If you ask me, every Ghost Hunting book is for dummies, but Ghost Hunting For Dummies by Zak Bagans just comes right out and says it in the title.
The book opens by stating one in three Americans believes houses can be haunted. Basically, it makes the argument that if ghosts don’t exist, why do so many people think they do? It’s an argument that doesn’t take into account how people are stupid.
I should probably state my biases before discussing this book. I am the two people out of three that does not believe in ghosts, and here’s why: being a ghost sounds lame as hell. You can’t eat, you can’t read, and you can’t tell what’s happening in a show when you’re crawling out of the TV. You’re just an invisible person living in someone else’s house, watching them masturbate. Thus, by Bugg’s Masturbative Property, all ghosts are perverts.
I don’t want to live with the possibility of impending ghosthood hanging over my head. And I really don’t want some guy wearing a big silver medallion and too much hair gel trying to convince me I should be concerned about it. To believe in Ghost Hunters, you first have to believe there are extreme powers of unseen evil on earth, and then you have to accept that the only guy who knows how to deal with them also manages a Hot Topic.
If you think this man looks trustworthy, I should probably start by telling you he was accused of plagiarizing a bunch of this book. Ghost hunting is a small community, and apparently, something like 20 pages were pulled word-for-word from another ghost hunting book. Eventually, Bagans tried to cover for this by saying he worked with the author he was accused of plagiarizing as an uncredited researcher for the book. The author had previously told a blogger that Bagans or, more likely, his ghost-hunting ghost-writer, had plagiarized him, but they must have come to some kind of settlement because here he is, tweeting a very normal scanned picture of a typed statement contradicting his previous statement:
I may not believe in ghosts, but I also don’t believe this story. So, who is Zak Bagans beyond the most trustworthy man on the planet? He’s the star of the 24(!) season-long television dynasty Ghost Adventures, a show running on The Travel Channel since 2008. It’s spawned multiple spin-offs, including Ghost Adventures: Serial Killer Spirits, Ghost Adventures: Aftershocks, and of course, Ghost Adventures: Quarantine.
It’s insane that a show can run for 24 seasons without my knowing about it until I see the face of the lead on a book in the bargain occult section of a used bookstore. Even though this book was published in 2019, it went into the bargain section FAST. This was probably partially due to the plagiarism scandal, which wasn’t a big deal to us super smart normals, but might have been a big deal in the aspiring ghost hunter community. Or, it could just be because the book is really, really dumb and bad. Or so good the first few hundred readers hunted all the ghosts?
A stunning majority of Ghost Hunting for Dummies is just a history of ghosts and ghost hunting in America that employs an extremely limited vocabulary on the topic. Everything in this book is the most haunted. On page 169, Zak says The Lemp Mansion “has become known as one of the most haunted places in the country.” On page 174, “The Crescent Hotel “is considered one of the most haunted places in the country.” Chapter 19 of the book is called “America’s Ten Most Haunted Cities And Towns.”
Nothing is ever just a little bit haunted. Zak, or the people whose words he stole, never say, “There’s a ghost here, but his name is Kyle, and he’s honestly super chill.” Zak, or again, the uncredited and unaware ghost hunting author writing as “Zak,” rates everything on a scale of most haunted to most haunted.
When he does finally get around to giving actual practical advice for ghost objects, it’s so basic it’s childlike. And, sure, so is writing a book about playing make-believe, but let me give you an example. Chapter eight is called “Where Ghosts Are” and it’s just a list of all possible places. It looks like a Family Feud board after Steve Harvey asks, “Name a location.”
No shit, ghost towns are a good place to look for ghosts! Hospitals and old insane asylums might have them too? Thanks for the hot tip, Zak! Um, I guess I should cancel my plans to open a trampoline park in the old Saint Mary’s Home For Partially Lobotomized Psychotic Witches? I mean, I don’t know where else I could put it other than the theater that was built on top of an ancient burial ground for baby murdering prisoners with hook hands. Oh, I guess you’re going to tell me that’s hAuNtEd too.
You start to realize how little material Zak had for this book when you get to page 119, and it’s just a long list of his favorite horror movies. Again that’s on page 119, and this book is 408 pages long. I mean, you try writing a bunch of words without just listing movies you’ve seen The Adventures of Milo and Otis.
This has big, “Oh shit, that’s due tomorrow? I’m three pages short” energy. It’s also a bit telling that he’s listing fictional movies rather than historical ghost hunters killed by ghosts. And when the information in Ghost Hunting For Dummies isn’t incredibly basic or giving away the grift, it’s incredibly dumb. There’s a section on triggering ghosts using trigger objects you think they may respond to based on research into the ghost’s suspected life.
“Since I’m investigating the ghost of the nunchuck murderer, I’ll go ahead and leave these nunchucks out here to see if I can trigger any ghostly activity. Oh no! Who could have seen that this would go so terribly wrong.” – A thing that Zak Bagans thinks could happen.
Part of me has to think Zak Bagans doesn’t believe a single thing in this book, and sometimes he slips up, and you notice it. For example, Chapter 10 is called “The Dangers Of Investigating,” and the number one thing listed in that chapter is Allergies. I must urgently reiterate this: THE NUMBER ONE THREAT TO GHOST HUNTERS IS ALLERGIES.
“The Dangers of Investigating” begins with a section called “what not to do as a ghost hunter,” which is only about not trespassing. The law does not recognize ghost hunting as a reason for you to be in another person’s home. Then it lists ghosts hunting’s greatest dangers as:
Dust and mold
Histoplasmosis (a disease caused by a fungus that grows in material contaminated by bird and bat droppings)
You may notice none of those things are ghosts, which you may remember are the tormented spirits found in “Homes, Ghost towns, Battlefields and crime scenes, and Hotels.” Later in the book, under a section called “When Spirits Attack,” Bagans says, “Many people will never understand that attacks are more than physical grabs and pushes. These entities can inject pure fear into your spine and let you feel this inside your body– something you cannot feel yourselves watching on television.” So the man who believes that’s a thing was asked to list the dangers of ghost hunting and fear injected into the spine was lower on the list than allergies?
I also particularly enjoyed the section on how Zak Bagans once touched the famous cursed doll Annabelle from the movie Annabelle. The Raggedy Ann doll is supposedly so demon-possessed that it’s kept in a case surrounded by alarms because demons respect alarm systems? Seriously, though; do doll demons trigger alarms? And say they don’t. How would you convince their service representative you weren’t kidding? Like, okay, say demons erupted from your doll and the alarms did nothing. And you know it wasn’t you because your grandson, the computer one in the family, helped you set it up. Do you ask for a refund? Is there a technician who can put the demons back into the doll? Because without the demons, it’s just some doll Zak Bagans touched. Yes, the Zak Bagans. Famous doll toucher, even when doll touching is warned against:
Zak claims he was sensitive to the layers of dark energy around Annabelle, and she made him touch her. As a woman who has touched many museum paintings as a child, I can tell you that’s not dark energy controlling you. It’s called poor impulse control due to attention deficit disorder, Zak. Or, probably, unpaid Travel Channel intern writing as “Zak.”
Zak’s audience was upset he touched Annabelle, not because it was rude and he was told not to, but because they were worried for his safety. He’s fine. Well, he’s a fucking dumbshit, but otherwise fine.
After I read about the Annabelle encounter, I started to feel more on Zak’s side. Could I be feeling a kinship with this scatterbrained doll poker? Am I finding a common gr– wait, what’s this part about his haunted museum and extensive Charles Manson collection.
Zak bud, this isn’t the brag that you think this is. Are you a ghost hunter or just a creepy guy with a creepy hobby?
Is anyone who calls themself a ghost hunter actually a ghost hunter? You can’t catch a ghost. What we call ghost hunting is just looking for evidence of ghosts and writing about it, which is a very kind way of describing people getting scared of creaky floorboards in the dark, and more like bird watching than hunting anything. I guess no one is going to watch a show called Chickenshit Ghost Watchers International so we’ll let Zak have this one.
Lydia is on Twitter, and following her guarantees, you will be haunted.
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme, Alpha Scientist Javo, who once heard a toilet flush upstairs in an old Bed and Breakfast and did NOT piss themselves. Did NOT.