Controversial "Professional Paranormal Investigators" Put a New Spin on Science and the Supernatural
Story by Fritz Baugh
Morton P. Grout, Manager of New York City's posh Hotel Sedgewick, had a problem. There had been stories throughout the years about an "anomaly" (to use Mister Grout's word) on the thirteenth floor for several years--according to an anonymous staffer "It all, like, started when the police arrested these gnarly dudes in, like, the tackiest goatskin pants and they were, like, burning candles and having sex parties in the Hotel Basement..." Publicly, Grout and the other members of the Sedgewick staff maintain that the idea that a "cult" had "summoned something up" was ridiculous, it didn't help the hotel's credibility that two weeks ago, on a Thursday night, something apparently attacked a honeymooning couple.
Desperate, Grout called the number he'd just seen in a local television spot--three men in lab coats promising to "serve all your paranormal elimination needs." An hour later, the three men showed up clad in tan flightsuits and carrying an array of bizarre equipment--most notably the bulky black electronic packs on their backs. Their vehicle was similarly outlandish--a white 1959 Cadillac Mercury Meteor hearse/ambulance fitted with a roofrack of oddball electronics and enough strobe lights to illuminate a discoteque, it's license plates reading "ECTO-1".
An hour after that, the three men emerged from the Van Huego ballroom with the "anomaly" allegedly contained in a shoe-box size "ghost trap" and some $5000 richer.
The Ghostbusters had cracked their first case.
Grout was not complimentary about them. "They captured the...anomaly, to be sure, but they destroyed a maid cart, frightened one of our maids, and completely destroyed the ballroom." Grout admitted that he signed a waiver for release from damages, but maintained that the Sedgewick ownership was still looking into legal recourses over the matter.
For their part, the honeymooning couple maintains the veracity of the existance of the "anomaly". In an interview for WDIP, Tyler Camden told the following story: "I'd gone to the kitchen to get some more wine, and there it was: ugly, potato shaped, green, and smelling like an overripe onion. It had eaten everything in the refrigerator, and then it jumped me!!!" Sarah Camden confirmed "I didn't see it, but I sure smelled it. And after I heard Ty scream I ran into the kitchen and he was on the floor, covered in this awful green slime..."
After that night, word got out quickly from patrons who'd seen the outlandish men and the aftermath of their alleged battle. Within a week, the entire tri-state area was awash in tales of ghosts appearing, and the threesome answering the call to deal with the problem.
After a recent "bust", the Ghostbusters' apparent leader--or at least spokesman--offered a small bit of explaination: "Hey, we're the Ghostbusters. We bust ghost. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, no job is too big, no fee is too big". He then promptly repeated the company's phone number.
So who are these so-called Ghostbusters? The most visible face of the team has been Peter Venkman, recently fired from the Parapsychology Department of Columbia University. Originally born on Brooklyn in 1954, his childhood was rather chaotic after the death of his mother, Margaret: he wandered around the country with his father, Charles Conrad "Charlie" Venkman, a man with a list of confidence warrents a mile long. A former Tri Kuppa Bru pledge brother, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Venkman "surprised everyone by actually graduating and getting doctorates in psychology and parapsychology. We figured the high water mark of his academic career was running his underwear up a flagpole while still wearing them"<!-42903t>
Perhaps some of Venkman's academic accomplishment can be attributed to his friendship with one Egon Spengler, a friendship that continues to this day--Spengler is also a Ghostbuster. Spengler was born in Cleveland in 1957 to the late Doctor Edison Spengler, one of the brothers who founded Spengler Labs (the surviving brother, Cyrus, continues to run the well-regarded research establishment). An academic prodigy in the truest sense, Spengler attained his first college degree at age 12, when his contemporaries were still in grade school. "We probably drove Egon a little harder than we should've" his mother, Katharyn, admitted. "I was afraid when he started telling stories about how a Boogieman was living in his closet the stress had gotten to him." <!-430003w>
Then there's the third member of the team, Ray Stantz. Stantz was born in 1959 in the Bronx; he's the second of three children. (Dr. Stantz's brother, Lt. Carl Stantz of the USAF, is currently stationed in the Middle East and couldn't be reached. Dr. Stantz's sister Jean declined to be interviewed) Their parents, David and Carolyn, moved the family to the small town of Morrisville before dying in a car accident in 1970. According to the Morrisville inhabitants we interviewed, they didn't think Ray would amount to much--he "had his head in the clouds, reading Captain Steel comics and lots of Lovecraft" schoolmate Alfred Favish explained. Jake Johnson, one of Ray's teachers, mentioned "he was pretty bright, but a little wierd. You should've seen some of the pets he kept..."
According the academic record, Venkman and Spengler met at Columbia in 1973 due to a dorm mix-up; Venkman was a freshman, and the sixteen-year old Spengler was working on his second doctorate. One can only imagine what led to a friendship between the two men, who strike every reporter as being completely different in personality. Stantz met Venkman a couple of years later in an engineering class, and soon bonded with Spengler also--the three remained tight after graduation and attaining degrees, even during Stantz's one-year stint with East Industries; an East spokesman declined to comment on Stantz's tenure with the company, other than to say "Doctor Stantz was a hard worker and very intelligent, but it was a mutual decision that he and East Industries were not meant to work together."
But possibly the most fateful event occured only two months ago: the Columbia Board of Regents decided to terminate their grant. According to Dean Vanevar Yeager, the threesome had become an "embarrassment": Spengler had recently submitted a paper called "Psychokinetic Energy and the Quantum Flux" which advocated the reality of magic and ghosts to much critical and academic disdain. Furthermore, reports had reached Yaeger's ears about Venkman's alleged fraternization with some of the female students. "We had to protect our institution from these sloppy, deluded individuals." Yeager declined to comment much on his former employee's new occupation, other than to say "It must clearly be a scam. Confidence is in Mister Venkman's blood."
When this reporter visited the North Moore and Varrick Avenue office of the Ghostbusters (a former firehouse) he was greeted by their secretary, a young Brookynite named Janine Melnitz. She explained that her bosses were "Out on a bust, and may be a while." After waiting for three hours, I left a buisness card and asked her to make sure they contacted me. As of this writing, some ten days later, all I have recieved is a standard press release detailing the "Ghostbusters Mission Statement", which the threesome quote in their ads.<!-50103r>
Still, it is quite clear that something is happening in New York, so much so that the team recently took out an ad for a fourth member.
The government has been mostly silent, though this reporter did get Jack Hardemeyer, an aide to NYC Mayor Lenny Clotch, to say that "The Mayor's office has yet to be convinced that these 'Ghostbusters' are anything but two-bit frauds and publicity hounds." Attorney General Edwin Macshayne would offer no comment. One goverment offical that was a litte more forthcoming with this reporter was an EPA caseworker, Walter J. Peck, who admitted that his office was "Taking a close look at these men and the reports about their activities. I am hoping to contact Mister Venkman very soon."
Until then...all New York can do is wait...
Supplemental reporting by J. Harley, M. Ryedale, B. Reilly, R. Provost