Riddle Me This! What’s Up With The Ghosts In Ghostbusters?

Who’d win in a fight between Superman and Spawn? How the f*ck old is Cable? And what in the holy hell is a Megatron? When the tough questions arise, Panels on Pages will gather the facts, but it’s up to the PoP!ulation to draw its own conclusions. So come on… Riddle Me This!

Is Slimer the ghost of a paraplegic glutton?

It goes without saying that Ghostbusters is one of the greatest films ever made. Thought its sequel may be underrated, they are hilarious, eminently quotable, and rumors of another installment have been around for decades. The original animated series is a lot of fun, the latest video game is a hoot, and IDW’s comics not only do an excellent job of keeping everything in continuity, but are extremely entertaining themselves as well. Still, something about the movies has always bugged me, and I figured it was time to reach out to you, the PoP!ulation, for your thoughts. Namely, what’s up with the ghosts? The movies waste no time throwing out all kinds of ghost-related technobabble like “Focused, Non-Terminal, Repeating Phantasm, or a Class 5 Full-Roaming Vapor.” What I’m wondering is what are some of these things supposed to be the ghosts of exactly?

Obviously some of them are regular human ghosts like Eleanor Twitty aka the Grey Lady aka the library ghost from the first movie:

Her story’s actually pretty sad.

That cab driver:

He’s late for those Cryptkeeper auditions.

The ghost jogger:

Running for his afterlife.

And the Scoleri Brothers:

Two arguments against capital punishment.

These examples may be jacked up with their own ghostly version of superpowers, like the Scoleri’s electricity blasts, but they’re decidedly human. Then you have Slimer. What’s he supposed to be the ghost of? While he’s (it’s?) humanoid in appearance and appetite, he won’t be going shoe shopping any time soon. Is this supposed to be the ghost of a human, perhaps being punished by some Higher Power for his gluttonous ways in life? Then you’re got other examples like the so-called Subway Ghost:

Yet another reason to avoid the subway.

And the Theatre Ghost:

Six eyes, four arms, and still not the weirdest sight in New York.

These suckers could be more humans twisted around in their afterlife, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at them. Finally there’s the ghostly monstrosity of the Washington Square Ghost:

Hey, maybe it’s the ghost of the rancor!

What in the flaming blue hell do you think that’s the ghost of? I’d hate to see a live one, let alone a ghost. There are even ghost vehicles seen in GB2, of a train and the Titanic. (“Better late than never.”) It’s interesting that the main villains from the first film aren’t really even ghosts. Gozer, Zuul & Vinz Clortho, are more like other-dimensional entities. Gozer is even referred to numerous times as a God! Vigo from GB2 is much more of a “traditional” ghost, and he doesn’t even follow the same rules as others we’ve seen. (Which can be explained away by his sorcery.)

I want to hear your thoughts on this, PoP!ulation. Are these all ghosts of humans given different forms after death? Other-dimensional beings who have come to our world? Am I reading far too much into something that’s better left as just a comedy? Riddle me this! What’s up with the ghosts in Ghostbusters?


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Who ARE these people!?

As one of the co-founders of Panels on Pages, Robert Eddleman will happily read any comic that catches his interest, regardless of publisher. Aside from comics and PoP!, his other passions include worshipping Joss Whedon, getting lost in TV Tropes, and watching muscled men hit each other with folding chairs.

Comments (17)

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  1. Ha! I’ve never thought of this! That is an awesome question.

    Dinosaurs? Are they dinosaur ghosts? Or maybe some sort of crazy Scientology Thetan Xenu ghosts?

  2. Lee Rodriguez (@LeeOnPages) says:

    There has to be a difference between human ghosts and other spirits. The best thing to do would be to get yourself a copy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide and see what the experts have to say.

  3. Bobby Fisher says:

    Interesting. Given that Gozer is referred to as an ancient Sumarian shapeshifting god (Thanks Wikipedia!), and I would argue from a different dimensional plane than your standard ghosts seen in the movie. Following that line of thinking, it would stand to reason that dimensional plane Gozer inhabited before she/he was released in New York would/could be inhabited by other entities that would be able to travel through the now torn barriers between dimensions. Many of these stranger looking apparitions don’t appear until just before the film’s climax, when the big bad has made his/her presence known, possibly causing the normal dimensional barriers that keep these things out of our dimension, to creep through, and also since these other entities/creatures wouldn’t be nearly as powerful as someone like Gozer or Vigo, that’s why they manifest as more ghostly apparitions and appear less solid. That’s my theory anyways.

  4. Doug says:

    In the Ghostbusters universe “ghosts” are beings that in part have manifested from ambient psychokinetic energy in their environments and in part emotional imprint left behind from an event, person, or other. The lower level specters (slimer, cab driver, subway, librarian, etc) may have existed in various forms over the years but were given more “juice” by the imminent arrival of Gozer and the massive amount of energy it possess, allowing the extreme forms seen during the movie. While the librarian and the taxi driver manifest in remotely human forms the others are mere abstracts. It could be argued that Slimer is the emotional imprint from a really great party held at the hotel that becomes un-tethered from that space after being forcefully removed by the Ghostbusters.

    So basically– traditional spirit occurrences are common place in the pre-Gozer reality (weird smells, noises, bumps, poltergeist type stuff) and after the barrier between realities has been weakened by Gozer’s arrival and subsequent destruction the energy levels remain elevated and actually bring in additional ambient PKE from mirror and neighbor realities causing the more “powerful” manifestations seen in the films. As for what happens during the 5 year gap between films, cartoon non-withstanding, is up to anyone’s guess– but the Ghostbusters did not go out of business for lack of work.

  5. MarkTXhGhostbusters says:

    According to Tobin’s Spirit Guide, a class 5 ghost is one that has little or no memory of its human life, so it tends to devolve into a monster or mutant form. Class 4′s are the ones that retain a humanoid form and a distinct recollection of their former life which dictates their appearance as a ghost.

    -Mark from the Texhoma Ghostbusters

  6. Marcus Bowenford says:

    I actually wrote a theory for this. You can check it out @ http://ghostbustersfanon.wikia.com/wiki/Karmic_Balance_/_Imbalance_Theory

  7. Wade says:

    I always assumed the forms were what they were given due in part to how they were in real life or twisted by some emotion that followed them into the afterlife. Like how in some real life hauntings, a ghost may take the form of a spectral animal (or something in-between) or how poltergeists are known to take on non-human forms (though in that case the spirits may have never been human in the first place). Then there is the possibility that they were never human to begin with and are just that – spirits. The emphasis on other-worldly beings adds more credence to that idea as well. In any case, almost any answer you throw out there could work or would fit the Ghostbusters universe.

  8. Stefan says:

    There are many differences… ghosts are mostly “built together” through strong emotions in their surroundings. There was a deleted scene of GB1 showing how slimer came to life, because of a couple arguing in a hotel room… you could say that human emotions, fantasies, dreams, nightmares, feelings… kind of “form” a ghost :) But there are several different kind of ghosts… some may be incarnations / pictures of real people, memories, lost souls… then there are demons… and so son :)

  9. Stephen says:

    Slimer is the ghost of John Belushi. No lie.

  10. Also in the formerly human apparition category, let us not forget the wispy floating ghost woman who gives Ray Stantz an invisible BJ.

  11. I have a theory that “The Real Ghostbusters” is how the boys made money in the five-year interim between the movies. They couldn’t make money by catching/investigating ghosts (per the restraining order), but they COULD trade off their own likenesses.

    However, for this to work, you need to have a few divergences from “our” canon. Let’s say that, in the Movie Universe, the cartoon show worked a little more like the initial promo pilot–all-tan uniforms; more accurate equipment; Peter looking a little more like Bill Murray; and, most importantly, Stay-Puft (since Ray is one of the creative consultants) as an occasional heroic sidekick–Slimer is an antagonist, “the one that got away.”

    Everything’s fine and dandy up until 198…8, let’s say, and that’s when the Ghostbusters start to get sidelined in favor of Mr. Stay-Puft, and by 1991 “The New Adventures of the Ghostbusters” became simply “The Stay-Puft Show,” as it is in the video game. The show came to an end in 1992, after the second Stay-Puft attack in NYC.

  12. Brett Martin says:

    In the game, Egon explains:
    “You need to remember that the
    apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it
    comes to poltergeists. They usually manifest
    as what they were in their physical life.
    A mailman will be a mailman, and in this case
    a chef will be a chef. Granted, an evil chef,
    but still a chef. So we need to figure out what
    will make this guy mad and draw him out,
    culinarily speaking of course.”

    Each type of ghost, whether it be a poltergeist, a bi-dimensional attractor, or even swarmers, have different manifestations based on their PKE and their environment. So, Slimer could have been manifested from several animals, like rats, that died in the hotel. He could have been a not-fully-manifested human as the Sedgewick had low PKE readings at that point.

  13. I wish I could go through and “like” all of these comments. They are so awesome.

    Still, I want dinosaur ghosts to be a thing.

  14. Timo says:

    Raimis once said the ghosts are spirits from the entire universe,

  15. Brett Caron says:

    I’d like to share my own thoughts on this.
    I’ve written a full-length script for Ghostbusters 3, and am currently trying to get it to Dan Aykroyd and some of the other people involved in the project.
    I’ll share it here, via a Google Drive link, if anyone here would like to view it. I’ll leave it as ‘visible to anyone with the link’ for the time being.


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