Cliff Simon has had a life-long interest in the supernatural. The Air Force pilot-turned-actor might be best known for his recurring role on Stargate SG-1 in the early 2000s but now, he's hosting Into the Unknown for the Travel Channel. Starting Monday, August 27th, six episodes of the unscripted series will air, each one focusing on a different urban legend around the world, from the Bigfoot-like Rogarou in the swamps of Louisiana to ghoulish warriors in Hawaii.
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Simon to chat about the paranormal experiences that led him to hosting his new travel show, the content of the show itself, and more.
Keep scrolling to see our full chat with the adventurer below.
Earliest Paranormal Experiences
ComicBook.com: Into the Unknown, let's talk about you and your team pitching this idea. What's the primary driving force behind attracting you to this series that's going to take up so much of your time and energy?
Cliff Simon: You know what, I've had a very varied life, but the one thing that's kind of been constant. I've always been interested in paranormal, spirits, ghosts, UFOs. It's never been an obsession of mine, but definitely the investigation side of looking for these things that are legends and the belief of all of these, you can call creatures or ghosts or whatever, is so strong and it's just developed into this for me.
I eventually hooked up with a guy, Robin Keats, who was the creator of the show many years ago. His wife had actually written a show for me about pit bull rescue, which I was involved with at that time and that's how I got to meet him. He pitched me the show and I was like... I couldn't believe I was lucky. This is something I was really interested to do. And hosting shows is what I really wanted to do. So it all just came together for me.
Do you recall one of your earliest experiences with the paranormal or supernatural?
Yeah, definitely. I was very young. I think I was probably around about four or five and I don't remember many things from that age and I didn't think many kids do, but the one thing I do remember is one night in my room, I saw something in my room and I didn't even touch the floor when I jumped off my bed to run to my parents' room.
I still remember that so vividly and I knew something was in my room. And we went back into the room, of course, nothing was there, but ever since that day, it has stuck with me, and through my life as I got older, I experienced other things. I think a lot of people are sensitive to certain things and I think I'm just sensitive to them.prevnext
Going Too Far With Cryptids
Was there one time that solidified your belief in the unknown? Was there one time where you decided, "You know what, I know what the deal is, you can't convince me otherwise?"
There was a time, it was before I moved out to the United States in 2000. It was around 1995. I walked into a friend's bathroom. This was in South Africa. And I walked into the bathroom and I had all these black shapes around me and I saw them clearly, completely clearly. I switched on the lights and they all disappeared up the wall. I went back out and I said to my friends, you've got ghosts in your house, my friend. Just like that.
As I said that to him, all the lights in the house switched off, the power went out. That was the time when I realized there is a lot more out there than meets the eye or that's what we're actually seeing. I came to the conclusion, and even to this day, shooting the show, I still feel like this is that a lot of the times we're not seeing these things simply because they don't want to be seen. So we have to find a way to see them. We have to find a way to document them and that's what our show is about.
When you get into the world of cryptids, every locale has its own legend. How did you and the team settle on these six legends when there were thousands to choose from? I watched the Rougarou episode not too long ago and that legend is certainly a lot less known than say, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster or what have you, right?
Originally, Robin Keats did a lot of research on this as the creator of the show and there are plenty stories. I think we originally had 26 different stories, and between me and him, we went through them and slowly started whittling them down, but eventually Cineflix and Robin Keats got together and they whittled it down to the six we have for the first season of the show. As I said, we have clearly more. They found these the most interesting and so did I because I actually, I had very little knowledge of, for instance, the Rougarou in Louisiana. So that was a very, very interesting episode for me to go down, and terrifying, I must say. Just being in those swamps, the Atchafalaya Basin and all of that, it's a terrifying place, especially at three o'clock in the morning.
So when you're looking for a beast like a Rougarou, after speaking to so many witnesses and so many other people there, the belief is so strong and I was kind of directed in a certain direction. I had blessings from voodoo priestesses. It was an unbelievable experience for me and I found things. I found a nest with hair. We found bones. I climbed a 54-foot tree to get to this nest. We heard things, me and my crew. We heard things in the middle of the night and my hair was standing on end the entire time. So that's about all I'm going to say about that episode, but there were a lot of things happening, especially in Louisiana, but elsewhere as well. In all the episodes there's plenty happening.
Now I don't want to get into spoilers per se, but obviously you're a survivalist. You say you've had a lifelong interest in the supernatural, but was there any moment, whether in these six episodes or the episodes you're filming, where you maybe thought you were in a position where you got too far in over your head?
No, I'll tell you. It's fine. We definitely can talk about that. So when I was in Hawaii... Generally speaking, we're dealing with beasts, we're dealing with the New Jersey Devil. We're dealing with the Rougarou, we're dealing with Bigfoot, we're dealing with Dogman, whatever's out there. But when it came to the Hawaii episode and there we're dealing with something called the Night Marchers, which are these ancient warriors who used to protect the chiefs, the kings of the islands. Very ruthless warriors. And when I was there shooting that episode, at one point, when I felt the Night Marchers were upon me, I really felt they were upon me. And for one second, I thought to myself, I've gone too far with this because there's nothing worse for me. Even in my military days, I had my biggest fear when I couldn't see something and I could hear it. That's when you have your biggest fear, as far as I'm concerned.
If I can hear something and then I see it, my brain can put it all together. But if you can't see something, you're listening to, that's very terrifying. And I felt that in a way. I felt that with the Night Marchers. I'm not going to tell you what I had done there, but I had some sort of protection given to me in Hawaii. So that was also in the back of my mind. I knew I had some kind of protection, but I definitely felt in that episode with the Night Marchers that I've gotten a little in over my head.prevnext
You Shouldn't Be Here
With the Rougarou episode, obviously there are all sorts of people on camera and firsthand accounts that you spoke with. Were there any ideas that were scrapped because you guys started talking to the team and the locals were just so adamant you shouldn't, I guess, move forward with it?
You mean like them saying you shouldn't do this, you shouldn't be here?
Right. A turn around and leave town type of deal, I guess.
Yeah. The witnesses and the people in the show, they were all really amazing. The only little bit of resistance I had was in Mount Shasta from one of the American Indian chiefs who I actually went and did a sweat lodge with prior to going climbing Mount Shasta. That was part of a protection ceremony, was a very interesting thing on its own. He was a little resistant in the beginning. He felt we weren't going to portray what the mountain was all about, as far as his ancestors were concerned. So I had to tread a very fine line with him, but I sat down with him on my own and spoke to him and spoke to him about the kind of person I am and told him to just forget about the cameras, that we're not here for sensationalism.
I'm here because I want to be here and I want to find the truth and I need him to help me find the truth. I said, let's pretend there are no cameras. This is what we're doing. I'm a very real down to earth person and this is what I would like to do. So eventually I broke through the barriers, but he was a little resistant, but in the end, it all worked out very well with him and it was a real honor to meet this guy. You'll see him in the Mount Shasta episode. Was phenomenal.prevnext
What would you say to a non-believer or a skeptic as to why they should watch this show? Maybe they don't buy into to the idea of the paranormal or supernatural or these mythical creatures. What would you say to them to get them to watch this show?
Well you know what I say to them, open your mind. You might be surprised at what's out there. All my life, I have found, like in small things. I used to work with pit bull rescue back in Los Angeles. I used to help out with them, and so many people fear those dogs because they don't understand them. So my whole thing about the show is I want people to understand we don't need to fear things that we don't understand yet. We will get to understand them. We as human beings tend to want to kill everything that we fear. If we don't understand it, we want to kill it.
I would say to them, open your mind, don't be a skeptic, just be open to it. You don't have to believe it. I don't totally believe things until I see them. So I understand that when people are like that, but open your mind. There's a lot more to this world than what meets the eye. Our oceans, we've explored nothing of the oceans. We don't know what's down there. The sky is big skies. We don't know what's up there. It's huge and traveling around this country and traveling around the world, like I have my entire life, it's a big, big world. There's a lot of places out there that have never been touched by humans. We don't know what's out there.
So I'd say to them, keep an open mind and just go with it. 100 years ago people thought... Can you imagine a 100 years ago people looking at a cell phone? They would have thought you were an alien. Things can happen.0comments
Into the Unknown premieres on the Travel Channel on August 27th.prev
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