Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I am Haunted: Living Life Through the Dead by Zak Bagans

Well, here I am. Did you know that I wanted to read Ulysses this winter? This is a departure from my normal choice of reading material. I am Haunted: Living Life Through the Dead is the second memoir from Zak Bagans, paranormal investigator from the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. Celebrity memoirs are not my thing, neither are paranormal investigators, but, for some strange reason, I have a soft spot for Bagans. It might be his dramatic persona, the extreme height of his hair, or that cryptic stick tattoo that peeks out of the sleeves of his myriad of too-tight TapouT shirts, but, I just like him. He won’t respond to me on Twitter, but I like him.

I bought this ironically, to give me fodder for my increasingly insecure and lackluster Tweets, but I found I was genuinely interested in Bagans’s thought process and the inside look at episodes of the show. Even if you’re skeptical about Bagans’s area of expertise, the glimpses into television production and his thoughts on fame are insightful and honest. He's a knowledgeable member of the production and editing team of Ghost Adventures and has participated in other films and documentaries. If nothing else, he's a talented and experienced documentary maker.

I am Haunted reminded me that Zak is a mostly normal, very real man. I might, in all of my calloused virtual glory, repeatedly tweet him suggestions for investigation locations (the Cracker Barrel), but I’m still saddened to hear about the creepy lady who insisted on telling him about where he’d die, or the fans who sent him death threats. I also appreciated Zak’s level of introspection. On his show, he comes off as confrontational and shallow, but this book offers us another view... almost. While Zak readily admits his tendency for emotional outbursts, the ease with which he cries, his migraines (which I can definitely sympathize with), parts of this memoir still seem very guarded. It seemed that large portions of this memoir exist solely to give Bagans a chance to explain and defend himself. This might seem to be more of the dude-bro caricature, but I think the things Zak worries about and feels the need to publish reveal that he's actually a pretty insecure, sensitive guy. I felt that story about the airplane bathroom was written in the hope that the flight attendant read it - that the story about the crackhead fight was a veiled apology for his hotheadedness.

Need I say more?
I did, however, get a lot of the cheap thrills I expected from I am Haunted. Every time I turned a page to find a moody picture of Bagans, I cackled a little. Every time Bagans insisted that he hated modern society, then immediately made a reference to The Matrix or said he was “happier than Pharrell,” I screamed with joy. I made so many beautiful SnapChats of me panning the pages. My friends truly experienced this book along with me; I am sure they are glad.

It’s not well written. Kelly Crigger ghost wrote this memoir, but I’m pretty sure much of Zak’s original dictation remains unchanged. The writing sounds like Zak Bagans, which I guess will please some, but I don't think Zak is the most eloquent of paranormal investigators. It feels like it is written in classic grade school format (topic sentence, supporting sentences, summary sentence, repeat). This book is also intensely unorganized and random, but I'm not sure I could have made it through an entire book that was purely Bagans's paranormal theories or his stories about poop on airplanes.

Dedicated fans of Bagans, however, will look past the weird inconsistencies and weak writing and will truly love this book. It’s unexpectedly revealing and sensitive. It will make you laugh because it's absurd, but also because there are some truly funny anecdotes.

Three Stars: Puking ironically into a waded-up TapouT t-shirt only to find that it's made of a pleasantly absorbent material.

Pictures belong to Victory Belt Publishing

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