By Wade Coggeshall
— Zak Bagans calls the period in his life where he sold cell phones for AT&T as a dark time.
"I knew I had something to do in this life other than work for a corporation like my father wanted," he said during a recent phone interview. "I just couldn't figure out what this special part of me was."
He found his calling as a ghost hunter in a quite peculiar and scary way.
Bagans was living in an apartment at Trenton, Mich., at the time. It was there that, for seven straight nights, he was woken by a woman screaming his full name even though he lived alone. On the last night, Bagans was sleeping on his stomach when again he heard his name. This time it felt like something was on his back pinning him down.
When he felt he could move again, Bagans flipped over and immediately came face to face with a shadow figure of a woman. It's still something he has trouble describing.
"It's like having contact with an alien," Bagans said. "I don't think this was just some random experience with a ghost. I think that whatever prayers I was saying (at the time) were answered. This was my purpose."
That was confirmed to him two years later, when Bagans returned to Michigan for a visit after having moved to Las Vegas. He went back to his old apartment with a video camera. A maintenance man let him in, and Bagans showed him what he had written on the back of a cabinet door there: "This place is haunted" along with his name and the date.
Bagans told the man his experience. That's when he learned that a woman who lived in the apartment before him had committed suicide there.
"That for me just kind of validated the experience," Bagans said. "Once I heard that, I was really hooked on doing this forever."
Along with Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin, Bagans has hosted "Ghost Adventures" on the Travel Channel since 2008. The TV show has taken them all over the world investigating some of the most notoriously haunted locales. They've used the latest technology to capture what they consider proof of the paranormal both visually and aurally.
"The level of communication (with spirits) I get now is what drives me," Bagans said. "That is what's groundbreaking in this field."
One of his favorite accessories is the SB7 Spirit Box. It sweeps through radio frequencies at a rapid rate to capture any interference. Bagans says it's recorded spirits responding to some of his questions in the course of investigations. One was so compelling it was turned over to Denver police for a murder investigation there.
"I don't care who believes and who doesn't," Bagans said of his work. "I know what we're getting are voices that we can't explain. I don't know whose voices they are, but they aren't of the living. We need to listen to them."
Bagans is offering an unusual way to do that. He collaborated with electronic dance music pioneer Praga Khan (from the Lords of Acid) to create a music album incorporating electronic voice phenomena (EVP) called "NecroFusion." Each of its 11 tracks tells the story of a specific spirit. Khan crafted the music to reflect the mood of each paranormal encounter.
"Poor Pearl," for example, is about 22-year-old Pearl Bryan from Indiana, who was murdered and decapitated in 1896. Her headless body was allegedly found near a slaughterhouse where devil worship was practiced. Today it's the site of Bobby Mackey's Music World near Cincinnati, considered one of the most haunted nightclubs in America.
Bagans can be heard on the track saying, "I think Pearl is safe now from her killers," to which an ominous voice of a supposed spirit replies, "Is she?"
Bagans believes merely listening to these spirits can help put them at rest.
"They've been wanting to say these things since they may have died under mysterious circumstances or took their own life," he said. "They just want to be heard so they can move on. Hearing these voices can not only help us understand the afterlife, but help them rest."
For more information on Bagans and "NecroFusion," visit his website at ZakBagans.com.