Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe in “malevolent…Class-4…apparitions” or “non-terminal repeating phantasms,” also known as, “Class-5, full-roaming vapors?” Dan Aykroyd, half of the comedy duo that brought the world Ghostbusters (1984) and therefore the Ghostbusters (2016) reboot, very much does believe. Aykroyd’s interest in what some might call pseudo-science and others would call supernatural, was inherited: his father is a published author on the subject of the paranormal, and grandfather, a purported inventor of much less sophisticated ghost hunting gadgets than those used by reboot show stealer, Kate McKinnon’s barely-acted and hilarious nutty professor/particle physicist character, Jillian Boltzmann, err…Holtzmann.
The following reads like an ‘Easter egg-article’ but is not a list of inside jokes, per se, like the fact that current SNL cast member McKinnon’s character’s last name is most likely a nod to Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, whose work in-part led to the discovery of nuclear energy, but is rather a list of real-world people, places, things, events and (what some would call) facts directly and explicitly referenced or appearing in either or both Ghostbusters films. Famous faces appearing and credited as their selves are listed here, but no mention besides the following is made, for instance, of SNL alum Bill Murray’s reboot appearance as the archetypal skeptic that necessarily goads the Ghostbusters and their franchise along.
Given that 2016’s Ghostbusters is a reboot, a remake with creative license, there is a healthy mix of real-world people, places, things, events and facts that made it into both movies. After all, both movies subsist off of the same premise: a team of scientists and skeptics with kooky gadgets for nabbing spooky pests save the world (i.e., New York City) from a supernatural evil. Still, some reality-inspired Ghostbuster moments are unique to the reboot or the original only. The concepts having to do with the scientific study of ghosts sprinkled throughout, on the other hand, have found their way into every Ghostbusters franchise project, from the less-touted Ghostbusters II to the animated series, The Real Ghostbusters, the video games, and beyond. Enjoy these 15 Ghostbusters movie moments, some of which, guaranteed, you did not know were based in fact.
Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the believer and the skeptic, wrote Ghostbusters together out of a shared borderline-obsession with the occult and the people who have sought to scientifically and rigorously study it. Dan told The Daily Beast back in 2009 that he is a fourth-generation believer and his now-deceased writing partner, Harold, was a skeptic but as such was just as familiar with studies that Dan had read in fascination as a kid in journals like that published by the American Society for Psychical Research.
The alleged scientists who do the sort of research published in journals like these believe that ectoplasm is the chemical substance that ghost who take physical form are made out of. Though such “materialization” has never been reported, Aykroyd and family still hold out hope of one day seeing an ectoplasmic ghost.
14. “Ozzy” Osbourne “Cameo”
A “cameo” is by definition the appearance of a well-known performer in a performance, acting like a character from a story as opposed to acting natural on stage or in front of a camera. Though Ozzy has become more of a caricature of himself than a person in his own right over the years, his yelling to wife Sharon, about the possibility that he may be hallucinating a flying demonic apparition the Ghostbusters eventually trap at a heavy metal concert is true to form for the Prince of Darkness. In fact, minus CGI winged hellspawn and four females wielding nuclear-powered lasers, Osbourne’s appearance may as well have been a reunion episode of The Osbournes.
13. Sigourney Weaver And The Dogs Of Gozer
Rather than the best band name ever created (‘you’re welcome’), the headline for this entry comes from the fact that the demonic gargoyles-turned-fleshy, flesh-eating dogs who attend to character Dana Barratt (Sigourney Weaver) once she has been possessed by the evil deity Gozer in 1984’s Ghostbusters may have been inspired by the actress’ audition reel. Coming off of her intense, dramatic stint as Ripley in Aliens, Weaver decided to read for the role of Gozer’s dogs rather than the headstrong nerd-eater that she ended up portraying on screen. In a true-to-definition cameo, Sigourney essentially reprises her role as far as her reboot character Rebecca Gorin, who appears in a mid-credits sequence, and her clear disdain for men in the Paranormal Studies lab go.
12. Gizmos, Gadgets And Gimmicks, Oh My!
The Ghostbusters franchise has to rank at least among the top five best science-fiction series’ as far as the quality and quantity of technobabble go. Technobabble is, technically (pun intended), language or jargon that is meant to sound informed and scientific but that, for the most part and given things like hyperdrives and proton gloves are still figments of the future, is gibberish. As technologies goes the way of Jules Vernes’ predictions and become a reality, the technobabble gets more heavily peppered with fact-based words and phrases, like the following frantic outburst from reboot inventor, Holtzmann (McKinnon):
“I improved beam accuracy by adding a plasma shield to the RF discharge chamber, I have a cryo-cooler to reduce helium boil-up and, to top it all off, we have a freakin’ Faraday cage.” Where is the truth in this statement? The Faraday cage is a metal mesh enclosure used to protect experimental setups and sensitive electronic equipment from electrostatic and radio frequency (i.e., “RF”) interference. In the same vein, the Slinky-like rings on the Ghostbusters proton packs are modeled after particle accelerators like the Hadron collider built in 2008 on the French-Swiss border.
11. A Mix Of CG And Costume
This list item happens to apply to both the original 1984 Ghostbusters and the 2016 reboot. Ivan Reitman, the director of the first film, apparently drew inspiration or more accurately knowhow from his days as a theater director, especially his stint working with world-class illusionist Doug Henning, on stage directing a Broadway run of a musical adaptation of the Arthurian Merlin myth. In Reitman’s Ghostbusters, stage magic was used to levitate Sigourney Weaver’s character Dana Barrett, once the latter became possessed by an angry God. According to reboot director Paul Feig, the first malevolent spirit to spit up on Kristen Wiig’s character Erin, was played by a living human wearing an LED-light suit and a harness that did all of the levitating for actress Bess Rous. To mash up and mutilate two semi-relevant sayings: why fix an old dog’s tricks for new owners when those tricks are not broke(n)?
In a 2009 interview he gave to The Daily Beast, Peter Aykroyd, Dan Aykroyd’s father, told reporters that he was “elated” with early drafts of the 1980s script, and not for its all-star comedian cast and special effects, but for its accuracy in portraying the metaphysical world. Speaking on the 1984 film’s opening sequence wherein a ghost lady, very similar to Gertrude Aldridge’s phantasm in the 2016 film, projectile vomits ectoplasm onto an unsuspecting elderly librarian working late at the New York Public Library, Aykroyd senior went on to say that this was “a pure poltergeist phenomenon and absolutely true to form.” Whether you are a believer or not, at least both movies stayed true to what paranormal investigators like the Aykroyds consider to be scientifically-based knowledge.
9. Fictional Non-Fiction: Real Books, Fake Knowledge
Ghosts of Our Past Both Literally and Figuratively and Tobin’s Spirit Guide are two examples of life imitating art. Real-life ghost hunters or scientific seekers of the paranormal, like Ghostbusters co-creator Dan Aykroyd’s father, Peter, have published books similar to Ghosts of Our Past, which is a book in the 2016 reboot written by estranged friends Abby and Erin and subtitled, The Study of the Paranormal. Peter Aykroyd’s book is titled The History of Ghosts: The True Story of Seances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters.
Children of the 80s may have also been a fan of a TV series called The Real Ghostbusters, which saw animated versions of the original four: ‘Busters, Peter (Murray), Raymond (Ackroyd), Egon (Harold Ramis) and Winston (Ernie Hudson) encounter and catch a whole host of supernatural entities not seen in any of the feature-length films. The show also featured a book titled Tobin’s Spirit Guide, that has been printed on real-world paper for fans of the franchise now to enjoy.
8. Harold Ramis (Or) Bust
There are several scenes or plot points that appear in both Ghostbusters movies including a conversation between a disgruntled Dean and a well-meaning but hapless professor about to lose his (Dr. Venkman/Bill Murray’s) funding or her (Dr. Erin Gilbert/Kristen Wiig’s) job. In 1984, it was a Dean Yager (Jordan Charney) gloating to tell Dr. Venkman he is to “vacate the premises immediately” and in 2016, it is Dean Filmore (Charles Dance) indignantly terminating Dr. Gilbert. This may be an ‘Easter egg’ of sorts, but, in Dean Filmore’s office in the reboot, there is a golden bust of late, great Ghostbusters co-creator and head writer on two additional cult-classics (Groundhog Day and Caddyshack) Harold Ramis. Ramis played Dr. Egon Spengler, a characters whose namesake actually also exists, alongside a bust of Harold, in the real world.
7. “Slimer’s” Name
For being the spokesmodel of sorts for the Ghostbusters franchise, it is interesting that this green ghoul’s name was given to him by audience members after the 1984 film was released. On set, the original cast members and crew referred to Slimer as Onionhead or The Onionhead Ghost, but he was never actually named in the script. Even more ironic is the fact that Slimer’s (literally) snotty, gross-out, party-animal style has come to represent the tongue-in-cheek, skeptical but scientific and always downright silly when things get too heavy aesthetic of the entire franchise. So, now you know: Slimer’s name came from our plane of existence, and the cult-classic status of the Ghostbusters movies seems to have come from his world.
6. Spiritual Possession
Whether or not you are a highly religious or devout person or not, that does not change the fact that several high profile cases of demonic possession and supposed exorcism have been recorded for posterity. Furthermore, several (some might say too many) exorcism-themed movies have been inspired by or based on, to varying degrees, these real-world cases. I write “cases” because the most notable of these reported demonic possessions ended with the victim passing away from lack of proper nutrition and medical care and her parents being tried for murder by neglect, in so many words. If you are a skeptic, like me, then you would be quicker to call spiritual possession a psychiatric disorder, but then again, maybe psychiatry and psychical studies are two sides of the same coin.
5. The Tunguska “Blast”/Event Of 1909/1908
In the original Ghostbusters (1984), Dan Aykroyd plays Dr. Raymond Stantz, a man who has a clear, firm stance on the issue of the existence of ghosts, giddily congratulates traumatized and befuddled nerd-pawn Louis Tully (played by Rick Moranis) for surviving “the biggest inter-dimensional cross rip since the Tunguska blast of 1909.” According to sources outside of the silver screen, there really was an unexplainable atmospheric event that occurred in a place called Tunguska, but was called an event and is said to have occurred in 1908, rather than 1909.
Either way, within the first decade of the 20th century, an unplanned, unexpected, massive explosion occurred near the Tunguska River in Russia. Rather than attribute this blast to other worldly sources, this event is considered by most to be the likely result of a meteor called a superbolide exploding.
4. Hotel Chelsea Be Haunted, Allegedly
Spoiler Alert! In the Ghostbusters reboot (as in the 1984 release that kicked off the franchise), the action comes to a head when the team of spook hunters put on their detective hats to locate the epicenter of malevolant spiritual energy terrorizing New York City and driving the plot. The reboot has brains-of-the-operation Erin (Kristen Wiig), marking the location of reported paranormal activity on a map, one of which is an actual place that has actually been reported as haunted.
The Chelsea is a hotel located on the island of Manhattan in NYC, between midtown and the Village, where several generations of American counterculture, from beatnik to punk, found their voice. It is no surprise then, that Hotel Chelsea is allegedly haunted by the spirit of at least two notable members of the artistic community, who met their ends there.
3. The Logo: Larger Than Real-Life
If anything and despite any (incorrect) complaints about the new Ghostbusters relative to its predecessor, once can say, without a doubt, that the 2016 edition takes the movie magic that impressed the original film so indelibly into our imaginations to an entirely new level. Malevolent spirits and bad guys alike are somehow scarier this time around and, though the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man made an appearance, there is an even bigger, “bad-der” ghost than Mr. Stay Puft. For the reboot, rather than make up a brand to avoid infringing on the Michelin Man’s trademarked persona, the writers and animators chose to bring a very familiar and very real logo to life, the Ghostbusters logo itself. Think: Mr. Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas meets Casper the Not-So-Friendly Ghost.
2. John “Slimer” Belushi, R.I.P.
By different accounts the ‘Slimer’ character was either modeled after or jokingly referred to as the ghost of the late great John Belushi, who was set to play Peter Venkman, the smartass immortalized by fellow SNL-alum Bill Murray, but tragically died of a drug overdose before Aykroyd and Harold Ramis were finished with the script. Whatever you call “him” or not, this party animal from another dimension has a partner in crime, literally, in the new film, and in my humble opinion improved Ghostbusters.
Maybe it is only knowing the connection between everybody’s favorite green ghoul and everybody’s favorite Blues Brother (Dan Aykroyd being the other “brother” in that equation) that led me to read into the reboot, but if you look closely as Slimer and “the Mrs.” make their last exit and fall into the abyss, their expressions turn from fear to fun as they throw up their hands to enjoy one last ride.
1. Haters In The Theater, Hater On The Screen
Rumors about the decision to switch up the genders of the core five protagonists of the Ghostbusters surfaced almost exactly two years before the reboot made it to theaters, and almost immediately the predictable but always disappointing knee-jerk, anti-change, pro-status quo reactions came leaking in through Twitter and Facebook. Meanwhile, 2016’s version of the film blows the original out of the water in terms of laughs per second and on-screen chemistry between the good guys. Rather than back down from the misogynistic attacks the film and its cast and crew have had to endure leading up to the reboot’s release, counterattacks were launched through the script itself in several places; most notably, Wiig and McCarthy’s squabbling over whether to respond to sexist, skeptics who the Ghostbusters just cannot seem to get away from.