The 11-Step Guide to Investigating Zak Bagans' Haunted Museum
By Gabby Etzel
There are things in this world that we may never fully understand...
This is the Definitive Guide to investigating Zak Bagans' "The Haunted Museum."
I can confidently say that Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum is, well... Haunted.
Of course, I’ve taken the daytime tour twice and watched every Ghost Adventures episode about it, so I’m clearly the highest authority on the property.
Not only that. To build my amateur (for now) paranormal investigation resume, I’ve done the Late Night Flashlight Tour a total of… Once. So, yeah. I know what I’m talking about.
The icing on the cake? I am convinced that one day, Zak Bagans will hire me, a true crime and horror writer with a film/TV degree and a haunted childhood home, to work on Ghost Adventures or the next season of The Haunted Museum (oh hey, Zak, didn't see you there). So, take it from a future employee of the man himself: the museum is haunted.
Seriously, though, the experience was enlightening (ironic, considering it was entirely in the dark). They set me loose in the museum with a flashlight, spirit box, and EMF detector. Of course, there were a few tour guides strategically stationed throughout to help if I got lost or felt affected, but otherwise, I was on my own (other than my dad… hi, dad).
Dad made a friend.
Luckily for me, I already knew my way around the mansion. If you’re unfamiliar with The Haunted Museum and not a three-visits-several-episodes expert like I am, let me give you a quick overview.
Zak purchased the haunted mansion a few years back. The home dates back to 1938, and a handful of deaths have occurred inside. This includes the deaths of family members that lived there, but unfortunately, it doesn’t stop at natural causes. Rumors suggest that occult practices, even sacrifice, occurred in the basement. Paranormal evidence validates this.
The mansion’s history alone is not what makes it so scary. Zak Bagans, a collector of haunted objects and oddities, has filled the 30+ rooms in the museum to the brim with his collection. These aren’t just small-fry items like casually haunted dolls (though there are plenty of those, I’ll get into that later). Let’s list a few of The Big Boys in Bagans’ possession:
Dr. Kevorkian’s death van
The Dybbuk Box (the world’s most haunted object)
Peggy the Doll
Remnants of “The Demon House”
The Devil’s Rocking Chair (that chair from The Conjuring)
Bela Lugosi’s mirror
Some of Charles Manson’s remains
John Wayne Gacy's art (I wrote about Gacy for the Inquisitr)
As you can imagine, the museum is an epicenter of dark energy–Which, with all the proper precautions, is where I do my best work.
Using my own experiences, without further ado, I present...
1. Safety First
Trust me. You don’t want to wing a paranormal investigation. In a place this dark, you want to be Boy Scout Ready.
I’ve been told that spending hours in a violently haunted museum is probably not the most intelligent use of my time, but even if it is a dumb decision, I try to be smart about it. If you’re the same way, then I suggest you gear up with whatever talisman makes you feel safe.
Personally, I don’t own any religious jewelry, and even if I did, I’m not sure that I would’ve brought it inside the museum. That feels like a good way to start beef with something bad, like wearing a Yankees cap to a Phillies game, except in the underworld.
I do, however, have an embarrassingly extensive rock collection for a 22-year-old girl. Heck, I’ve even got a National Geographic rock tumbler. I want to say that this is because I’m a crystal girlie, but when it comes down to it, I just really love rocks.
Crystals come from the earth. They’re made using the same recycled energy that makes up both our human selves and the spiritual realm. So, when people say that crystals are charged by the earth to have certain properties, I have no problem believing it. Even if they don’t hold any power, I fully believe that their symbolic meanings put you in the right mindset for what you need.
I did a little research and geared up with some crystals that seem to fit the bill for paranormal protection. I wore hematite around my neck to absorb negative energy and bad thoughts. I tied blue goldstone around my belt loop for healing and positive energy. Lastly, I stuck a piece of pyrite in my pocket to shield my body from unwanted intentions.
Say what you want about crystals, but the longer I was in that museum, the heavier the hematite grew around my neck.
2. Technology is Great...
The tour guides will give you an EMF detector and a Spirit Box before you enter the museum. They do a great job at familiarizing you with the equipment beforehand, but any aspiring paranormal investigator should have a head start.
An EMF detector finds fluctuations in an environment’s electromagnetic field. As the theory goes, spirits are comprised of electromagnetic energy. So, when you see the little red LED lights go off on the EMF detector, something might be nearby.
Use your discretion. EMF detectors will also light up near electrical wiring, WiFi routers, and sometimes even cell phones.
A surefire way to use the device without interference is to leave it in the middle of the floor. Say, “If there’s anyone here with me, can you walk up to that device on the ground?”
If it lights up, congratulations! You are not alone.
This spirit box and I went through a lot together.
A Spirit Box is a device that rapidly sweeps through audio channels, allowing spirit voices to speak through the radio frequencies. This Spirit Box lets you communicate directly with spirits, and can help you deduce whether you’re dealing with an intelligent or residual haunting based on the response.
I’ll get into some of the astounding spirit box evidence that the device produced for us later, but here are some examples of the spirit box working for us.
Near Dr. Kevorkian’s van, this interaction occurred.
Gabby: How many spirits are here?
Male voice: Three.
Dad: Dr. Kevorkian, is that you?
Male voice: It is.
Dad: You have a lot of fans, now. A lot of people believe you did the right thing.
Male voice: Yes.
This was an intelligent interaction, presumably with Dr. Kevorkian himself.
The basement told a different story through the spirit box. It was hard to hear over the looped audio recording of Alastair Crowley performing a ritual, but there were fragments of both male and female voices coming through, most of which sounded incredibly pained.
Could these have been the residual pleas of those sacrificed in that very basement?
Either way, the evidence that came through the spirit box was astounding, and the final push for me to purchase my own. After all, this is how investigators get their best evidence, as shown in this article that I wrote about Destination Fear.
3. ...But Don't be Afraid to go Old School
Even with fancy gadgets, keep your senses engaged. One of the scariest things to happen that night had nothing to do with our equipment.
We entered the Demon House exhibit, ready to document some awesome audio evidence on the spirit box. Maybe, if we were lucky, we’d hear the Demon himself come through the device.
If you don’t know, the entity in the Demon House is the reason that Zak Bagans now wears glasses. It affected his optic nerve and caused him to go cross-eyed.
Stream "Demon House" on Discovery+
So, once we fired up the Spirit Box, we asked, “What did you do to Zak?”
The response came almost immediately, but it didn’t come through the box.
To the right of our heads, we heard a deep, guttural growl.
I immediately shut off the Spirit Box.
“That didn’t come from the box.”
“No. No, that was right next to my head.”
After a moment of stunned silence, the EMF detector clocked something directly in front of us.
I’ve never skedaddled so quickly. In fact, in my 2.2 decades of life before this incident, I’m not sure that I had ever skedaddled, period.
I wasn’t going to provoke that demon, though. I already wear glasses.
4. Meet Your Heroes
Did Lorraine Warren save me from a Spirit Box session gone wrong?
Lorraine Warren for CNN
I’m into the paranormal, I enjoy most of The Conjuring series, and I’m a huge Vera Farmiga fan. As you can imagine, I love Lorraine Warren. I was very sad to hear of her death in 2019.
When I entered the room of the Devil’s Rocking Chair, Lorraine was on my mind, but I didn’t think to try to communicate with her. Surely, she had no reason to attach herself to the rocking chair that she kept after it levitated with demonic intent… right?
I fired up the spirit box and began speaking with what sounded like a male spirit. He was intelligently responding to my questions. A favorite moment was when I asked, “Did you watch The Conjuring?” I was met with a very clear, “Who watches that?”
As the conversation progressed, he became crass. He began swearing and using vulgar terms. I found it shocking, but a little bit funny, and certainly no reason to stop communication. Maybe this wasn’t a demon attached to the chair and was just a lost spirit from another part of the museum. Either way, he had a sense of humor.
Then something came over me. Before I could even process the thought, I asked aloud, “Is Lorraine Warren here?”
An older woman’s voice immediately spoke.
It was so clear that my dad looked up from the other side of the room, where he had been reading about the chair.
Maybe it was shock and fear, or maybe I was starstruck, but I stammered my next words.
“Lorraine, is that you?”
Lorraine, you don’t have to tell me twice.
My theory is that whatever I was talking to was not the fun and lighthearted spirit that I thought he was, and Lorraine swooped in to save her devoted fan’s day.
I said my goodbyes, flipped off the spirit box and moved on. If your ghost-hunting idol tells you to do the same in any part of the museum, I suggest you listen.
5. Trust Spirits as Much as You Trust People
I know. As if you needed trust issues in the astral realm, too.
Zak Bagans has a room dedicated to the victims of a serial killer who doesn’t deserve to have his name mentioned on Absolutely Anything. The room includes the bed that he tortured and killed the young men on.
After a few minutes of being in the room, we had already established communication with Larry Wayne Pearson.
The following interaction ensued.
Gabby: Larry Wayne Pearson, are you here?
Male voice: Yes!
Gabby: Is your killer here?
Deeper male voice: NO.
My dad and I looked at each other. That was not the same voice. The second one was far darker and spoke a little too quickly.
Gabby: I don’t believe that for a second.
Dad: Larry, you fought back. You bit your killer and sent him to the hospital, good for you.
Nothing came through for a moment, but then, that same deep, dark male voice spoke.
“... Bit me..”
That sure sounds like his killer to me.
I hope that Larry Wayne Pearson finds peace.
6. Stop and Smell the... Clowns?
Things can get dark in there, but if you’re a die-hard horror fan like me, you’ll want to take time to enjoy some of the exhibits. Really, the potential for demonic attachments aside, it is a super cool and well-curated museum.
One of my favorites is the clown/circus exhibit, complete with a giant diorama of a circus and freakshow scene. Zak recently acquired the actual clown doll used in Poltergeist. Yes, the clown doll.
I know. He scarred my childhood, too.
Zak also has some Ghostbusters memorabilia. Plus, the room with the Cursed Cauldron was designed by American Horror Story production designers.
Hey, speaking of, have you watched our interview with American Horror Story actor Jim Ortlieb?
Take a break and check it out, much like you should do with the awesome exhibits in Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum.
Just learn from my mistakes and don’t be surprised if you feel something touch your leg while you’re admiring the collection.
7. Charge Your Social Battery
Talking to spirits is no different than talking to people, except for all the ways in which it is wildly different.
One thing holds up between the two types of conversation, though. They can easily drain your social battery.
Zak Bagans has a haunted doll closet, where he keeps all the haunted dolls that his fans need to get rid of, from rag dolls to ventroloquist dummies.
I used to have a fear of dolls, which later developed into a fascination and is now nothing short of fondness.
I remember my first time in the haunted doll closet. It was before R.I.P. (VIP) tours existed, and only the first to volunteer would gain access to cool things like the closet. Of course, I volunteered right away.
As soon as I entered the doll closet at age 19, I was immediately dizzy. My vision turned white, I felt like I couldn’t lift my head, and I had to clutch onto the wall for support. The energy was so overwhelming. I spent the rest of the tour shaking (but of course, still volunteering to put myself in more questionable situations).
This time, when I entered the closet with a Spirit Box, I understood why it was so overstimulating.
Voices were coming from all corners of the room. Male and female voices of all ages were speaking over each other, to the point where I couldn’t understand what they were saying. There were some dolls that I refused to look in the eye and others that made me smile.
There were some clear answers to our questions, and a very distinct “SHUT UP” directed at my dad. Most of it, though, was loud, indistinct chatter, kind of like standing in the middle of a busy mall during the Holiday season.
As soon as we left the room, the Spirit Box went quiet, and I was exhausted from a solid ten minute social event with the Beyond.
8. We Want Answers (But We Don't Always Get Them)
My dad and I were the only guests downstairs. Everyone else had been upstairs. We were wandering from room to room when we heard a man groan loudly in the foyer.
We looked at each other. Were we hearing things?
There it was again. Another loud, pained groan. There was no one in sight.
We still don’t know what we heard, but I guess that’s the point of paranormal investigation. If we had all the answers, this wouldn't be anywhere near as appealing.
9. Know Your Boundaries
Even the most daring paranormal investigators need to have a line.
Mine is somewhere between Peggy the Doll and the Dybbuk Box. I am well aware of how powerful these items are. I’d do well to stay as far away from them as possible. But of course, I was in the museum, so I couldn’t not check them out.
My boundaries were clear. I would go into Peggy the Doll’s room, and I would turn on the spirit box, but I wouldn’t ask any questions. I also wouldn’t stand directly in front of her to avoid looking at her, and her at me.
The same phrase came through the spirit box four times over. A deep, dark voice said–
It grew angrier each time until eventually, I did the opposite. I said, “NOPE, goodbye!” and for the second time that night and in my life, I skedaddled.
I knew that I made the right choice because I already felt a stabbing pain between my eyes. Peggy is known for causing headaches. I can’t imagine what I would’ve felt if I chose to stare at her and interact.
Up next was the Dybbuk Box. I was strict about this one. My dad and I went in to look at it, but we didn’t turn on either device, and we didn’t speak a word. I would not be opening up communication with the world’s most haunted object.
Even with this conscious decision to protect myself, we did not walk away scoff-free.
10. It's Not Over 'Til It's Over
I probably should’ve warned my dad about the effects of the Dybbuk Box beforehand. Then, when he felt that first pain in his spine, he would’ve known what caused it.
The Dybbuk is known to attack the spines. If you attack a man’s spine, they’re completely incapacitated. My dad had some intense back pain, even after we left the museum, but what’s remarkable is what happened back at the hotel.
My mom had already been sleeping when he climbed into bed with her. As soon as he laid down next to her, my mom shot awake due to a stabbing pain in her spine. She hadn’t even been at the museum with us, and she was still feeling the effects.
As it turns out, my dad also tried to peer past the crack between the two doors of the Dybbuk Box. Bad idea. His eyes were watery and bloodshot for days.
As for me, I walked away with more than one scratch on my back.
11. Practice Good Hygiene
Cleansing is just as important as precautions. You don’t want to carry any of that negativity with you.
I opted for Palo Santo wood that I purchased at a crystal shop before flying to Vegas. I cleansed myself and everything that had been inside the museum with me and continued to do so for a few days afterward. If you don't have a local shop to purchase Palo Santo beforehand, the museum sells it, too.
I don’t have much experience with Palo Santo wood, but as far as I can tell, the bulk of this stuff comes down to intention.
My intention? Get my energy as squeaky clean as possible so that I can come back and do it again.