I remember distinctly the first time I saw an episode of “Paranormal State”. I was channel surfing late one night when the opening title sequence flashed across the screen. It wasn’t the premiere episode, but I had never seen anything like it on television. Here were people who actually traveled the country, investigating homes and helping people who were experiencing terrifying and sometimes violent hauntings. I was drawn in, almost immediately, by the team leader, a young man by the name of Ryan Buell.
He was fresh faced, boyishly charming, and seemed to have a real passion for the work. I was, to say the least, an immediate fan of both Ryan and the show. I was further intrigued as the show progressed as famous mediums like Lorraine Warren, who I’d adored since I first read about her and husband’s work, and Chip Coffey appeared on the show.
I followed each season closely. I was an ardent fan, and even more, I believed in what they were doing. I felt a kinship to Ryan, Serg, Katrina, and the rest. As a medium, I’ve spent a large part of my life walking into people’s homes and helping them deal with the things that go bump in the night. These people were doing the same thing, but on a grander scale and I would go to bed after watching an episode and dream of joining the team.
I was sad when the show ended, as they always seem to do, but by that time other shows were cropping up more frequently. I watched them all, but I secretly hoped that “Paranormal State” might return and that Ryan and his team were still investigating, even if they were not longer on television.
Time passed and I would read online that Ryan was setting up a convention or conference. Team members would be there. There would be special appearances by some of the mediums who had guested on the show. Gods, I wanted to be there! PRS was still active and you could purchase merchandise online from them. Books, DVDs, etc. They had it all.
And then, rumors began to surface. Conventions were cancelled, and people were saying they didn’t receive promised refunds. Other people began to complain that they had purchased merchandise, but they never received the merchandise and when requested, their money was not returned.
Like many fans, I rushed to Ryan’s defense. Surely this was just a mistake. Surely there was some mix up. But more and more stories surfaced and my faith began to fade.
Then, like a bolt from the blue, another story surfaced. Ryan was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Suddenly, it all made sense! Of course! He was sick and that’s why these things were happening. He certainly was not stealing money from people intentionally.
In short, I believed the story because I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe that this was a good man who was sick and possibly facing death. It was easier than the alternative.
And then, one day, I read a post from Chip Coffey. To paraphrase, he said that he had chosen to break ties with Ryan due to the controversies surrounding him. He could no longer continue to risk his own reputation. I was floored. I must have read his message ten or fifteen times. This is a man whose work I deeply respect and whose reputation is nearly impeccable in the paranormal community, and his words cut deep.
A certain amount of cognitive dissonance ensued. Which side did I believe? Whose story made more sense? After a ton of research, reading statements from people who told their stories of losing precious money with the promise of goods and services, the answer was clear and had been for some time. Ryan was no longer the man his myriad fans believed him to be.
Let me clarify, I say “no more” because I really believe deeply that his initial intentions were good. I believe that he started out on a clear path, but somewhere along the way, that path wandered and his final destination had tainted the entire journey.
In the last couple of years, a whole host of allegations have surfaced. Ryan was arrested on criminal charges of theft. His mother released a statement to his fans saying that Ryan was, indeed, sick but not in the way we were led to believe and that everyone needed to give the family space because we really had no idea what had been going on.
Each revelation rocked his fans, and while many stood firm, it was clear that others were falling away. Well, not so much falling. They were angry, and they were fleeing.
Over the last few months, Buell has begun to resurface on his Facebook page. In initial statements, he said that he understood that he had a lot to explain to his fans and that those explanations would happen very soon.
And some of us waited.
Then he made one of the most non-statements I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. He would have made a politician proud with his wandering speech that never truly touched on any of the events of the last couple of years.
Then, he posted that the following weekend, he would finally make the real statement and apology that his fans deserved. The weekend came. The weekend passed. There were no posts, and in my mind, this was by far his actions speaking clearly. We were getting no statements. There would be no apology. And perhaps, he thought we did not deserve one.
And still, he continued to post that a statement was coming. It was just never the right time. And then, a few days ago, suddenly I received a notification that Ryan Buell was live streaming from his page. I quickly clicked on the video and was shocked by what I witnessed.
I knew that the voice was Ryan’s but the face was…not right. His cheeks were sunken; his eyes were ringed; his speech was slightly slurred and he rambled in circles. In short, it appeared that Buell was quite high and had been for some time.
I turned my attention, instead, to the comments on the live stream and there were two separate factions. Some offered encouragement and told Buell they hoped he was healing and they were praying for him. An equal number seemed full of anger and rage at a man who they’d once believed in and he had not only let them down. No, he had stolen from them.
Many confronted him and asked what had been going on, and once again, Buell deflected. This was not the time and the place to have that conversation, and by this time, many of us realized that the right time and place would never come. Not, at least, until he was clean and sober and getting himself back on track.
Over the course of a few days he would go live a few more times. Each time he seemed to still be in a listless and drug riddled haze. Each time, it was a little more sad.
And then, this week Ryan found himself in the news again. He had been arrested again, but this time the charge was assault.
Police responded to a call stating that Buell was possibly suffering from an overdose, but upon arrival, they discovered that he and his boyfriend had been involved in a physical altercation. Buell had allegedly scratched his boyfriend’s face and bitten his finger hard enough to pierce the fingernail. Buell was taken into custody and arraigned on a misdemeanor charge of simple assault. Bail was set at $25,000 and he was to appear before a judge today. We don’t have any word, at this time, of the outcome of that appearance.
And now I sit pondering what happened here and how I, personally, feel as a fan, a paranormal investigator, and a human being, and I have come to a few conclusions.
On a final note, I do not, nor can I, sit in judgement of Ryan Buell. I simply hope that he turns his life around and finds a way to begin repairing the damage he’s done to his family, his fans, and to the paranormal community.