After a Child Services case manager and a nurse swore up and down in 2012 that a 9-year-old boy had walked backward up a wall with a grin stretching his face, people started paying attention to the Demon House in Gary, Indiana. The boy and his two siblings were heard by their mother and grandmother speaking in "demonic voices"; a teenage girl was supposedly driven to a suicide attempt by the demons inhabiting the house. Exorcisms ensued, and Lee Daniels was reportedly eyeing the story for his next big film in 2014. The house — believed by some to be inhabited by over 200 demons — was primed to be the central hellscape of the next big horror franchise, "the next Amityville."
Then it all came to a screeching halt. Hollywood was scared away. Then Zak Bagans came to town.
Bagans, who describes himself as "one of the world's leading researchers on ghosts and demonology," hosts and executive-produces the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures and bought the infamous Demon House in 2014. He and his crew spent the subsequent two years conducting an investigation.
Now Demon House, a one-and-a-half-hour documentary about Bagans' experiences in and around the titular house, premieres on March 16. Bagans and the Catholic priest who worked on the case with Bagans, Father Michael Maginot, spoke with SYFY WIRE ahead of the documentary's release date about demons and the after-effects of the house.
If you've ever watched Ghost Adventures, then you know exactly what to expect from Demon House. It's a self-serious montage of woozy handheld camera footage, dramatic re-enactments overlaid with spooky, bass-heavy music and overanalysis of every bump in the night, all narrated in Bagans' North-Midwestern baritone. Your investment in the story will rely 100 percent on just how much you believe — or want to believe — in the supernatural.
"This is the case that really f***ed me up," Bagans tells viewers at the opening of Demon House. His declaration comes moments after a warning that reads: "Demonologists believe that demons can attach themselves to you through other people, objects, and electronic devices… View at your own risk."
Without giving much away, Bagans claims a physical ailment in connection with the house's most prominent demon, a demon he says came to him in his dreams not long before he bought the house in 2014. The demon, a 12-foot-tall goat man, supposedly visited Bagans in a dream and breathed black smoke into Bagans' lungs.
He tells SYFY WIRE that he still sees the house in his dreams even after having torn it down in 2016 (which is not a spoiler, just a researchable fact that you should know going into the doc — there won't be a sequel).
"I'm not the most normal type of person there is," Bagans says. "Yeah, I do enjoy having chaos in my life. I do have a little danger in me, a little thrill-seeking part. And while something did happen to me physically from the house that I still have today, I felt like what I went through, what other people went through, it's a part of history."
At the beginning of the documentary, perhaps contradicting himself, Bagans claims he was initially a Demon House skeptic. It's a safe bet on his part, a way to ease skeptics into the tale; people lie, coincidences exist, and after conducting over 1,000 investigations into hauntings across the country, Bagans is the kind of person who would want the stories to be true.
Corroborating Bagans' story throughout the doc are Bagans' crew, social workers, doctors, the house's various victims, and Father Maginot, the local Catholic priest who performed exorcisms on some of the victims.
Father Maginot admits to a certain amount of tension between himself and Bagans throughout the process. Bagans, a self-characterized adrenaline junkie, didn't take to heart Father Maginot's warnings about just how dangerous these demons could be.
"When we first went to the house, I asked everyone to have some sort of protection when we go in," Father Maginot says. "All the other cameramen and people that were there had protection, but Zak didn't want any. He wanted to experience firsthand. That was a little bit of a difficulty, because it's dangerous, but he kind of insisted on it.
"Even though that didn't get into the documentary, it was a point of contention between us. I was kind of surprised it didn't get into the documentary, because he kind of likes to put those in his things. He doesn't mind showing confrontations, but he left that one out… It kind of seemed to be a cramp on his style."
Bagans credits this case with opening his eyes to the "influence aspect of demonic entities." Despite having never caught anything on camera during his time at the house — the hallmark of paranormal investigations — Bagans says, "I found out that it wasn't about that. It was about the effects that it would have on people… [Demons can] travel through electronic devices and through the air, and they are very, very intelligent [and] faster than our brains can even fathom."
The supposed danger associated with these demons is still alive. The house is gone, but the grounds there are anything but hallowed — the demonic energy still exists, according to the Catholic faith's understanding of how that energy clings to a place and people.
"[Going in unprotected] really messed with [Bagans], and also it led to the destruction of the house, which is something I disagreed with," Father Maginot says. "I think he could have protected a lot more people [by] owning it, locking it up so people won't mess around with this. Now that it's an open lot, as it mentions in the documentary, people are going there doing seances or whatever, and the police have to get called out... to chase the people away. Those people are in great danger, and there's no way to really protect [them]. And all you need is curiosity. Curiosity is an invitation.
"So a lot of people are setting themselves up for a very dangerous experience. It's not like you can walk away and it's over with, ‘That was nice.' I mean, once something gets attached, you've got to deal with it. They may not know how to deal with it."
Demon House premieres in theaters and will be available on VOD and Digital HD on March 16.