Up Close and Personal With Zak Bagans
It comes as no surprise that Zak Bagans is, as he puts it, a “night dude.” When I shoot him an email around 12:00 a.m. on a weeknight, he gets back to me pretty fast, asking if we can chat right away. This is the world of the lead investigator and co-creator of Ghost Adventures.
However, while Zak may stay up late and work a lot of overnights in haunted locations -- and has done so for more than the 5 years since his paranormal investigative show premiered in 2008 -- he isn’t in the dark. I have known Zak for a few years now, and I feel comfortable stating that the “night dude” is also an introspective one; he has taken the time to think about his role and own growth within the paranormal.
Zak and his team of fellow investigators, including Nick Groff, Aaron Goodwin, Billy Tolley and Jay Wasley, and all the fans who have supported the show, celebrated the 100th episode of Ghost Adventures with the investigation of the Exorcist House in St. Louis, MO, which was the inspiration for the film, The Exorcist. The guys' 1-hour special called Ghost Adventures: Up Close and Personal recapped the show’s top moments from the past 7 seasons -- all leading into the 2-hour special on Halloween night when the guys traveled to Transylvania to explore the legend of the “real” Dracula, Vlad the Impaler.
The milestone episode, along with the specials, frames the following conversation between us, and as you read ahead, you might get the impression that after 100 episodes of Ghost Adventures, the night is still young for Zak.
1. Zak Reflects on His 100 Episodes of Ghost Adventures
Zak Bagans: Honestly, I think about how much we've evolved. I look at different phases of myself, gradually learning and absorbing spirits, and the world of the afterlife. I see how it has changed me personally, how it has humbled me, how I stopped provoking demons. I see the advancements in our investigations, in terms of technology, and our better understanding of spirit communication. The growth is the biggest thing. It is like watching myself grow from a child into a mature adult, in terms of my understanding.
Sagers: What would you say to the Zak from 2008, when the show premiered on Travel Channel?
Bagans: I would just tell him that you need to be more cautious, and need to not open yourself up as much as you do. Don't try to do battle with a demon on a physical platform or through verbal transmission of words. You also need to start learning how to find some sort of a higher power to help guard you and rid your body of attachments, because this isn't something to play around with. Even though you are an investigator, you need to realize this can be extremely dangerous -- and not just because of demons. It is like Pandora's Box, and I feel like you've already opened it.
Sagers: In this evolution, do you think you’re closer to the end of your time as an investigator or are you just getting started?
Bagans: The deeper I get into this, the more fascinated I am by it. The deeper and more concrete the evidence, the stronger the spirit communication is, the more I’m fascinated and want to go deeper. That’s the thrill-seeking part of my personality.
Sagers: In the Up Close & Personal special, airing Sept. 27, you look back at favorite moments from past seasons, but what was your favorite thing to revisit?
Bagans: The thing I really like looking at is the fun I’ve had with Nick and Aaron, and the journey I’ve been on with them. It is the camaraderie, the laughs, the serious moments. In the end, as much as we may sometimes hate each other or want to beat each other up, we have that bond. It is a bond I feel, spiritually, was pre-planned. It is like we were supposed to do this. And seeing how spirits have changed certain sides of us and made us stronger -- like how I used to suffer from severe anxiety and panic, and Nick was a really shy guy and Aaron was really goofy -- seeing us go through these, what I would call possessions or spiritual channeling, those moments have sculpted us and really built us into who we are today.
2. What’s Next for Ghost Adventures?
Bagans: I wouldn’t have thought that place was haunted or had any type of activity; there is no history of death or suicide in the house, no transition from living to dead, with that doorway happening. I wasn’t convinced there were hauntings happening there until I started learning more from demonologists and exorcists I talk to -- I have a chain of people I talk to outside of Ghost Adventures. Any event dealing with anything spiritual, whether it’s a mass murder in a bedroom or an exorcism where a demon was possessing a boy, share an emotional super-charge. Those events can embed themselves and create an everlasting emotional residue. That residue can reignite and re-manifest itself. The question is, “Can that entity that possessed the boy return?” So I thought that was fascinating, and I found it even more fascinating that a credible investigator claims he was recently attacked in the bedroom. And Father Bowdern’s great niece even validated that investigator’s credibility. Also, we thought the episode dealing with one of the most famous exorcisms in America allowed us to come out and talk about some of our past possessions and oppressions that we had to cope with. This story sets the foundation for what we went through as well.
Sagers: For the 2-hour Halloween special on Oct. 31, you head to Transylvania. I know you’re a huge vampire and Dracula fan, so was this investigation everything you hoped it would be?
Bagans: It was cool. I have always had a fascination with Vlad Țepeș. He is Dracula and ruled Wallachia in the 1400s. Bram Stoker portrayed him as a vampire, but a lot of people in Romania didn’t like that because Vlad is a very honorable figure in Romanian history who protected the country. We went there to try to decipher why he is a called a vampire and called Dracula, and to get a better understanding of who he is. People in Romania, even a top historian, said Vlad ruled with an almost supernatural power and was almost too strong. Some of this has led him to have this vampire quality. We followed his reign of terror, and went to his castle and another castle where he was imprisoned. Then I had to take a last-minute detour to the Hoia-Baciu Forest. As we were there, I learned it is one of the most haunted forests in the world and most supernatural places, where Romanians won’t step foot inside. It was a fascinating adventure with some really cool evidence.
Sagers: Did you pick up any cool Transylvanian memorabilia?
Bagans: Yeah, but my souvenir was the most powerful moment I’ve ever had on any investigation -- in my life -- in the Hoia-Baciu Forest. My souvenir is the memory of that experience. You’ll see part of it. Some of it, I don’t want to air.
Sagers: It has been 5 years since the show began, so where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Bagans: I don’t like to foresee the future, unless I have a goal to accomplish. And I feel like I’ve accomplished my goal. Right now I’m just living in this day, in this moment, spending my energy focusing on tomorrow not 5 years from now. That was what I did 10 years ago, 6 years ago, whatever. Just like in the world of the paranormal, everything is unexplained and unpredictable. Those adjectives explain my life right now.
Sagers: Anything you’d like to say to the fans who have stuck with Ghost Adventures over the course of 100 episodes?
Bagans: I want to say to them, “You’re a part of us.” It is not just Nick, Aaron and myself, and Billy and Jay. You, the fan, are a part of our crew. We talk with you every day through social media, we listen to you, we take your suggestions. We are joining virtual hands. That is why we have the fans we do. Ghost Adventures is an interactive experience. If you support us, and respect us, and are nice, you’re a part of us.