But the kids love us: A ride-along with the Wisconsin Ghostbusters
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Cosplay is spilling out of the convention halls and into the streets. The Star Wars-inspired 501st Legion is the largest source of nerds playing dress-up, using the symbols of an evil galactic empire to raise money for charity. Others have followed in the Legion’s footsteps by donning costumes from their most beloved geek movies, with Ghostbusters being an obvious choice. Several chapters of Ghostbusters fans exist throughout the country, including a branch here in Wisconsin. The A.V. Club recently tagged along with the Wisconsin Ghostbusters on their most recent case.
The Wisconsin Ghostbusters came together in 2010 through the magic of the Internet. Many of the members were inspired to build replica Proton Packs using exact measurements of the original props that exist online. Of course, the right event helps when it comes to making connections. “I showed up to a viewing of Ghostbusters under a bridge with a Ghost Trap that I built,” said Vee Laabs, a member of the Wisconsin Ghostbusters. “I didn’t expect other people to be there in full costume.”
Getting into the Ghostbusters business isn’t cheap. The Wisconsin chapter hasn’t gotten into the triple mortgage area yet, but building props can be pricy. “A good Proton Pack can cost $4,000,” says Joshua Wecker. He opted to build a Slime Blower from the less-loved Ghostbusters II because it cost less and tends to stand out more. Most Ghostbusters start small with a trap or Ecto Goggles—which are basically welding goggles with a few extra pieces attached. Some Ghostbusters go off the reservation, either mixing in other styles like steampunk or inventing their own devices like a nuclear powered Ghost Puncher glove. They also don’t mind repurposing equipment like LifeGard detectors from the fire industry.
The event that brought the Wisconsin Ghostbusters together in October was something bigger than an interdimensional cross-rip. Dan Aykroyd, one of the original cast members of Ghostbusters, was holding a signing of his Crystal Head Vodka at a suburban liquor store outside of Chicago. Aykroyd was also signing non-booze memorabilia for donations to charity. Onlookers wound their way through the aisles holding several items, though all eyes were on the dressed-up Ghostbusters. Liquor store employees looked nervous whenever a Proton Pack swooped close to a few bottles of wine, but nothing ended up broken—much to the relief of the few patrons who were there to actually buy liquor.
The Wisconsin Ghostbusters were the subject of almost as many photographs as the celebrity at the end of the line. Everyone wanted a picture, regardless of age or temperament. They weren’t nerds; they were rock stars. People chatted them up in line. They networked with a few Stormtrooper cosplayers who were out of uniform. Even the pizza guy heading into the store stopped for a photo with the crew.
Aykroyd is the second of the original quartet that the Wisconsin Ghostbusters have met. Ernie Hudson already signed the big green tank of the team’s Slime Blower. Aykroyd himself took a moment to get a group picture of the crew along with a young girl who came dressed in her own jumpsuit. He greeted each Ghostbuster afterward, and even offered to sign their packs and Ectomobile. (They don’t have one built yet, but they recently acquired a car of the proper make and model.) Many of the Ghostbusters walked out of the store with signed equipment and skulls filled with vodka. Too bad those recent rumors of Bill Murray’s party in Milwaukee weren’t true. It could have been three for three.
This collection of everyday police officers and students are already looking forward to future events. Already on the books is an appearance at Wisconsin Dells’ Daisho Con Nov. 16-18. “We’d like to do more appearances for charity,” says Andy Ries, founder of the team. They’re taking a step towards that goal with another appearance at the Waterford Public Library on October 20 at noon. If the Ghostbusters can’t use their packs and traps to catch real ghosts, using them to get folks to open their wallets for noble causes is the next best thing.