There are Ghostbusters costuming groups in 20 states and six countries. One of the first GB groups was the New York chapter, founded in 1997, the same year a blanket group called "Ghostbusters International" sprang up to provide a cyber-rendezvous point for GB fans everywhere. GB International now has more than 3,500 members.

But the genesis of Arizona Ghostbusters predates the New York club and Ghostbusters International. It started in 1989, when Matt Haynes and some friends were trying to figure out what to be for Halloween. Ghostbusters II had just come out, and one of his friends suggested they dress as Ghostbusters. Haynes initially laughed at the idea, but "I got to thinking about it, and I happen to have access to flight suits. I took some old automotive parts and some two-by-fours and made some proton packs," he says.

They showed up at some Halloween parties and were an instant hit. People wanted to talk about the movie, marvel at the makeshift props, and take photos with the group.

"And it was that Halloween weekend that told me that Ghostbusters are just universally loved, whether you look like you stepped off the film or not," Haynes says. "Everybody loves the idea of a Ghostbuster and hanging out with them. And I thought, 'I'd love to get a group of guys together and do some charity work with this costume.'"

So Haynes — a tall, lean, bald fellow who resembles Superman villain Lex Luthor — started attending comic conventions in his Ghostbusters costume and handing out candy at malls around Halloween. But it would be many years before he would meet a group of people who shared his Ghostbusters vision. In the meantime, he tried to get involved with another costuming fan group.

The Fighting 501st Legion, better known as simply "the 501st," is arguably the biggest fan costuming group in the world. Patterned after the malevolent stormtrooper army in the Star Wars films, the 501st was established in 1997 and now has 4,200 active members in 40 countries. They show up at numerous charity events and conventions and have a strict membership policy. Costumes must pass the group's "admission standards" (i.e., entirely movie-accurate). There's an Arizona chapter, too, and if they hadn't rejected Matt Haynes' membership application in the late '90s, he might have never started the Arizona Ghostbusters group.

Haynes was 14 when Ghostbusters came out, and he's seen it countless times since. But he says he's not so much a Ghostbusters fanatic as a movie fanatic in general. His home in Goodyear is filled with memorabilia from a variety of films — a nine-foot painting of Vigo, the villain from Ghostbusters II, hangs on the wall in the foyer, but there are also crates and treasure props made to resemble those in the Indiana Jones films, some Superman statues, two walls of replica weapons featured in films such as Blade Runner and Robocop, and a massive wooden airplane, with Snoopy in the pilot's seat, hanging from the vaulted ceiling in the entry room.

But the biggest part of Haynes' geek dream collection consists of Star Wars stuff. The married father of two, who has worked as a manager at the Hobby Bench for nearly 20 years, has a whole room in his house dedicated to Star Wars memorabilia, from a foosball table to multiple lightsabers.

He really wanted to become a member of the 501st Legion in Phoenix, but he says the group never seemed interested in working with him.

"I really wanted to be a part of the 501st, but they snubbed me. A lot of people complain about their elitist attitude," he says. "I think they thought I wasn't good enough, or cool enough or whatever, to join them. But their rejection of me really provided the springboard for Arizona Ghostbusters. I almost want to thank them. If they had accepted me, I would be a stormtrooper right now instead of a Ghostbuster."

In 2007, Haynes met four people who would form the core of Arizona Ghostbusters with him — Jeff Lewis, Matt Sremaniak, Neal Tracey, and Esther Groves. (Disclosure: Groves is a close friend of the author of this story.) "We all kind of hooked up at the same time, at the Phoenix Comic-Con," Haynes says. "And three months later, we started doing charity events."

After forming, the group quickly acquired a Web site (www.arizonaghostbusters.com), business cards, fliers, and costumes and props so movie-accurate (including a replica of the Ecto-1 car) that other Ghostbuster fan groups expressed jealousy on Internet message boards and pleaded for the AZ GB's trade secrets and prop specs.

Everyone in the group will tell you their costumes and props are not toys. This is because they cost a lot of money to make. AZ Ghostbuster Mark Worley, a machinist at Patriot Ordnance Factory Inc., made the molds for the group's proton packs and fabricates the parts in his spare time. Each proton pack consists of more than a hundred components and has a base price of $350. Such effects as flashing lights, sound, or hoses that shoot small streams of clear slime cost extra. "A proton pack is like a hot rod — it's never done," Lewis says.

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2 comments
Ralph Demark
Ralph Demark

I think its kind of funny that people are actually taking the paranormal serious and for many its a daily job. I've never been real big into believing those things but if there is evidence then I won't doubt it. College Grants For Single Mothers

Tom
Tom

Why do I have the sinking feeling that the scrooge or grinch who actually owns the Ghostbusters trademark is sooner or later going to threaten a lawsuit for copyright infringement?

 
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