A faithful WOG BLOG reader asked us what we thought of Ryan Buell and his Paranormal State TV show and after doing a little research I can safely say that there are plenty of good reasons why this particular show was awarded The Truly Terrible Television Award in 2008. Not only does it promote superstition and all kinds of pseudoscientific methods, but it has been accused of staging so-called paranormal activities and even ignoring a “ghost” who needed help.
First, for a little history, A&E’s Paranormal State is a television show based on the exploits of Ryan Buell, who founded of the Paranormal Research Society (PRS) in 2001 while he was studying at Penn State University. A native of Sumter, South Carolina, he was always interested in the paranormal and began investigating “hauntings” and other spooky happenings at the age of 15.
Shortly after launching the PRS, Buell began to achieve some notoriety and was invited to speak at colleges and high schools. He was eventually approached by television producer Betsy Schechter in 2005 to launch a series based on his work. Schechter landed a spot on A&E and the filming of Paranormal State began a year later.
The show consists of half-hour docu-dramas based on cases explored by the PRS. These involve all kinds of paranormal activities such as ghost sightings, poltergeist activity and other demonic disturbances. Often working with Buell are psychics, demonologists, psychologists and counselors.
First, let me say that I believe homes can be haunted and that spirits can toss around frying pans in the middle of the night. But I don’t believe that these events are due to the behavior of the deceased owner of the house who got lost somewhere between here and eternity and is roaming the halls looking for peace. This is pure theater. Disembodied souls don’t have voices that can be recorded on EVP meters, not only because their voiceboxes have long ago rotted in the grave, but because our God, who loves us beyond our comprehension, doesn’t let any of his beloved creatures “get lost” on the way to eternity.
The New Testament repeatedly affirms that “each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith” (Catechism No. 1021). (Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.)
It also states that “Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation” (No. 1022).
In other words, souls don’t get lost on the way to eternity. Anyone who reads Scripture knows that our God loves each and every one of us so much that He knows the very number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). No one who loves us this much lets us wander around after death looking for somewhere to go.
Having said all that, Paranormal State is much like all the other “haunting” shows that are really fun to watch but, when analyzed more closely, probably deserve the criticism they get.
For instance, one criticism leveled against Buell and his team came from a psychic medium named Kelli Ryan who moved into her dream home with her husband where they encountered a friendly ghost named Bill in one of the downstairs hallways. Bill was the former owner of the house who died in a tragic accident. Also discovered in the house was a more sinister spirit who took up residence in the kitchen and started attacking the psychic and her husband and the ghost named Bill. After Kelli’s “spirit guide” warned her not to deal with the dark spirit on her own, they reached out to Buell. PRS was asked to not only help them in their battle against the dark spirit, but also to assist Bill who wanted to tell the world that no one was to blame for the accident that killed him.
Ryan claims Buell’s team was responsible for all sorts of distortions and deceptions in the show they produced, such as referring to both Bill and the evil spirit as one ghost named “the Shadow Man.” Buell even had a member of the crew dash passed windows and doors to make it look like the Shadow Man on camera. A member of Buell’s team, a so-called psychic named Chip Coffey, was actually a phony who was playing the part of a psychic on screen. During a so-called EVP session, the crew picked up transmissions from a local Ham radio operator and pretended that it was the voice of a ghost. Even worse, the message Bill so much wanted to get out to the public – that his death was an accident – was never told. That part of the show was left on the cutting room floor.
While reading this story, I couldn’t help but scratch my head. First of all, a psychic whose business is dabbling in the occult should not be surprised when her home is inhabited by more than just her husband and friendly neighborhood “spirit guide.” She’s inviting demons of all shapes and sizes into her life, which will only get worse over time unless she gets serious, stops pretending they’re her imaginary friends and repents.
As for Buell and Paranormal State, he left the show last year and there have been no new episodes since the conclusion of its sixth and final season in May, 2011.
Like I said – these shows make great spooky TV, but I wouldn’t read much more into them.
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