"Ghost Adventures" host Zak Bagans casts a spell over his audience… (Hilary Higgins/RedEye )
Our ghost quest went down in the basement of the Hangge-Uppe, a near North Side bar apparently haunted by the spirit of a girl who was murdered there.
Speaking of dark spirits, the event was sponsored by Patron XO Cafe, and it was not long after we arrived that their hostess introduced Zak Bagans, the wedding DJ-turned-paranormal investigator who hosts Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures." He was to lead a group of reporters and winners of the Patron XO Cafe "Hunt for Haunted America" sweepstakes on our own ghostly adventure.
I knew nothing about Bagans or his show, much to the disappointment of my fellow hunters, who were eager to see or hear, well, something more than bar patrons.
Bagans loosened us up with a couple of short, spooky anecdotes before turning things over to the bar's manager, Wade Weishaar, who regaled us with some scary tales of his own. A Hangge-Uppe doorman once witnessed a "woman in white" climbing the stairs 40 minutes after the bar closed, he said. Years later, the bar owner's wife told him that after hearing noises in an empty bathroom, she and others witnessed a glass flying across the bar top. Weishaar himself once heard the click-clacking of high heels along the bar floor late at night, but no one was there.
Now that the group was good and frightened (maybe just tipsy), Bagans praised our positive vibes and took the grand prize winners, a nice husband and wife, into the haunted room. The rest of us were instructed to "keep things to a low whisper" while continuing to enjoy the cocktails, because nothing fosters a low whisper or an active imagination better than tequila-based liqueurs.
Soon Bagans and the couple returned with smiles on their faces. They reported that they had successfully spoken to the spirit. Bagans then played a recording of their encounter with the spirit, who responded to the question, "How did you die here?" with another question, "How did you die?" From the reaction of the group, you'd have thought she'd said, "Hi, welcome to McDonald's, can I take your order?" Any remaining hesitance disappeared, and hands quickly littered the air when Bagans asked for new volunteers to go into the room.
I can confirm that there was something other than silence on the tape. What it was, well...
Bagans led a couple more groups in and out of the room, with varying degrees of success. One woman took a picture of something strange in the mirror, while a man's audio recording yielded a "hello" that he called "intelligent EVP" -- EVP being electronic voice phenomena that many believe proves the presence of ghosts.
Most of these discoveries were invisible to my apparently untrained eyes and ears.
When I finally had my turn to chat with the spectre, I thought briefly about how if I was in a scary movie I would be the obnoxious, disbelieving reporter who would be the first to die.
Bagans distributed his hunting instruments to us. One drunk woman wandered to the "haunted corner," asking the spirit questions but getting little-to-no response. No one from my little group had success with the ghost, which made the drunk gal and her friend call shenanigans. Others started giggling until Bagans cried, "Oh my God, look at that!" There was nothing in the mirror at which he was pointing, but hey, the hunt had obviously dead-ended. Bagans had to keep our little group happy.
Afterward, Bagans said he had underestimated the bar and that it was much more haunted than he thought it would be. Even if, well, I didn't notice all that much, Bagans was excited about the EVP recording.
Then he suggested that I mention his new album, "NecroFusion," a collection of EVP recordings he and producer Praga Khan put to music. Finally, I saw something -- the purpose of the entire evening.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.