Pat Spain is a biologist by day and Legend Hunter by night. The host of the new Travel Channel show, which premieres Tuesday, Jan. 8, grapples with some of the world's most infatuating mysteries, including the Jack the Ripper and the Lizzie Borden murders.
As a biologist, Spain is no stranger to making big discoveries — he did find the first barracuda ever in Maine as a 16-year-old intern, after all — and told PopCulture.com that what he and his team uncovered with Legend Hunter is truly surprising.
"We get some new evidence," he said. "We really found some stuff that has never been seen that truly surprised even me."
For example, the premiere episode covers the infamous Lizzie Borden murder case to find out who really took an ax to her father and stepmother. Spain began his investigation by scratch, acting as if the crime happened yesterday. He visited Borden's old home in New England, which has been recreated so that it "almost perfectly matches what it would have looked like when Lizzie lived there, down to the furniture."
To really get in the spirit of things, Spain even used old police photos to lay in the exact position Lizzie's father's body was found in.
"They had me lay down in the place that Lizzie's father was found. They positioned my legs," Spain said, joking that "something about this isn't right."
"You do find yourself joking about this, and it's like, 'Oh, there was a brutal double murder here, is this OK?" he said, adding that the gallows humor-centric episode sets the tone for the series.
As a seven-year survivor of stage 3 colon cancer, Spain says gallows humor is a trait of his that "permeates" as the tone throughout the series.
"One of the best things about being a cancer survivor is being able to make everyone around you uncomfortable by joking about it. So that kind of permeates my personality and works well with this idea," he said.
"It was important to find that kind of balance of what is acceptable and to joke about versus what is moving and a little bit crossing that disturbing kind of line, and I think we did a great job with it," he added.
Disturbing, indeed. Not only did Spain and his team visit the site of the Lizzie Borden murders, but they also traveled to London to revisit the Jack the Ripper murders, as well as Wisconsin to uncover the truth of the Beast of Bray Road — a werewolf-like creature sighted more than 30 times on a rural road.
Additionally, Spain searches for the Irish Crown Jewels stolen from the Dublin castle in 1907 — narrowing it down from three main suspects to where exactly the jewels worth $30 million might be hidden.
While the mysteries explored in Legend Hunter are certainly intriguing, Spain said his motivation to investigate goes further than pure interest.
"Mainstream science tends to write things off too quickly. It tends to decide that something isn't accepted a little too early," he explained. "I was drawn to these cryptids, [like] a creature that's either out of place or that they think has gone extinct, or something that mainstream science has never proven exists."
"Seeing how we can apply scientific principles in a fun and exciting and entertaining way," was one of the most fun experiences of the job for Spain — which ended up being quite the time commitment for him and his family.
Spain, a married dad of two, kept up his day job while writing and filming Legend Hunter. The writing process alone, in which he would propose and detail adventures for the unscripted episodes, took six months.
"You do all of this up front work. Months and months of research and late night phone calls," he said, explaining that he would leave for work at his biotech company in Boston around 4:30 a.m. and have conference calls with the production company during his daily commute, not returning home until 5:30 p.m.
"There were days on the Lizzie episode [filmed in New England] where I would go into work, get changed into my filming uniform at noon, go out and film for about five or six hours, and then come back and keep on working [at the biotech company] until 10:00 at night and then wake up the next morning and do it again," he said.
Overall, Spain said he'd do it all again if he could.0comments
"The scenes are gorgeous and the content is great as well. Even if I don't do a good job as a host, the show is still fantastic," he said, crediting the production company, Icon Films. "I'm very, very proud of it."
Legend Hunter premieres on the Travel Channel on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 10 p.m. ET.