Whether afraid of no ghost or not, to deal with any kind of manifestation from a simple Class II poltergeist through Class V full-roaming vapours up to Class VI animal spirits and Class VII metaspectors is the job of professionals, or at least those who present themselves as “professionals” by dint of the fact that they have done this before, have a telephone hotline and charge significantly for their services.
Launched in New York in the summer of 1984 which saw an enormous spike in psychokinetic energy across the city, heralding a surge in ghostly apparitions centred around the Shandor Building at 55 Central Park West, nicknamed “Spook Central,” culminating in the manifestation of the ancient deity Gozer the Destructor, it was the original Ghostbusters team who averted apocalypse on that occassion.
Since that incident Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddemore, Janine Melnitz and their associates have remained active in a number of avenues, not least of which was the formation of their global operation, Ghostbusters International, with associated franchises and licensed merchandise, but it is New York which remains the core of the operation and the focus of the Ectomobile Owners’ Workshop Manual.
Written by Troy Benjamin and Marc Sumerak with the assistance of the an extensive list of experts across the Ghostbusters fan and prop-building community and illustrated by Ian Moores, it is published by the redoubtable Haynes, and with slime green end papers the question of whether they and city might ever be cleaned up will depend on the strength of the words of guidance within.
It is the key Ghostbusting equipment of these three feature films which is examined in this volume, particularly the Ectomobile itself which with its roots in the 1950s has a retro flavour with the long chassis and fins favoured in that era, brought to modern gleaming afterlife thanks to a substantial refit and a shiny new paint job.
Examining all the on-board equipment as well as portable essentials such as Proton Packs and Ghost Traps, PKE Meters and Ecto-Goggles, the basis of many were commonly available devices which were adapted into radical new uses by the team; to quote Heinlein, desperation is the mother of invention, but that applies to the book itself.
Unlike Star Trek upon which Haynes have released previous volumes, Ghostbusters has never been driven by the tech to the same way so much as by the characters and the humour and ultimately the prose says a great deal about very little; paragraphs on tyre pressure and light bulbs may be in keeping with the traditional Haynes manual on which this is modelled but the result is as insubstantial as a non-corporeal elemental spirit.
References are made to Tobin’s Spirit Guide, Kemp’s Spectral Field Guide and Spates Catalogue and there is a list of the different classification of spectral manifestations adapted from Tobin but with no detail of each, and while “Spectral particles” and “PKE levels” are frequently mentioned they are unexplained.
Indicating how the different pieces of equipment should be deployed in combination to best tackle an unruly manifestation, the manual states that not all require trapping and containment, that some spirits simply need to be guided “on their way,” but no direction to the appropriate outside agency, be it spiritualist or exorcist, is offered.
Some of the equipment is interesting but too much of it is not, and the hints of what is sidelined are frustrating such as the fact that all living creatures create psychokinetic energy so the sensors mounted on the Ectomobile must filter the results in order for them to be useful in locating and trapping manifestations, but the mechanisms and the underlying (made up) science are strictly closed box.
Understandably proprietary about copyright, there’s not much credence given to those who knock about old houses calling themselves “ghost hunters” when all they have to show for their effort is out-of-focus footage of a possum, but with reference made to genuine franchises it would have been nice to break out of New York with some regional perspective. The only other team mentioned is that of Abigail Yates, Erin Gilbert, Jillian Holtzmann, Patricia Tolan and Kevin Beckman in the final chapters, yet no attempt is made to establish a bridge between the incongruity of the two versions of the history.
Where Haynes’ recently published Spectrum Agents’ Manual took a wide view of every aspect of the entire world of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and beyond, here the emphasis is on the busting rather than the ghostly aspects and while Doctor Spengler is afforded a page to expand on what he meant by “it would be bad” to cross the streams of protonic plasma energy what is offered isn’t actually all that enlightening.
While there are sparkles of interest – the iconic logo is names Mooglie, the three versions of Doctor Holtzmann’s proton packs were nicknamed “Cujo,” “Carrie” and “Firestarter” by her colleague Doctor Gilbert – and the additional comments on the post-it notes scattered throughout the pages try to create some humour, overall the Ectomobile Owners’ Workshop Manual is disappointing in what it isn’t and can only be recommended for Ghostbusters completists.
The Ghostbusters Ectomobile Owners’ Workshop Manual is available now from Haynes