"It's true," says Steven LaChance, a paranormal investigator who wrote "The Uninvited." The 2008 book is a harrowing account of what happened to his family when they moved into an old home he says was haunted by malevolent spirits.
When "The Uninvited" was featured in a Discovery Channel documentary, LaChance says he was contacted by women who thought there was something hot about a man tangling with the supernatural.
LaChance chuckles at his new image. He mimics the voice-of-doom baritone of a horror movie narrator:
"He was the guy who fought the devil for his children. He stood toe to toe with the devil."
Click onto some paranormal stars' websites and you'll see men dressed in tight black T-shirts, black shades and leather jackets, staring into the camera with grim determination. Most of these stars may be men, but the fan base is primarily women.
Bagans, host of "Ghost Adventures," embodies the new ghost-hunter-with-an-attitude persona. He often taunts ghosts during his investigations ("You want us; you got us"), and one of his most memorable scenes came when he took off his shirt during an investigation, revealing his muscles and tattoos.
"There're definitely girls into that," says Wilkens, of paranormalsocieties.com. "It's a bad-boy thing."
Bagans has become a brand. On his website, he cradles a silver skull while advertising his Twitter handle. He has his own "Dungeon Wear" clothing line and a "NecroFusion" rock album for sale, and he has posted an interview with Muscle & Fitness magazine to share the secrets of his chest workout.
He says he's been criticized by investigators on another popular paranormal television show, but he won't say who.
"It's unfortunate that some shows feel like they own the paranormal," he says. "There's one show in particular, they talk a lot of crap."
Before paranormal investigators fought one another, though, they first fought for credibility.
Critics have long said ghosts don't exist and that paranormal shows are faked. Even "South Park" lampooned the overactive imaginations of ghost-hunting teams by depicting one duo as flinching at every stir of the wind before asking, "Did you hear that?"
One of the most formidable critics of the paranormal community is a former detective and magician who says he knows all the tricks.
Joe Nickell has been investigating hauntings since attending his first séance in 1969. He has been featured on many television shows debunking the supernatural, and has written a book aimed at disproving some of the most famous paranormal cases, "Entities: Angels, Spirits, Demons and other Alien Beings."
Nickell says he's never seen a ghost or any other supernatural entity in 44 years of investigations.
"I've never been able to find one," he says.
He has a theory, though, about why people are so fascinated with the paranormal.
"The paranormal, by and large, promises pretty wonderful things," he says. "If ghosts are real, then we don't really die. If I were voting, I would vote for that. There's a big market for this."
The show that started it all
The market for the contemporary fascination with ghost hunters can be traced primarily to one show: "Ghost Hunters" on the Syfy Channel. "Ghost Hunters" is to the paranormal field what Sugarhill's "Rapper's Delight" is to hip-hop -- it launched a subculture. The show was developed by Craig Piligian, founder of Pilgrim Studios, which created reality shows like "American Chopper" and "Dirty Jobs." The show was launched in 2004 and remains the Syfy Channel's top-rated paranormal reality show.