History makes west valley fertile ground for haunted stories

When things go bump in the night, America knows to call the experts on hauntings: the Las Vegas-based crew of the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures,” Zak Bagans and Aaron Goodwin.

Just in time for Halloween, View caught up with Goodwin for a paranormal question-and-answer session as the “Ghost Adventures” team was investigating the Riviera for the series before much of the property was set for demolition.

With all the history and the pioneers who traveled through this part of the Las Vegas Valley, is the Summerlin area haunted?

“If you go up to Blue Diamond and up to Bonnie Springs, that’s all (Native American) land,” Goodwin said. “So they would probably have come right into Summerlin. I believe all that area is haunted with Indian spirits, especially by the mountains because that’s where they would live. It was, like, holy grounds to them — well, I don’t know if it was ‘holy,’ but they worshipped that land.”

He said “Ghost Adventures” fans will come up and tell him and his colleagues of places in Summerlin that they say are haunted.

“And you have to think, 6 feet under and 6 miles out,” said Goodwin, “the mob’s probably got a lot of bodies out there, you know what I’m saying?”

How does the energy feel when one enters a haunted location?

“Usually, the static electricity hits me, and I get goosebumps and chills,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for so long, you just kind of know. Not every time, but most times. If a spirit wants to be known, he’ll let it be known whether they haunt or not. And sometimes, you’ll be like, ‘Nope, it was just a door slamming in the wind,’ and you blow it off.”

How does gut instinct play a part in determining whether a place is haunted?

“You can tell whether a place feels welcoming or warming, or it can be anything,” he said. “After hunting ghosts so long, you get a sense of whether it’s good or bad. … Sometimes it’s (a sense of) ‘Get out,’ and it starts saying all kinds of scary stuff, and you’re, like, ‘Let’s go,’ just like Scooby Doo.”

Goodwin said some haunted places have a thicker air.

“Sometimes it’s a heaviness, or sometimes it’s like walking into a cloud,” he said. “It’s a little thick, and you walk into it … there’s the wall (feeling), and you’re, like, ‘Ooh, I shouldn’t be here.’ There are a lot of houses in Vegas you go into, and you get a sense, like, ‘Whoa, there’s some old history here.’ As soon as you start feeling that energy, it’s spooky, you know?”

Before shows such as “Ghost Adventures,” people often were ridiculed if they suggested their house might be haunted. So, are people more forthcoming now with their stories?

“Nowadays, yeah, totally,” he said. “It’s totally come out more in the public with TV shows and movies — I mean ‘Paranormal Activity’ and all these movies. I call the last five years “‘The Ghost Movement,’ more people believing. It’s like it’s happening right now, and what’s odd is that kids really love it. So now, instead of parents saying, ‘There’s no such thing as ghosts, go back to bed,’ kids are watching it and seeing it, and now they’re kind of, like, (acknowledging of it). It’s different now than how we were taught with our parents.”

How has ghost hunting affected your perception of what happens when we die?

“That’s a tough one. Really, honestly, it’s kind of turned it all upside down for me,” Goodwin said. “Why do we get little kids’ spirits? We even get animal spirits on EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon). … They say, ‘Oh, kids voices, it’s just ghosts manipulating it (to sound like children),’ but in my experience, that’s not true. It could be an actual kid. And also, if there was a murderer in a house who killed 20 people, why is he still there? It’s kind of changed a lot for me.”

Goodwin said he never really thought about ghosts before the show, but after he joined the crew as an audio-visual technician, he said, “It was, like, ‘Whoa, throw all that out the door.’ There’s a whole different way, especially in the afterlife.”

Goodwin said his own perceptions into the ghostly realm had a jump-start with a freak accident.

“When I was a kid, I was kicked in the face by a horse, so I would see (things) like imaginary friends,” he said. “But now that I look back, and talking with my mom, I realize that there were ghosts around me. When I was kicked by the horse, I almost died but didn’t. And that was traumatic, and it kind of opened something up. And once you get into high school and puberty, you kind of forget. It kind of goes out the door. Then, all of a sudden, this show fell in my lap, and I’ve been a cameraman forever in Vegas, like, for 15 years with movies and TV shows, and then I helped these guys out to go shoot a documentary, and we got some amazing evidence. And it’s, like, ‘Wow, here we are now.’ “

If someone has a paranormal experience in his home, should he automatically be alarmed?

“Not necessarily,” Goodwin said. “Because who’s to say it’s a scary ghost? If you were a ghost and someone moved in, you’d be, like, ‘Get out of my house,’ and, like, ‘What the hell is this human doing here in my home?’ You know? It’s, like, there’d be a little conflict. But most of the time, it’s good energy or some energy that just needs attention. But if you give it attention, then you’d better be ready to give it attention when it wants. It’ll keep coming back for attention, like the movie ‘Ghost.’ Once he realized Whoopi Goldberg could talk to him, he didn’t leave her alone. Sometimes, it’s best just to push it away instead of going full bore because you don’t know what can happen. It’s the afterlife. It’s a whole different ballgame.

“This town is full of history,” he said, “and sometimes when you think you hear a bump in the night, it could be (a ghost). Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. When you pass, you’re going to want someone to notice you, that you’re stuck in this realm of loneliness. So, I mean, don’t always say, ‘Oh, it’s not a ghost’ because it could be.”

Goodwin said he’s had spirits follow him home from investigations and things have flown off his walls. He said he “just deals with it,” and after years of it, it’s “not so crazy for me anymore when a painting flies off the wall. So I kind of go, ‘OK, I understand.’ In a way, it’s kind of comforting to know if there was a mad spirit around, I can handle it. … I stand my ground. Once you show it that you’re the master, and it can sense that, then they’ll (leave you alone).”

— To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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