top of page
Search

Bagend, There & Back Again | The Fall Of Zak Bagans

Updated: Apr 16, 2023



Among paranormal TV shows, none is so popular and controversial as Ghost Adventures. I’ve been wanting to talk about it for some time. Why do so many people watch it? Why do so many people hate it? Well, with the controversies about Zak Bagans’s character and methodology being raised the way they have, now’s as good a time as any.

We’re going to look at some common complaints levied at the show, and see if the show is really as bad as the critics would have you believe. We’re going to dive into the complicated balancing act of education and entertainment, and ask ourselves if mainstream television is really the best place to investigate strange phenomena. And, most importantly of all, we’re going to learn a little something about friendship along the way.


Evidence


First airing in Halloween-season 2008, Ghost Adventures now has 25 seasons and numerous specials. What made it so successful? As far as I can tell, it wasn’t the veracity. I haven’t seen a whole lot of the series, and I’m not sure I care to, but I’ve witnessed enough to know that it’s a far cry from a serious attempt at documentary. It’s over-the-top, sensationalistic, and they never attempt to fact check any claims they hear about a particular location. For someone who presents himself as coming from a skeptical background, Mr Bagans sure is credulous.

In the very first episode, the paranormal portal theory is presented so casually, without so much as an attempt at grounding it with some kind of evidence. It’s abundantly clear that this show was not made to persuade skeptics. I’m actually convinced that’s what led to its popularity. As I’ve discussed before, most people are either stubbornly skeptical or blindly credulous, so catering to one audience or the other, while not an effective means of conveying truth or academic integrity, is often the best way to generate favourable ratings.

Let’s look at their specific methodology next. They wander around in the dark, then attribute any anomalies they perceive to spiritual forces lurking about. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out why that might not be a reliable method for determining the presence of ghosts. When the lights are off, and you’re in a creepy location, you’re bound to notice something out of the ordinary. And despite saying that he doesn’t like to go off of feelings, Zak Bagans does just that very frequently. Some of the most pressing “evidence” they report is a strange sense of foreboding, sickness, or “evil”. If you aren’t well acquainted with modern psychology, just look up confirmation bias.

And how about antagonizing spirits? That’s definitely a controversial move, and it’s his signature technique. Personally, I don’t think it makes that much of a difference, because I’m convinced that their encounters are either fictitious or psychogenic in origin. On the off-chance that the Shedim are involved, I’m not sure that yelling at them would make the situation any better or worse. Still, it really has some people rattled. There are reports of hauntings and demonic activity following Mr Bagans like his own shadow. And considering how often he gets “possessed”, if there is any truth to these paranormal encounters, he probably needs to get his spiritual health in order; I don’t think frequent demonic oppression is typically recommended.

Then there’s the lore. Some of it is historical fact, leveraged to make a haunting sound more credible. Some of it is just poorly sourced urban legend, taken at face value to make the whole experience seem spookier. You see, I’m okay with this kind of lore. While I certainly prefer a more rigorous fact-checking, and for dubious information to be given with a grain of salt, I get it; they’re just trying to make a show. However, when the production team is generating novel myths, (like that the Stanley Hotel keeps the mattresses people died on in a shed) you cross over into sheer misinformation. At that point, just be intellectually responsible and write fiction.

So, Ghost Adventures is popular because it panders to believers and leans into excitement rather than evidence. It came at a time before the explosion of ghost-hunting content we have today, and this sensationalistic mess took the world by storm. I’m sure it has its fans. If you’re one of them, then I’m guessing you watch it for pure entertainment, rather than trying to learn anything. However, if you’re one of the few people who likes Ghost Adventures for educational purposes, then I’ve got something to share with you. Did you know that Google can’t define the word gullible?


Entertainment


Since most people, skeptic and believer alike, would agree that Ghost Adventures isn’t a reliable documentary, we must naturally consider the entertainment value. This is where we’re getting into mostly subjective territory. If you asked ten people what makes a good TV show, and really pressed them for details, you’d probably get ten different answers. And that’s assuming they give you an answer at all, as many people don’t give much thought to their opinions. Still, there are several commonalities we can analyze.

Some people are entertained by educational content, but that’s not really at play here. Some people love drama, especially reality TV. It’s not that they want to watch reality; that’s pretty boring. And if you really did want to watch real life, you probably wouldn’t need a TV set. (Unless you’re talking about live surveillance footage, but that’s a different beast altogether.) No, people love the veneer of realism over their mindless gratification. It’s abit like most “healthy” snacks you find at the supermarket. Sure, they’re full of sugar and vegetable oil, but the “natural” ingredients let you pretend that it’s good for you. And much like junk food, reality TV is definitely more of a problem in the States.

Having said that, I don’t think fiction with a realistic appearance is all bad. In fact, I think Mountain Monsters, another Travel Channel/Discovery+ series, is actually really good. What’s the difference? Well, Mountain Monsters doesn’t do much to hide that it’s pure fiction. It’s just a really fun show. The realistic setting just makes it feel all the more relatable.

Ghost Adventures, on the other hand, really presents itself as a fact-finding mission. If there aren’t any ghosts to be found, what’s the point? The only entertainment I get out of the show is laughing at Zak Bagans and his ridiculous antics. From what I’ve heard, I’m not alone in this opinion. Seeing his bad acting whenever he gets “a feeling”, “attacked”, or “possessed” is genuinely amusing. Enough to make the show worth watching? Not for me, but probably for some people.

While we’re at it, we should probably talk about Haunted Museum, another Zak Bagans show. I’ve only seen the first few episodes, and I can honestly say that it isn’t great. It’s okay to have on in the background, but I wouldn’t waste an evening binging it. It’s not horrible or anything, but it’s definitely not what I’d call good. Bad acting aside, the plots seem simplistic and uninspired, and it stretches on for too long, like 5 or 10 minute shorts were drug out to fill an episode slot. If the same episodes were condensed and uploaded as a YouTube playlist by an indie group, then I’d probably be giving a very different review, but as it stands, the show is rather boring. For me, at least.


Eccentricity


Now, that isn’t all that people have to complain about with Zak Bagans and Ghost Adventures. Beyond the questionable education and entertainment value of the product, everything has been mired in real-world drama.

Many have alleged that working with Zak Bagans had been, to put it mildly, rather difficult. Quite a few report similar experiences of his behaviour. Obviously, there are at least two sides to every story, so I don’t want to go jumping to conclusions. What I will say is that if these allegations are true, it does not bode well Mr Bagans’s reputation. Rather than taking this opportunity to dwell on the faults of others, I propose that this is a wonderful opportunity to examine our own behaviour. Do we really treat others with the respect that they deserve? Do we really hold ourselves accountable when we act on bad judgement? Food for thought.

In addition to interpersonal controversy, some people take issue with the material used in his show, and how it’s presented. It goes deeper than just yelling at demons. Word has it that some of the ghost lore featured on the show was fabricated, often to the discredit of the dead. While I can’t be certain of another person’s motives, it does seem entirely possible that ratings were prioritized over respect. I can understand faking ghost encounters, but insinuating things in relation to actual dead people seems to cross a line for alot of people, myself included. If you’re dealing with someone’s legacy, tarnishing it for the sake of content seems obviously wrong. If this was being done intentionally, that speaks volumes about the character of whoever wrote it. (From what I’ve heard, that would be primarily Zak Bagans, but I don’t know for sure.)

Then there’s the legal drama. Some people have alleged frivolous legal threats from the part of Zak Bagans, to the effect that if they allowed other investigators to film on the property, there would be a lawsuit. I’m not a lawyer, and I haven’t kept up with any of these cases, but I’ve heard that he’s cost people time and money, despite having no legal basis for his claims. Many aspects of our courts are despised, but frivolous suits are near the top of the list.

I’ve also heard the idea floated around that the demonic “possessions” were actually just an excuse for Mr Bagans to berate his coworkers. I have no idea if it’s true, but I think it’s a little funny. Someone pretending to get possessed so he can be mean sounds like something I’d expect from a child, not an adult. While I’m sure it would be uncomfortable to have to work in those conditions, it’s pretty ridiculous to think about. This feeds into the narrative that Mr Bagans is some kind of abusive narcissist, that he sabotages the competition, and that he throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.

While I can’t personally confirm nor deny any particular allegations, they have quite a number of people convinced. Having this level of outrage can’t help his reputation. I would stress that you should look into the details yourself before coming to any sort of firm conclusion. This, however, does add another layer of antipathy to Zak Bagans; it’s not just the art they dislike, but the artist. Funny how that works out sometimes.


In Conclusion


Well, that just about wraps it up. I just want to clarify that I don’t have any personal connection to Zak Bagans or Ghost Adventures, good or bad. I’ve just seen some of the content, and I’m not impressed. Well, I’m not impressed in a good way, at least. It’s alright I guess, but I wouldn’t call it quality education or entertainment, and I make a habit of consuming both.

Don’t jump to conclusions when someone’s reputation is on the line, but just be aware of the potential problems other people have. Or, to put it another way, trust but verify. And make sure you’re not causing any problems yourself. Be respectful of others, and treat your friends well. If you don’t, you might not have them anymore. Then who would you hunt ghosts with?

I’m not telling you that you should or shouldn’t like the work of Zak Bagans. That’s up to you. I just think we should be mindful of our own opinions. I do watch his stuff sometimes; it’s not the worst I’ve seen. And this wouldn’t be the first time a popular show had controversies over character issues, nor will it be the last. Watch it or don’t, just make sure you take everything he says with a grain of salt. Maybe a couple grains.

So, what do you think? Do you like Zak Bagans? Do you enjoy Ghost Adventures?

3,580 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page