“Ghost Adventures,” the popular Travel Channel paranormal reality show involving three Ed Hardy-clad ghost hunters, is being haunted by allegations the show plays loose with the facts and emphasizes showmanship over hardcore research.
And, yes, paranormal experts claim that they employ science and scholarly research in their investigations of unexplained phenomena.
The accusations come from Bonnie Vent, a self-proclaimed “spirit advocate” in San Diego, who claims shows like “Ghost Adventures,” “Ghost Hunters” and “Fact Or Fake” sensationalize the supernatural in order to scare up ratings.
“Due to the format they have to be augmented to make them more interesting,” she told HuffPost Weird News, adding that “lockdowns,” where “Ghost Adventures” stars Zak Bagans, Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin get locked inside a faciliity at midnight in order to investigate, “are good television but not necessary.”
This doesn’t set well with Vent, who claims that, as a “spirit advocate,” it’s her job to help dead celebs like Michael Jackson, George Carlin and “Crocodile Hunter” star Steve Irwin by delivering messages to their loved ones from beyond the grave.
She says that the crew behind “Ghost Adventures” doesn’t research the places being investigated as thoroughly as they claim to. Recently, she says, she discovered that firsthand, when the crew came to her hometown to investigate the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant, a reportedly haunted San Diego hot spot for paranormal activity.
While in town, Bagans, Groff and Goodwin did an interview with HuffPost Weird News in which they discussed the pending investigation of the Cosmopolitan.
The investigation will air sometime during the show’s fifth season, which premieres Sept. 23. During the interview, Bagans and Groff said one anecdote they discovered during their research led them to believe the hotel was haunted by Native American spirits.
“There is a certain energy that is trapped in this location and one lady was partially possessed, I guess, and started doing an Indian ritual dance,” Groff said.
“Yes,” Bagans adds. “This lady went downstairs to one of the other rooms we’re going to be investigating and she started doing this Indian dance.”
Vent says she knows that story is inaccurate because she is the woman who did the dance.
“In no way was I possessed,” she insisted on her website. “The dance was an old fashioned Mexican Tarantella, not an Indian ritual dance. I did get into the flow of the energy in the Wine Room which is located in the original Bandini house and I did perform a dance that I had no knowledge of for several minutes.”
Another bit of research that Vent says was incorrect was the “Ghost Adventures” cast’s claim that the room in which the interview took place was where Juan Lorenzo Bandini, a San Diego pioneer who built the house in 1827, slept for many years.
That room was on the second floor of the building, which, it turns out, wasn’t built until years after Bandini died.
In addition, hotel owner Joe Melluso — who emphasizes he was thrilled to host the cast and crew — says Bagans, Groff and Goodwin got a couple other big facts wrong.
During the interview with HuffPost Weird News, Bagans mentioned that a Spanish-speaking guitar player named Carlos had told him that Bandini murdered his wife and buried her where the restaurant is now.
In the original story, hotel co-owner Catherine Miller said she was unaware of this allegation. Melluso said he spoke with Carlos after the story was printed and the guitar player said his words were misinterpreted.
“But, after hearing how he explained it, I can see how the confusion happened,” Melluso said.
He also says the crew misinterpreted a wood headboard of a little girl and a mirror featuring a woman’s face carved in wood as being Bandini family heirlooms.
“The faces don’t represent anyone related to the Cosmopolitan’s original owners,” he said.
Melluso and Vent say they want to correct the record to avoid fueling urban legends. They also don’t want to offend the descendants of the Bandini family, who weren’t too happy to hear allegations of murder.
“As you can see with my situation they do not have time or money to do their homework,” Vent said, adding that “Ghost Adventures” isn’t any different in that regard from other similar shows.
“Most [of these] shows reflect the same stuff,” she said. “These television shows play over and over again. This stuff becomes legends that just won’t go away.”
However, Vent’s insistence on accuracy may be more personal than just a crusade to correct the facts.
She admits she was actually the person who initially contacted “Ghost Adventures” to let them know about the Cosmopolitan’s ghostly reputation.
“[Ghost Adventures] screwed me pretty badly but I am trying to stay positive,” she said. “I pitched them to come to San Diego in the first place. They came, froze me out, and altered my experiences. The idea was to do with them the same type of communication as you see in the Cosmo videos. Once they locked in the venue, they quit responding.”
When HuffPost Weird News contacted “Ghost Adventures” executive producer Daniel A. Schwartz about the inaccuracies, he apologized to the hotel on behalf of the show and said any errors or inaccuracies will be corrected before the episode airs later this season.
“We, too, are confirming facts and information to guarantee the episode is accurate,” he said in an emailed statement. “We appreciate this having been brought to our attention as we always strive for accuracy in our programming. These observations will help to inform our fact checking process.”
Vent is happy they are willing to correct inaccuracies, but says the nature of TV is why she and other paranormal investigators are skeptical about shows like “Ghost Adventures.” Yet while she claims the show “augments” the truth, that was not the experience of researcher Jeff Dwyer, who recently did an investigation on the Winchester House in San Jose with the cast.
“I was impressed by how meticulous they were, especially Zak Bagans,” he said. “They kept going over things to make sure they got them right.”
But paranormal skeptic Bryan Bonner of the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Society says none of the ghost shows on TV are going to let facts get in the way of a good story.
“A while back, the TV show ‘Ghost Hunters’ came to look at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, and made the claim that the supposedly haunted activity was caused by the existence of certain types of minerals,” Bonner said.
“We had the government analyze the hotel site and, based on their findings, issued a report declaring that the minerals they claimed were there and causing the paranormal activity were, in fact, not there at all.”
When Bonner heard the “Ghost Adventures” staff was investigating the hotel, he and his team sent the report to producers. However, despite having this evidence on hand, he says “they made the same claim about the minerals on their show. Minerals that weren’t there.”
Bonner says that while the claims have been disproven, the Stanley Hotel owners don’t want that becoming public knowledge.
“We’ve been asked not to spread rumors that the minerals aren’t there,” he said. “The hotel was doing badly until it appeared on these shows. Now it’s packed with amateur ghost hunters 24 hours a day.”
This post was written by Nadia Vella