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Real-life 'ghostbusters' on Travel Channel

A trio of investigators visits L.A. in Friday's episode of 'Ghost Adventures' on the Travel Channel.

January 07, 2011|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times

If there's a report of something strange going bump in the night, then paranormal investigators Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin of Travel Channel's " Ghost Adventures" series will undoubtedly show up to hunt down the ghosts and spirits that are causing mischief. Since the hour-long series premiered in October 2008, the team has travelled the U.S. and Europe investigating locations that are apparently haunted.

They've encountered voices, footsteps, knocks, shadows and other bone-chilling unexplained phenomena at such famed ghostly locations as Sloss Furnaces, Idaho State Penitentiary and the Bobby Mackey Music World nightclub, where Bagans was scratched on the back by what he believes was a demonic identity. Armed with infrared night-vision cameras, handheld digital video cameras, digital audio recorders, digital thermometers and EMF meters, which supposedly help gauge the presence of a spirit or even a demon, the trio is locked in a location from dusk to dawn.

Airing at 9 p.m. Friday is the show in which they investigate the Pico House Hotel in downtown Los Angeles — the largest building at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument — where 19 Chinese immigrants were murdered during a race riot in 1871.

"We got some great evidence," says Bagans, the leader of the trio, who attempts to cajole and threaten whatever spirits are in a location to manifest themselves.

Located at 430 N. Main St., the Pico House Hotel was constructed in 1869 and 1870 by Pio Pico, a successful businessman and the last Mexican governor of Alta California. The 33-room hotel was considered the most lavish in Southern California. But Pico soon ran into financial problems and lost the hotel to the San Francisco Savings & Loan Co. In full decline by 1900, the once-opulent hotel was a shabby lodging house until 1953, when the state took it over. It is a California Historical Landmark and a National Historic Landmark as part of the L.A. Plaza Historic District.

Joining the trio in the ghost hunt at the Pico, which was taped last September, are three members of the Hollywood Ghost Hunters: Kane Hodder, who is best known as Jason Voorhees from "Friday the 13th," stuntman Rick McCallum and R.A. Mihailoff, who played Leatherface in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3."

"It was an awesome investigation," says Groff, who is the low-key member of the team. "You never know going into some of these locations…. We went there and we were hearing all of these stories of what actually took place there and heard the history of the riot. The history is amazing. We heard about hauntings from security guards there. One guard said he got kicked down a flight of stairs. He gave his keys in and said he was never coming back."

The trio, Groff says, like to go up against dark entities. "We feel that some of these darker entities we can capture because they are more temperamental and they like to come out and play with people like us. At Pico we got some crazy voices that came out."

Bagans says they fully investigate a location before they agree to come to spend the night in lockdown. "It's like being a homicide detective going out and investigating a crime scene," he says. "We have to have the evidence to back up the location. We interview police officers, we interview clergy, we interview political officials. At the Pico House, we interviewed the general manager of the entire historical area. We are not going to a place to figure out if it's haunted or not. Other TV shows will go to a house because Mary and her son Timmy are starting to hear voices in their closet. We find locations that are ample with dark history. That's the recipe for a lot of trapped souls and energy."

Goodwin, who is the trio's tech expert, is also the team's Cowardly Lion who yells "Dude" whenever he encounters a noise or a shadow. It's his duty to look for the latest ghost-hunting equipment. "We have these scientists and engineers we have been working with," Goodwin says. "I will test a lot of the stuff. We need stuff that we can use on the fly. We also come up with ideas [for equipment], and they are out there making our ideas. It's just awesome. It's like being a real 'ghostbuster.' I can't wait for the pack on the back."

susan.king@latimes.com

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