Possessions. Voodoo. Ghost sex.
It's all in a day's work for the hosts of Ghost Adventures, a highly entertaining ghost hunting show enigmatically featured on the Travel Channel.
While I am immensely interested in the paranormal, I consider myself a skeptic. I've never seen a ghost, nor ever personally encountered any strong evidence that would convince me of their existence. I have listened to several EVPs captured by someone very close I absolutely trust, and the voices caught on them certainly made me raise an eyebrow. But at the same time...that's not enough. Still, I remain open-minded to the possibility. To so assuredly proclaim that ghosts don't exist reeks of arrogance to me, because really, how do you know? Science unearths discoveries every day that sometimes contradict earlier findings. It's the nature of the thing. Who is to say what doesn't exist today will become otherwise tomorrow? But that's best saved for another debate between folks far more brained than I.
Ghost Adventures is a ghost hunting show like no other. It is not hosted by a drab old British man, or a couple of plumbers. It is hosted by three of the most entertaining frat guys you have ever met.
Your main host is Zak Bagans. His impetuous dynamism and intensity would almost be contagious if it weren't almost constantly teetering on absurdity. He religiously performs over the top monologues and speaks with HALTING. TONES. RIGHT. AT. YOU. Regularly dressed in paint-splatter crest t-shirts and black jeans, and with his hair seemingly its own living entity, one gets the feeling that his penchant for ghost hunting just about overshadows his penchant for male modeling. I once asked a fellow paranormal enthusiast what they thought of Ghost Adventures. They replied, "It's decent - but that main guy is kind of a tool." That's a pretty accurate summation of Zak Bagans, what with his macho-ism and bulging tattooed biceps. While an official label for Zak would be metro-sexual, I prefer the term Baganism. He truly is in a class by himself.
Leader. Macho. Moe.
Next in the line-up is Nick Groff, certainly the least dynamic of the hosts, but probably the bravest. He's usually the one getting locked into morgue drawers and sitting in rooms by himself. He is the Dean Martin of the duo, playing the straight man against Zak's Jerry Lewis. He comes across as fairly level-headed and not nearly as brutish as Zak. He is like a tabletop diner jukebox, or Vice-President Biden. He's just kind of there.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Aaron Goodwin. This lovable goofball is the heart of the show. He takes the most abuse and does whatever he is ordered to do, like sit in rooms by himself and ask taunting questions he really doesn't want to ask, or crawl under antique death wagons as Zak and Nick watch him on their monitors and snicker. If the Ghost Adventures crew were The Three Stooges, Aaron would be Curly. He has a charisma that goes beyond playing third fiddle on a reality television show. As tremendously entertaining as he is on the show, you just know the man is ten times as such off camera. He is definitely a guy with whom you wish you were friends. He also makes the best scared face in existence.
|Aaron Goodwin. |
Whipping Boy. Lovable. Curly.
The three men make for enormous entertainment - and the show is both intentionally and unintentionally funny. When each of them encounters something unexplainable, they are sure to shout, "Dude!", "Man!", or "Bro!" In one specific episode, Nick feels a cold burst pass through him, and he holds up his hands in surrender and shouts, "Whoa, dude!" It comes so close to bordering on self-parody that you have to wonder how aware the Ghost Adventure guys are of their own legacy.
While most of the intentional humor comes from Aaron, Zak manages to climb out from under his haze of self-serious theatre-delivery dialogue and make an occasional joke. Especially entertaining is when he demands a spirit to produce a sign of its presence, and when it does, he shrieks and hops out of the room in terror.
Because the investigations are shot entirely in full dark, there are many scenes of our hosts literally poking each other in the eye, walking into doors, stepping in puddles, and bonking their heads against something. They really, truly are The Three Stooges. But the real humor comes when the investigation begins...
The episodes are structured much like any other ghost hunting show: first, the story of the location; second, the eyewitness accounts; third, the plan; and then fourth, the investigation - your bread and butter of the episodes. This allows for Zak to practice his technique of literally pissing off the ghosts so that they will perform for him. And while this is essentially him wandering around empty rooms and demanding the entities make their presence known, the commands he delivers are often improvised (which at least lends credence to the notion that this show is definitely not scripted, and if it is, the guys are terrible at remembering their lines). They all literally stumble through phrases that are meant to incite a response from whatever entities may be around them, but instead, their output sounds awkward and instantly amusing. In the Scotland Edinburgh Vaults episode, a place in which the entities allegedly target pregnant women, Nick wanders around with his digital recorder and stutters, "Is it true... that you hate... pregnant... woman?" In the Ohio Reformatory episode, Aaron sits in the middle of the prison showers where one prisoner was once "gang-raped" to death. In an effort to reach out to the dead prisoner's spirit, Aaron states, "I'm sorry about how you were killed. That was a lousy thing for them to done." He then goes on to add, "No one should die naked."
The best line-flubs come from Zak, because he speaks with immense authority. He reaches Will Ferrell levels of unearned arrogance with some of the broken phrases he spits out. I wish I had an example for you, but they are just too numerous; however, there is one quirk of Zak's about which I can be specific, and one I find tremendously entertaining: his habit of going off on mini-tirades after having just witnessed something spooky, but then screaming at his counterparts to shut up the minute they open their mouths.
It's something that never fails to bring me joy.ZAK: Did you hear that? Did you hear that? I just heard something down that hallway! I swear, dudes, I heard it! I heard it!
AARON: I heard--
ZAK: SHUT UP SSHHH SHUT THE FUCK UP!!
Nine times out of ten (like any other ghost hunting show), the evidence the guys enthusiastically collect is not terribly interesting and is very inkblot-ish in nature. They'll record an EVP that they translate to be "I hate you" but in reality sounds like "...feh..." And while interviewees will describe eerie sightings of full-body entities in historical dress floating down hallways and beckoning to them; phantom dogs and children; the smell of nonexistent foods or perfumes; and the sounds of ghostly flute music or entire country songs, the evidence the guys collect with their arsenal of cameras never manage to reach these impressive levels. At most they capture garbled audio, wisps of something passing in front of the camera, or lights way off in the distance. They also show their arms to the camera so we can see their goosebumps or hair standing on end, something they attribute to the presence of spirits (but can also happen when your favorite song comes on the radio, or during Bill Pullman's riveting Independence Day monologue). Yes, in terms of evidence, the guys have never really caught something that is both entirely unexplainable and knock-your-socks-off insane (the thrown brick from their original documentary notwithstanding - I find that extremely suspicious).
But then in a complete 180, the guys will make some pretty outrageous claims: that they used the services of a witch to call forth a succubus (incubus? succubus? incubus?); that each of them have received scratches from angry spirits; that they used a voodoo priestess named Bloody Mary to call for spirits of slaves long dead; that both Zak and Nick were "possessed" at certain points during season two (the latter making what a friend has termed "the angry Facebook photo face").
And this is where I have issues with the show. As I stated earlier, I do not believe in ghosts, but I do believe their existence is a possibility. I want to watch a show like Ghost Adventures, or any of the other shows, and think, "This could be real." When the guys claim possession, or that voodoo and witchcraft calls forth spirits or demons at their own whim, or that ghosts of cowboys and prostitutes are fucking in an unseen netherworld - sorry guys, you've lost me.That's when the show strays into bullshit territory.
All of this makes me sound like I am picking on the guys - especially Zak - and the show itself, but that's really not my intention. I heart all three of these fellows, and I hope they never stop doing what they do. Their show has brought me immense entertainment - whether intentional or not - and I would never change a single thing about their investigations. Exaggerated - or even downright fake - the show is too entertaining to dismiss.
The show has many fans (1.7 million on Facebook), and they range from the casual, to the dedicated, to the fucking horrifying. Despite the subject matter of the show - ghosts, bloody murders, institutional abuse, child death - there is still one thing truly scarier than all of that put together, but yet still directly associated with Zak Bagans himself:
Yes, because of Zak's rippling muscles and shellacked hair, he has become a god amongst the Twilight teen crowd. Girls (and most assuredly some boys) dream of Zak holding them tightly in the night and protecting them from ghosts, all the while pointing directly into their faces and shouting that the kissing about to go down will be the MOST. EXTREME. KISSING. EVER.
|GET. READY. FOR. MY. HUG.|
This little bit, stolen from an online journal entitled "Zak Bagans - In the Flesh" gives me an extra dose of the willies:
“OOOHHHH ZAK…. OOOO YEA…. OOOO BABE, HARDER” i screamed.
“uuuuhhhhh” zak grunted as we both came.
an hour later we were cleaned up and sitting on the beach together.
“are you happy” zak asked.
“of course, more than ever” i smiled.
“me too babe” he said kissing me.
i apologize for how short the story is. i just got my daughter a puppy, and its been a lot of work, please forgive me, i promise you all i will post tomorrow and it will be a full chapter.
I take great solace in the fact that somewhere out there, our three beloved frat brothers are wandering around an abandoned silo with flashlights, demanding in authoritative voices that the hiding ghost materialize in front of them...so when it does, they can shriek in the night and run for safety - tripping, falling, and saying, "why I oughta...."
Enter the world of Ghost Adventures. Your life will be all the better for it.