Paranormal State TV Show


Penn State Paranormal Research Society (PRS) student researchers come together to help terrified citizens being tormented by spirits in Paranormal State. Assisted by a team of technicians, psychics, documentarians, and occult investigators, host Ryan Buell follows up on the most severe reports of supernatural activity to society.

Debuting in 2007, Paranormal State was one of the first paranormal investigative shows to gain widespread attention. Back when reality TV fakery wasn’t such a commonly accepted concept, Paranormal State’s eery atmosphere and terrifying evidence shook audiences to their core. However, the show certainly had its critics, and in the years since, viewers haven’t always been full of praise.

Is Paranormal State really something special or simply the first of its kind? Let’s find out…

Paranormal State’s Air Date

The A&E channel hosted Paranormal State, which aired on December 10th, 2007. Episode one, Sixth Sense, follows the PRS as they meet with a worried mother, Shelly. She explains that her son, Matthew, can see dead people, and the team tries to find out if the potential paranormal occurrences are simply a child’s fantasy.

With a myriad of ghost-hunting shows already on TV in 2007, but not enough that the genre was yet saturated, Paranormal State drew in an impressive cross-section of viewers. However, many reviews from the time were less than kind, immediately calling out the show for its exaggerated music and sound effects and Ryan’s slightly dull style of presenting. Still, the show had enough of a viewership to be renewed for another season four times.

Creation and Production

With five seasons produced by three separate production companies, Four Seasons Productions, Go Go Luckey Productions, and Picture Shack Entertainment, Paranormal State had an enormous crew. The series was mostly directed by Benjamin Wolf and Chad Kalek, who handled 49 episodes and 34 episodes, respectively. Wolf also headed up cinematography for his episodes with Brian Antonson and 27 others in the camera and electrical department.

The team of producers comprised 63 people between 2007 and 2011, one of which was Ryan Buell himself. Others include:

  • Julie Auerbach – Executive Producer
  • Betsy Schechter – Executive Producer
  • Jake Laufer – Supervising Producer
  • Daniel McKenna – Associate Producer
  • Wendi E. Friedman – Line Producer
  • Katie Petrachonis – Story Producer
  • Nancy Swartz – Story Producer
  • Libby Niles – Story Producer

Production was managed by Stephen Curry and Lisa Goumelle, and post-production was supervised by Emily Taggart, Steve Pesce, and Dennis Principe Jr. The editing department comprised around 50 people, with Johnathan Grandi and Yvette Amirian working on around 60 episodes each.

The sound department comprised 21 people, and the visual effects and music department had 3 artists each. On top of all that, the show had several production assistants throughout its run, with Shelby Michlin, the assistant story editor, working on just under 50 episodes.

Paranormal State Cast Members

The cast of Paranormal State seems to change from season to season and sometimes episode to episode. Investigators with the right talents and specialisms are switched with others who may not be needed for a certain story. However, there are a few who crop up time and time again. These are:

Ryan Buell

A Pennsylvania native, Ryan suffered many paranormal experiences as a child, which worried his devout Catholic family and terrified him. He founded the PRS in 2001 to seek the truth and help others in the same position as he was. He is the only cast member to appear in every episode of Paranormal State. He went on to release his memoir, Paranormal State: My Journey into the Unknown, in 2010 and worked with director Chad Kalek on a feature film, American Ghost Hunter, in 2011. Since then, Ryan has been mostly inactive in the paranormal scene.

Chip Coffey

As a famed medium, Chip is a big presence on many paranormal TV shows. With strong intuition even as a child, it came as no surprise to Chip when he began to see full-body apparitions of spirits. Since then, he has used his talents to assist paranormal investigators on shows such as Shock Docs, Portals to Hell, and Ghost Brothers: Lights Out.

Paranormal State was one of his first TV appearances as a psychic, and he appears in 43 episodes, oftentimes to provide therapeutic support for the family.

Heather Taddy

The team’s documentarian and trainee field investigator, Heather, records all the hauntings the PRS investigates. Her fascination with the paranormal began with Ouija sessions as a curious teenager, and she employs the same courageous attitude in Paranormal State, wherein she often spends time alone in a haunted location’s most active area. Paranormal State was her first TV appearance, and she has since starred in Alien Highway and Portals to Hell.

Katrina Weidman

Another Pennsylvania native, Katrina, joined the PRS while studying music at Penn State. Growing up in haunted houses, her interest in the paranormal began at a very young age. With a mother who believed in the paranormal and a father who was a skeptic, Katrina developed a balanced view that assists her in investigations. Though Paranormal State was her first appearance on a paranormal TV show, she has since co-hosted Paranormal Lockdown alongside Nick Groff and Portals to Hell alongside Jack Osbourne.

Primary Focus of the Show

The PRS motto reads, “To trust, honor, and always seek the truth.” Their investigations are less to prove or disprove the existence of the supernatural and more to assist and quell the worries of those suffering from potential hauntings and possessions. Throughout the 5 seasons of Paranormal State, the team investigates everything from spirits to cryptids to demons. Although the first season is mostly filmed around Pennsylvania, the team does venture further afield in later episodes.

The episodes usually begin with an overview from Ryan of the report given by the affected individuals. After reviewing the information with the PRS, they interview the individuals about their situation and the nature of the haunting or possession. Though Ryan is the leader, he tends to get involved only after the initial investigation is concluded. Instead, a few team members spend a night in the haunted location before the rest of the team comes to help.

The equipment used is pretty rudimentary, perhaps because ghost hunting was much more of a niche interest and, therefore, tools were less readily available, or perhaps because back then, the genre didn’t call for investigators to use a multitude of flashy equipment.

The team mostly relies on EMF meters and their reading, along with Digital Voice Recorders, for capturing EVP communications to indicate whether something paranormal is present, and one technician stays at ‘mission control’ to monitor hidden mics and cameras placed around the location. To expel the spirits or unbind demons from hosts, Ryan uses traditional Christian techniques before advising the affected individuals on the best next steps.

Paranormal State’s Impact on the Paranormal Community

Paranormal State developed a decently large fanbase throughout its time on the air, and many of these fans still remember the show fondly. Most felt that the show had a genuinely frightening style, with Pop Matters complimenting Paranormal State’s “wonderful way with atmosphere and a lot of genre innuendo,” that “take us right up to the point of terror, if not totally all the way.” It’s also worth noting that the show sometimes discusses incredibly morbid incidents in much detail, which certainly adds to the spooks.

Many reviewers also praised the team’s dedication to helping individuals, giving the show an original and unique angle to view the paranormal. “They try to relieve pain and suffering, offer counseling, and try to find a way out for clients and their ‘friends’,one reviewer commented. Others echoed this sentiment, stating, “Whenever I watch Ghost Hunters, and they talk about going to help someone, I feel like they never really helped them but just exploited their haunting. I like Paranormal State most for the ways they help.

There has been a lot of discussion over whether elements of the show were fake, but praise has also been given to the journalistic style with which the team appears to investigate. Though they scare easily, the PRS never outrightly claims that the events happening result from paranormal activity, which one reviewer cited to praise the show’s credibility. Another mentioned that the aim of Paranormal State was not to find evidence of the paranormal but simply to present it. “This show was stated as a DOCUMENTARY. They are…keyword..documenting the information they find.

The Show’s Seasons and Episodes

Paranormal State is comprised of 5 seasons. Here is a brief overview of the show’s episodes:

  • Season 1 – 20 episodes
  • Season 2 – 12 episodes
  • Season 3 – 20 episodes
  • Season 4 – 12 episodes
  • Season 5 – 21 episodes

A special titled Paranormal State: The New Class also aired in 2010. It introduced some new team members as well as the PRS’s training techniques.

The Most Popular and Well-Rated Episodes

Based on IMDb reviews and ratings, the top 10 most popular episodes of Paranormal State are:

  • Season 5, Episode 7 – Paranormal Detour
  • Season 5, Episode 8 – Ghosts of the Forgotten
  • Season 4, Episode 1 – Suicide Possession
  • Season 1, Episode 6 – Pet Cemetery
  • Season 5, Episode 21 – If I Should Die
  • Season 1, Episode 11 – Paranormal Intervention
  • Season 2, Episode 10 – The Glove
  • Season 3, Episode 10 – The Basement
  • Season 3, Episode 11 – The Possession: Return of Six
  • Season 3, Episode 18 – Dead and Back

Famous Guest Appearances

With the nature of the team constantly swapping out specialists, Paranormal State also welcomed several guest investigators. However, as the show first aired in 2007, many of these investigators had not yet gone on to achieve fame within the paranormal community. There is one frequent guest, however, who can perhaps be considered one of the most famous ghost hunters of them all…

Lorraine Warren

A clairvoyant, Lorraine became prominent in the 50s alongside her husband Ed for investigating hauntings. Since then, she has traveled worldwide to use her skills and assist with paranormal investigations. Some of her most notable investigations, the Amityville house, Annabelle, and the Enfield Haunting, have been committed to film in the Conjuring series.

Though many skeptics doubt the validity of her clairvoyance and her findings, Lorraine remains an icon among many in the paranormal community. She appears in 30 episodes of Paranormal State, where she mostly investigates spirits and demons with the PRS using her psychic abilities.

Controversies and Criticisms

Paranormal State is the subject of some scathing criticism. To start, critics and viewers alike find Ryan to be something of a dull host. Slant Magazine branded him a “charisma-free zone”, while other reviewers have commented that his monotone voice-over “does nothing but provoke grunts and laughs.” With Ryan featured more and more in the episodes as the seasons progress, and as the only cast member who returns for every episode, this criticism doesn’t seem ever to have been heeded.

Slant Magazine also commented that the team is “feckless young kids, uncertain and entirely suggestible. They look like they lack the spines to stare down their dorm master, let alone demons from the dark side.” While a New York Times review does call the team ‘earnest’, it is not so complimentary about the stories featured: “A child sees apparitions, we’re told…All right, sure; we’ll take your word for it.

Other reviewers have commented on the lack of actual evidence shown, with the cast members’ reactions sometimes more frightening than the actual phenomena. This leads to the criticism of overall fakery. The show’s co-executive producer, Tina Gazzerro, explained that every episode is planned out before it is filmed so the crew can get their “A-ha moments”.

However, the production team reiterated that no pressure was put on the stars to act in a certain way. Despite this official statement, many still believe Paranormal State was partially or entirely faked.

Even if fakery was not involved, other commenters are put off or outright alarmed by the way the crew conducts their investigations. An e-book, Paranormal State Exposed, was released in 2012 after the series ceased airing.

In it, author Kirby Robinson details staged scenes, planted or falsified evidence, fake exorcisms, and crew members masquerading as experts. We learn of clients who were ridiculed, and those who were promised help but were left with more problems.

Another reviewer corroborated these findings, stating that the highly-rated episode I Am Six “did no favors for this family. [The crew] took a situation where there were mental health issues involved and made it much worse. They got their episode, made their money, and went on their merry way, while the family was left a mess.

Future Outlook

Paranormal State ceased airing in May 2011 as the cast went on to complete other projects. Many of the members of the PRS are still active in the community, bar Ryan who has suffered from illness, mental health, and substance abuse issues since the end of the show. Due to this, it’s very unlikely there will be a reunion of the PRS as an investigative team on TV.

Paranormal State laid the groundwork for almost all of its paranormal successors. Though tropes and conventions such as screeching strings and objects flying so quickly across a room the audience can barely see them seem outdated now when Paranormal State aired, these were more than enough to terrify a majority of believers. Though the genre has moved past much of what Paranormal State established, at the time of its release, it was unique, innovative, and genuinely gripping.

In Conclusion

There are areas where Paranormal State falls flat. While the team is dedicated, they aren’t exactly entertaining, and while the stories are entertaining, they aren’t exactly believable. Back in 2007, criticisms such as these hardly mattered to fans of the paranormal. It cannot be understated just how much Paranormal State and early shows like it shaped the genre for years to come.

On one hand, the show appears as mandatory viewing for any hardcore fan of the paranormal genre. But on the other hand, there are far better shows out there that have been produced since. However, these other shows have allowed the time and hindsight to build upon the foundation Paranormal State created.

All that being said, if you’re interested in the legacies of paranormal TV shows and the history of the genre as a whole, give Paranormal State a go. Perhaps don’t commit to all 5 seasons, but certainly try the most popular episodes. They’re not always easy to watch, but they are interesting enough to analyze in comparison to your favorites.

Leave a Comment