further you get away from modern civilisation and the pressures of work and career, the nicer people are. I might make an exception here for some people I met in the Congo, but in their defence they were ripped to the tits on jungle gin.
Did you finish the journey more of a believer or more of a skeptic?
Actually more of a believer. There are areas like the Himalayas and even the remote north of California where you could very much see how something could exist undiscovered.
What's next for Dom Joly? What corner of the globe are you off to?
My next book is going to be about me going off to some of the weirdest retreats and spas in the world... I'm 45 this year, so I'm undergoing a full spiritual MOT.