Zak Bagans doesn't hide the fact
that he loves bloodsuckers and artists of torture. For him, it's more of a
nurtured respect; he often compares himself to a vampire. "I like the
darkness, but I also like the good. It's a battle between good and evil. The
tattoo on my back symbolizes that fight. That's what I feel like my life
Fans of the hit show "Ghost
Adventures" will tell you that Bagans is a man of legend - one of the
show's ghost-taunting, intelligent, and somewhat nerve-wracking hosts. Along
with his crew, he tours some of the world's most frightening locations, taking
his chances with the afterlife. The show takes risks, something the competition
lacks, while educating viewers.
"Ghost Adventures" drags
its audience into some of the darkest corners of the globe. Many men find the
show exhilarating, while the female population indulges in the eye candy. But,
whether you're there for adventure or entertainment, there is no denying that
Bagans' approach is one of a kind; never jaded, and freakishly honest. "People
could get scared going to a movie theater and watching a scary movie,"
said Bagans in comparison to his paranormal travels. "But this isn't just
going into a location and getting spooked. This is real."
"I'm still pretty much in awe
of what I do for a living," admitted Bagans during his recent interview
with us. He's charismatic, yet humble, despite the popularity both he and his
show have received.
"But, it chose me." It
was during a rough time in his life that Bagans had his initial interaction
with the paranormal. Back in 2002, while living in an old apartment building in
Detroit, he communicated with a ghost by nothing more than chance. The
experience wasn't stereotypical noises or a misleading presence. It was real,
real enough to turn his life around.
"It wasn't just hearing knocks
on a wall, it wasn't just feeling a cold breeze. It was the full-on experience
that really shook me. It reached inside of me. Once you experience it and it's
very profound, it stays with you. It latches onto you. Ever since then, it's
changed my direction in life." Shortly thereafter, Bagans relocated to Las Vegas and the rest
is, as they say, history.
The show kicked off as a
documentary-style independent film and was eventually launched into the
television market, but since that time, "Ghost Adventures" has become
more than just a reality show. It's a movement. After all, as Bagans so aptly
put it, "...when you have adventure in your life, you have life."
The show is so popular that the
"Ghost Adventures Crew," commonly known as GAC, has grown to over
7,000 membership groups. A worldwide paranormal society dedicated to hunting
ghosts and the show itself. The group influenced Bagans to dedicate skin-space
to their humbling cross. It sits on his upper left arm as a constant reminder
of, "...a unity of the living that has an understanding and eagerness to
explore the paranormal and share findings with one another."
Exploring Bagans' tattoos is like a
roadmap to the afterlife; an exploratory journey through his experiences with
the things that go bump in the night. Referencing his earlier connection to
Vlad, the Impaler, Bagans sports a symbolic tattoo on the inside of his right
wrist that points directly to the legendary killer, the man who inspired Bram
Stoker's Dracula in 1897. He
eventually wants to go to Romania
to seek out this connection, even with a failed attempt under his belt.
In another reference to the masters
of gore, a German saying, "Denn die Todten reiten schnell," is etched
into the inside of his left arm. In English it translates to, "For the
dead travel fast." If you're curious as to which page you can find this
ill-fated quote in the Bram Stoker original, look just beneath it for an
A tattoo that I fell in love with
simply by reference is the cross sitting on Bagans' index finger. It might seem
like an unpopular area for ink, but there's a reason for the location. "Instead
of carrying a cross in my pocket, I decided to tattoo it on my index
finger," proclaimed Bagans. He followed up with an unlikely, yet fitting
statement: "That cross is the last thing a demon will see before I punch
it in the face."
The most widely known of Bagans'
tattoos is the one sprawled across his back. Holding fangs in one hand and a
halo in the other. The tattoo is exactly how he had described it early on; the
perfect blend of good versus evil. "That is what I believe that I am made
up of - I'm a good person, but with what I do, I can easily be a bad person.
And when I become a bad person, I'll fight that bad to get it out of me."
Bagans admits that he goes after the dark stuff a lot, and the image on his back
only scratches the surface. "I like the good energy, but a sick part of me
likes that dark energy [as well]. But good is always stronger than evil."
Each tattoo is a symbol of
something in his past - his travels, encounters. Everything is connected and
paints a portrait of this rebel with a cause. He has some tattoo regrets,
"...I think everyone has them. That first tattoo you get and you don't know
why you got it and it doesn't mean anything. That's the tribal on my arm. I
have to cover that one up." But he knew there was one tattoo that he would
never have, which is someone's name. "The probability of you being with
that person forever is slim to none." As someone with a tattooed ex, I
couldn't agree more.
Aside from his hosting gig on GA,
he also hosted and produced the one-season wonder, "Paranormal
Challenge." He also took part in the Travel Channel’s newest endeavor,
"Paranormal Paparazzi." An exploration of current and bizarre
paranormal stories associated with pop culture, it was not only created by
Bagans, but also features him as an executive producer. The show premiered last
September, the same month as season seven of "Ghost Adventures." But
it doesn’t stop there—Bagans has also written a New York Times bestseller and wrapped work on a music album
entitled NECROFUSION, which blends
different music styles and the voices of spirits past. No joke. It’s a
supernatural collaboration that’s been pursued by some of the music industry’s
There’s much more to this
paranormal superstar than meets the eye. Bagans is a crusader for an
overpopulated market filled with would-be ghost-hunting enthusiasts searching
for a thrill; he’s the real deal, a man on a mission to fill voids in his life
with the success of his abilities. He’s a true sensitive who cannot only
communicate with the dead but actively embraces it. He’s a pure example of why
society shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. His tattoos pair with his past to
tell a story of a man who rose from the ashes to create an empire, and even
though he lives amongst the demons, he’s an empowering force with a lot to give
and plenty of areas to succeed in. “Tattoos are like a tombstone inscription,”
said Zak Bagans in closing, reminiscent of experiences past. “It’s what your
life is about. Tattoos are visual metaphors for those meanings.”
Photography by Ama Lea
Article by Andrea Amanda Albin