Busted Halo
September 29th, 2008

Busted: Ryan Buell

Paranormal State's investigator talks about God, Catholicism and the spirit world

Ryan Buell (photo credit: A&E/Karolina Wojtasik)

Ryan Buell (photo credit: A&E/Karolina Wojtasik)

Channel surfing on a Sunday afternoon, I stumbled upon a show I hadn’t seen before: A&E’s docudrama series Paranormal State.

All right, I thought. It’s kind of like the Sci Fi Channel’s Ghost Hunters, and a little like The Travel Channel’s Most Haunted. I like it.

But it was really the show’s 26-year-old star, Ryan Buell, who caught my attention. I watched as he made the sign of the cross, prayed, invited a priest to bless the house, and gave its owners a couple of blessed medallions. The show’s religious turn kept me fixed in my seat.

Is he for real? I asked myself. To find out, I tracked him down and spent some time chatting over the phone.

The Birth of Paranormal State
“Can you hold on a sec?”

It was two in the afternoon and Ryan Buell was still in his pajamas, washing the spoon he used to make his coffee. It had been a late night of paranormal investigation.

He explained that what would become his life’s work had its genesis in the 1990s. He was in pajamas, buried in blankets on the bottom bunk of his childhood room in Sumter, S.C. His step-father, a member of the Air Force, was in Iraq for the first Gulf War and his mother had gone to bed for the night. As he lay awake, he saw someone standing in his doorway.

“No one can grin that way humanly,” Buell told me. “Its face was wide. Not like a football head, like [Nickelodeon’s] Arnold, or anything, but wider than normal.” Buell screamed, and his mom came to see what was up.

“She was tired, she was stressed out,” he reported. “This was not the time to be claiming you have a monster hiding underneath your bed, you know what I mean? When she left, I didn’t want to turn away, but at the same time, I didn’t want to look right into the doorway. Staring at the footboard, I said, ‘I’m not looking, I’m not looking, I’m not looking.’ And that’s when all of a sudden the thing rose up from the foot of my bed.”

Buell got a spanking for screaming again, and avoided his bedroom for as long as he could.

“I was young,” Buell said. “I’m not sure if it was real or imagined. It certainly looked real, and the entire experience felt real.”

Fear and Fascination
That fear fostered a longtime fascination with things he can’t explain. During his sophomore year at Penn State, he started the Paranormal Research Society, or PRS, a group of college students and alumni that travels nationwide to investigate claims of paranormal activity.

In 2001, a Penn State student went missing and PRS introduced law enforcement officers to a psychic who offered to help in the investigation. Potential clients began calling soon after, followed by television producers. Buell eventually accepted A&E’s offer to build a series around the group, and Paranormal State’s premiere aired in December 2007, drawing 2.5 million viewers. Its second season finale airs on September 29.

Each episode of Paranormal State features a different client: a bar owner whose wine glasses won’t stay shelved; a young woman whose barn houses black mists; and a couple whose religious relics are burned without explanation.

Skeptic? You aren’t alone. Most people have to wonder whether some of the phenomena is fabricated by clients, but the show is so entertaining I rarely miss an episode.

Talking with Buell and some of his cohorts, it’s clear that he takes each case seriously, on or off camera. Each of the cases is unique, Buell told me, as is the team’s response to it. Buell’s reason for pursuing a paranormal line of work has always remained the same.

“There’s something real happening to these people, and someone needs to deal with it,” Buell said to me.

Science Can’t Explain Everything
“There are no official qualifications for being a paranormal investigator,” Buell said. “I’ve spent the last ten years training myself, working with highly regarded professionals in both the paranormal community and in other professions, [including] Catholic exorcists, law enforcement [and] psychologists, to become a well-rounded individual.”

Based on his childhood experience, Buell understands whether the phenomena are paranormal or psychological, the experience takes a physical or mental toll. He also knows that people are generally more likely to be judged than believed. His goal is to listen without judging, in order to try to determine whether the paranormal is involved.

“In PRS, we’ve developed a six month long training program that covers everything from in-class education to on-site training,” he explained. “They learn about research methods, religious perspectives, cultural perspectives and the history of paranormal research so they get an understanding of the diverse field.”

Of course, there are the skeptics who don’t take him seriously.

“Paranormal investigators can’t prove that any of this stuff is real,” he said. “So? People are forgetting that science can’t explain everything.”

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The Author : Arleen Spenceley
Arleen Spenceley is a freelance writer from the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Joel Trevino

    Sorry to hear about his fight against cancer. I too find myself in somewhat the same boat. We are not catholic, we’re Presbyterian. My mom and dad had us grow up in church. Sunday school, morning service, sunday evening service, Wednesday service and what we called “house services”, where the members of our church would gather at a different members house, once a week and do an abridged version of a service. I am a gay man and new so since my earliest memory. I too, am a sufferer of the paranormal. I’ve been able to see the dead since I was 7 or so. Going through church, my best friend was the pastors son and our families always got together and shared life with each other. I was active in my church, from putting on Christmas plays, as a child, to giving the sermon on youth day. A day when the youth of the church took over Sunday morning service. I guess you could say I was being groomed for seminary, even more so than the pastors son. I am also of Latin descent, so being gay was the greatest injury. Yet, I found myself at peace with my God. I know that He accepts me as I am, since He mad me this way. I learned hate in school, hate against me for being “gay”. Now, I try to help people anyway I can, when it comes to the paranormal. I had and to a point, still have a relationship, of sorts, with the dark side. I have learned how to make them leave me alone, when I wish them to and I have and continue to have a strong relationship with God and the Light. When my Dad passed, I was the one that gave the eulogy and all the time I was up there, I could see the tips of brilliant white wings out from either side. I could not only see the presence of Angels but feel them, sometimes going to my knees at the glory of their presence. I know that God is with me gay or straight. He walks with me and has seem me through some very hard times in my life. I never forget that He is with me. I say this because even now, as gay as I am, I still feel the presence of God with me, which is great, since I have also seen and felt the presence of the dark one around me. My ability to see and speak with the dead has helped some families and friends to find comfort. I find it silly when I hear doubters say that there is no God or Devil and that they do not believe it. I always remind them that neither God or Satan NEED you to believe in them, to exist. I have seen and felt the heaviness of the drkness and have seen the power and glory of the light, my sexuality not withstanding. God really Is there and He loves you as you are, regardless of what some narrow minded men and women who stand behind the pulpit. I wish Ryan all the best in his fight against cancer and I will talk with the Big Guy upstairs about sending someone over, to keep an eye on you too. Health, my brother in Christ.

  • isabel

    really i think mr. Buell should’nt play around with serious stuff. shame on you mr. Ryan Buell

  • vicki padgett

    I hope somehow i can learn to use my gift the way Ryan has. i never dreamed i would look forward to every single day paranormal State comes on, let alone allow myself to use my gift to help solve a missisng young mans where a bouts. i am humbled by Ryans quietness and ability to be so forthcoming and share his gift with so many who see him as honest and real.I will truely miss him and the show.

  • Michael R.

    Megan, you claim your not a Christian but you make more sense than most of these people who claim to be Christian. And may be closer to God then you think….word of advice for you sweetheart, keep reading the Bible and well…be a Christian, Jesus loves You and is calling you. No worries! I know it doesn’t seem like it from this blog but if you get into a good Christian Church you will find that they are some of the most compassionate and loving people you will ever meet!

  • Michael R.

    Nathan has the most truthful comment in this discussion. The majority of you people who call yourselves Christians need to read your Bibles and study the Word and, figuratively speaking, regroup. Don’t just pick out a verse or a paragraph or a chapter, but read the whole thing in context. You will find out how misconstrued some of your interpretations are. If you profess to be Christian than you must hold to the revelation of truth in Gods Word. I find it amazing how people who claim to believe in Jesus, refuse to listen to what He actually said and use His words as a counter argument ammunition to suite their watered down, politically correct flaky “tolerant” new age belief system. They take statements such as “Judge not lest ye be judged” and interpret it as “All paths are paths to God”, or the parable about the “splinter in your brothers eye” as an attempt to shut down the evangelist and make his position invalid. These wavering souls then condemn true Christians who actually read their Bibles and understand His true message. They turn our Lord into some easy going, cotton candy, hippie who didn’t really mean what He said. He meant every Word He spoke. He is the Incarnate Word sent on behalf of the Father for our benefit. He never said anything about purgatory and spoke often about hell, so to be Christian and not believe in hell is counterintuitive to your faith. (assuming you have faith at all). I don’t care if you “don’t want to be controlled by fear” and “the threat of fire and brimstone”, its real and the only way out is through Christ’s sacrifice. He knew this, and loved us enough to give us “the way” , thats why the main thing He spoke was faith! “I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword” (Matthew 10:34) That means division among the people who believe and don’t. Also is there anywhere in the Bible where Jesus helped dead human souls “move on” or advocated the use of divination or psychic mediums, or necromancy? No, on the contrary, He condemned all this as sorcery, which its power is from the devil, but there is many stores of casting out demons. What makes you so sure that these spirits are human and not shapeshifting demons parading as dead relatives to deceive you and vex your faith? Think about the possible risk involved if you are wrong. Why even entertain the idea if such consequences could result? Are you that confident in your own empowerment that you reject the authority and power of the one true God that gives life to all His creatures? Let me tell you demons are real, I’ve seen them, and the Gospel is truth whether you believe it or not. The same evangelists who you say are “judging” or are not “tolerant” of other beliefs, are the same people who might be saving your lives. Don’t get mad at the fireman who is saving you from the fire, simply cause he woke you up! Anyway its not judgmental because the authority was handed down as a command from Christ Himself to all who believe “to go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. Matthew 28:19 “Realize that whoever brings a sinner back from the error of his ways will save him from death, and many sins will be forgiven.” James 5:20 I pray that Almighty God Bless you to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth and that His Mercy and Grace lead you to understanding and encourage you to read His Word. That you may come to find peace in the joy of salvation and His everlasting love through His Son Jesus Christ. Amen

  • Mary Jane Mccamant

    I have to say this grumbling over Ryan’s well intentional work is disturbing. Religious theories are argued for centuries. The Bible misquoted,misused, and miscopied.Hatred of those who do not believe the same as you do. Killings in the name of religion should remind all Christians that we must be tolerant of others beliefs. Ryan Buell has no other agenda than his quest to define “supernatural”. Demonic forces? How strange when Jesus on the third day after his death descended into hell to face the devil. So he would not have power over us. I do not fear for Jesus fought that battle once why should we continue this fight? It seems that some do not put their faith in God. Having said that I would like to point out that strange phenomenon have and do occur we can explain it away with magnetic fields and science and one would be right in some cases. There is that percentage when all things checked out lead to unknown forces. My belief is that when a tragedy happens such as a murder, a hologram similar to a photo is stamped onto the scene. Think of the first photos people 600 years ago would have thought that was magic not possible. We know today it is possible. There is much between heaven and earth not dreamt in your own philosophy.

  • Megan

    Alright people listen up here, there are no “ghosts” and no I’m not a christian I’m just someone that is barely getting to know the bible. These “ghosts” are demonic forces. Forces that are REALLY smart and manipulative and why would’nt they be? Satan and the fallen angels are not that stupid. They have dooped the world and the people into thinking that ghosts are people that have passed on…….but they are not, just read the bible, there are NO people that stay on earth, they’re tricksters dont let them doop you too.

  • Kaye

    July 9, 2012
    Who cares? His sexuality is between him and God. I just loved his TV series, Paranormal State. I wish he would do another TV series as good as this one. Miss you, Ryan. Hope you come back to TV!

  • Matt

    Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. agreed with Nick thou shalt not judge

  • Matt

    There is one thing that people failed to realize , what Ryan trying to do is, explore the unknown, paranormal, skeptical-ism or non believer kept your opinion to yourself,I would say that most of you enjoyed the show much because it is not what the ordinary people do and it way beyond your comprehension , 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” .1 Corinthians 13:12″Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” remember you are not perfect ! thou shalt not judge agreed with Nick.

  • Nick

    The Bible says”judge not lest ye be judged” so please stop judging each other. I wish we would all just love and help our neighbor’s instead of bashing our neighbors because their beliefs are different. We all can read a verse from the bible and get many different opinions as to what it means. This is one of the things that makes the bible so wonderful, so many people with different problems can be helped by the same verse from the bible.

  • Mason

    It May be where I’m not some what familiar with the different faiths of relegion, but this comment I seen made me wonder. I personally believe there is a god and do believe in the paranormal. The comment was that the earth is good and that hell will not be on it that it’s as far away as you can think. So if it’s so good why the genocides, hunger, rapist, terrorist etc? Seems to me to be a lot of evil. Then again I’m reminded of all the good, so I’m just curious and it’s a serious question.

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