Ryan Buell, paranormal investigator and star of A&E's hit series Paranormal State has seen his share of scary stuff. And in his new book, Paranormal State: My Journey Into the Unknown, Buell, 28, shares some personal highlights, as well as the back story of the show (now in its fifth season), and the history of his Paranormal Research Society.
"I'm able to tell my whole story, and I don't just have 22 minutes like on the show – I could take as many pages as I wanted to tell it."
Some of his creepiest moments took place in Pittsburgh, a hotel room in West Virginia, and an old penitentiary, which he calls, "one of the most haunted places I've been to."
While the book's got plenty more scares (hint: it's best read in daylight), Buell shared his top three spookiest encounters with PEOPLE.
1. A Western Pennsylvania Exorcism
"We get called to Pittsburgh all the time," says Buell of his paranormal research. "I would say it's one of the scariest places on Earth!" Back in 2005, he was called in to assess a case for the Catholic Church involving a high-ranking politician. "They were convinced there was a demonic haunting there, but they wanted evidence," Buell recalls. He certainly found it. "I saw a metal crucifix bend right in front of us, and there was a blood-like substance that materialized on the walls," he says. (A forensics team confirmed that it was blood and "flesh-like material.") "The producers were also there to put together a presentation piece," Buell adds. "They were supposed to be with us for the whole weekend but they ended up fleeing after four hours. One guy started crying and said, 'This is not what I signed up for!' "
2. A Mothman Recording?
In Point Pleasant, W.Va., to investigate the Mothman phenomenon (the subject of the 2002 film The Mothman Prophecies), a psychic told Buell he'd contacted the Mothman and the Mothman would give the young investigator a sign. So that night, Buell set up a voice-activated recorder on his hotel nightstand to catch any sounds in the night. In the morning, the recorder was gone. "I got this weird hunch to look in the drawer of the nightstand," says Buell. "Sure enough, there it was. And it said, 'memory full.' I have not yet listened to it. Part of me feels like there's something on there."
3. Prison Attack
While working in the warden's tower of the West Virginia State Penitentiary, Buell came upon an inverted pentagram, which "suggests an occult-like practice," he says, and interviews and rumors revealed that "devil worship was a big, big thing in the prison." Up in the tower, "something flew right by my head," he recalls. "Then, I heard laughing, someone cackling at me, and a door banging. We even got it on video." Frightening as the encounter was, "When that stuff happens, we don't run," he says. "We hold our ground and use religious prayers and holy water." Not that he wasn't thoroughly spooked. "I was unnerved," Buell says. "It was intense!"