Get ready for the National Tour
American Ghost Hunter has been seen only by a select few up until now, but due to demand, we have decided to respond by bringing the film to your front door!
In 2007, the paranormal community was buzzing about two key individuals: Ryan Buell, who at the age of 25, was one of the most respected paranormal researchers in the U.S., and was on the verge of headlining a major tent pole show for A&E called, "Paranormal State", and Chad Calek, an award winning documentary filmmaker, acclaimed music video director, and lifelong paranormal investigator, who was rapidly gaining notoriety for his then ground breaking documentary, "Terror Normal: The Ghost of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium".
The two met briefly over the phone, where Buell invited Calek to play his film at UNIV-CON, the largest paranormal conference in the country. Due to prior obligations, Calek wasn't able to accept, but the two promised to stay in touch.
In December 2007, "Paranormal State" launched with mixed reactions. Many saw the show as too dark, too religious and too controversial from what viewers were used to seeing on SyFy's smash hit success "Ghost Hunters", which had enjoyed being the country's sole paranormal reality show for years. In fact, even Calek admits that in the beginning, he didn't understand Buell's motives with the show... until one key scene tied it all together.
"When it comes to the paranormal, at that point, I had spent most of my 20 year investigative career attempting to simply capture definitive evidence of life after death. And in doing so, to this day, my team and I remove any sort of spiritual or religious ideologies from our research, in favor of hard science being the sole tool in our attempts to explain the evidence we've captured. So when I watched PRS work, there were so many different levels of spiritual belief flying around, that it just seemed like they were stretching. But when I saw Ryan, a Catholic, rowing Eilfie, a Pagan, with knife in hand mind you (laughs), in a boat to do a Pagan banishment ritual over a pond because the FAMILY believed it could help, it suddenly all made sense. From our own research with PK (psychokinesis), we've seen evidence that supports the theory that belief alone is a powerful medium that can alter the reality of a situation. The clients of PRS truly believed in their hearts that their homes were haunted. And in many cases, those families had either captured evidence of their own or already had paranormal teams capture evidence as well. So after confirmation, what's the next step?" said Calek. "At that point, a meaningful attempt to bring resolve is needed. And with no certainties in the paranormal, why not push the boundaries and try everything known to man to help that family find peace? If a family believes that religious rituals will bring about peace, it's possible that their belief alone in that ritual being performed could actually bring the results they desire. So if the clients agreed with PRS's methods, regardless of how unconventional they were, I believe the risks they were taking were justified. It was forward thinking in a field that had grown ideologically stagnant over the years with repetitive and overly cautionary efforts that have consistently left investigators without reward. So yeah. At that point, I became a fan and I wrote a blog about it to show my public support, which some viewed as controversial, as Paranormal State was getting hammered by some outspoken prominent members of the paranormal community. But to be honest, having never won any popularity contests in my lifetime, I guess I didn't feel like I was losing out on anything by speaking my mind."
Appreciative of the public support, Buell wrote to Calek, and the two corresponded on a regular basis. A few months later, the two met at a paranormal convention, and immediately became inseparable.
"It was strange for a lot of people, because they couldn't understand how the two of us, who looked and appeared to be complete opposites, could get along so well," said Buell. "For some reason, a lot of people feared us becoming friends."
"Without a doubt, we're very different from each other, but the last thing I want to do is hang out with myself. But as different as we are, we had commonalities that we saw eye to eye on. Although Ryan was working in the world of network television, and I had made my career in the world of independent filmmaking, which are two dramatically different arenas, we were wise enough to see there was great potential in us working together. And regardless of the career field, when two unlikely individuals with strong convictions become allies and the first thing they do is step into the fold and throw the manual out the window, it's going to make people nervous," said Calek. "Between Terror Normal and Paranormal State, folks began to sense that a dramatic change was on the horizon."
With "Paranormal State" being picked up for a second season, and its popularity now soaring, Buell invited Calek to guest investigate for an episode that would eventually be called, "Good vs. Evil." It was the first time Calek and Buell investigated together, and the dynamic between the two was instantly recognizable. A&E heavily promoted the episode as the series premier, which immediately became a fan favorite, as a quote from Calek in that episode (There's something down here, bro), was featured in the season premier commercial, which became a constantly repeated catch phrase by fans of the show throughout the entire season.
For Buell, the chance to bring Calek on a few more taped investigations was an exciting prospect.
"We just had fun every time we were all together," said Buell. "We forgot about the cameras and just focused on trying to capture the unknown."
Buell eventually invited Calek to be a part of more than 25 episodes, in which their "Dead Time" investigations became legendary to fans of the franchise. But more importantly, the two formed a working partnership rooted in friendship.
In 2009, after joining Calek's AGH paranormal investigation team on a trip to the West Virginia State Penitentiary, Calek shared with Buell the hidden secrets he and his team has discovered after researching and investigating the prison nine times over the course of five years, including the now famous Warden's Tower Pentagram.
After an intense solo investigation of the Warden's Tower dramatically impacted Buell, the concept of returning to the prison to settle unfinished business was spawn. Buell, wanting to shake things up even further, discussed the possibility of doing a full episodic collaboration with Calek, in which Buell would serve as co-executive producer and Calek would direct.
With this in mind, Buell, Calek and the production team set off for West Virginia State Penitentiary to film an episode that would intentionally attempt to break the boundaries and formulas previously set by "Paranormal State" by utilizing Calek's trademark cinematic style, while focusing more on the interactions of the PRS team members instead of a traditional client.
After many political battles, both on and off set, the two got their chance, and the 1-hour special would eventually air to high ratings and critical success, with many hailing the Calek/Buell collaboration as being the "next generation" of paranormal television.
"Whether you loved it or hated it, that was all anyone in the paranormal circles were talking about," said Buell.
"When you step out of a traditional formula that people love, you're essentially fixing what isn't broken. So it was very risky. When it comes to directing, even though I always remain true to what I think works, with the intention of ignoring critics for better or worse, it was hard to ignore that level of excitement from the fans. It truly was humbling experience," said Calek.
It was this continued working partnership that fostered even further professional trust between Calek and Buell. So much so, that after permanently earning the title of Executive Producer in 2010, Buell responded by hiring Calek to be the regular series director for the 5th season of "Paranormal State."
"Ry, Sergey and I and take trips to New York all the time to get a way and just have a good time. I was outside having a smoke while waiting for our dinner at Tao when Ryan began telling me what he wanted for Season 5, how the show needed to go in a different direction, and that he wanted to hire me as the director for the entire season, " said Calek. "But literally the second after he offered it to me, a homeless man decided to verbally assault me to the point where security escorted him away from the restaurant entrance. To this day I'm not sure why he went off on me. Dude was yelling about me about his uncle and that we wanted a car. Really bizarre. But yeah. I accepted! It was a great moment I'll never forget. And in weird Paranormal State way, it seemed fitting (laughs)".
Over the course of their working relationship, Buell and Calek had now become best friends, in which Calek, over time, eventually chose to confide in Buell about several then-secretive details surrounding his past, including the bizarre series of events that led to Calek's family enduring a horrific battle with some of the most intense paranormal activity he had ever recorded… activity that began when Calek was 12 years old, after his family moved to a small town in Iowa that he believed to hold a dark secret.
Calek explained to Buell that he wanted to make a documentary about the events, where he would return to try to finally make sense of it all.
"I remember asking him why it was so important to him, because he started to talk about it more and more, and he said, 'I'm a documentarian. It's what I'm meant to do. I truly feel I'm supposed to share this real story with the world,'" said Buell.
"At the time, I was far from a spiritual person. But I truly did feel some sort of spiritual 'calling' if you will. And it's a calling that I continue to feel to this very day. I'm typically long winded, but it isn't really something I can articulate, other than to say I just felt that something greater than I had been preparing me for this throughout my life. And it was time...," said Calek.
Calek asked Buell to join him, and together they began to plot out trying to raise the resources in order to make the documentary.
With Buell backing Calek's creative passion and direction for the project, the two met with a few producers and a TV network, which immediately wanted the project, but at a high price. The network wanted to turn the documentary in to a watered down version of "Paranormal State", in which Calek also wouldn't have final cut of the project. In addition, they would also have to sign away 100 percent of the rights to the project forever. Buell and Calek were told to take it or leave it.
"Signing away all rights for eternity for the sake of a few bucks seemed pretty much like selling my family up a river, since this is my family and I's life story. Beyond that, with this film, money only mattered to me as a means to an end. So taking the quickest option to make the film at the cost of betraying the very meaning in which the film needed to be made, was something that was never going to happen. But I appreciated the interest, as I don't blame them for going after every bit of it, as I learned a long time ago that it's my job to make sure I don't get the lesser of any deal I enter into. So as frustrating as it was, I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't personal. But regardless, I knew in my gut the entire time that this wasn't the path I was meant to travel. And I know Ryan felt the same way," said Calek.
Needless to say, the option of "leaving it" was a simple choice, as the two immediately passed. It was then that Buell offered to personally finance the film in order to give Calek the creative freedoms to do what was needed. It seemed a no-brainer. The two agreed, and prepared to make "American Ghost Hunter" during the off-season of "Paranormal State."
"There were many opportunities to make this documentary on many different levels," said Calek. "But when Ryan offered to get behind the project in full force in order to ensure that I would have 100 percent creative control, I knew then and there that this was the way it was meant to be. The truth would remain intact and the real story would be told. And it goes without saying that words cannot express the magnitude of gratitude I'll always feel. As a friend it meant the world to me, but professionally, it was a very bold move for Ryan as well... a move that I always hold a great amount of respect for."
Despite Calek’s tales being so large in scale, since Buell had an earned trust in Calek’s word, Buell agreed to travel to western Iowa in order to experience for himself what had become the primary focus of Calek’s entire investigative career.
"I remember saying, 'man, this is all really real… this really happened to him,'" said Buell, who like Calek, also had a series of traumatic paranormal experiences as a child.
A few days after flying home, Buell and Calek would speak on the phone once again, in which their mission was defined. Return. Bring help. And at all costs, find a way to end the suffering that had been endured for over 20 years.
Calek then held an intense and emotional meeting with his family to discuss the possibility of filming the entire process, so that those suffering under the same circumstances would know that not only are they not crazy, but more importantly... they are not alone.
After a year of back and forth debate and discussion, as well as countless hours of prayer, the Calek family agreed to allow the entire investigation process, and all attempts to stop the activity, to be documented.
"To say this was decision was difficult, would be a massive understatement. People that have yet to see this film, have no idea how intense, personal and disturbing this story is. But needless to say, I knew our efforts could potentially make the situation turn deadly. We went back and forth so many times, until finally we all decided that the world needs to know. Regardless of what may happen, we are not the only ones, and for those suffering, we can bring strength and comfort in numbers by letting others know they are not crazy. They are not alone. If we could focus on our love for each other, endure whatever occurred and never break, for the first time ever, we had not only a real chance to get help, but a chance to turn a terrible 20 year negative situation into a positive for the rest of our lives. This could give all the suffering a positive value... and with that, came hope. But that was 'if' we could stick together, which was unknown. The eye of this storm was something that struck fear to the core of every one of us," said Calek.
There was also another factor. Buell was somewhat hesitant to participate because of the fact that he'd be investigating Calek's family. Buell explained that identifying and confronting the root of the problem was likely to take them down some very sensitive and dark roads. He raised the question, would Calek be willing to put himself and his family through this in order to help them? Calek confirmed that at all costs, he was 100 percent committed. Furthermore, it was agreed that under no circumstances would the cameras be allowed to stop filming. No matter how painful, no matter how violent, no matter what revelations came out… all would be documented.
What occurred over the following 18 days would alter the lives of every single person involved with the making of this documentary.
The events you will see are not only 100 percent real... but they are accurate as they occurred.