You know, Walter Peck wasn’t entirely wrong about that containment unit in Ghostbusters. There’s an awful lot of hazardous material hiding out under the firehouse. Over 30 years worth of ghosts must be sharing that space by now, and between Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, The Real Ghostbusters, Extreme Ghostbusters, and anything else you want to take into your heart as canon, some of them are pretty darn cool. Although I usually do these lists with Mike, Amelia is one of the biggest Ghostbusters fans I know, and she’d never forgive me if I didn’t give her a chance to break out her Real Ghostbusters box set. Take a look at our thoughts on the Top 10 Ghosts Busted.
First Appearance: Ghostbusters (1984)
Billy: Let’s just get this one out of the way, shall we? Our list includes enough episodes of The Real Ghostbusters to put us on Slimer overdose, but his original incarnation was actually a pretty important role with some gravitas that, while not making him truly scary, at least makes Slimer worthy of the iconic status with which he has endured. Pretty much the physical embodiment of gluttony within the film, it’s common knowledge that Slimer was a tribute to John Belushi. He slimes Peter, leaving him coated in a thick green goo, and actually made Bill Murray refuse to be touched by the marshmallow scene later on. That a pivotal scene that helps us understand what these scientists are truly up against. He’s the first ghost actually captured by the Ghostbusters, and proves their legitimacy within the film. The fact that Slimer is a practical effect endears him to me, because he just looks so damn good. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for 80s era animatronic puppets.
Amelia: What can be said about the ugly little spud that hasn’t already been said? He’s the first ghost that the boys ever captured. He’s obnoxious in The Real Ghostbusters and Billy made me include him on this list because he’s following some ridiculous algorithm in his need-to-please-everyone mentality for how lists on the goddamn internet need to flow! What was I talking about? Oh, right. The spud. He’s not a threat to anyone really. Just a ball of green slime that wants to eat hotdogs. He’s only a bother because he drifted into a pricey hotel. If he haunted a meat rendering plant, there’d be no problem.
First Appearance: Citizen Ghost (1986)
Billy: A personal favourite of mine, Citizen Ghost establishes that the first ghosts the Ghostbusters encounter after the events of the first film is the Ghostbusters as ghosts. I love this episode because it works so well as a bridge between the movie and cartoon. Derived from psychic energy left over from the encounter with Gozer, the Spectral Ghostbusters only exist because Peter forgot to clean up the contaminated uniforms. Strengthened by an imprint of each Ghostbusters minds and personalities, this is a foe of their own design. Each is even voiced by their counterpart and represents a dark inversion of who they are. Spectral Egon spouting the cold logic of destroying human Egon is frightening. Seeing the Ghostbusters as flaming ectoplasmic entities is truly something to behold. Proton Pack versus Proton Pack, it’s hard to imagine a battle more evenly matched.
Amelia: These things are pretty neato. Like many ghosts featured in The Real Ghostbusters, these creatures could have been the basis of a full movie. Plus, this gives us the origin stories of Slimer and their new uniforms. Bam. That’s how you do it.
Ghost of Houdini
First Appearance: The Cabinet of Doctor Calamari (1987)
Amelia: I fought pretty hard to get the ghost of Houdini on this list. Billy thought that the ghost of a regular man didn’t mean enough. But c’mon, if we’re going to include a “celebrity” ghost, one not rooted in mythology but rooted in history, how could we ignore the appeal of Houdini? The man is a magic legend: able to escape anything in life. And, much to the Ghostbusters’ surprise, death, as the traps just can’t hold him no matter how many times they zap him and trap him! It doesn’t hurt that he’s got long crazy hair, a sickly green complexion, and an always present straight jacket to round off his creep factor.
Billy: Houdini is one of the few ghosts we encounter in the Ghostbusters universe that actually fits the proper definition of “ghost” as we’d encounter it in any other media. Someone who was once alive, now dead, who lingers on for a specific purpose on the mortal plane. What makes Houdini all the more interesting is that for the majority of The Cabinet of Doctor Calamari, we don’t even know that it’s him. The long-haired, gaunt, straight-jacketed figure haunting the stage performance of Doctor Calamari isn’t given an identity initially, but as the mystery of the haunted theatre unfolds, the Ghostbusters realize that it really is Houdini, and he’s not the villain of the episode at all. I love how Houdini is even able to escape the ghost trap. He was the foremost escape artist in life, why wouldn’t he be one in death? Sceptic he was though, he’d probably be the one most disturbed that it turns out there is a mystical afterlife after all.
First Appearance: The Grundel (1987)
Amelia: The Grundel doesn’t appear until much later in The Real Ghostbusters, after Lorenzo Music was booted out as Peter and Dave Coulier took over with his piss-poor Bill Murray impression. Needless to say, I avoid the latter half of the series like the plague. The Grundel is enough to make me brave Dave Coulier though. The Grundel is a childhood nightmare all wrapped up in a black trench coat. He pretends to be a child’s friend to be invited in. He claims to understand you. No one listens to you? You don’t get what you want? The Grundel understands. Simply invite him in. Once in, he’ll egg the child on to do bad things. If the child agrees, they’ll eventually become a Grundel too, and the cycle begins again.
Billy: The Grundel is a tempter, a parasitic demon, and one of the last contributions from J. Michael Straczynski to The Real Ghostbusters canon. A ghost that possesses his host through con-artist tricks and lies, his influence is a negative force specifically targeted towards taking the lives of children. The Grundel corrupts. The Grundel destroys. Physically, the Grundle is a jumble of disturbing features: a tall, green creature with infinite jowls and is just the kind of ghost that The Real Ghostbusters excelled at creating. The fact that this ghost is built off real-world anxieties of children (having no one will believe you, never getting what you want, etc.) makes him even more disturbing. As the possessed child becomes more and more corrupted until they become a Grundel themselves. In The Grundel, Alex’s mid-form transition as as horrifying as Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. A half-formed beast, neither human nor ghost, the Grundel leaves its victims in a horrifying state.
First Appearance: Cold Cash and Hot Water (1987)
Billy: Now for one of the big names the Ghostbusters face off with. Also known as the first demon, Hob Anagarak is a name that has Egon Spengler shaking in his jumpsuit from the mere mention of it, and the Hob is probably up there with Gozer and Cthulu in terms of sheer power of monsters the Ghostbusters have fought. The episode plays out as a mix of At The Mountains of Madness and King Kong, with Peter’s con-artist father Mr. Venkman and illegitimate psychic Dr. Bassingay teaming up to exploit this powerful demon in a stage show for profit. There’s no plan to the havoc caused by this creature of unwavering and unfathomable destruction. It’s a mix of monstrous elder Gods and human greed and hubris that makes Hob Anagarak a formidable foe.
Amelia: Despite what Billy just said, The Hob is the rarest of the rare. Big name? Here’s a legend that’s nearly gone extinct in the world of man. That doesn’t make him any less terrifying though. He’s an ancient, sabre-toothed demon that used to roam the world, collecting lesser demons to rule over. He was eventually trapped in a block of magical ice to stop him from laying waste to the entire world. If The Hob hadn’t been trapped, humans wouldn’t exist. He’s bad news for the human race and definitely not something you want released. He’s got no predictability. All he wants is destruction. Chaos. Carnage. Think of a brunette Donald Trump.
First Appearance: Knock, Knock (1987)
Amelia: It’s funny that all this end of day stuff is in Manhattan, right? Besides that puzzling realization, the Doomsday Door, planted by Sumerians (??) and found by subway workers, is a pretty scary thing. The sentinel that guards the door warns not to open the door until doomsday, implying someone will be walking the abandoned tunnels of the New York subway system come the end of the world. When the door is opened, Hell more or less opens up, spreading slowly until the earth is covered in darkness and ghosts govern all planes of existence. It’s not a matter of if with the Doomsday Door. It’s a matter of when.
Billy: The spectral doorway into the Nether Regions hidden underneath the subways of New York. The premise is uncannily similar to one of Dan Aykroyd’s original visions for a potential Ghostbusters 3, and the concept works spectacularly well in an animated medium. The ancient Sumerian passageway releases all sorts of spectral troubles out unto the world. An entire subway car filled with skeletal passengers? A river-styx-esque boat rowed eternally by the damned? It’s all in this episode. Apart from merely a nuisance, however, opening these doors breaks open the dam to bring Doomsday onto the world. A new era of “eternal darkness and the Earth will be governed by ghosts”. When the Ghostbusters meet the actual Guardian of the Nether Realm, crossing over into “The Place of Lost Souls”, it feels like an epic moment. While the doors weren’t ghosts themselves, what they held back was potentially one of the biggest threats in Ghostbusters history.
The Undying One
First Appearance: The Moaning Stones (1987)
Amelia: I’m super pissed that The Undying One is only four. This abomination right there, this is my number two. Billy didn’t see it that way though and the most bitchin’ Winston-centric storyline has been relegated to spot four. The Undying One is an ancient demon that ruled the African Ibandi tribe. Shimabuku (whose soul resides in Winston nowadays) trapped the demon in the Moaning Stone and then separated it. When the stones are reunited, the Undying One is released. He sounds a lot like The Hob. And the Doomsday Door. And Samhain. It’s the end of the world in a different package. The difference is that the Undying One holds a grudge. A 6000 year old grudge and it’s directed right at Winston. Fuck yeah for people of colour in stories that highlight their ancestry and history!
Billy: Amelia likes The Undying One more than I do, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find him to be an intimidating threat. Seen for the first time in a museum, his ability to animate bones allows him and his army of minions to possess the fossilized remains of prehistoric skeletons throughout the museum. There’s a strong connection to the past with The Undying One, so much older in the way it presents itself than any other ghost or demon the Ghostbusters have faced. When we finally see The Undying One in his true form, the meld of exposed muscle and bone is so utterly demonic that you wonder how they got away with it in a cartoon. The fact that this story puts Winston in the spotlight as the descendant of Shimabuku’s bloodline is amazing. Winston always deserves more to do and The Undying One feels like character-centric storytelling done right.
First Appearance: Ghostbusters (1984)
Billy: This list wouldn’t be legitimate if Gozer wasn’t here. This is the Ghostbusters villain. The ghost that made the don’t-cross-the-streams rule obsolete. Gozer is the threat that’s built up all through Ghostbusters (1984) and when it’s finally revealed: it’s worth it. The screenplay went through many treatments of what this ultimate reveal would finally bring, but the final form is horrifying and iconic in all the right ways. Gozer appears as an androgynous female form, white pustules all over his body and bloodshot red eyes and a mouth that looks like it could tear you apart. When the voice of Gozer finally speaks, it has an Exorcist quality that feels completely alien. You completely buy that the Ghostbusters are outmatched by this villain, and it feels like more than a ghost. Gozer is a God.
Amelia: Billy likes Gozer in its glam, David Bowie-esque form more. I like Gozer in its giant marshmallow form more. Who wouldn’t? It’s a giant freaking marshmallow sailor stomping around Manhattan! Take into account that when he started making appearances in The Real Ghostbusters he’s disassociated from Gozer and is literally just a giant marshmallow man and he doesn’t really seem like a bad guy anymore. I’m all for a glam Gozer. It’s a good look for the 80s. I just like Stay Puft Gozer more.
First Appearance: When Halloween Was Forever (1986)
Billy: I’ve always felt like Samhain was the pinnacle of enemies encountered in The Real Ghostbusters. The star of two Ghostbusters Halloween specials, Samhain threatens to sink humanity into an endless night. Drawing every other ghost on the planet to his side in an apocalyptic event unseen before, the Ghostbusters are not only outmatched, they’re outnumbered. Samhain even manages to bring Slimer into his grasp, making the episode personal to the Ghostbusters as well as apocalyptic in scope. The darkest thing about Samhain is his cold, inverted morality, referring to the ghosts as “poor innocent creatures” and dominance of all spectral energy over humanity. Samhain’s total confidence made his view of the Ghostbusters as mere insects. Even more disturbing is that when captured, Samhain doesn’t fight. He sits and waits. He waited twelve hundred years. He’ll wait again. Recurring throughout several future episodes of The Real Ghostbusters, you really felt like Samhain was a ghost that wasn’t ever going to be truly defeated.
Amelia: I don’t think Samhain should be two. I fought against this. I wanted the Undying One here. But no, apparently Samhain’s big ol’ stupid pumpkin head is better! I agree that Samhain is important to supernatural mythos. He’s the embodiment of Halloween. He collects up lesser spirits as his children and stops time so that it will be Halloween forevermore. Creepy yeah, but he’s no possessed dinosaur skeleton that knew Winston in a past life. See Billy’s paragraph if you’re interested in Sam. I’ll be over here fuming.
The Thing In Mrs. Faversham’s Attic
First Appearance: The Thing In Mrs. Faversham’s Attic (1987)
Amelia: Despite what Billy thinks, this Thing is one of the most powerful ghosts the boys in grey have ever gone up against. It’s a creature that was summoned with dark magic to strike up a deal. When it refused the deal, it was bound within an attic. For seventy years it was trapped. The attic became its prison and its domain, growing larger with its insanity. While unable to leave the attic, it howls through the night for revenge. Enter its domain and you’ll never leave. When it’s in its true form, it’s able to propel bolts of psychokentic energy. When it’s hiding among the acres of forgotten objects, it controls everything. Including being capable of possessing any inanimate object to create horrifying monstrosities out of coat racks and gardening tools. It’s the twisting of the everyday objects into instruments of revenge that make this unnamed Thing in Mrs. Faversham’s attic so damn creepy.
Billy: Enough about the big and powerful monsters now. The reason the thing in Mrs. Faversham’s attic gets top spot on this list is that it’s a personal story. The Thing is made up of random junk he finds around the Faversham attic. Disguising himself as coat racks and brooms, the Thing is terrifying in the same way you’re scared of the shadows you see out of the corner of your eye in the dark. When we finally see his full form, the endless cloud of purple gas and multiple eyes makes up an unfathomable beast. Yet it’s not an apocalyptic event. The stakes are not the universe, but one old woman who has no family of friends on which to rely. The ghost’s grudge is against one singular person, and that person isn’t even the one being targeted in this emotionally poignant episode. It goes to show that even though they’re capable of taking down the big threats, the Ghostbusters are never too big to help out a single person in trouble. When Peter goes back to the house at the end of the episode, we feel why this was the most important mission of them all.
Top 10 Ghosts Busted Honourable Mentions
– Cthulhu. Because c’mon, it’s Cthulhu! They not only get all his mythology correct, they’re able to defeat him by ionizing a roller coaster to attract lightning. That’s badass.
– The Boogeyman terrorized Egon when he was a child. He’s probably the reason Egon got into ghostbusting. Therefore, without the Boogeyman, there would be no Ghostbusters. If his character design weren’t so ridiculous, he would have made the actual list!
– Shanna is an Irish pop star with a secret: she’s really a banshee looking to cause trouble on an international level. Her songs make spooky stuff happen. What better way to maximize that then by cutting a record? It’s really quite ingenious.
– Blackie. It’s a terrible name but he’s a pretty cool ghoul. He’s a robber that was cursed when he went after a certain Egyptian artifact. Now he’s a towering monster, screeching and yowling in perpetual pain, forced to guard the treasure that he once tried to steal.
– And how could we have honourable mentions without the undersea, unexplained Mass Sponge Migration that inspired Ray to go into the spooks business? Well, since they only migrated a foot and a half, quite easily actually.
– The Sandman is probably one of the only big ticket ghosts we didn’t mention on this list.
– Likewise, Marduk God of Cities continues The Real Ghostbusters’ trend of widening the mythologies by including a Babylonian God.
– Vigo the Carpathian, the villain of Ghostbusters II. I’m shocked I wasn’t able to include him on this list. Well, no I’m not. After talking Amelia into Slimer, getting Samhain in at 2, and the fact that his plan was to possess a baby, I suppose it’s no surprise she flat-out refused to include Vigo and threatened to leave me if I said one more word on the matter.
– And Malachi gets a mention since Play Them Ragtime Blues was one of the only The Real Ghostbusters episodes I actually remembered from childhood, so he left a big impression on me.