Zak Bagans On Why 'Quarantine' Is Horrifying, Incredible Part of 'Ghost Adventures' History
Zak Bagans has spent much of his adult life investigating ghosts, demons and other strange phenomena, so when he calls something “horrifying,” it is noteworthy. However, that’s precisely how the lead investigator and executive producer of Ghost Adventures explains how it felt driving down The Strip of his adopted hometown of Las Vegas during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
“I've been here about 25 years, and I never thought that I would live in a day where I would see an apocalyptic vision of Las Vegas, one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world,” Bagans told me in a recent phone conversation.
Calling Vegas a close-knit community, he said he felt fear seeing empty roads and boarded-up windows, and he realized there was no controlling a disease so powerful it could shut down an entire city.
“I thought, if this has the power to do that, then we must be dealing with something pretty scary here.”
With that in mind, Bagans said he was immediately considering how fear, stress and uncertainty — multiplied across the globe as people couldn’t go to work or even see friends and family — would impact paranormal activity. Especially considering the paranormal theory that some entities feed off these emotions, and grow stronger the more they consume.
That is the focus of Ghost Adventures: Quarantine, Travel Channel's special four-part miniseries, which premieres Thursday, June 11, at 9|8c. Set inside Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, Bagans, Aaron Goodwin, Jay Wasley and Billy Tolley quarantined themselves for two weeks, without a production crew, to explore how a pandemic of fear enhanced paranormal activity surrounding the museum’s infamous collection.
The result is intense, and a unique time for Ghost Adventures history. And as Zak and company investigate the museum’s haunted dolls, strange occurrences connected to euthanasia advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian and an emotional revelation involving actress Natalie Wood’s mysterious drowning. And then there is the entire matter of the Dybbuk Box, an object famous for its lore of curses and haunting — which Bagans opens for the first time, a moment he said “will live with me forever.”
In the following interview, Zak Bagans discusses the strange circumstances leading up to these moments, and why Ghost Adventures: Quarantine is an investigation unlike any other.
What was going through your mind in the opening shot of Quarantine as you drive down the Las Vegas Boulevard, and you see how empty the city is?
I didn't know how bad this was going to get. I didn't know if this was going to be like a Black Plague. Just a lot of questions. It's just an unfamiliar sight. It's an unfamiliar environment, something we're just not used to. It's a fearful moment. It's a disease. It's very real, and yes, it's affecting many people. Then we're looking to our scientists, and our government, to tell us what is going on, and, at times, we're getting conflicting information and this and that. It's only adding to the instability of emotions and fear.
And meanwhile you’re an investigator, and just happen to have an entire Haunted Museum …
I'm participating and not putting myself or others in harm's way. I'm doing social distancing, but the museum is another building I own. So I'm thinking, "Is this affecting anything in the spiritual plane, in the spiritual dimension?" Not only that, with this new way of life right now, look at what it's done to the environment. It's affecting all kinds of elements within the environment. A lot of atmospheric environmental elements all relate to the paranormal field and manifestations of spirits.
So I'm looking at this moment in time that I will probably never live through again, and something we never thought would happen. As a documentarian, as a paranormal researcher, I had to investigate. I called the guys, and I said, "Look, would you guys be interested if we did an extended quarantine lockdown at my museum because I don't know ever when we're going to be in this kind of situation again that could be affecting the spiritual world and the environmental world — and the museum has been shut down for two weeks.” This is as raw as we could do it.
You guys had already been quarantined and socially distancing, so how did you maintain safety?
We told the Travel Channel about it, and that we're going to be very safe. We lived in separate RVs in the parking lot. We had a couple of N-95 masks leftover. So we wore those, and we reused the same one for the whole damn thing. And I don't want people to think we had a whole stockpile of these, but we had a few left over from Georgia. That's what we did, man, and it was a crazy experience.
Let’s talk about the museum itself. This was convenient because you had access, but is there another reason this made for a good location?
People need to understand something here: This isn't a museum where we force-feed paranormal occurrences down people's throats. This is truly a historic building with decades of hauntings affecting people that have owned it before me, including the State Bar of Nevada. There have been so many different mysterious revelations and bits of dark history that have been coming my way. [In the second episode] a famous actress told me about what was happening in the basement, and how her father was living there in 1971. She was telling me about devil rituals her father was doing there. It got darker from there. Recently, my landscapers were digging an irrigation ditch on the northwest corner of the property, and they found a gun three feet under. About five days ago, we're digging on the property, and we started finding bones. And a few weeks leading up to this, there was a whole flurry of activity that was happening there, from visual anomalies to physical interactions with guests at a very abnormal level … it's my own paranormal experiment, something that I can research over a long period of time. The museum scares the s--t out of me. It really does. The basement? I've been affected there. I don't even like being in my own place by myself.
Rather than one location, one episode, this is a series of paranormal experiments. But how else was this different for the team?
The investigations felt different. Usually we go around, and yes, we have a crew with us that helps us — production manager, PAs, and stuff like that. With this, it was just us four, and we filmed everything.
Things were different. We were just so involved with the investigations, and the moments, and the evidence, and the spiritual interactions. We were just so focused in. We felt different by all of this. It was like our anxiety over this whole situation of us being there, us scared of getting this, and homeless people walking the perimeter and trying to spit on us through the gates and ambulances showing up — you'll see those in future episodes. I really think those were factors in receiving the caliber of evidence that we did.
During the special episodes, did you roll out any new experiments?
We had Bill Chappell do this experiment that he and Billy have been working on for over a year. Bill did the experiment with us, and he set up this whole satellite system from his workshop. He had all this equipment, and Billy and him, they were soldering stuff. He was in his RV, working for the whole week, just building stuff with Bill via satellite.
Logistically, Quarantine may have been more difficult because you had less of a production team. But did this feel like you went back to basics, even going back to the original Ghost Adventures documentary, when it was this ragtag group on their own?
It truly did. Even though it was more work physically, having to set everything up ourselves, I liked it. I really enjoyed it better, because I am a very empathic person, and I'm extremely sensitive. I have an anxiety condition that I've had for many years, and I get easily affected by just people being around me. It's very distracting sometimes, because I can't turn it off. I'm feeling their emotions. It reminded me that this brings out my true, natural self I can really put forth into investigating. Honestly, I missed that. Even though it was more physical work, demanding work, all of us liked it. I don't know if this is going to maybe change some things for us, but I really enjoyed that part of it.
Long term, how do you think this will fit within the Ghost Adventures legacy?
We really garnered some incredible evidence and some incredible moments. That really created something great that will go down as a remarkable moment in Ghost Adventures history. The energies from us, the pandemic, everything centered into one great moment that we'll never be able to do again.
And be prepared for the Dybbuk Box. That's all I'll say. It’s a historic moment on Ghost Adventures.