This week I watched the Halloween special of Ghost Adventures. There was the usual demonic presence, portal opening and ‘attachments’ that seem to have become all too common in the show. However, this week the second part of the show focused on Zak’s Haunted Museum – a timely promotion for his new attraction. In previous posts, I have discussed the commodification of ghosts, and attractions such as haunted museums and collections are a clear example of this process in action. It was, therefore, not a huge surprise that the episode focused on the haunted items in the museum and demonstrated the paranormal possibilities that might be in store for unsuspecting visitors.
In the second part of the episode, however, something did happen that surprised me – Zak stole a ghost (or at least seems to be trying too). As a special feature in this episode the team investigate Annabelle, the notorious haunted doll. Annabelle does not form part of the collection at Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum and instead resides at the Warren’s Occult Museum. For this episode, the doll was transported to Zak’s museum for the purpose of an investigation under the watchful gaze of its guardian. Before the investigation takes place we see the dolls guardian using gloves to handle her as a precaution to minimise contact with the doll and, as he states, the potential for a spirit attachment to be formed. During the investigation Zak is warned not to touch the doll, however, despite these warnings he grabs its foot – claiming to have been compelled by the doll to do so. As this is happening a 3D mapping camera also captures footage of a ‘mapped’ figure moving between Zak and the doll. At a later point this mapped figure appears to move outside of Zak and the doll, and disappear into the environment. The guardian angered by Zak’s actions removes Annabelle from the premises.
Obviously, much of the footage has been edited and it is difficult (as it is with all of these programmes) to distinguish the sequence and reality of the events that occur (not just in terms of the paranormal but also the true reactions of the participants). However, Zak’s reaction to the events was interesting and has the potential to have very ‘real’ impacts. After the doll is removed Zak suggests that the doll might no longer be in Annabelle but may now be attached to the museum.
This is excellent news for the museum! Unable to showcase the infamous Annabelle doll in person, they can now lay claim to hosting its spirit. Actually quite an ingenius move when you think about it!
Perhaps I am being cynical, and maybe these were all honest reactions, however, the possibility that Annabelle’s demonic spirit may now reside at the museum does have commercial benefits. It will be interesting to see how this story is played out in the PR and marketing of the attraction.
I do wonder, however, how the owners of Annabelle feel about this? And the prospect that the characteristic that made her so famous may no longer be there? Essentially, according to Ghost Adventures, they now only own the ‘shell’ of a doll whose spirit has decided to live elsewhere. I am no expert on the value of possessed items, but I would expect that this significantly lowers an items worth and appeal. I also wonder how fans of the Annabelle story feel? Does this mean that Annabelle ceases to exist in the form that made her so famous?
Regardless of the reality behind the dolls story and indeed the legitimacy of Ghost Adventures as a show, this is a fascinating attempt to benefit from the appeal and notoriety of a supernatural legend. By hosting the doll on the show and in the haunted museum, Zak has set up a situation where the possibility of the spirit transferring to the site is ‘plausible’. The museums ‘haunted’ environment (including a room full of other haunted dolls) invites the possibility that Annabelle’s spirit might choose to stay – after all who would not want some spooky doll friends!? Likewise, the actions of Zak to ‘touch’ the doll when he is advised not to engenders the possibility that an attachment has been formed. Finally, the ‘evidence’ from the mapping camera further implies that something has left the doll and disappeared into the museum. All of these scenarios set up the possibility that Annabelle’s spirit could leave its current residence (in the doll) and inhabit a new space (the museum). This ‘possibility’ has also been suggested by Zak and his crew after the episode aired:
I suggested at the start of this post that Zak ‘stole’ a ghost and perhaps this accusation is unfounded – these may have been genuine actions and reactions to the situation that unfolded. However, I can’t help but feel that the situation is very convenient and I do wonder how aware Ghost Adventures were of the impact of their actions on the Annabelle legend, and the promotional benefit it may bring to the museum. Either way it will be interesting to see who claims to have Annabelle’s spirit residing with them, and where paranormal ethusiasts will choose to visit her…