The real-life paranormal origins (and impact) of ‘Ghostbusters’


Fascinating: last week, right on the heels of Harold Ramis’s death, Esquire published “An Oral History of Ghostbusters” (originally published in Premiere Magazine), in which various cast and crew members recount the making, reception, and enduring cultural impact of everybody’s favorite ghost-chasing movie. And it leads with a statement from Dan Aykroyd about the way the film arose out of his serious reading, and also his personal and familial history,  in the field of real paranormal and psychical research:

In about 1981, I read an article on quantum physics and parapsychology in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. And it was like, bang — that’s it. It was also a combination of my family’s history — my great-grandfather was an Edwardian spiritualist, and my mother claims she saw an apparition of my great-great-grandparents while nursing me and watching films like the Bowery Boys’ Ghost Chasers and Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to update the ghost movies from the ’40s?”

FULL STORY: “An Oral History of Ghostbusters

The fact that Aykroyd is personally interested in such matters is not, of course, news. In addition to having prominently associated himself with UFO research, he openly self-identifies as a Spiritualist. And as it turns out, all the way back in 2003 he told Private Clubs magazine about the inspiring influence of these things on Ghostbusters:

PRIVATE CLUBS: Was your enthusiasm for the paranormal the spark for Ghostbusters or did Ghostbusters spark your enthusiasm?

DAN AYKROYD: My great-grandfather was an Edwardian spiritualist who belonged to the British Society for Psychical Research, and he got the entire family thinking along these lines back three generations ago. My grandfather had séances in the farmhouse. My father read everything he could on trance mediumship, where the medium will go into a trance and become another person, speak in another voice. They did a lot of that. So this stuff was lying around the house, and it was natural for me to have an interest in it.

In light of all this, I can’t help but wonder about the possibility that, if the paranormal really is America’s new religion, then the epic impact of Ghostbusters, which landed like a mile-wide asteroid in the middle of popular culture in 1984, may be implicated in such a development, given the movie’s creative and philosophical grounding in serious “real-world” issues of this sort. Maybe I, along with everybody else in America, was unwittingly imbibing a huge dose of authentic paranormal/supernatural and daemonic/shamanic psychic energy as we sat laughing our lungs out in darkened movie theaters 30 years ago while four wise-ass bozos paraded across the screen battling an invading horde of other-dimensional ghosts and demons.

Image via Wikipedia, Fair Use

About Matt Cardin


Posted on March 7, 2014, in Arts & Entertainment, Paranormal and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Absolutely yes. When I was a kid we all had Ghostbusters toys. I was born in 1985 and raised in a midst of paranormal stuff from a very young age. Have you ever seen the Disney films Mr. Boogedy and Bride of Boogedy ? I might have sent them to you before already in a message but there are similar ideas in the film to Ghostbusters like the idea of a ‘Silver Key’ opening the astral gate for otherwise communion with supernatural forces and so on.

  2. This is a great , really biased documentary made by Christian programming all about the kids toys in the 80s and 90s — — its a riot and truly educational all about the occult and so on.

  3. I watched Mr. Boogedy a shit ton as a kid . It was one of the few films we had taped from the TV and I watched it over and over and over . I also had the censored TV version on tape of Total Recall and Terminator 2 but then was when I was a bit older etc. Even Terminator 2 has some paranormal stuff to it the way the liquid metal robot can extend his soul and pass through objects and take the image of other people and so on he is like a sorcerer or daemon of some kind. Total Recall is of course full of psychic mutants and things like this . I was really weened on the stuff as a 90s kid I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth as far as the occult goes.

  4. a haha the index,

    1:10 – Scooby-Doo
    9:25 – He-Man
    12:53 – God isn’t Master of the Universe
    15:52 – Skeletor Snake Mountain toy
    28:15 – Classic kids commercials
    31:00 – Demonic Rainbow Brite and GI Joe cereal
    32:35 – Kids taking on the occult with He-Man toys
    33:11 – She-Ra
    39:22 – Thundercats, Hinduism and Paganism
    47:35 – Ken and Barbie
    50:16 – Dungeons and Dragons
    57:33 – Blackstar
    58:30 – The Infaceables
    59:12 – Sectaurs
    1:02:07 – Star Wars, Odin, and Witchcraft
    1:03:28 – ET The Extra Terrestrial, occult movie
    1:05:30 – Comic book heroes, Golden Girl
    1:08:19 – GI Joe
    1:11:23 – Rambo
    1:12:40 – Smurfs are zombie homosexuals
    1:15:00 – Care Bears
    1:16:45 – The Littles
    1:18:10 – My Little Pony
    1:19:45 – Rainbow Brite is humanistic
    1:20:55 – Voltron
    1:27:24 – Transformers
    1:31:00 – You’re cursed, closing prayer.

    • Thanks for this, Daniel (he said three weeks after the fact!). Just as you say, the 1980s and early 90s truly were an amazing time to be growing up in a pop culture environment that was saturated with this kind of stuff even as the puritanical fundamentalist Christian assault on the very idea of the paranormal and the esoteric was prominently playing out in the mass media and mainstream cultural conversation. I like to think a new era of something similar was inaugurated in the late 1990s by the likes of The Matrix, The Truman Show, and the host of additional films that explored the Philip K. Dickian idea of hyperreal/illusory worlds that hold people captive until they are awakened to their plight and attempt to escape. Victoria Nelson’s analysis of this trend in her The Secret Life of Puppets has long struck me as a really valuable examination of the way the repressed Platonic/mystical visionary impulse continued to squeeze its way into the dominant Aristotelian/materialist culture via these pop cultural entertainment channels.

      • It’s weird as though it comes in cycles it seems to surface, and themes play out within its high art, creative people wrestle with those themes that terrify people and it recedes again only to re-emerge with the same again . Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter had been coincidental . Popular stories made for cash . No offence to those movies some of them are great movies .

        What I think needs to happen is there are types like Charles Manson, or the Columbine school killers, or that kid who shot up the batman theatre.. people with mental problems.. there’s always these people around but society keeps failing to reconcile community together . I think in a way we keep burning our bridges, human greed , and so on

        Coleridge And The Daemonic Imagination by Gregory Leadbetter a great book about a famous writer and growing pains . Reading it is hard because he sounded like a real psychopath . I get a sense reading his notebooks selected quotes that he was someone really far gone . but I think his circle of friends like Wordsworth and so on kept him together . I could imagine someone like him without social glue falling apart and I think that’s what the problem is .

      • What I mean is that I think naturally there is this need to express it, in some way, without sounding insane . and art is a great means for this . but it seems to result in a kind of culture shock that never gets fully reconciled with. and i think this kind of culture shock will keep happening until there is a real conversation about it. i have a lot of respect for Kripal for this because I think he recognizes the traumatic element often associated . things explode , psi happens, psi happens then things explode .

      • I’ll use Lord of the Rings, Dune, recent Batman films as a recent example.

        Films about war, calamity, madness, and becoming .

        The new Batman films came from a really dark place in the psyche. So dark that i couldn’t watch them. They’re hurtful to watch . and the suicide of the actor who played Joker, after the warning by Jack Nicholson to “not play that guy, he’s trouble” was not heeded.. look what happened. These things surface, and in sensitive trouble peopled they surface something really dark, and someone goes and shoots up a movie theatre. but society keeps having trouble with this and not reconciling it and sorting it out.

        this is a great quote by Coleridge, partial, from that book,

        [?monas/moral] state – each to forbid himself to be conscious of another’s acts except thro’ the senses.> One of the strangest and most painful Peculiarities of my Nature (unless others have the same, & like me, hide it from the same inexplicable feeling of causeless shame & sense of a sort of guilt, joined with the apprehension of being feared and shrunk from as a something transnatural) I will here record – and my Motive or rather Impulse to do this, seems to myself an effort to † eloign and abalienate it from the dark Adyt of my own Being by a visual Outness – & not the wish for others to see it –
        It consists in a sudden second sight of some hidden Vice, past, present, or to come, of the person or persons with whom I am about to form a close intimacy – which never deters me but rather (as all these transnaturals) urge me on, just like the feeling of an Eddy-Torrent to a swimmer/. I see it as a Vision, feel it as a Prophecy – not as one given me by any other Being, but as an act of my own Spirit, of the absolute Noumenon/ which in so doing seems to have offended against some Law of its Being, & to have acted the Traitor by a commune with full Consciousness independent of the tenure or inflicted state of Association, Cause & Effect &c &c –
        Thus it was thiw Gift tuum/ & so thiw Yram + ettolrach–/
        These occasional acts of the Eγo νoυμενoς = repetitions or semblances of the original Fall of Man–hence shame & power–to leave the appointed Station and become Δαιμων‡
        † to eloign a eloigner, elongare, abire, fugere in longum,–in the imperative eloign thee! = make thyself distant/off with thee to moldary! Go to Hell & to the farthest end of it! &c &c–in French e sounds as an English a, and the interchange between I and r is of notorious frequency in etymology–Hence, Aroynt thee, witch! . . I suppose to be–Eloign thee, witch.

        He was a very troubled person .

  5. Ghostbusters compared to Twilight is something else

    the Paranormal Awe and Dread is the whole reason why something like the One Ring is so powerful and alluring

    Shamanism is this odd thing whereby.. the people portrayed as on the fence must always be depicted as retaining their humanity . To go into the Wilderness, and become the Wendigo, will get you lynched by society .

    but the allure to become Wendigo, and I’m not technically supposed to say this you understand, is the point why those great works of art exist

    That allure, even though it is subversive and transgressive of your original social order, when you cross the boundary between Life and Death, represented by the One Ring for instance, your realize that those demonic forces outside of the social order were the very forces that had drawn you into that transnatural condition, which had always belonged to them, but within the social fabric of reality those forces must always be shunned as beyond the human .

    There are few people who enter the wilderness, and come back without their tails between their legs

    Ghostbusters as a film is one of those rare examples whereby the forces that offer such transformation are realized

    a lot of other films like Twilight in trying to realize them they fail and they become cheesy

    there is nothing cheesy about Ghostbusters the humour is well put and the demonic stuff in the film is truly creepy, if a bit campy, it’s one of those rare films dangerously straddling the fence

    for me, the Shaman, as opposed to the sorcerer, is really an incomplete circuit

    I don’t identify with shamanism at all. Shamanism is a means of trance to access the demonic , not a means of becoming demonic yourself as sorcery is

    Reiki thereby is a kind of sorcery, but in denial

    Ghostbusters achieves going beyond the fence into forbidden territory, at great risk of social rejection, is one of the sole examples where a supernaturally suffused film is able to portray such inhuman concepts at a distance through irony and humour.. but the danger is there .

    I guess Twilight succeeds at this to a point, there is a social palatable humour to the film, but their danger I think is not nearly so fully realized and dreadful as Ghostsbusters or Lord of the Rings. Twilight has never scared me .

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