How Real Is Ghost Adventures?

Are ghosts real, and is it possible to capture evidence of them on camera? The producers of the Travel Channel's popular "Ghost Adventures" would have us believe you can. Armed with high-tech "ghost-hunting" equipment, a team of enthusiasts led by host Zak Bagans explore reputedly haunted locations and swear profusely at all the right moments. But are Bagans and his crew sincere investigators of the unknown — or simply talented actors running around in the dark?

Incredulous viewers might find Bagans' arm flapping a bit over the top, but the experiences of the crew strike a chord with many people who have had similarly chilling encounters. Still, some of the more dramatic episodes of the series test the limits of the show's credibility, and many serious paranormal investigators argue that ghost-hunting shows may actually give committed paranormal researchers a bad name.

The equipment used by the "Ghost Adventures" crew also raises some questions. The scientific evidence for the validity of ghost-finding tech is tenuous at best, although it remains difficult to debunk. Like many reality TV shows, "Ghost Adventures" may not be particularly real after all.

Real or staged?

Speaking to E! Online, presenter Zak Bagans swore the crew's reactions on the show are genuine. "Nothing is scripted on our show; we literally show up," he told the outlet. "I have a handful of interviews and that's it." While Bagans' claims are difficult to prove, one investigation carried out by People magazine seemed to confirm the naturalness of some of the filming. A reporter was sent along with the crew to a haunted mining town in Utah and swore that — like the crew — she'd seen a luminous orb pass over a wall with no obvious light source and felt an otherworldly cold.

However, even if the show can claim to be unscripted, there is good reason to believe parts of the program are staged. The most damning incident to occur on the show, which has opened up accusations of fakery, came from the program's "Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum" episode. In it, presenter Robert Bess claims an EMF meter was mysteriously ripped from his hands. However, after conducting a closer examination of the footage, the team concluded that Bess threw the monitor himself. Although Bess was later condemned by the show's cast for his actions, they could not prevent the episode from casting doubt upon the realness of the show.

Is ghost-hunting equipment even real?

One big key to the credibility of the show's investigations is the team's use of ghost-hunting devices. However, the methods the crew use fall definitively into the realm of pseudo-science — but have not been disproven per se.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the "Ghost Adventures" crew has been kitted out with an electronic voice phenomena (EVP) device, a piece of equipment that allegedly picks up ghostly sounds that resemble creepy whispering. In one particularly unnerving episode, for example, the device can be heard echoing what sounds like the words "get out." While there is a theory that EVP devices simply pick up stray radio transmissions, the jury is still out on what they actually do. The voices they record are usually pretty faint and hard to hear, though, allowing a lot of room for paranormal enthusiasts to interpret the messages.

Another fashionable piece of ghost-hunting tech the group uses is an EMF monitor. These gadgets pick up on electrical signals and are often used as evidence of ghostly activity based on the belief that humans leave behind an electromagnetic shell after they die. There is obviously no way to prove this one way or the other — and EMF devices can be set off by anything from faulty wiring to any kind of electrical equipment.