Like most Zak Bagans fans, I watched the highly anticipated Demon House glued to the set, unmoved by any distractions. I don’t think I even went outside for a smoke during the documentary’s two hour premiere on the Travel Channel, nor did I budge when I realized there was a follow-up feature called The Lost Footage. It was that good.
But, was it all real? I’m a huge “Ghost Adventures” fan. I’ve been following the show since it’s first episode aired around thirteen years ago, when Zak, Aaron Goodwin, and Nick Groff produced film footage–now infamous–they claim was poltergeist activity (https://youtu.be/V6B057B0erw). If you’re familiar with the episode, then you know it was filmed at the long abandoned Goldfield Hotel in Nevada, which is rumored to be extremely haunted. I believe it is, and I also still believe the film footage, including the audio track of Zak Bagans screaming bloody murder, is all real–nothing staged, no scripts acted out, no con game going on to get famous and garner a television series. I believed it then, and I still believe it now.
But, of course, I have to wonder. I’m a writer, one who enjoys writing horror. I like to think I know what scares people–what elements make up a scary, but believable yarn. I know what scares me, and what I find credible, and I try to project the same into my own stories. Fear is a powerful emotion. Drawing from that wellspring can make for an awesome tale, even if it’s complete fiction. Zak Bagans is a paranormal investigator, yes, but isn’t he also a writer? When he narrates the show, just as he narrated his documentary, Demon House, it’s obvious he employs his own words. Occasionally he ends up being the butt of jokes from his fellow crew members for this, for getting words mixed up, like succubus and incubus, for example. And, I’ve always found it hilarious how he has, on more than one occasion, said, “…a deep man’s voice” rather than, “…a man’s deep voice” concerning electronic voice phenomenon (EVP). But, it’s just part of the reason I love Zak, and it’s details like these that add credibility and a sense of honesty to the show. However, a good writer knows this, and will try to emulate as many facets of credibility as he can weave into the cloth of his story.
So, as usual, jumping before I had actually worked any of this out, I contacted my friend Pamela Morris (https://pamelamorrisbooks.com/) to ask if she would humor me with a few interview questions about it. Before I knew it, Pamela not only agreed to answer said questions, but suggested I ask a few other writers, as well, making my project much bigger than I had anticipated (as, I’ve learned, she has a way of doing). But, despite the work, I was more than happy to field a broader spectrum of answers on the subject. Not everyone I asked was able to contribute, but those that did had plenty to say, and most of it was surprising, though not in the way I had expected. These are horror writers, mind you. They all know their craft, and know it well. Looking back, I wished I had asked more questions concerning the aspects of writing itself. Had I done so, this article may have come together much more smoothly. Regardless, I still collected a wealth of information, insight, and opinions concerning not only the validity of Zak Bagans and his chosen gig, but on the whole idea of the paranormal in general.
My questions were simple, really. There were only seven open-ended questions, and an eighth spot for any further thinking. Some answers were short and sweet, and even comedic, while others were long and thoughtful. Eight people of the original ten invited responded, so rather than state each writer’s answers to all eight questions, I decided to divide them up. The first question I asked was,
1. Do you believe in the paranormal? That is, do you believe in haunted houses, ghosts, demons, or even possession?
Mark Cassell (http://www.markcassell.co.uk/) answered,
I’d like to believe, sure. I mean, there HAS to be something beyond these four walls, right? But I’m a seeing-is-believing kinda guy, so this is where I hang my head and say that so far nothing has convinced me. I’ve sadly never witnessed anything. I write about this stuff yet have never had first-hand experience. My imagination, yeah… But real life? Nope.
This answer was fairly common, though I was a bit shocked, as it was coming from a group of horror writers. I would have thought otherwise. However, answering question one, Mark went on to say,
Well, perhaps that’s not entirely true. There was a time when I was a child, and something odd happened to my mum and how she believed she’d attained what was essentially a haunted piece of clothing. I only heard about it later on in life.
He elaborated on this in question eight, and gave me permission to share that story with my readers on my site page,What Scared the Hell Out of You, for which I am grateful. I am grateful because when I sent these questions out, it was just the sort of thing I wanted to hear. I wanted to know that my fellow horror writers had personal reason to believe in the paranormal. But, of course, that wish didn’t translate in the questions I had asked, which were formulated before I had actually come to my own conclusions–that habit of jumping head first.
2. Do you watch paranormal investigation shows, such as Ghost Adventures?
Again, many of the answers were similar. James H. Longmore’s (http://www.jameslongmore.com/) answer to Q2 was by far the most entertaining:
I think I watched one once, back in the UK, just to see what all the fuss was about – there were dozens of them at one point, all pretty much ex-children’s TV presenters running around screaming in night vision whilst the crew slammed doors in the background. I do love the concept though, it’s like watching a very low budget Paranormal Activity (only more interesting), and I have to take my hat off to the Finding Bigfoot team – they just keep on with new seasons and have found the square root of zilch!
Being a fan of the show (“Ghost Adventures”), and seeing the majority of the answers were much like James’s, I began feeling a bit alone. Was I missing something? Am I foolish for believing in such stuff, particularly the shows themselves? Particularly Demon House?
3. What is your take on the show(s)? Is it real? Can any of it be considered valid, or is it all fake?
This question had typically already been answered in question two. The general consensus seemed to be proving that while most of my fellow horror writers shared some belief in the paranormal, supernatural, aliens, monsters, and that sort of thing, few of them gave any credence to “Ghost Adventures” or any other show. Becky Narron’s ( https://twitter.com/Bky0421) answer to number three was a continuation of question two:
I think most of them are full of shit. I have been to Waverly Hills and the feeling there is really intense. I don’t know if that is because I know that 60k died there or if it real.
In question two she had admitted watching “Ghost Hunters,” a show that used to be featured on SyFy, as the episode followed an investigation of Waverly Hills, a place purported to be incredibly haunted. I don’t know if this is true, but in my own mind, I have to wonder if Becky’s comment was directly targeting “TAPS” (“GhostHunters”), as I’ve always thought they were lousy at collecting any kind of data, and her thoughts about Waverly Hills seem to say she feels that there is something there. I always found the show rather boring, anyway. I never liked the way they approached their work. On the flipside, one could say that the “Ghost Adventure” crew is overzealous.
4. How do you feel about the science behind modern ghost hunting tools? Do you feel these instruments, such as “spirit boxes” or Mel meters, to be reliable tools for valid communication between the living and who, or what, may be on the other side of the veil?
Isaac Thorne’s (https://www.isaacthorne.com/) answer may have been the most brutal (though not half as cruel as his response to question 3, which was much like James Longmore’s response to question 2, and equally loaded with guffawing), especially considering his admittance of watching–to some degree–a variety of ghost-hunting shows. He said,
Electronic shit can be programmed and remotely controlled by human beings. My background is in tech. Those tools neither provide evidence for nor prove or disprove anything.
Is this a conspiracy? Am I alone in believing in Zak Bagans? Am the only horror writer who believes the Demon House documentary is real? I truly was starting to feel that everyone else was in a super-secret club designed to discredit one of my heroes. How could all my favorite writers feel so differently about him? Of course, I’m being dramatic, and I have nothing but respect for my writing peers and their own personal beliefs and opinions. Answers to question five, though varied, were a bit more encouraging. Pamela Morris’s answer was among the longer ones, but I liked it the best.
5. Do you believe in mediums, psychics, sensitives, clairvoyants, or anyone or anything like that?
Yes, because of my own experiences and experiences I’ve had with people I know well and trust to be 100% honest. I have had Tarot reading done for me – which later proved to be very accurate. I’ve done Tarot readings for complete strangers who later told me how accurate they were. I’ve gone into places and felt and seen things that are not necessarily there in the same way I am. I think everyone has a certain level of psychic awareness, a gut feeling, a first impression, a sense that something you are about to do may not be such a good idea, or a feeling that if you don’t do something, you’ll wish you had. I believe it’s part of the human-animal instinct, something most people are lowly out of touch with. You can teach yourself to be more aware and to listen to this part of yourself. I also believe there are A LOT of frauds out there who take advantage of people who are desperate and want to believe.
Again, answers were very similar. While most interview participants agreed they didn’t put much stock into paranormal investigation shows, many believe there is something to a belief in other worlds we normally can’t see. This was rather apparent by everyone’s answers to question #6.
6. Would you do it? Would you, or have you ever, participated in a ghost hunt?
Jay Bower (https://jaybowerauthor.wixsite.com/author) said: I have not participated in one, but I’d be up for it. I’d be scared out of my mind, but I’d certainly give it a shot.
James Watts (http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/authorpage_watts.html) said: I never have, but I would.
Becky Narron said: I haven’t, but sure why not? Sounds like fun. Where we going?
James Longmore said: I would! It would be an absolute hoot! Plus, hanging out in a supposedly haunted place would be such a thrill. And maybe…just maybe…
Jeremy Gross (Bennett): (https://www.minds.com/eyelessking) said: I use to live right behind a cemetery as a kid. I and my brothers and sisters would play in it all the time. So, if I were ever going to see a ghost I probably already would have. I haven’t. So, I would have no problem hanging out in an old house. I would bring a camp stove and make S’mores.
Pamela Morris said: I’ve never gone on an ‘official’ ghost hut, but I’ve been using Ouija boards since my grandmother bought and taught me how to use one for my 13th birthday. She was very much into Spiritualism. I’ve participated in several séances and gone on ghost tours. I’ve walked through empty houses with cameras hoping to capture paranormal activity. Sure, I’d participate in a ghost investigation with all the equipment, but more for the research\experience aspect of it than with any expectations of finding concrete proof.
Isaac Thorne said: I’d totally do it provided I had the time and financial resources. Once upon a very long time ago, I did a brief stint in journalism. My desire around Halloween was to find someone to allow me to spend a night in an allegedly haunted house and then write about it. Alas, there was never an opportunity.
Mark Cassell said: Way back when I was a teenager, a couple of friends and I joined a woman who was supposedly a medium. We wandered around the woods all evening while she said she could “feel” the presence of spirits, etc. As the night progressed, the three of us felt like gullible idiots, and kept whispering about ditching her and heading for the local pub. However, I’d love to do that kind of thing now. I’d like to approach it with an adult-head.
7. Did you happen to see Zak Bagan’s documentary, “Demon House?” If so, how about some thoughts on it? If not, do you plan on watching it? Your thoughts?
Nobody had watched it but me. It’s possible, since then, that some of the interviewees have watched it, but if so, I’ve never learned their responses. I know some expressed mild interest, but that was the extent of anyone’s commitment. I guess you’ve got to be a fan. I suppose, too, that being a fan I’ve felt rather lonely in my enthusiasm for Zak Bagans and his Ghost Adventures.
For me, though obviously exaggerated for the sake of entertainment, I found Demon House to be incredibly riveting, compelling, and quite convincing. Anytime I hear about twelve foot tall goatman demons stalking someone’s dreams as harbingers of doom, or grade school boys being possessed and walking backward up a hospital wall in front of credible witnesses, or whenever I catch wind of dark mysteries surrounding the urban lore of a run-down shack shunned by the local police force, I tend to take notice, and it’s only natural for me to want to know more, even if there is a possibility–probability–that it’s completely fictional. I still want to know. I’m still liable to believe it. I want to say I share a fair amount of skepticism with my peers, but I don’t. I’ve seen way too much in my own life. I believe it. I believe it all, almost blindly. I want it to be real, and I want to be scared. I suppose that’s why I write horror.
Unfortunately, I’ve lost most of my enthusiasm for this article some time ago. It has been plagued with problems from the start. The list is extensive. Computer problems, vehicle problems, every-day-life problems (family drama, particularly), and communication problems top the list of woes. From the very beginning I had difficulties coordinating questions and participant answers, keeping track of what I would do with those answers, keeping track of who was actually participating, or hounding would be participants into getting their answers to me, etc., until I became mired in an endless black sea of stalemate, indecision, and procrastination. I was never able to fully regain my fervor for the project, and I know it shows. Hence the title. And this barely covers the troubles I experienced.
I find it all very interesting though, and rather unnerving, that the troubles I endured to actually see this thing through were, in a way, foretold by Bagans himself. In his introduction to Demon House, Bagans very flatly states that his film is cursed, and warns viewers of possible demonic oppression just for watching it. Later in the film he establishes a pattern of how people have been affected by the force haunting the house in Gary, Indiana. While woman seemed to be physically harmed, or even attacked, men tended to experience problems with electronic devices, such as phones, cameras, and computers. Bagans himself ended up going cross-eyed, and has since been forced to wear prism glasses. In a later interview, Bagans stated he had been tested for specific neurological disorders normally associated with strabismus and that they had all proved negative. I suppose spending a great deal of your life walking around in the dark could cause this, but the timing of his affliction feels anything but coincidental. I wonder, too, if any of the interviewees have experienced any weird phenomena since participating. I hope, for their sake, I didn’t, however unintentionally, bring them into any harm.
Hence the title.