Demonic forces top the list of trauma inducing frights. A twelve year old girl in an apartment in Washington DC was more frightening than a basement of werewolves, mummies and vampires combined. That’s because she was possessed by the devil in the horror classic The Exorcist. Satan gets into the collective subconscious through nightmares that have passed through generations. It is fueled by the most terrifying byproduct of all, Catholic guilt. Like Pontius Pilate, the blood doesn’t come off so easily.
In his documentary Demon House, Zak Bagans is wracked and wrecked by Catholic guilt. He takes everything he saw while repossessing the house in Gary, Indiana, very personally. The building he bought, sight unseen didn’t just house any demons, but the upper echelons of the hierarchy, he claims. It wreaked havoc with Bagans’ crew and drove suicidal thoughts into an innocent bystander. That is a heavy cross to bear. The property also took a major toll on his health. Although, to be fair, Bagans did demolish “Demon House,” and some tenants have malevolent ways of enforcing their rights.
Bagans has been at this a long time. He’s been hosting the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures since he brought it to them as a documentary in 2004. When he first started the show, his introduction said he didn’t believe in ghosts until he saw one. Zak Bagans spoke with Den of Geek about how familiar it has now become, and the toll it’s taken on his mind, body and perhaps eternal soul.
Den of Geek: How are your eyes?
Zak Bagans: I still have the affliction, and I still wear prism glasses 24/7, I mean not when I’m sleeping, but it has not gone away. At this point, I have refused to do the double eye surgery, because the doctor told me there is a risk of total blindness from doing that.
I was actually at the doctor’s office in Beverly Hills, and I was gonna do it. I woke up in the morning, and when l he told me that it runs the risk of total blindness I decided on wearing prism glasses instead of running that risk. More importantly, in the bigger picture of this, to know that this hit me within a day after I left the Demon House. There’s no explanation to that. I’m looking for someone to explain to me how that couldn’t be related to what was going on inside of that house.
What do the doctors say? When you give them the coincidence , the timing, what are they saying to you?
Well, I mean, a lot of these doctors, I don’t know if they believe in demons or spirits or anything like that, but every single one of them, four of them, said they cannot explain it. They gave me multiple blood work tests for various neurological diseases, which actually scared me. Those neurological conditions could have been a clue to one of those diseases. Thank God those tests came back normal, which ruled out any of those neurological conditions.
They just can’t explain how this would just happen overnight. If I take my glasses off, I see horizontally double vision. Like right now, I took them off and this guy carrying his ladder across the street, there are two guys. I see double-vision of everything. I have to wear these dual prism glasses with my contacts.
It doesn’t bother me that much, knowing the glasses somewhat fixed it, I still have double-vision with them on sometimes, but mostly I see okay with them. To see that this was grouped with other people having things happen to them after being in the house, really opened my eyes, no pun intended, that this could have been caused by that. I believe 100% that it was.
I know that you come from a Christian background, so do you use holy metals, holy water, bones of a saint, to protect yourself against these forces?
I mean, look, I try my best to use protection. Metals, waters, oil, but if I’m in a real deep case like the Demon House, I had Father Mike bless me, and give me guidance on what to do. Sometimes, to me, I think it’s my own spiritual armor that I’ve created to help protect me.
All the prayers that I’ve made for increased spiritual protection, and the things that I have around me. A pure soul like, I know it sounds crazy, my dog, a pure soul. Creating my home into an old medieval church with lots of religious artifacts, and making sure I’m out in Mother Nature, and meditating. Making sure that I’m out with family and friends, being happy, and laughing, these types of things, to me, are ways that I protect myself.
In imminent danger, I will use a priest if there’s one near me, which most likely there is when I’m doing one of these cases, to cleanse me. But I have worn metals, crystals, oils. And while I don’t believe these things protect you 100% they can definitely give you some temporary relief.
Do you study practices from other cultures? Hinduism has a very effective system if you have time to hang out in graveyards.
Yeah, different cultures have exorcisms and ways that they do the exorcism just like we have, all different religions everywhere. I haven’t studied so much of the international ways. The exorcisms I performed and conducted mainly focus on the Catholic ways. I know recently the Vatican recently announced a sudden surge of hiring and training new exorcists. It’s a very big problem.
You’ve investigated hauntings all over the country and beyond. Are there regional differences in the paranormal experience? Do you think the South has a different flavor than New England hauntings or are they different than the Far East or Africa?
Yeah, that’s a really good question. When you travel like I do, just within our own country the atmosphere is different. The environment is different, the way people talk is different. The energy is different. And that’s just material wise, with the local culture. You go to Louisiana, the Creole, the things they eat and how they speak, and you go to New England and the accents, are different. But as I travel I notice the spirits are different, and you feel that. You know when I go to a mining town I’ll feel the difference there of the spirits than when I go down south on the Gulf of Mexico.
So, there is a different vibe to it in the way that I sense it and feel it. We’ve actually captured voices with accents on them. We were just in Virginia City and captured, a few different times, a man’s voice with a real slang to it. You know, “Hey how are you doing?” It was interesting. When you get to the demonic hauntings, to me, it has that same negative feeling. It’s a completely different feeling than encountering human spirits. So the demonic side of it feels the same but it’s a different power.
Do you think a communities’ belief in something supernatural can affect the supernatural activity, like collective unconsciousness?
Yeah, kind of like In the movie Elf when everyone believes in Santa Claus and then the magic and the energy helps the sleigh fly through the sky. I know that’s a horrible analogy but I believe that when you’re in a location, it’s like Halloween. It’s said that Halloween has more activity. The power of our conscious mind is unimaginable. I believe if you believe in something or, let’s take for instance you go into a demonic location and you have a lot of fear: that fear within your body, within your mind, is like chum in water attracting a shark. They feed off our emotions. These demons also with influence and inflict malice into a living person because that’s how they feed.
There’s balance in this world, there’s balance in this life. But in these particular locations where there are demonic entities and whatnot there’s a lot of neglect. There’s a lot of suffering and pain and murder and violence. These emotions create an energy field and darker beings feed off of this. That’s how they gain their power. This is their mission from the dark place. And I believe in the demon house we were literally up against one of the seven princes of Hell. And it was that strong and that complex.
In the documentary, some of the cops are scared to even go near the house. How prevalent was mythology of the house in the town when you first started doing the investigations?
The main target of my investigation was to find out what happened in the house. What happened nearby. Obviously any investigator needs to do their groundwork and find the information to see if it was a cause for dark energy. But you’ve got to remember that particular town of Gary, Indiana, I believe was once the murder capital of the country. You have to be very careful when you’re there. There is a lot of gang activity, there is a lot of abandoned churches, there’s a lot of schools that aren’t opening. They need to bring the economy back there.
Being in that particular environment, it created a nest for dark energy. And whether or not demons were attracted to that, that was the real focus of the investigation. But the house did have some unusual things to it, like when the police found these artifacts buried four feet in the dirt. Then Father Mike Magino began theorizing or concluding some form of ritual had taken place there to literally open up a doorway to something dark. A human person had some form of knowledge, some form of training or practice in this dark veil of religion or beliefs to open up this house or this family to a curse.
There are many layers. During the investigation around that house there were other things going on when the inhabitants were being possessed and things they didn’t even know about.
You actually destroyed the house, I know some of it is at the museum. I don’t know if it was on top of a leyline and opened doors to other phenomenon, but doesn’t that put an end to any further investigation?
Yeah, that’s the point. You know, this was my investigation. This was my decision. I work with a lot of highly trained people, Dr. Barry Taft, Father Mike Magino. There were enough findings to convince me this house affected other people, including myself, for me to make that determination. I bought the house. I own the house. This was my decision, so that’s the final decision that I made.
Why can’t we actually investigate the entities, demons or the elementals that are there? Rather than get rid of them, why can’t we study what is there?
Because a girl, two days later, tried to kill herself and I had to speak with her mother on the phone and find out exactly why this girl didn’t even remember being in the house three weeks before. I’m the one who woke up the next day with an affliction with my eyes. I’m the one who saw Dr. Barry Taff when all his organs failed. I’m the one who saw my crew fall apart at the hinges. Why wouldn’t I destroy it? I used my professional knowledge and experience to make my decision that I wanted to destroy it. Why would I want to put more people, investigators in harm’s way?
Demon House will be released in select theaters and on VOD services on Friday, March 16, 2018.