Zak Bagans - Paranormal Ink
"Ever since I was a kid, I've had a fascination with Dracula. I've had the same fascination with Vlad, the Impaler. I don't know why. I don't know if it's reincarnation or distant memory; whatever it is, it's there."

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 is."

 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 "11."

 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 biggest names.

 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

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