Zak Bagans was eager to take a deep dive into the “Lake of Death.”
The paranormal investigator and his team are back for a new season of “Ghost Adventures,” now on Discovery. The series kicked off with a two-hour special focusing on Lake Mead near Las Vegas, where receding reservoirs have led to human remains being uncovered.
“I’ve never understood or even fathom how much darkness and evil is associated with this lake,” Bagans told Fox News Digital. “It wasn’t until last year when the lake started to recede that all these bodies started being discovered… We targeted it for the headline investigation. And the craziest part about this is you’re finding bodies, but we are investigators of spirit hauntings. Is there a side of that here?… I knew something was happening at this lake.”
Bones found last summer at drought-stricken Lake Mead were identified in April of this year. The Clark County coroner’s office said the remains belonging to Claude Russell Pensinger were found over the course of three days last July and August near the Boulder Beach swimming area. A cause of death was not determined for the Las Vegas man, who had been missing since July 1998.
The 52-year-old’s identification came after investigators identified remains found in another part of the Colorado River reservoir behind Hoover Dam. They belonged to Donald P. Smith, a 39-year-old North Las Vegas resident. He was reported to have drowned in April 1974. His death was ruled an accident.
In April, The Associated Press reported that authorities were still trying to identify a man who police said was shot in the head and stuffed into a barrel. He was found in May 2022 near a popular swimming and boating area. According to detectives, the victim’s clothing dates from the mid-‘70s to early ‘80s. Remains found in May 2022 were identified as those of Thomas Erndt, a 42-year-old Las Vegas father whose family said he drowned in 2002 while boating in the Callville Bay area.
Bagans noted that in any of his investigations, his team is always willing to share any information that could be helpful to local police.
During the investigation of Lake Mead, Bagans’ team claimed they heard screams and witnessed unexplained lights. Some former park rangers described seeing unusual figures around the lake. Bagans admitted he never went on the lake itself due to his fear of dark water.
“I am terrified of water,” he admitted. “I had a reoccurring dream since I was a little kid of drowning. I think I drowned in a previous life… But a part of me likes chaos. I like flirting with danger… I’ve seen and felt things that people will probably never understand or believe. It’s things that I know exist. And I love documenting evidence, even if it puts me in danger.”
While the 46-year-old had no qualms about learning why this lake seems to be connected with unusual sightings, there’s one place he has zero desire to revisit.
“The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles,” he immediately replied. “When I walked into that building, I felt panic. It was a nerve-wracking experience to be inside. There’s just something really, really bad in there. You can’t escape that feeling. It just feels like the building is filled with trapped souls.”
The hotel, built in the ‘20s, had been the occasional home of serial killers like Richard Ramirez, known as the Night Stalker. According to the Los Angeles Times, Austrian prison author Jack Unterwger, who was convicted of murdering nine prostitutes in Europe and the U.S., also dwelled there at one point.
In 2013, the body of Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was found in a water cistern on the roof. At the time, guests complained about low water pressure, which prompted a maintenance worker to make the gruesome discovery. While the 21-year-old’s behavior leading up to her passing has sparked numerous conspiracy theories, her cause of death was listed as accidental due to drowning, with bipolar disorder listed as a significant factor.
Back in 2016, Bagans and his team also explored the Los Angeles property where Elizabeth Short, known as “The Black Dahlia,” may have been killed.
In 1947, Short’s naked corpse was found in a vacant lot. The 22-year-old was scrubbed, cut in half and drained of blood. The hopeful New Englander was viciously mutilated and a joker’s smile was slashed on her face. Short’s rose tattoo was also carved out of her thigh. The coroner determined Short died of hemorrhage and shock from a concussion and facial lacerations.
Short’s death became the subject of a 2006 film directed by Brian De Palma starring Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank. It also inspired the FX series “American Horror Story” in 2011, with actress Mena Suvari portraying the late Short.
“I felt emotions that ignited my body,” said Bagans. “A lot of spirits are in unrest because their murders aren’t solved. I just remember feeling chills instantly walking into that house. It was very strange. I could never spend a night there – absolutely not. But we documented lots of compelling evidence… I would love to work with any scientists, anybody out there at all who would want to go deeper into this. And that’s the part that gets me – I want to prove this scientifically. I want to prove there is indeed an afterlife after we die. I know that 100%. This isn’t just a TV show for me. These are crucial investigations. And these souls who’ve met such horrific demises are lost. Their stories need to be told.”
In 2021, Bagans sold the Los Feliz home where Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were murdered by followers of Charles Manson in 1969. He originally purchased the property in 2019.
“I was going to do a documentary there,” Bagans explained. “Ultimately, I slowed down a little bit because I know the family is still alive, and I didn’t want to bring all of that back into the light again… It took me a very long time to try to get a hold of them. I remember going into the bedroom and I would just see [Rosemary] staring at me, like, ‘Why are you here? What are you doing?’ I never could spend a whole night at the house… I just felt there was no purpose to bring that back into the light again.”
When Bagans was asked if he ever came across a familiar spirit, he claimed River Phoenix came to mind. In 1993, the actor died from an overdose outside The Viper Room in West Hollywood. He was 23.
“I remember using an ITC communication device, and his voice came through the device,” said Bagans. “We had one of his friends validate his voice, and his friend started crying uncontrollably. We knew without a doubt that that was River. We were also able to compare the waveform from the phonemes in his actual voice to the spirit voice we received, and it was a perfect match.”
“The two voices we received from the ITC device said clearly, ‘River Phoenix’ and ‘I get confused,'” Bagans continued. “Because he died of a combined drug overdose, I believe he was confused about how he crossed over to the other side. And because of the tears and emotions his friend shed at that moment, she validated to us his voice… we all then felt an icy cold presence at that same moment. [I] believe this helped him to move on from this state of confusion to a place of light.”
Bagans said there are two common things he often finds in haunted homes.
“A lot of people like to hold onto the ashes of someone who died,” he said. “I know we want to keep our relatives close to us, but I have found that people who keep those ashes tend to have problems… I’ve had over a dozen investigations where that tends to be the case. I advise people not to interact with what they feel. Don’t turn your digital recorder on and start engaging in questions… And then you have folks who buy Ouija boards for fun – don’t do that. That’s when it can get very serious. You really don’t know who or what you’re communicating with.”
Whether people believe in Bagans’ findings or gawk at his investigations, there’s one thing he wants people to know.
“There is an afterlife,” he stressed. “But be very careful about what doors you knock on trying to take a peek while you’re still here walking on Earth. There are things beyond the veil we don’t fully understand, including me… It can be extremely dangerous. Some things want to communicate with us, things that can disguise themselves. There are things that trick us… We want answers. And I’m trying to get answers. But those answers can have severe ramifications.”
“Ghost Adventures” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. The Associated Press contributed to this report.