The Central Illinois Ghostbusters face a busy month of appearances, events during Halloween season
It's been almost 40 years since people were first asked, “Who you gonna call?” if there's something strange in your neighborhood.
And in the Greater Peoria area, the answer is: the Central Illinois Ghostbusters – a group of dedicated fans of the classic 1984 sci-fi/comedy.
No, they don't really battle haunted spirits. But they do make frequent appearances in their full Ghostbusters gear, showing up at various events and helping to raise money for charity.
As Halloween approaches, reporter Joe Deacon talks with Bobby Irving and Dylan Griffin about what the Central Illinois Ghostbusters do, and what inspired them to join the group. Irving says it stems from a desire to help, and a passion for the movie.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
I'll start with you Bobby. What inspired you guys to become the Central Illinois Ghostbusters?
Irving: We all kind of enjoyed Ghostbusters when we were kids, the movies and then the real Ghostbusters. We all had the toys growing up and make-believed back then, and then when we found out that you could actually dress up as Ghostbusters for cosplay and other things – we just thought it was Halloween at first. But now we found out there was franchises that do this to get to do charity work and dress up and have fun and be able to help raise money for different charities and go to events, meet people. I mean, the sky's the limit for that part.
Dylan, what kind of got you motivated into joining this as well?
Griffin: Well, I've always been a Dan Aykroyd fan so that's what started it, and of course I always watched it as a kid. I started in like March of 2017, and just the experiences and being able to give back a little bit.
My next question was going to be how long have you been doing it? You said March of 2017. How about you Bobby?
Irving: I started kind of trial by fire in November of 2018 at the first “Stuff the Bus” for CityLink in East Peoria at the Kroger's. It was very cold that day.
So you said you wanted to kind of do it to help out. What other kind of fundraising or community activities have you been doing, Dylan?
Griffin: “Stuff the Bus” was one. We do, what was that one (when) we go around collecting donations, St. Jude?
Irving: St. Jude is the big one, the Children's Hospital – because there is the OSF children's ward. I help a little bit, because I do, each year, Spirit Halloween – I work for them. So that also helps, and I dress up and have my Ghostbusters car to help raise money for the UnityPoint children's (clinic) because all this “Spirit of Children” thing that they have. Then we do for TAPS (Tazewell Animal Protective Society) animal rescues. Any type of organization that needs help raising funds, like I think this year we did help – one of our members asked us to do a gift certificate for us to come out for the United Way fundraiser.
So with Halloween coming up, is this a busier time for you or is it busy kind of year round?
Irving: Last year was more busy because of the new movie (Ghostbusters: Afterlife), but this year and always in Octobers, we're pretty much booked solid.
What about the Ghostbusters movie and the characters do you think that people find so appealing for both kids and adults, Dylan?
Griffin: Oh, they're just so relatable. I mean, like Winston Zeddemore (played by Ernie Hudson), he was your everyman. He was just like anybody walking off the street getting a job. Ray (Stantz, played by Aykroyd) was the heart. What about (Peter) Venkman (played by Bill Murray)?
Irving: Venkman was your game show host schmoozer. He was basically the face of the group, the person that talked, because Ray and Egon (Spengler, played by Harold Ramis) were like the inventors of the stuff. And he (Venkman) just knew there was a chance to make money or get famous. So that was what he did. But Winston was the soul of Ghostbusters, because they're all basically normal people put it into an extraordinary situation. Even Winston, in the lore, he kind of did engineering for the military and so he knew a little bit about stuff, so he knew how to use all the equipment. That's just it, they're just everyday people. They're not, they don't have (any) superpowers. It could be any of us basically having to go in to fight Gozer or something like that.
You mentioned last year's movie. This has kind of been a franchise that’s been enduring over the years. Did you – you said that you did see a big spike in the interest last year with the new movie?
Irving: Yes, we saw quite a bit because we actually went to – one of our members, Jeff Gillis, he went to the New York premiere for Afterlife, and we did a couple (appearances) like the AMC theater here in Peoria at the Grand Prairie. We did a premiere event for them, and then the one in Pekin. Then a smaller town we even did it too, and it's just – everyone enjoyed it. It just brought some fresh life into the franchise.
Dylan, when you guys are out and about do you get more reaction from the kids or more reaction from the adults?
Griffin: Oh boy, I would have to say it's a mixture. Sometimes you see the kids as their face just drops, and the parents, they just get their phone out (and) they're taking pictures of everything. They're more looking at the equipment, the parents. But yeah, it’s just everybody.
Bobby, how many guys are in the Central Illinois Ghostbusters?
Irving: I believe we have about eight members. We're always looking for more members too, so if anybody ever wants to join up, just go to our Facebook page, just type in Central Illinois Ghostbusters and it should come up in the search. We always like to have somebody else that would be able to contribute, because that's another thing being a group thing: Everyone has their own special, unique qualities and that's another reason why it's like from the movie because everybody has their own special skills.
So what would you say your special skill is? Are you more Venkman-like?
Irving: No, I'm more, I would say, kind of Winston and Ray, kind of like the optimistic (and) wanting to see what's out there, and then also kind of the realist of things, too. It’s just there’s stuff that happens and you’ve got to kind of deal with it as it goes.
How about you, Dylan? Who are you kind of more like?
Griffin: I'd probably say a mixture between Ray and Venkman, more behind the scenes – not as outgoing, but sometimes you’ve got to be.
How difficult was it for you guys to put together your costumes? Did that take some time?
Griffin: No. The packs, yes; packs take weeks and weeks to build up. But the uniforms themselves, you just buy the uniform (and) throw the patches on, boom bam, there you are.
Irving: Yeah, it's just a flight suit for most people. I unfortunately don't like the flight suits because I feel like I'm a potato in a potato sack, so I went more just the shirt route and then with khaki pants. I have like three different types: I have a couple of long-sleeve and short-sleeve. You get the patches and sew them on. But the prop work is what takes the longest to do. It's never ending, the prop work, because you always have to fix something from an event. So that's another reason why it's like being a (real) Ghostbuster, because they always had to tinker and fix their equipment. It took me about maybe three months to do the pack fully; you buy it the way it was, but it's taken a good four years to get it to where it's at now.
And you guys do have your own version of the Ectomobile too, right?
Irving: Yes, I am the one that owns it. It’s my daily driver, so you see it around Pekin, Peoria, central Illinois.
And you get a lot of reaction from that, I'm guessing?
Irving: Oh, yeah. A lot of people cheer me on or go, “Who you gonna call?” and they'll take photos, especially on the highway. It's funny when you see the person overtaking you, and then all of a sudden immediately stop and then roll back. Then they go to take the photo and then they're gone again. But it was a team effort to get the Ectomobile done the way it is, because I couldn't have done it by myself.
Do you see a lot of people kind of just reacting to the car more than anything else almost?
Griffin: Oh, yeah, especially going down the highway or interstate. All of a sudden you see these people with (their) phone slowing down. It's like, “Oh, that's kind of dangerous,” but it's very cool.
I've heard that some of the buildings here on the Bradley campus may be haunted. Do you guys ever get calls to do any real ghost-busting?
Irving: A couple times, and unfortunately you’ve got to put them down gently that we don't actually do that. But we know of a couple chapters, from looking at research, that will do paranormal research around here. We've only done it – like once we went on a paranormal tour of the Virginia Theatre in Champaign and had some interesting experiences there. But yeah, we just don't do that for the most part because it's just – some of us enjoy it as probably a side hobby; there's maybe a couple of us, I think. But yeah, otherwise we're just more for the show part.
Dylan, what do you get most out of being a Ghostbuster then?
Griffin: Well, I've gotten to meet some pretty cool people. For example, last August – Aug. 19 – we went to the Blues Brothers Con (in Joliet). We were invited to have our Ecto there for the car show. We got there early, we got to see soundcheck, and we got to meet Dan Aykroyd.
That’s pretty cool. What was he like?
Griffin: Oh, he was the nicest guy. He stopped; he's the one who came up to us and signed some stuff. Couldn't be nicer.
And were you at that event as well, Bobby?
Irving: Yeah, I was at the event with my car. He was dressed up as a Blues Brother; I was kind of dressed up as a “Blues Buster” in a sense: I had the hat and the sunglasses, and then the Ghostbuster shirt on. A lot of people enjoyed our car mixed in with the Bluesmobiles. But it was cool seeing, because we just kind of saw Dan; he was on the after soundcheck – it was cool seeing this soundcheck and meeting everybody – but we got to see him and he was in his golf cart. He stopped and saw us and came over, took a photo with us together and signed our stuff. He was a very nice guy.
We’ve also gotten to meet – it was at Wizard World, I think it was 2018 – we got to meet Ernie Hudson, and also (director) Ivan Reitman before he sadly passed here (in February). But it was cool meeting – Ernie is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. I mean, he's the one besides Dan Aykroyd that has kept the franchise going this long, because he does so much for charity and with the fans and stuff. It's yeah, he's such a nice guy. We've also met one of the voice actors that played Egon on “The Real Ghostbusters” (animated series), Maurice LaMarche.
So with Halloween coming up, Dylan, do you guys have any specific plans for Halloween day?
Griffin: Oh, yeah. We're going to be at the Soderstrom Castle (in Peoria Heighs). We're going to be there from Oct. 28-31. That will be pretty big, so that'll keep us quite busy.
Irving: Yeah, Soderstrom Castle. We're going to be there – they actually do, every year, a different theme, and this year they're doing Ghostbusters. So they're going all out and they wanted us to be there. We also go to TAPS (Trunk or Treat, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday) and then Wildlife Scary Park (Thursday through Sunday). We're very busy.
It’s your busy month.
Irving: Yeah, but it's going to be really cool. I think this is one of the biggest events, the Soderstrom thing though, because we've seen some videos of what they do and I was like, “wow.”
And when is that?
Irving: The 28th through the 31st, I think they're also Nov. 1 – they have a little bit of stuff that day. But it's mainly the 31st, like they give out over 3,000 candy bars.