Zak Bagans and Ghost Adventures: some observations

Zak Bagans

As much as I rant and rave about Zak Bagans and his Ghost Adventures show, I almost always watch it. It’s because the guy is a really good documentarian. He knows how to make a good film. Unlike some other of the ghost hunting shows, this one is always beautifully and artfully filmed and researched. However, I am no longer going to watch the show.

Here’s why.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for ten years, Zak Bagans is the host, lead investigator, executive producer and resident bad boy of Ghost Adventures, a show that has had ten remarkable seasons. Zak graduated from film school and pursued a career in documentary filmmaking. The rest is history; a successful Travel Channel series that travels to haunted locations in search of evidence of the paranormal.

Aaron Goodwin

His partner in the paranormal is Aaron Goodwin. Aaron is a filmmaker who has worked on numerous TV shows and projects. He is Zak’s side kick, who offers much needed comic relief, and is famous for being terrified to be left alone during an investigation, which is why Zak will often send him off on his own as Zak’s bait of choice.

Two others join them on the show, Billy Tolley, the audio technician and EVP analyst and Jay Wasley, audio technician and filmmaker.

The show’s premise is that they find a reported haunted location, interview locals, research the history of the location, and film an over-night, dusk to dawn, lock-down investigation of the location, in an attempt to capture evidence.

The tone of the show is one of chaotic excitement. The camera follows the investigators in the dark and the camera will often move, shake and fall. It’s rare for a camera to actually capture anything. There is usually a lot of emoting, yelling, screaming, pain, scratching, and abject fear expressed. The filming of the location is beautiful, artistic, and in depth. Half the show is usually about the history of the location and the identification of people who are involved in the location. Conclusions are rarely made. The show just simply shows us the investigation, the highlights, and ends with a very short and rather abrupt narration by Zak to conclude.

The show has become famous for introducing new and innovative technology to the field. The Ghost Box and the SLS camera where first introduced on this show.

Here’s my problem and my concern. In increasing regularity, Zak has become fascinated with the demonic. He has recently investigated the Exorcist house, has attempted to purchase the Manson murders house, and has purchased a house whose reputation is that it is infested with demons. I understand the need to keep the show interesting and controversial. I understand Zak’s love and gift for the dramatic. However, could something else be going on?

The latest episode, which aired on November 16, was of a house that is used for black magic. The Victorian home in Pasadena, California has been the site of many séances, people who have practiced black magic, and even a fellow named Richard Lael Lillard, an occultist and satan worshiper with a fascination for evil and demonic entities, who claims to be able to conjure evil spirits. He regularly holds séances and Tarot Card readings. Richard had a painting commissioned of him as the devil. He has several portraits of satan around his apartment. This guy believes in evil and admires the devil.

 The residents of the home have claimed to experience much paranormal activity, including being touched, seeing apparitions, hearing voices, etc.

During the episode, all of the team and the satanist, Richard Lillard, sit around a table and conduct a séance. During the séance they use a Ouija board and it spells out “Godwin”. Aaron’s last name is Goodwin. During the séance, Richard is filmed conjuring spirits, with a disturbing ear-to-ear grin on his face. In predictable form, Zak sends Aaron upstairs alone to see if he can get a spirit to attach itself to Aaron, or possess him. The focus becomes totally on Aaron, who seems to be ok with this.
They hear some things, capture some things on audio and film, and conclude the episode.

Here’s my issue. Has Zak moved from being interested in the dark side of investigating, for the sake of the show? For the dramatic effect? The emotional impact? Or, is he into this now. He seems completely ok with a self proclaimed satan worshipper who loves to conjure demons joining the group and messing with evil. He seems ok, even encouraging, the possession of Aaron.

Do I really have to explain why this is a bad idea?

So, there are only two options here regarding Zak and where he is coming from. Either he doesn’t believe this stuff is real; so he knows he’s safe because, well, it’s all make believe. Or, option two: he does believe in all of this and he is into it. He is curious about evil and demonic entities. He wants to know more. He wants to experience more. He even wants his friends to be drawn into possible evil attachment or possession.

Which is it, Zak? The first option? The second? Or, maybe, a little bit of both?

I’m not watching anymore. I don’t care if it’s all fake (and I do not believe it is). Anyone who thinks it’s ok to conjure demons on TV and mess around with evil is dangerous in my book; dangerous and really, really stupid.

It’s also irresponsible of him to advocate for such behavior on a TV show that is seen by thousands of young and inexperienced paranormal enthusiasts looking for an experience with the supernatural.

Zak and Aaron, you are not Sam and Dean Winchester.


Information about Cast members and photographs from the Travel Channel website for Ghost Adventures. 
Information about the show and the episode is from my own viewing of the episode.
The opinions expressed here are my own.


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