Zak Bagans is the grown-up version of the kid around the campfire who tells scary stories with such abandon that you have no other choice but to believe in them. He's just as much a narrator even after the cameras of his popular Travel Channel series, Ghost Adventures, have gone cold. And it's this (ironically) undying passion that allows him and his team to continue to draw in viewers season after season — viewers who become just as dedicated to the show as Bagans is to making it.
And for these fans, October will feel like Christmas, New Year's Eve, and a birthday all mixed into one. While Ghost Adventures never ceases to surprise when it comes to the magnitude of its investigations, the show's upcoming specials are actually breathtaking. They're not just entertaining, they're incomparable.
The long-awaited Ghost Adventures: Serial Killer Spirits series kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 5, and as Bagans told TV Guide, it's something he's wanted to do for a long time. "I have a fascination behind serial killers... like, why are these people doing this? What drives a person to be so incredibly evil to want to take the lives of innocent victims?" he said. "[So], I wanted to do a unique series where we go to different locations that are reportedly haunted from where these serial killers either committed crimes or have even just stepped foot inside... To me, where evil has stepped foot I believe those footprints leave a lasting residual doorway to hell itself."
The series kicks off at a house that at one point was occupied by one of America's first serial killers, H.H. Holmes. This episode is a high-octane experience from the start, and it feels like every second is occupied by some new piece of overwhelmingly compelling evidence. But the energy of the location quickly turns more violent as one of Zak's teammates, Billy Tolley, is targeted.
"As concerned as I am for him, I'm also excited," said Bagans of the moment. "For Billy to be affected like that and then for us to receive confirmation through our equipment... it's OK to me, be affected. Because it is evidence that ... someone or something ... is sharing this space with us. And he knows that it's nothing personal. Obviously, I don't want him to be seriously injured from that. But it was an awesome moment."
John Wayne Gacy is another memorable name on the list that the team attempts to contact, this time by visiting the Old Joliet Prison. It's a thought-provoking investigation because as Bagans put it, "I just wasn't feeling anything. I was almost bored. And I walked into a particular cell and I had this image, just saw two inmates sitting down on the bed together... I had a total disruption of my thoughts, of my own consciousness. And then [there was a piece of evidence] captured on camera, and it's just incredible because it totally defies the laws of physics. And this is the kind of evidence we're after. It was really amazing."
But it didn't end there. After Gacy was executed, his personal psychiatrist studied his brain, and she now has it in her possession. Bagans, who is also a collector in addition to being an investigator, asked her to bring it for an interview. "I knew that as a collector I wanted his brains, and I was like, I'm gonna throw a Hail Mary out here to see if she would actually bring his brain to the interview," said Bagans. "I held John Gacy's brain in my hand, and what I felt in that moment is indescribable. I was paralyzed. I was shaking. Something happened when that brain was in my hand."
"Spirit is one thing, but [to] physically hold that serial killer's brain in your hand while you're trying to contact his spirit-- that put this this investigation on a whole other level," he continued. "It almost got too deep. It was terrifying and incredible at the same time."
Perhaps one of the most fascinating locations visited in the series is the former Pottawattamie County Jail, where Jake Bird, more infamously known as the Tacoma Ax-Killer, was held. The uniqueness and draw of Bird was not only his innate evil and mystery, but also the Bird Hex. He announced at his trial that everyone who opposed him would die. "[There] was a short time where all of those people that he told this to died untimely, unpredicted deaths," Bagans confirmed, "and we went to the physical structure that took his freedom away. And this building opposed him... so while he was confined, I believe that he also cursed the jail forever."
This belief led Bagans to do something he rarely ever does. "I paused the investigation, because we were getting too far trying to evoke his spirit. And we believe that we started making contact with him and I didn't want any of us to die. If he still had that power on the other side to curse us."
The series concludes at a home in Utah believed to be the site of one of Ted Bundy's murders. What is most eerie is the mundane-ness of the location. From the outside, the house could exist anywhere in American suburbia. However, the inside is so viscerally disturbing that it wasn't entirely clear if the team was going to go through with a full investigation. "It was really deep and there were a lot of times during the investigation where we were asking ourselves, 'Are we going too far with this?' But if you don't take the risk in this then you don't ultimately get the reward, which we believe is what we're after," said Bagans.
The episode is one tricky turn after the next... unpredictable, deeply chilling, and overflowing with evidence. But the Ghost Adventures coup de grâce comes in the form of an investigation that fans have been pining for — the Harrisville Farmouse, best known as the house that inspired the events of the blockbuster hit film The Conjuring. On Thursday, Oct. 31, the Ghost Adventures team will be joined by Andrea Perron, a member of the family depicted in the film. They obtained the opportunity to visit after the house was sold to someone who Ghost Adventures researcher Jeff Belanger happened to know.
"I was beyond excited. I mean this is an iconic investigation, but I was also a little bit nervous because when we got there sh-- got real serious, real quick," Bagans explained. "When I spoke to the son, what he saw in that house — and they've only been in there for a month — but he even used the word traumatized. It traumatized them. It caused him to leave the house for three weeks... And then I started matching that what they were seeing is the same exact materialization that the Perrons were also seeing back in '73."
Bagans is no stranger to darkness, and has always been open about the fact that his investigations take a physical and mental toll, but this particular case made him sick. "It took me a few weeks to get over this, and that usually doesn't happen. That's very rare for me; at most it usually takes two or three days," he said. "One of my investigators, Aaron, wanted to end the investigation [prematurely] because he knew that we were very vulnerable to attachments, and he was correct. So it was one investigation that that I will never ever forget. ... We witnessed some remarkable things, and we witnessed some very disturbing things."
All in all, these new specials are the pinnacle of paranormal investigation. They're hard to look away from — one glance to the left of your TV and you'll miss a pivotal piece of evidence that will be talked about for years to come. It's exhilarating, knowing that this team has ventured into places of lore that would intimidate most. For Ghost Adventures as a whole, these episodes are equal parts requiem and magnum opus, a crescendo on the entire lifespan of the show.
But luckily for us, they're just another chapter in Bagans' book. "Yes, we've been doing this for such a long time, but I feel like we're just in the beginning of it," he said.
Ghost Adventures: Serial Killer Spirits premieres Saturday, Oct. 5 at 9/8c on the Travel Channel. Ghost Adventures: Curse of the Harrisville Farmhouse will air Thursday, Oct. 31 at 9/8c.