So I start monster hunting and suddenly everybody is in on the craze. I'm writing a new book called Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (thanks, David Bowie) in which I attempt to find the "big six" of Cryptozoology. No sooner do I start upon my quest and monsters start popping up everywhere.
First it was the yetis in Siberia and now, a week after my visit there, somebody gets some (admittedly not very conclusive) footage of Ogopogo, Canada's answer to Nessie.
So far I've searched for Ogopogo and Bigfoot. I found no monsters but loads of super creeps. I was pursued through Redwood forests by three "lady" rednecks with crowbars and had to hike 13 miles out of Indian territory after getting my car stuck in snow miles from nowhere with no mobile contact and only a T-shirt and some beef jerky for company.
In the film of my adventures I would have lost consciousness and woken up in Bigfoot's cave with her breast-feeding me. Fortunately for me, but not the book, this did not happen and I was rescued by an armed and paranoid weed farmer. He had definitely seen Bigfoot but then...he also believed that Obama was a lizard.
I'd expected the whole monster thing to be a bit of an industry but actually, if anything, most locals are reticent and scared of being ridiculed about any sightings. If I had a pound for every time I've heard someone say, "Sure, I know loads of folks that have seen one but they don't like to talk about it" then I'd have...quite a few pounds. I assumed all monster-sighters would be crazed publicity hounds. Sadly, they are far from it.
I come to the subject with an open mind and the knowledge that, apart from anything else, the monsters I've chosen are all in fascinating places to travel to. I'm off to the Congo next to search for the Mokele Mbembe, supposedly a dinosaur that still lives in the jungle there. Then it's a Tintin fantasy - off to Kathmandu to try and track down the yeti (much nicer to visit than Siberia).
I'm not really sure what qualifications you need to become a monster hunter? In my case, I have none whatsoever. I have, however had a business card printed that simply reads "Dom Joly - Monster Hunter". It tends to create the desired impression in most places, although some hotels then ask you for a cash down payment before you get a room but hey - that's the life I've chosen.
Being a monster hunter is certainly great kudos with the kids. My seven-year-old boy proudly proclaimed that - "my daddy is away looking for the Appalling Snowman..." I brought him back a plaster moulding of a Bigfoot print found in 1963 near Bluff Creek in Humboldt County. It is the single best souvenir I have ever brought back from my travels and worth every minute of the three hours I spent at Heathrow trying to explain it to a tetchy customs officer.
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