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Paranormal investigators tell tales of otherworldy encounters

Penn State alum Ryan Buell, left, and Robb Demarest discuss their experiences investigating the supernatural during a lecture Tuesday at the State Theatre. Buell hosted six seasons of A&E’s “Paranormal State,” which was based at University Park.
Penn State alum Ryan Buell, left, and Robb Demarest discuss their experiences investigating the supernatural during a lecture Tuesday at the State Theatre. Buell hosted six seasons of A&E’s “Paranormal State,” which was based at University Park. Centre Daily Times

Few things go over better on a cool October evening than a handful of ghost stories told around a campfire.

But on Tuesday evening, the campfire was The State Theatre, and the storytellers were some of television’s most popular paranormal investigators.

Ryan Buell, host of the A&E series “Paranormal State,” and Robb Demarest, of the Syfy series “Ghost Hunters,” hosted an evening of encounters and evidence of the paranormal, presenting the audience with cases they’ve covered at some of the nation’s and the world’s most haunted places.

Residents and Penn State students may remember Buell, a university alum who still lives in State College. After forming the original Paranormal Research Society on campus, he took his investigative skills on the road and formed the hit A&E series, which ran for six seasons.

Demarest appeared on the SyFy series and hosted the spinoff “Ghost Hunters International.” He also appeared on several paranormal investigative shows in the various countries he’s worked in, including Malaysia and Australia.

Buell described his early experiences investigating the ghostly claims made around Penn State, digging into the death of Betsy Aardsma, who was killed in the Pattee Library and whose ghost is said to still roam the building. He also worked in many of the other structures on campus, including the one that, in his opinion, remains the most haunted: Old Botany.

“Over the years, departments in that building have changed,” he said, “but the people who worked there early on till now all have the same story.”

He told of a secretary who claimed she heard a door open somewhere in the building though she was the only one there. Footsteps were heard growing closer until something jiggled the door handle near her. Police were called, but found no evidence of anyone breaking in.

But it was more than just stories, as both investigators brought with them some choice clips of thermal videos, electronic voice phenomenon and photographs as evidence of the paranormal.

Buell visited the Harrison Church in Topeka, Kan., said to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. The former church was never deconsecrated, and drew many drug addicts, homeless people and possible evil spirits.

He showed videos of disembodied growling and wild changes in temperature that were taken in the church, and one video where he claimed he was pulled to the ground by an unknown force.

Investigations were on a larger scale for Demarest, who visited several prisons and asylums in his international travels. His prized piece of evidence? A clear photograph of a small girl taken in the empty hallways of the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum in Australia.

“You can choose to believe or not believe,” he said, “but I’m not making any of this up.”

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