Ever wonder what exactly goes down when filming an episode of Ghost Adventures? Paranormal investigator and TV personality Zak Bagans told us what it’s really like to make his spooky show.
Spooky season has arrived, and, with that, I’m free to discuss my love of the paranormal.
Growing up in a small New England town where everything is at least a hundred years old, including my former elementary school, it only makes sense that Halloween is my favorite holiday. In the second grade, I famously DIYed my own Hocus Pocus–inspired costume, which made me look more like a deranged Renaissance Faire worker than Sarah Jessica Parker, but that’s a story for a different day.
As I got older, I consumed all things spooky and supernatural. (Shout-out to Fox Family’s weekend marathons of Scariest Places on Earth.) So when Zak Bagans came onto the scene in 2008 with his Ghost Adventures series, I quickly became a fan.
Fast-forward to 2021, when I found myself binging the show on the Travel Channel during one brutally long cross-country flight. My biggest question while I watched was: How are they making this show?!?
I soon realized that I’m probably not the only person curious about this, so I reached out to Bagans himself to answer all of my burning ghost-hunting questions. Not only did Bagans agree to the interview, but he was blunt and honest about his quest to investigate the paranormal.
Even if you’re a skeptic, I invite you to take a closer look at my chat with Bagans. It may have you thinking differently.
Xpooze Global News: What do you think it is about the paranormal that keeps fascinating audiences?
Zak Bagans: The paranormal is a mystery, and people are drawn to mysteries because it’s a thrill. We all have intelligent minds and we all have a consciousness, and we all sit and think about life. When we have others around us that pass away, we start thinking about those experiences that we all have that we never forget, with spirits or things like that…And we don’t want to think that, you know, this is it, that after we’re gone that’s it. There’s way more to it. There are so many mysteries that scientists can’t explain, with a lot of things, and the afterlife is one of those things.
And I think with everybody having telephones these days, iPhones, everybody’s got, you know ghost-hunting gear right in their pockets and purses at all times. They’ve got a camera, they’ve got an audio recorder, they’ve got ghost apps, they got all this. So there’s a bigger platform to share the experiences as well.
Xpooze Global News : While you do have rabid fans, you also have those skeptics out there! What is the biggest misconception about Ghost Adventures and ghost-hunting shows in general?
ZB: At the end of the day, we’re all different people. We all have different beliefs and different religions and different everything. So, I mean, you’ve just kind of got to, you know, worry about what you believe in…and in my case, I’m set out to be an investigator of the paranormal, and I know that I communicate with spirits. I know that I feel spirits. I know the voices that I receive are spirits talking back to me. And that’s…my job. That’s my path. And, you know, Ghost Adventures is a show that documents this.
You know, we don’t play the part of paranormal investigators—I can’t speak for other paranormal shows. I can just speak for myself, my show, my team and what we do. I mean, we’re supposed to be doing this, I had a calling to do this…and I have a very unique, kind of, anatomy that detects and senses these spirits as well.
Xpooze Global News : Our readers are fascinated with behind-the-scenes elements of filming these kinds of shows, and we’re curious too. How long does it take to film one episode of Ghost Adventures?
ZB: It takes three days to film one episode. And upon the arrival the first day, you know, we film all the different interviews. Nothing is scripted on our show; we literally show up. I have a handful of interviews and that’s it. The other side of me as a documentary filmmaker is once I get there and I start absorbing the location, the surroundings, the information, the people…that kind of puts us on our path and my path of which way I take the investigation.
And then the second day we do any other kinds of research scenes or things like that. [On] the third and final day, we rest and typically stay to ourselves that day, because we mentally and spiritually prepare for—we don’t know what’s gonna happen during that lockdown investigation later that night. And if it’s really intense, I’ll prepare for not being myself for a couple days. If not, I’ll just be tired the next day. So, the thrill of Ghost Adventures is we never know what we’re going to expect. We never know what people we’re going to meet, what stories they’ll tell us, and what experiences and spirits we’ll encounter, and if we’re going to be scarred from it or not.
Xpooze Global News: I love that you brought up the documentary-style element, because people wonder like, are there ever moments that you miss initially or contact where you weren’t filming that you needed to refilm? Or is every shot candid?
ZB: No, every shot we film, that’s it. I mean, we never go back to do retakes or anything like that. We’re not a super-produced show like that or anything. I’m the boss, and when I get out there, [it’s] just roll cams and whatever happens…is what you’re seeing. And I think that kind of really stuck with a lot of our viewers and caused them to stick around for so long. Each episode is so different from the other; we don’t have a cookie cutter format that we follow. And that’s just our style.
Xpooze Global News : What is it like bringing the cameras into these haunted situations? Does it make your job harder?
ZB: We’ve been doing this for so long that, to us, the camera is a tool. The cameras are a piece of equipment, I mean, they’re documenting our investigation every step of the way…It does bring a lot of energy into the location. So, a lot of the times, our cameras will even tell us when we’re in the presence of spirits. Things that we capture—anomalies.
We were just doing an investigation at a place in Salinas, Calif., and while we were doing an interview, my cameraman saw a black shadow behind us move and disappear in through a wall into the basement. And so, right then and there, we replayed the footage, and we, in fact, captured this unexplained dark shadow figure, going into a side of the house, and we could not explain that. So, they’re very, very useful and integral parts of our investigation.
Xpooze Global News: How do you pick the haunted spaces you visit? Do you get requests, or do you have a dream list that you’re working through?
ZB: We have a good researcher that helps us find locations. Ultimately, I make the final decision where we go. But surprisingly, I get a lot of locations that are sent to me via social media, Instagram and Twitter. So a lot of our fans and a lot of people out there are tipping us off to really, really great locations.
But once I dive into it, I look for a few things: I look for the overall experiences that the person has had, their claims of evidence that they’ve either collected or experiences that they’ve had and I look at the backstory of the location to see if there are any tragic events that may be a cause of the haunting. All these ingredients I really focus on during the investigation, and really get in there and, you know, try to dig more up from it.
Xpooze Global News : Have you ever scrapped an episode due to minimal connections?
ZB: No, because I think it’s interesting, and I think it shows that, you know, not every investigation is going to be the same. They’re not carbon copies, locations are different. There was an episode we did called “Demons in Seattle,” and this couple claimed all of this poltergeist activity, Bibles setting on fire [and] black writing all over the bedroom walls… They were making this out to be the most haunted house in America but, unfortunately, we just didn’t document any activity while we were there. It was just a little suspicious, but I think it’s really cool for the audience to see all the different types of investigations we do…and maybe instead of, you know, there being evidence and paranormal stuff there, maybe we’re kind of grilling our interviewees a little bit more.
To see Bagans in action, catch his all-new special, Ghost Adventures: Goldfield Hotel, now on discovery+.