He may be a master of spiritual encounters today, but starting out, his car was (gasp!) repossessed. Groff chronicles his most terrifying ghostly experiences in his new book, “Chasing Spirits.
Groff’s passion for courting ghostly encounters began with a near-death experience after falling from a tree at age 8. Much later, as a film major at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he rounded up videographer classmate Aaron Goodwin and buddy Zak Bagans and set out to pan for video gold in the creepy closed-down bars and brothels of Nevada’s ghost towns.
The resulting documentary, “Ghost Adventures,” landed Groff and crew their own series of the same name, now in its seventh season on The Travel Channel.
In his new memoir, “Chasing Spirits,” Groff takes us inside the crew’s most terrifying dusk-to-dawn lockdowns where disembodied voices, flying objects and one life-changing, face-to-face encounter in a closed-down Los Angeles hospital scared the doubter out of him for good.
CreditCards.com: Ghost hunting is an unusual career choice. How did you get started?
Nick Groff: Aaron and I have known each other for a long time; he snuck into my college class and we starting doing some short films together. Then I met Zak just searching on the web for a DJ for my wedding and we became cool friends. Sitting around my apartment one day, I said, “Hey, you guys want to go look for ghosts?” (Laughs) It’s crazy! Everyone thinks we were maybe cast for this. That’s not what happened at all. It’s been a long journey.
CreditCards.com: Were you leaning on credit card debt back then?
Groff: My wife Veronique and I had a credit card, but we were very smart. We were able to put a lot of our wedding on our Bank of America card. So while we had a good amount of money that we would have to pay off, thank God Veronique was a wedding coordinator at the Ritz-Carlton, so we were able to hold our wedding there for half price. She was the one making the ends meet. At one point our car got repossessed. We called the cops to tell them someone stole our car and they’re like, “No, actually your car got repossessed. You didn’t pay the bill.” It’s a part of life. You live, you learn, you have ups and downs.
CreditCards.com: You could be shooting “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” Why ghosts?
Groff: My near-death experience when I was 8 kind of guided my future. I believe things happen for a reason. I really wanted to see with my own two eyes something supernatural just to be in that experience so I could say, “Wow, there is maybe, possibly something out there beyond just dying.” That was how we started it but then it just turned into this huge phenomenon.
CreditCards.com: Your initial encounters came through audio instead of video, right?
Groff: Right. When we started doing “Ghost Adventures,” I learned very quickly that I was very handy with the digital recorder, which captures electronic voice phenomena, or EVPs — voices from the other side that we just can’t explain. The frequency that the recorder picks up is below the frequency that we actually hear. We’ll be asking questions and there’s nobody in the room and suddenly you play it back and, wait a minute? What’s this clear voice coming through that you can understand what it says? There’s no explanation for it.
Over the years, (spirits) even got to know my name at different locations. We’d be asking questions and not hear anything and we’d play it back and they’d be going “Nick…GROFF!” It will blow your mind away.
CreditCards.com: So you’re like the Howard Stern for the disembodied?
Groff: (Laughs) Yeah, something like that! If I was the Howard Stern for the other side, there are probably a bunch of ghosts waiting with bats and chains to beat us up.
CreditCards.com: What was your most hair-raising paranormal encounter?
Groff: I’d had weird experiences throughout shooting “Ghost Adventures,” but it wasn’t until 2009 at Linda Vista Hospital in East L.A. that I actually came face-to-face with a spirit. I was in this old abandoned hospital, in the trauma center where thousands of people died, and Zak and Aaron were filming me from each corner.
CreditCards.com: You’re in complete darkness?
Groff: Yes; your eyes kind of adjust to the darkness. It was late in the night and I was really tired. With my digital recorder in hand, I was saying, “Alright, I’m going to try to capture EVPs, blah blah blah,” and I turn around and there is a lady literally standing about two feet in front of my face, a solid figure. We made eye contact for that split second until I freaked out and jumped back; the recorder flew out of my hand and I fell backward. Her face was pale white and glowing a little and she had on this hospital gown with these weird old patterns from whatever era it was. I almost had a heart attack, literally. You know that old urban legend where you see a ghost and your hair turns white? That’s how I felt. I remember every detail, it was so surreal. That was my game changer forever. It literally changed my life.
CreditCards.com: Erased any doubts that ghosts exist?
Groff: Oh, absolutely. I really believe after doing this for so long now that we’re all made up of some sort of energy within these bodies that we live in and, regardless of what your beliefs are, it’s a fact that we’re all going to die someday. So what happens to that energy when our bodies die? Since energy can’t be destroyed, it has to go somewhere. We go to a lot of prisons and mental hospitals that have seen a lot of death, and I think that’s what we’re coming into contact with at different locations. These are places where energies could definitely linger.
CreditCards.com: Hollywood has long portrayed ghosts as frightening. Ever encounter any humor from the other side?
Groff: Yeah, there have been times when we’ve captured what sounds to be a couple of unexplainable spirits having sex. We were locked down at an old brothel in Tombstone, Ariz., where Zack had a couple instances where he thinks we’ve captured some unexplainable weird sounds like that.
CreditCards.com: Ghost sex?
Groff: (Laughs) I know! I would call it more ‘residual energy’ still taking place.
CreditCards.com: Most of us try not to bring our work home with us. Have you ever had a spirit tag along after a shoot?
Groff: Yeah, there have been one or two times that has happened. I’ve never been the type of guy who ever thought that would happen, like I’m too strong of an individual to ever let that happen, but when it happens to you, it’s a totally different ballgame.
There was a time, near Halloween, I just got back from shooting an episode. I had some dramatic stuff happen to me at this one location, and I came home and I had bought this Halloween mask. My cousin was over. He and I and Veronique were just messing around that night in our house, taking pictures of each other with our Halloween gear, and all of a sudden, you’d see balls of what I call energy showing up near my head in every single picture of me but not in any other pictures. And I thought, OK, that’s kinda weird, whatever.
So I go and get the digital recorder and we started asking questions. When we played it back, it was so bizarre: we got three voices, one was a little kid’s voice, then an older lady and then this weird, demonic growl that sounded like it was right next to you. That freaked us out. We put the recorder down.
We went to bed that night and at about 2 in the morning we get woken up by these pots and pans banging around in our kitchen. Veronique elbows me in the stomach and says, “Do you hear that?!” What did it for us was the sink started filling up with water and then we heard somebody running down the hallway, which sounded like a burglar in our house. I jumped out of bed, put my dogs out first and looked in every closet and cabinet. The kitchen’s fine, no break-ins. We let it go, stopped thinking about, didn’t give into it and it went away.
CreditCards.com: Makes bringing home a drunken co-worker seem tame.
Groff: (Laughs) I tell everybody, rule number one, don’t go into that kind of stuff at your own house because that’s where you live and sleep. You don’t want to disrupt your own pattern because it really can have an effect on your own life.
CreditCards.com: Where would you like to go next with “Ghost Adventurers?”
Groff: There have been so many locations all over the world that I would love to go to. There’s this one location, a closed-down New York psychiatric hospital, but the government owns it and it’s condemned. We keep calling them every year. We did Poveglia Island in Venice, Italy, which was absolutely amazing. We did the haunted vaults beneath Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s just really cool going overseas because you’re going way further back in time and history than what we have in America. You move into medieval times, barbarians; a lot of tragedy that shaped this world.
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