Back in the fall of 2008 I was working in Los Angeles as a Concept Designer on a Discovery Channel show (which will go nameless — the only thing I “Discovered” was how to “Channel” my frustrations with my boss into my love for Johnnie Walker Black by getting wasted at Akbar on Sunset Boulevard as often as humanly possible). It was also during that time that I fell head over heels in love with pretty much every single paranormal investigation show on television at the time.
The first was the iconic British show Most Haunted starring Yvette Fielding (an incredible total of 14 seasons from 2002-2010) where they tour some of the most paranormally active locations in Europe and America and scared the bejeezus out of me night after night. Yvette and her Producer/Director husband, Karl, laid the groundwork for every single paranormal show you see on television today and I give a massive hats off to them and their crew. I’ve seen every single episode, and many of them twice, and even became email buddies with Phil Whyman, the show’s resident hottie investigator. The next love was Mia Dolan’s Haunted Homes where she specializes in helping rid ghosts and demons from various people’s homes. Mia is somewhat of a cross between the Dog Whisperer and the medium from the Poltergeist films (but Mia is much, much prettier). I actually emailed Mia once because of a very good friend of mine in Toronto whose super-famous boss was being severely tormented by a ghost that had followed him home from a vacation in Paris via an antique he had purchased. A 100% non-believer, the haunting became so severe for this world famous architect, he not only became a 100% believer, but eventually a pseudo expert on how to live with a vicious ghost that refuses to leave you (a shaman revealed to him that the ghost had attached itself to his heart — yes, his fucking HEART — no fucking joke). But I digress. I wrote to Mia with every little exhaustive detail of the situation and she gave me some incredible insight. Love her. But I must admit, my biggest paranormal love affair of all is with Zak Bagans and his team at Ghost Adventures.
The last thing that Zak Bagans (born April 5, 1977) had on his mind while living in Trenton, Michigan in 2002 was ghosts. He was just a regular guy living a regular life until he experienced a traumatic encounter with a spirit in his apartment building. Before the incident, Zak was the biggest skeptic in the world, and paid no mind to anything related to hauntings. But one night Zak ran into the ghost of a woman who had committed suicide in the building years earlier and it scarred him to the core. A huge, hunky buck of a stud, Zak doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would ever let someone or something get the best of him, and it was the horrifying shock of running into this woman’s tormented soul that cemented his determination to capture a ghost on video, the holy grail of a full-bodied apparition. As his passion grew through the years it led him to film a documentary entitled Ghost Adventures which he made with cameraman and co-investigator Nick Groff, as well as tech specialist (and eventual co-investigator) Aaron Goodwin. Their riveting investigation of the Goldfield Hotel in Goldfield, Nevada as well as the Washoe Club in Virginia City, Nevada (where they captured their impossibly rare and now infamous footage of a full-bodied ghost inside the ballroom) went on to win the 2006 Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival (you can watch the complete film by CLICKING HERE). It was this attention that led to their development deal with the Travel Channel and a weekly series named after their award-winning film.
Ghost Adventures has exploded in popularity since it debuted in the fall of 2008 (as of this morning they have 1,346,837 fans on their Ghost Adventures Facebook page), and the team is approaching the finale of their fourth season on May 27, 2011. Zak, Nick, and Aaron have turned into icons of the paranormal investigative community as well as the television industry, and now find it next to impossible to go anywhere without being recognized. And they’re not the only ones — the explosion of paranormal programming and interest is matched only by the explosive growth of the internet, and was also given a major boost with the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999 and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Ryan Buell is the founding director of the Paranormal Research Society and star of Paranormal State on A&E, and in an interview with Variety he said, “After 9/11, there was a huge increase in interest in the paranormal. Historically, that’s always been the case. In times of war, interest in the supernatural and spiritualism booms. Despite scientific advancement, when we’re bombarded with images of death and destruction, we always go back to the basic questioning of what happens to us after we die. Is there something more?” As great of a point as this is, it’s worth noting that I am not a huge fan of Paranormal State or T.A.P.S., two other shows which round out the most reputable ghost hunting programs on television. To be brutally honest, I find them each almost entirely unwatchable. In fact, I would rather watch paint dry. They simply don’t have the “it” factor energy that Zak and his team bring to Ghost Adventures week after week.
The breadth of appeal of Zak, Nick, and Aaron lies in the passion they bring to their work, and their “you want us, then come and get us” confrontational approach during their lock downs (during their investigations they have an official or security guard lock them in from dusk til dawn). Using a self-described religious, scientific, and emotional approach, Bagans is known and criticized for his aggressive and confrontational methods used during investigations; however, he maintains that he respects the afterlife and only provokes malevolent entities in order to make contact faster and more intense. In a June 2009 interview with Paranormal Underground magazine, he stated, “I don’t want the public perceiving us as the taunting, provocative ghost hunters. We do that only to the bad spirits who we know are attacking the living.” Their impressive array of scientific equipment is another reason to tune in each week. In one recent episode, Nick wore a custom-designed electromagnetic jacket that “sparkles” when it comes in contact with a ghost’s electromagnetic signature (similar to the static sparks that make your sweater glow when you pull them off at night during dry seasons). They also use the most advanced spectral imaging systems, electromagnetic pumps to give the spirits more energy (like water to someone stranded in the desert), a wide array of sophisticated audio gadgets, and they’re the unequivocal masters of the E.V.P. device (a digital recorder that captures “electronic voice phenomena”, sounds that are not produced by vocal chords but are instead communication by discarnate entities that cannot be heard by the human ear).
The humble fact that each of them have gone from being nearly 100% skeptical to being “1,000% believers” as co-host Aaron Goodwin was once quoted, is another reason to love these guys. In fact, this dream team is so dedicated to their work, they continue to come back even though each of them has experienced serious-to-severe personal ramifications and “follow homes” after various investigations when some of these spirits follow them back to where they live. The worst incident to date involved Goodwin and his wife after shooting wrapped on the “Bobby Mackey’s Music World” episode. Bobby Mackey’s Music World is a rusty old country music performing hall in Wilder, Kentucky (approximately 8 miles south of Cincinatti, Ohio). It is widely regarded as one of the top 3 most haunted locations in America due in a large part to the extreme demonic encounters that visitors and television crews have experienced while in the building including scratches, burns, and possessions. The location has even been profiled by National Geographic, and from the collected accounts of paranormal experts and priests who have been inside when the shit hits the fan, the evil rituals that occurred in the basement in the past resulted in the opening of a direct portal to the demonic world which seemingly can never be sealed. It wasn’t until the Ghost Adventures crew finished shooting this specific episode in season 3 that Goodwin’s wife reported she was being repeatedly attacked at home while Aaron was on the road thousands of miles away. They have since divorced in an effort to protect her, and they remain close friends.
The second most infamous episode was filmed on Poveglia Island located between Venice and Lido in the Venetian Lagoon in northern Italy. During Roman times it was used to isolate thousands of plague victims, and during the three occasions when the Black Death spread through Europe, the island was effectively used as a lazaretto and plague pit – it was considered an efficient way of keeping the infected people separated from the healthy. During the 1920s part of the island was used as an insane asylum, and it is estimated that over 160,000 people died on the island throughout its history. It was during the taping of this episode that Zak Bagans is filmed being overtaken by a powerful dark force. If you haven’t seen the episode it is definitely worth watching by CLICKING HERE.
Throughout our history whenever man encounters an unknown it serves as a breeding ground for conspiracy theory and fear. From everything I’ve seen the only thing that can match the fear of ghost hunters when they encounter something as dark as the energy in the basement of Bobby Mackey’s Music World, is the lack of openness of the skeptic who refuses to believe in this dimension in the first place. The most intelligent observation I’ve heard to date has been, “For those who have come face-to-face with these spirits there is nothing that can ever undo their belief; and likewise with non-believers who have no personal account, no amount of proof can ever convince them of this dimension’s existence.” I like to consider myself part of a new generation of believers — a university educated, rational thinker with a passion for science. I firmly believe there is a scientific rationale for the existence of ghosts, and in a recent SpaceCollective™ article I was reading, the paper walks the reader through a powerful explanation of this world at the level of quantum physics, and how the spirit world could be linked to dark matter. Here is the opening paragraph:
“Might the repeated laboratory demonstration of purportedly non-local macro-level phenomena – including telepathy, remote-viewing, and precognition be understood as enabled by fundamental universal dynamics such as quantum entanglement or dark energy? Recently, six European and North American scholars gathered to investigate these questions. This is a report of their progress, and of future anticipated directions. Central concepts include the nature of space-time (and its possible extensions and hierarchizations), the extreme physics within quasars, the storage and retrieval of information at quantum levels, Cremona and Fourier transformations, the occurrence of holograms in nature and their function in information processing, and the fundamental nature of electromagnetism and gravity.”
The full article is an incredible read and you can get it in full at SpaceCollective™. Adding further confirmation to the quantum explanation of the spirit world would be the experience of Harvard University neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. In 1996 at age 37, Taylor suffered a stroke which shut down the left side of her brain (the side responsible for language, thoughts of past and future, and the part of the brain that reminds us we need make to-do lists, and we also need to stroke things off of them) leaving her right side running at full blast (the right side is the sensory side and is what connects us to the more mysterious aspects of our world and the universe in general). Being a brain scientist gave Jill a powerful insight into what she was experiencing during her stroke, and the extraordinary things that she saw that day were immortalized in a groundbreaking speech at the 2008 TED Conference, as well as her best-selling book “My Stroke Of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey.” If you have not yet seen her speech you are in for a mindblowing 19 minutes that has to be seen to be believed (I’ve attached the speech below). It is her description of this world that, in my opinion, validates the experiences that Zak and his team have been having since they began their work, and provides a brilliant opening into a quantum physics understanding of the afterlife, spirituality, and the negative and positive forces that provide the structure of not just this invisible dimension, but the universe at large. Ghost Adventures is now a bona fide global phenomenon and is one of The Travel Channel’s biggest success stories. Week after week the GA team continues to crank out some of the best television on the air, and I hope they put Most Haunted to the test by besting that show’s 14-season run. If anyone can do it, these guys most certainly can (plus, that should give me ample time to join them on an investigation someday — one of the items near the very top of my life’s bucket list).
Zak Bagans and Nick Groff also serve as Executive Producers and Editors, and the series is produced by MY-Tupelo Entertainment in New York. To learn more about Ghost Adventures you can get a taste by watching the Bobby Mackey episode below, as well as by visiting them at The Travel Channel and TupeloHoney.net.
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