It takes only a cursory glance at Ghostbusters to figure out that just about everything that takes place within the film is firmly rooted in the world of fiction, from the giant marshmallow man to a woman somehow being put off by the amazingness that is Bill Murray. But this wondrous made-up universe has entered the real world in a marvelous and surprising way, as writer Matthew Phelan has created a lengthy and intelligently crafted article written as if it were the cover story in The Atlantic Monthly as seen in the film. You remember it, right? It was after they had blasted a few ghosts and ghouls and became local celebrities. Short of someone perfectly replicating the Necronomicon seen in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead, this is probably the most outstanding example of fandom taken to illogically splendid extremes.
Phelan, who we’ll assume doesn’t walk around with a proton pack strapped to his back, had his piece reviewed by two particle physicist researchers for fact-checking purposes. (I bet E.L. Gray didn’t bring in physicists to look over her formerly fan fiction 50 Shades of Grey.) The densely informational article is an objective take on how the Ghostbusters fit into society at large, and presents arguments both for and against their presence from all manner of political and governmental authorities, and also includes quite a bit of input from the guys themselves, as the scientific backgrounds of Dr. Egon Spengler and Dr. Ray Stantz are the main ground of defense the Ghostbusters have going for them. Everybody knows Dr. Peter Venkman just wants money, women and the limelight. As a plus, we also get to hear insight from interviews with the pre-possessed Dana Barrett, secretary Janine Melnitz and the nebbish Louis Tully.
Here’s a few excerpts:
For anyone with insomnia in the New York metro area, the ads have become ubiquitous: three middle-aged men dressed in cornflower blue lab coats, holding mysterious technical equipment, and offering the owners of haunted houses (or haunted anything, really) their unique ghost capture and removal services.
I first saw one after falling asleep to the dulcet drawl of Charles Rose on “CBS News Nightwatch.” The spot feels like a parody of those local commercials starring used car salesman and “crazy” warehouse owners. It ends with the team pointing their fingers at the camera, like Uncle Sam in an army recruitment poster, and shouting flatly over the din of passing traffic, “We’re ready to believe you!”
You may know of these men already. They’re the Ghostbusters.
For their part, Stantz, Spengler and Venkman all refused to comment for this article on their rather lucrative involvement with both the plaintiffs and the defendants in the McMartin Preschool “satanic ritual abuse” trial. They were also equally silent when I asked them about a National Enquirer piece that claims Ghostbusters International had received payments via White House discretionary funds through First Lady Nancy Reagan and her alleged personal astrologer, Joan Quigley.
“I wouldn’t call them hucksters from my personal experience,” says Dana Barrett, a cellist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. “I don’t know. It’s just sometimes hard to believe they were former college professors and not just former students.”
Cliches like “legal gray area” fail to adequately describe the terrain the Ghostbusters find themselves navigating, far out on the fringes of quantum physics and spiritual mysticism (ostensibly), and operating technology no one seems to understand. They’re off the charts—either wildly past the point of illegality, inventing new crimes and committing weird combinations of old crimes at a staggering pace, or positioned well beyond mere civic virtue at some superheroic point we may have to call sainthood.
It’s cold comfort given these stakes, but according to Bill Lauren, who is publishing an exclusive on the Ghostbusters’s proton packs for Omni, the team is at least routinely grappling with these thorny moral dilemmas in their downtime, even considering new ethical dimensions their critics have yet to broach: accidentally transporting clients to parallel dimensions, permanently ripping the fabric of space-time, catalyzing something called a “full protonic reversal” that they refuse to elaborate on and that no scientist I’ve spoken to has ever heard of.
“Just sitting in on the casual watercooler banter between them has been enough to give me nightmares,” Lauren confided to me. “You should ask Egon about the current Twinkie-to-Twinkie ratio.”
The trio’s background is discussed, as well as the cases that we see them take on in the film, including busting the engorged Slimer at the Sedgewick Hotel. “We all feel kinda bad about the Sedgewick slimer,” Stantz is proposed to have said about the ethics behind trapping these sentient beings. “After some of the hauntings we’ve witnessed in the past month, there’s definitely something endearing about a ghost whose only crime is maniacally pigging out.” But Venkman is more realistic, saying, “He also smelled like onions. I’m not letting him out of there.”
I imagine writing this article must have taken the effort that many students put into writing college thesis papers, but with a lot more original input. Phelan even manages to work Stephen King into the story as a steadfast supporter writing the nonfiction book The Dehaunters after tagging along with the guys on a few of their cases. Here is a shot of King and his demonic smile with the Ghostbusters, as created by the author.
Oh, and here’s one of the guys in the courtroom with Ralph Nader.
Even if that long-gestating third film never goes into production, I think this article stands as a fine substitute for how to naturally draw the original story out without making things ridiculous, as they did with the cashgrab Ghostbusters II. Now we just need the guys from Improv Everywhere to act out all of the events in the article and a faux documentary can be made. Take a few minutes out of your day to put on a Ray Parker Jr. record and read the full article here.