Thirty years ago, Jeff Tatarek sat down in a movie theater to watch Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson prowl the streets of New York City, proton packs strapped to their backs, and thought, I gotta have that.
It took him about 25 years to actually get started, but now he finally does have “it.”
He’s one of about half a dozen Columbus Ghostbusters who dress up in full uniform and make appearances around town.
“It was pretty influential as far as films go,” Tatarek said of the movie. “We’re geeks at heart, and we enjoy dressing up.”
It all started about five years ago when an event at Studio 35 brought in ghostbusters from a broader Ohio network.
Tatarek had never seen anything like it and decided to get involved. The Columbus group he’s a member of eventually split from the Ohio network to be able to have more freedom in deciding which events to attend.
Now, the nonprofit group shows up for free at all kinds of events – kids’ birthday parties, Ghostbuster movie showings, parades, and more. This year there have been more opportunities than ever since it’s the 30th anniversary of the movie’s debut.
“It’s a blast,” Tatarek said. “People say, ‘This is unique, we’ve got to have you guys out there.’”
There’s also an ever-growing group of Ghostbusters enthusiasts across the country and on the Internet. In Ohio alone, there are groups in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, and spread throughout the less populated parts of the state.
The online community helps with recreating the props and costumes. Tatarek built his plasma pack on his own, primarily from wood and PVC pipes, but there are fiberglass packs for sale on the web, as well as collectors’ toys – like the goggles, the gun, and the ghost trap – that can make for convincing costumes pieces.
“It’s come a long way in the 20 years or so that people have been building the props themselves,” he said.
And throughout those 30 years since the movie first hit theaters, adults and children alike still recognize his uniform and his Ecto-1-inspired car.
“I see someone come up beside me, and I can tell they’re taking pictures,” Tatarek said.
He doesn’t have a ’59 Cadillac – the car used in the movie – because they’re so rare, but it wasn’t hard to recreate Ecto-1 with his white 2006 Dodge Magnum. He used Ghostbusters magnets and a roof rack he built himself to get it “about as film-accurate as you can get.”
Tatarek said people get excited to see real, in-the-flesh ghostbusters even if they’re not actually fighting ghosts. Tatarek admits even he actually does not believe in ghosts.
“I wanna believe [they] are real, but there’s no hard evidence,” he said. “In a way, that’s a little unfortunate that there’s that disconnect between reality and fiction.”
Still, he plays the character true to form when he puts on his gear.
He scans kids and tells them he’s detected bits of ectoplasm. He asks if anyone has seen ghosts in the area. But mostly he answers one question.
“Who you gonna call?” people always ask.
“Well,” he replies, “me.”
The Columbus Ghostbusters will host Lights-On tours for the last three Sundays of October at the Scare-A-Torium and will also appear at a Halloween event at Tuttle Crossing Mall on October 25. For more, follow @columbusgb.