14 Things You Might Not Know About Mission Declassified's Christof Putzel
If you’ve been watching Mission Declassified, then you already know Christof Putzel is a seasoned investigative journalist able to shed new light on old cold cases. That said, there’s a lot more to Christof than his work. Taking a break from his busy schedule, Christof sat down with Travel Channel to tell us a little bit more about himself, the show, and how he spends his time when he’s not looking for new leads and clues!
Mission Declassified’s Christof Putzel has already taken us on some incredible adventures this season. He’s traveled all over the world to locations such as Brazil, France and Italy. And he’s interviewed fascinating subjects such as former mafiosos and a family member of an Alcatraz escapee. Now that we’re about halfway through the season, it’s time we do some super serious investigative journalism of our own by putting Christof in the hot seat. Taking a break from his busy schedule, Christof sat down with Travel Channel to tell us a little bit more about himself, Mission Declassified, and how he spends his time when he’s not knee-deep in declassified documents trying to solve some of the most iconic cold cases — no big deal. So without further ado, here are 14 things you might not know about Christof Putzel:
1. Investigative journalism is in his blood.
If you watched the Lindbergh kidnapping episode, then you already know that Christof’s grandfather was the first reporter at the scene of the crime in 1932. As it turns out, Chirstof’s parents were also journalists. He told Travel Channel, “Both my parents were journalists, so growing up, our lives revolved around the news. I spent my childhood living between Washington, DC and Moscow, where my parents were covering what ended up being the collapse of the Soviet Union. So I was always fascinated by the work of journalists, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I really started exploring my own path as a reporter.”
2. He produced his first documentary during undergrad.
“I made my first documentary while I was an undergraduate about homeless orphans in Kenya who had lost their parents to AIDS. It was while I was living in Kenya producing the film that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. Clips of the film were later screened on Capitol Hill when policy decisions were being made. And viewers even managed to help award a full college scholarship in the US to one of the teens featured in the film. Seeing the real impact my work could have made me feel passionate about continuing it.”
3. If he had to choose, the Boston Art Heist episode of Mission Declassified is his favorite.
"I think our entire crew was enthralled with the Boston Art Heist because it was the most recent story we were investigating. It still felt so fresh because we got to interview so many people who were directly or indirectly involved with it. That energy can be hard to capture when you’reinvestigating a more historical crime."
4. Christof will #DoItForTheStory — even when it involves a hot pepper eating contest.
“I was once in Juarez working on a story about gun trafficking from the US to Mexico. I wanted to interview a professional hitman, but my local bodyguard was hesitant to set it up. I bet him that if I could eat more hot peppers than him, he would do it. To everyone’s surprise, including many dumbfounded onlookers, my gringo butt won! My bodyguard reluctantly lined up the interview. We met the hitman on the top of an abandoned parking garage, which was pretty sketchy to begin with. I think he thought I was sweating because I was nervous, but the truth was the peppers hadn’t stopped burning me inside and out!”
5. And speaking of doing it for the story, be sure to check out Christof snowmobiling in the UFO and season finale episodes.
We’ve already seen him jump out of a plane and recreate the escape from Alcatraz with a faulty raft. Still to come: snowmobiling. Christof told Travel Channel, “In both the UFO episode and Butch Cassidy episode, we ride snowmobiles in freezing temperatures into the middle of nowhere. It was cold, but super fun!”
6. Returning to Somalia is on his bucket list.
“I was one of the first journalists to go to Mogadishu in 2006 after fifteen years of anarchy. It was surreal to walk down the streets of what had once been a thriving neighborhood, only to see it completely destroyed. At the same time, the landscape was so beautiful that I couldn’t help but be full of hope that this place would one day thrive again. I’d love to go back and see for myself when that happens.”
7. He's originally from Washington, DC, but he's a Brooklynite through and through.
Christof’s favorite thing about living in Brooklyn is his home. He told Travel Channel, “I live in a loft on the top floor of an old converted Catholic church that was built in 1865. Because I travel so much, it’s important that my apartment feels like a nurturing environment when I’m home. I have a garden on my patio, a motorcycle in the garage, and lots of wooden furniture that I designed and built myself. And my wife is an incredible cook, which doesn’t hurt.”
8. He’s proud of his journalism awards but prouder of the opportunities he was given as a young reporter.
“It’s always nice to be recognized by your peers with journalism awards. But what means the most to me, looking back, is being a part of some incredible teams that were really trying to do something new in the journalism space. I was one of the first employees of Current TV, the network founded by Al Gore. I’m really proud of the work we produced there. At the time, there was no other network willing to send a 20-something like me to a war zone or to give us the freedom to tell long ambitious stories and trust that the audience would listen. I produced important stories there that the rest of the media hadn’t really picked up on yet.”
9. The most challenging aspect of his career has been convincing others of what stories should be told.
“I’d say that the hardest part is sometimes convincing people, whether the audience or your own editor, the importance of covering a story they may never have heard of. When stories are not in the public consciousness, they run the risk of never being told… and when that happens, we rob ourselves of the ability to solve important issues in the world. It keeps us living in ignorance.”
10. One of the interviews he’s most excited to share with us takes place during The Black Dahlia episode.
“I don’t want to give anything away, but the sisters are living proof that true light can emerge from darkness. They’re an inspiration.” The Black Dahlia episode airs Sunday, May 5 at 10|9c.
11. Fun fact: Christof makes his own furniture.
Using reclaimed floorboards from brownstones around Brooklyn, Christof designs and builds furniture.
12. And he's quite the gardener!
“I love gardening actually. I have a small garden on my patio with vertical green walls, where I grow everything Biodynamic — an alternative organic method that incorporates the moon cycles. I manage to grow a huge variety of edible plants including herbs, grapes, peaches, blueberries, peppers, salad greens, ground cherries, tomatoes, and mushrooms.”
13. His favorite book is The Alchemist.
When it comes to TV and film, he says the show Six Feet Under is still his favorite and that the movie Lion blew him away.
14. And in case you need one more thing to surprise you about Christof: he has a mystical side.
“People are often surprised to find that I have a mystical side. As an investigative journalist, I spend most of my time searching for facts as we understand them. But I’m equally fascinated by what we’ve yet to explain, especially about human consciousness.”
And before you go — if you're not already tuning in to Mission Declassified, here's why you should according to Christof: “Not only do you get to come with me on the adventure of a real investigation, but you get to see how an investigative team really works. But most of all, you’ll learn along the way that real life is always stranger than fiction. The cold cases we cover would probably never be believed if they hadn’t really happened.”
And there you have it, folks! We'll see you Sunday at 10|9c for an all-new Mission Delcassified!