The Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures has been journeying around to the world's "most haunted" houses, hotels, and ghost towns for 16 going on 17 seasons. While it seems obvious lead investigators Zac Bagans and Aaron Goodwin believe in ghosts and believe they have encountered them, many viewers probably wonder whether the sights and sounds they see on the spooky show are real or TV magic.
So, is Ghost Adventures real or fake?
Many people who've been on the show over the years have shared accounts of their experiences with the self-proclaimed paranormal investigators of the show. According to Arizona journalist Ozzy Mora, her time with the crew investigating Gila County Jail in Globe, AZ, surprised her in many ways — mainly for how little Hollywood manipulation she observed during the taping she was present for.
"Nothing is scripted," she wrote. "The only moments that have a plan are the shots between the crew and the person they are interviewing. That's usually normal while shooting any story, even a documentary."
But it feels safe to assume Ozzy definitely classifies herself as someone who believes in ghosts. What about a skeptic's experience with the crew?
Julie Jordan, who wrote for People about her lockdown in an old Utah mining town with Aaron and Zac, calls herself a "skeptical believer" and says she experienced several unexplained events.
"I enjoy yoga but deep breaths can only do so much to calm your nerves," she said. "When you see a ball of light go across a wall in front of you and you know without a doubt that there is no external source, it can be extremely disconcerting."
However, some even more skeptical critics call BS.
Not everyone who has joined Zac for a night left feeling certain Ghost Adventures is real. Joe Streckert wrote for the Portland Mercury about his experience on a tour of Portland, OR's so-called Shanghai Tunnels. Streckert has worked for Portland Walking Tours himself, and is familiar with the story of these tunnels (which are actually just a basement). He declares them to be nothing more than an urban legend and cites plenty of evidence to back that up.
"Most of that 'investigation' consisted of Bagans yelling at the air, asking if any specific ghosts were around, and pointing various gadgets at nooks and crannies." Joe wrote. "The gadgets would go 'BRAPPBRAPPBRAPP!' after which Bagans would say 'Yes? Hello?' or something to that effect. This continued for some time. Static. Yelling. More static. More yelling. Speculation on the part of the audience that they'd heard something. Static. Boredom."
So, it would seem, reality is in the eye of the beholder.
What about the technology and equipment they use to detect spirits?
I'm not sure where I land on the question of whether ghosts exist, but I am definitely open to the idea, especially if science is able to support their existence. And Ghost Adventures seems to employ a lot of technology and tools to detect and communicate with paranormal beings. But is any of this tech legit? Let's explore some of the common instruments they use on the show.
Just as a cloud might look exactly like an elephant or your grandma's face, it's just our human brain's natural tendency to want to find order in what is random. When listening to white noise or static, one's brain may interpret random sounds as words, and scientists who study pareidolia suggest these interpretations come, not from spirits, but from your subconscious. So while you may believe 100 percent that you heard the words "Go away!" it's just your brain, fueled possibly by heightened anxiety and fear, sending you those messages.
What is EVP? Are spirit boxes real?
EVP stands for electronic voice phenomenon, and it's basically the keystone of paranormal investigation. Many ghost hunters and spiritualists believe they have captured voices from the beyond communicating over radio static or other white noise. However, most scientists believe what's actually going on is a phenomenon called pareidolia.
Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, it's clear Zac and Aaron do. Either that or they're giving Daniel Day-Lewis a run for his money in the method acting department. They're been up to this for over a decade now, and they haven't dropped the act even once.
Ghost Adventures returns with all new episodes on February 23, 2019 at 9 p.m. ET.