Q&A: Zak Bagans
Step into the mind of Zak Bagans, or better yet, step inside The Haunted Museum, filled with his personal collection of haunted artifacts and oddities. The star of the hit reality show, Ghost Adventures, recently opened the museum—which is the historic Wengert Mansion—and now lets visitors take guided tours through room after room filled with some of the world’s most haunted and talked about objects. Las Vegas Magazine’s Kiko Miyasato was recently invited to take a tour, personally guided by Bagans, and spoke to Bagans about the museum and the massive collection of curiosities and hauntings that resides inside.
Thanks for having us inside your new museum. Wow, just at first glance, there’s so much to see!
It’s a broad array of artifacts. I traveled the world as a living for the past 15 years as a career investigating the paranormal. That goes anywhere from investigating a building to people who are possessed by demons, getting priests to help them in some of the most serious situations that you can imagine. My TV show, I don’t play a paranormal investigator—it’s my life. I’m an occultist. I’m an investigator. I’m a researcher. And a helper. … It intrigues me that there are forces here that are dark and positive, that are not of flesh and bone that wander the earth with us. Through the years I’ve gained an interest in objects that contain very powerful energies—from curses to human spirits. I have Wyatt Earp’s bible. Some rooms, I have artifacts that are very dark, like Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, his chalice that came from his estate. I have a certificate that is hand-signed by LaVey that appoints a witch to his Church of Satan. So, I find all religions very interesting throughout our globe; we all have different gods and beliefs, and we need to respect it, not hate each other or kill each other because of it. We’re all different. So my artifacts are different. My artifacts are unique.
How did you come about purchasing this property?
When I got this house, I’d been looking for a haunted, historic house in Vegas to offer tours. I would always find some, but this isn’t the exact town that you’d go and find a historic home that has hauntings in it, with great history combined with it to do tours. I found some, tried to buy some, tried to buy Ted Binion’s house, tried to buy some industrial buildings, but at the last second something weird happened that I wouldn’t get it. So out of frustration I was driving down 6th Street and I didn’t even see this house. But I was stopped at the stop sign and I looked to my right and I see these roofs and thought, “That’s odd, that looks like a gingerbread house. What is this house doing here in Vegas?” So I circled around and it said “For Sale” on it. So I bought it. And then I found out from the State Bar of Nevada—a bunch of attorneys that owned this place—that before they even knew who I was they were like, “We have to warn you, this place is very haunted,” and I know right then and there that my prayers of finally finding a historic building had been answered. I got inside and realized the first time I walked through here I could feel spirits in here. And then I learned that all the employees would line their offices with salt at the door. And then I found out from a very prominent lady here, Rachel Vosko, who’s the founder of Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, that this place was abandoned in the ’70s and was known as the witch house. It was known as a satanic worshipping site, too.
There’s so many rooms inside this house. How did you decide what goes where?
When you enter into every single room the door is shut behind you—that is because every room has its own energy. The objects I put in these rooms, it was like a puzzle that I put together in another life. Everything fit just perfectly. The mirrors fit perfectly. Stained-glass windows in the funeral parlor, they fit perfectly. You don’t just go to your local antique store and find this stuff, things come to me. Hand-painted, stained-glass windows from the 1800s fit perfectly. Every room has a new environment; it’s meant to have a different emotion. Wherever there’s mystery in our history, I like to try and own a piece of that and tell the story of it.
How many objects did you bring in the house from your own personal collection?
As far as haunted, cursed objects—I have hundreds in here. True, cursed haunted objects, those are things like the Jack Kevorkian’s death van, the cursed Ed Gein cauldron, Bela Lugosi’s haunted mirror, Peggy the Doll and the Dybbuk box, known as one of the most haunted objects in the world. That’s my biggest, most powerful objects. When I buy anything, I have to have providence from it; I have to buy it from a family of where it came from or I have to look into it. As a collector, those are the only type of objects that I want—I don’t want to have to wonder, “Is this real?” But the thing where I’m different, when it comes to these haunted or cursed objects, I don’t just put that name on top of them just as an adjective to bring people here, these objects I personally have met with the people that have been affected by them. I guess you could say that I’m obsessed with some of these objects. I’ll come and sit and visit with them. I wouldn’t say I worship them, but I give them the respect that I feel that they deserve in order for me to be safe. I display them in ways to where I’m not putting people at risk. But people are made aware you are entering into an area, there’s risks wherever you go. Here it’s a collection of dark and light and it’s a place of curiosity for you to come and maybe have an experience. To me it’s gratification meeting people from all over the world, fans that come here.
Was there any reaction when you brought all these pieces into this house?
Yes, there was. It was like a giant experiment: let’s take all these cursed haunted objects and put them into one place together. It’s like a chemist putting these chemicals together to see if there’s going to be an explosion. When I first started putting in the Demon House staircase—the Demon House I ended up bulldozing; I could have kept it open and opened it up for tours but after what I saw it did to me and others I bulldozed it to the ground, and I decided to take the staircase. The staircase is what all the police departments from different jurisdictions have said where the portal to hell is, because underneath that staircase was the dirt where the police found four feet under all the objects that were used in a necromantic ritual. As a collector, I had to take a piece of it, so I took the staircase and the dirt and the objects. Once the construction workers began installing it (at the museum), two of them lost their personalities. They just went numb—like something felt like it was taking the life out of them. A little doll mysteriously appeared on the staircase one day when we had it in the other room; no one moved it and put it there. A black stain appeared on the outside of the door as well. The Dybbuk box, when I brought it in my designer and I opened it up one day and him and I sat and stared at each other for … it had to be 30-40 minutes where we just stared and we didn’t say anything. We were unaware of how much time had passed. When we closed the box, him and I got into some extremely heated arguments over nothing. The sage we put around it has grown black mold on it. You do not come here and challenge these objects, whether you believe or not. You do not come in here and disrespect them, provoke them, because you will feel the wrath of it.
Have there been any spooky stories or experiences with visitors yet?
So many people have had experiences, skeptics will come in here not believing in anything and I’ll have to talk to them and help them through an experience they just had, good or bad. And, it kinda awakens them. This tour is unlike any others, there’s haunted tours around the country but with this tour it’s unique because of the collection of my artifacts put under one roof on top of a building that already has a haunted history to it—it’s like a nuclear reactor of paranormal activity. The experience that people have had, they’ll never forget them because it’s not just through sight or sound or sense of touch, it’s a sixth sense experience—that stays with you forever. That’s what’s unique about this tour. We do not create ghosts; we do not put the elements of psychosomatics in your mind. It’s not about, “Hey, you’re gonna see a ghost,” we don’t guarantee it. It’s nothing that needs to be faked or staged—we’ve had some really cool, real things happen here.
How old were you when you started dabbling into this type of stuff?
Literally 2 years old. I remember vivid dreams that I remember today. My brain was just different about the way I thought about things and life. When I was a little kid, I was visited by little creatures; this wasn’t my imagination. I feel when we’re born something is operating our puppet strings and they’re watching you and guiding you—that’s my belief. I think we’re steered in certain directions. I always knew I liked ghosts and had the curiosity for them and a warmness for them. And now it’s developed full time. It’s not just a career, it’s my life, my passion; it’s what I love to do. And, I think people can see that. Through the show, talks, the museum—to me it’s just I’m still the same dude I was, some weird dude. But now there’s a lot of people watching me do it. (Laughs). It’s fun going on investigations, and helping people—it’s an adventure.