Unlike SyFy’s hit ghost hunting television show Ghost Hunters, which at least attempted to debunk most of the so-called paranormal phenomena, Paranormal State seems to take its cue from horror movies such as The Exorcist and The Haunting of Emily Rose.
The reality show, which ran from December 2007 until May 2011, is terrible but hilarious. First of all, the leader of Penn State’s Paranormal Research Society is Ryan Buell and he apparently thinks he’s a cross between Supernatural’s Dean Winchester and The X-Files’ Fox Mulder.
Whenever there’s a so-called “demonic haunting,” you can practically see his chest puff out with glee as he gets unnaturally solemn—it’s clearly an act meant to make him seem “cool” and/or to attract the fangirls. All he needs is a Colt and a ’67 black Chevy Imapala for his Dean Winchester cosplay to be complete as he whirls around Holy Water and prays like it’s going out of style.
One of the funniest moments in Paranormal State history was when he was terrified of a ghost who haunted the West Virgina State Penitentiary because she laughed at him. Needless to say, he gave his team the death glare when they found this out. Another hysterical part of Paranormal State is when Buell believed that he had a demon stalking him. He refused to say the name and forbid the rest of the team from even talking about “the bunnies” (PRS’s term for demon) lest the demon find them, Lord Voldemort style.
For even more laughs, A&E would play a clip of the scrambled name, which made it easier for skeptics and fans alike to figure out which demon was the one scaring Buell senseless.
Of course, how can we forget the fraud Lorraine Warren, who blamed everything on demons? Unlike most people who are religious and simply live and let live, Warren thinks anyone who isn’t a Catholic is evil. There were quite a few facepalm worthy moments when she encountered a client who was clearly suffering from some sort of mental health issue and she harangued Buell into giving them an exorcism because “they were possessed.” However, her ridiculous notions about demons made for great MST3K-commentary or even a drinking game—we can guarantee you that you’ll be drunk before the end of the episode.
Not to be outdone is the psychic, Chip Coffey. While he too believes in demons and there are some funny moments when he threatens these evil entities in a “come at me bro” moment, he’s so eccentric that he charms the audience with his quirky ways. One of the best moments in PRS history was when they were investigating someone’s house where several dogs had passed away in a bizarre manner and he was picking up the name “Margaret.” Lo and behold, they stumble upon a gravestone where Chip theatrically tosses up his hands and proclaims “Margaret!” in a voice that would wake the dead.
While Buell and Warren are often smug and insufferable, it’s the rest of the team that was the show’s saving grace. The skeptic Josh Light, the trainee Katrina Weidman, the Pagan Eilfie Music, and the psychic Michelle Belanger were all down-to-Earth and had likable personalities, to the point where viewers hoped A&E would fire Buell and let the rest of the team take over. Goodness knows they would’ve done a better job!
Although Buell and Warren had no problems exorcising demons and praying in Jesus’s name over people left, right, and center, their over-the-drop dramatics and Coffey’s quirky personality will have viewers who typically adore cheesy horror movies chortling with laughter as they marathon their way through all five seasons of Paranormal State.