Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Visit to Zak Bagans' The Haunted Museum in Las Vegas

Last week I had the opportunity to visit perhaps the most fascinating and dangerous museum I have ever visited - Zak Bagans' The Haunted Museum in Las Vegas. Since it opened a few years ago, I wanted to visit, thinking at least there would be some interesting things, but having now visited, I must say it was much more than I expected, and Zak has outdone himself in accumulating a collection truly worthy of a museum bearing his own name.

For those familiar with Zak Bagans, they know that he is the eccentric lead paranormal investigator on the hit show Ghost Adventures who is not afraid to expose himself to the darkest sides of the paranormal, and this museum fully explores his macabre interests. Apparently, Zak Bagans developed a profound interest in the paranormal when he was just 10 years old, scouring nearby garage sales with his mom in search of odd and spooky collectibles. Now with this museum he is giving everyone a chance to experience the spine-chilling vibe of the spirit world that has fascinated him since childhood.

The 11,000-square foot property built in 1938 was originally owned by Cyril S. Wengert, a prominent businessman. Through the years, hostile spirits have been rumored to roam the halls terrorizing past occupants, family members who passed away there whose energy allegedly remains. Long-time Las Vegans even claim satanic rituals took place in the home’s basement during the 1970’s.

In order to see this museum, you have to do so on a guided tour of no more than ten people which begins every 30-minutes or so between 1:00 and 9:00PM, and the tour lasts between 90 and 120 minutes. Driving from Los Angeles I arrived around 5:00PM alone, and before you enter the museum you have to sign a 2-page waiver that waives Zak and the museum of any responsibility for what may happen to you inside, including death. And there are reports of things happening to people, even on one occasion a heart attack, which I will talk about later.

Since I was alone, my group consisted of seven other people at the time. No one else seemed to have any profound knowledge of the paranormal, but from conversations they seemed to at least like horror movies, a favorite among them being As Above, So Below for some reason, but when I told them I had visited the Paris catacombs they were unaware they were actually a thing. Our guide was a young woman well-trained by Zak himself in her knowledge of all the artifacts. She was able to answer about 85% of all my questions, which is good enough because I tend to ask difficult questions, especially since few others were asking much, though we were all fascinated by what we saw.

Paranormal enthusiasts visiting Zak Bagans’ The Haunted Museum will venture down creepy winding hallways and secret passages into more than 30 rooms that rival scenes from Hollywood horror films, setting the stage for frightening facts about each paranormal piece. And each room is filled from top to bottom with such pieces, to the point that it would require a few visits to digest everything, though the tour does do a good job allowing you some time to explore each room.

It should be noted that in some reviews I read, people talk about getting creepy feelings, or feeling nauseous or dizzy in certain rooms. Though there may be something paranormal behind such feelings, one thing I did observe, especially in the initial few rooms we went into, was that the floors sort of moved under your feet. We were told that Zak wants his guests to feel uncomfortable in his museum, just as he feels when he goes on his paranormal investigations, and one way this is done is by having non-sturdy floors that move when walked upon, so that when others in the room are moving and you are standing still, there is a slight motion you experience that most people probably would not detect.

Of the 30 rooms, there are about three which the tour guide gives those on the tour the option to enter. This is because it is believed the artifacts inside are especially haunted or even possessed by demons, and though great care is taken to bind these spirits, it cannot be guaranteed that they will not have an affect on you. So if you are experiencing sadness, have heart issues, or are particularly sensitive to such things that the spirits can manipulate against you, it is encouraged to stay outside. When we were given the choice, we all decided to enter each of those rooms.

The first dangerous paranormal piece is the Dybbuk Box, known as the world’s most haunted object. The vintage wine cabinet inspired the movie The Possession and is said to house a malicious spirit. Shortly following its arrival, mysterious protruding holes began to appear in the walls around the artifact as if something was trying to break out from within the exhibit. A Las Vegas marketing executive and Bagans both witnessed a black-cloaked figure pass through the exhibit’s closed door during a private tour. This has also been seen by multiple guests and staff at the museum.

The second dangerous paranormal piece is Peggy the Doll, which is perhaps the most haunted doll in the world, rivaling the notorious Annabel which is contained in the Warrens' Occult Museum in Connecticut. This is the first of the two rooms my tour guide refused to enter, allegedly because she says the doll doesn't like her and whenever you enter with her the doll produces no activity. Inside this room with Peggy was a creepy-sounding sound-box, for those who wanted to try to communicate with her. Apparently, Peggy is a very active doll that will often speak with visitors and answer their questions, and she can get quite angry so when you enter it is encouraged to say "Hello Peggy" and upon leaving to say "Bye Peggy." It is by staring into the eyes of this doll, that one woman once got a heart attack, and I must say for myself that when I first stared into its eyes it was hard to erase her image from your brain. When I asked the guide if she ever heard the doll talk, she responded that she has heard it many times, even calling her name while she stood outside the door, and once it even screamed.

Perhaps most unsettling, they possess the original staircase from Indiana’s “Demon House,” notorious for powerful paranormal activity before being demolished in 2014. The wooden banister and creaky steps now stand in a dimly-lit corner, resting on a blanket of dirt from the location. Following its installation, a group of construction workers walked off the job and refused to come back. This was also a room our tour guide refused to enter, more so out of the risk involved. It was after entering this room that one gentleman on our tour started to get a severe headache and had to leave. It should be noted that the episode of Ghost Adventures featuring the Demon House never aired on TV because it is allegedly so frightening, therefore it will be released in a week or so in movie theaters called Demon House. It will also show how Zak lost his ability to see correctly after investigating this house, and why he now wears glasses.

Among the hundreds of other terrifying possessions, museum-goers can even peek inside the VW death van in which Dr. Jack Kevorkian ended the suffering of terminally ill patients as well as get a close-up look at the “Propofol chair” from Michael Jackson’s death room. He is also in possession of Bela Lugosi’s cursed mirror (look into it at your own risk). Pill bottles from the scene of Truman Capote’s death, paintings done by John Wayne Gacy, a bloody handprint from Charles Manson, drawings from Richard Ramirez, and a cauldron used by Ed Gein are among the more chilling artifacts on display. Other historic odds and ends include a Nazi helmet with a bullet in it, Wyatt Earp’s Bible, and the last three crying boy paintings in the world that are said to cause fires in homes that possess one (at the museum they have sprinklers everywhere in case of fire).

A lot of the stuff isn’t necessarily haunted or considered “murderbilia”… it’s mostly just weird and creepy. Think, haunting displays of weird dolls, bloody mannequins, and lots and lots of vintage circus kitsch. You might even want to keep an eye out for jump-scares, secret passageways, and unexpected surprises. Don't expect to enter the haunted basement however where occult rituals were probably once performed. Zak considers it too dangerous, and will only bring people who are guided by him. Unfortunately, he was not at the museum the day I went.

All in all, the museum was more than I expected, and I would highly recommend it for those interested and unafraid (well...maybe a little afraid). It is a bit pricey to enter at over $50, but I found it to be worth every penny. You have to be at least sixteen to enter, and anyone under unaccompanied by a parent will be turned away, as I witnessed. I really have nothing bad to say about the museum (except perhaps when you go up to the second floor you are met by a smokey fun house that makes it difficult to catch your breath after climbing the stairs and they don't allow you to carry any water bottles). It is a unique museum that should exist, and I hope to visit it again on my next trip out to Las Vegas.