I suppose I should entitle this: ‘In Defense of Ryan D. Buell’
Now hang with me. I’ve always had a soft spot for him because we were at Penn State at the same time. We’re the same age, we’re both from Pennsylvania, we’ve both had hectic lives, and we graduated staring down the barrel of the same shotgun: a recession and a horrific economy.
The recession alone primed people my age, in the thirty-six-year-old range, to be very aware of money. We’re always hustling in one way or another. Most people my age have a main job, a side job, and a back up job. We’re all paranoid, we rarely indulge ourselves with unnecessary comforts, and a lot of us are still struggling to get by. In short: I understand “the pursuit of more money” as a safeguard against generalized anxiety. A lot my peers, especially those I went to school with at Penn State, have found themselves dealing with depression, anxiety, lack of opportunity, and overall haven’t found the success we thought we would based on the promise of the holy grail of a ‘good degree.’
I would love to get into a room and chat with Ryan Buell and learn what has really been going on in his life. Police reports, public discontent, and the rumor mill of the paranormal community probably don’t do reality justice. I can only imagine what sort of hell he’s been through. Myself, I am a pagan, coming up on 24 years in the community. Every time I heard his story of a young person dealing with the strange that typically follows sensitive people, my heart squeezed.
Buell’s been called a scammer.
I absolutely believe he has grifted on a large scale. As in, his show didn’t always help the people he visited, and sometimes they faked things on Paranormal State. I’m not going to break all that down here because there are blog posts and direct quotes from people who were involved in the show to support those statements. I believe wholeheartedly that there’s a chance Paranormal State fucked up some people’s lives more than it helped—in essence meaning that Ryan Buell fucked up people’s lives more than he helped. I don’t feel that the people who spoke up about Paranormal State would have done so without good reason. On the other hand, I can understand why the people behind the show would choose to do things for ratings, and I can understand why Ryan Buell would have chosen to go against his moral code (a generous assumption on my part, to be sure) and go along with it.
At some point Ryan began to use drugs. That’s very clear if you look at the public record and timeline of his show and life. Well before this came out, several years ago when I was doing research for The Paranaturalist, I believed he was doing drugs. I didn’t make that a public sentiment at that point, but everything fit.
He’s now a year sober, according to my research, maybe more, and I have to believe some of the stress of Paranormal State and his other work played into that. Again, I’m making shit up, and I tend to believe the best in people, but I know what it’s like to get phone calls in the middle of the night because something weird is happening in someone’s house and then be compelled to help. I’ve gone out into the middle of the night with candles and sage and a fuck off attitude to settle people down so we can all get some fucking sleep. I know what it’s like to sit up with someone facing a dark night of the soul. I know what it’s like to do mystic work. It’s fucking shit, is what it is, and it can get to you real quick if you’re not in a good place.
Back to Ryan: He stole about $80,000 USD by taking money for a tour that didn’t happen, he had a blow out with his family (probably over the drugs he was doing), he pretended to have a chronic illness (well, drug addiction is a lifelong struggle), he got charged with roughing up his boyfriend (an absolute shit thing to do), and then his ass landed in jail—where it obviously belonged at that moment in time.
For addicts they like to call this point rock bottom. The clarity moment. The shit that wakes you up.
And now, thanks to my, I would say annual, research party on
Ryan Buell, it bears repeating that he seems to have been clean and sober a year or more.
So, if you’ve hung with me through everything, I would like to reiterate that I’ve always been soft for him because he’s my age, a Penn Stater (we were at Penn State at the same time), we share similar interests (we’re both writers), and I recently went through the rehab roller coaster with my spouse. I’m primed for sympathy. I also didn’t lose money to his tour.
What I would like to think, and hope, is that Ryan is halfway through his redemption arc. As a writer, I see someone on the cusp of becoming a better person, and he’s someone who has to change for the better with the public watching, which makes everything harder. I would like to think that he knows he owes people money, and apologies, and for one reason or another genuinely hasn’t been able to organize a way to repay them. I would like to hope that he will open up and be honest soon about the struggles he’s had. I can’t fully explain why I keep checking in on him, except that I feel like I’m keeping tabs on an old friend, an admired colleague who has lost his way, and someone I would really like to see make a full recovery. It also seems like he’s scheduling tours again, with one upcoming, and I would think that would be the first step in repaying his debts. If people trust him enough to go, and he handles himself well, I’d say that he deserves a second chance with the community.
Ryan looked so bad for a while I fully believed he was struggling with a disease, and to find out that it was drug addiction rather than pancreatic cancer was a relief. Drug addiction may be a life long struggle, but at least it can be recovered from.
So, for anyone out there during this Halloween season who is googling around during those Paranormal State reruns wondering, “what the hell happened to Ryan Buell?” I hope you’re going to judge him with a kinder heart than he may deserve. He still has plenty of time to right his wrongs, so long as he is alive and taking his recovery one day at a time.