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He’s pacified the spirits of The Turner-Dodge House for a group of children, investigated the ghosts of Stober’s Bar late at night and even took to the streets for Silver Bells to hunt for the ghost of Christmas past.
Lansing’s real-life ghostbuster is Ryan Holmes, an artist and teacher by day, a ghostbuster by night.
“Growing up, my baby sitter was a 'Ghostbusters' VHS,” Holmes said. “I watched it over and over again. It was my Pokemon or Fortnite. It was everything I liked as a kid.”
Ray Stantz, played by Dan Akroyd, was his favorite character.
“He had this curious childlike heart and knew how all the machines worked,” recalled Holmes.
Holmes’ parents got him his first proton pack in 1988. Armed with the machinery, Holmes would go into neighbors’ houses to hunt for ghosts. It was the start of a lifelong pursuit of Ghostbusting.
Holmes’ first deep dive as a hobbyist came from researching how to build authentic proton packs on the internet in the early web days of 2001. As a senior in high school, he took on the challenge of building a replica ghostbusting suit from the ground up for Halloween.
The process was detailed meticulously in a heavy Ghostbusters binder Holmes filled with blueprints, guides and memories from his Ghostbusting over the past 20 years.
“My mom thought I was crazy, but at the same time, I thought she was impressed,” he said.
Looking at his first Proton Pack makes him cringe.
“Everything was unproportioned, but it was between pictures and blueprints at the time on message boards,” he said. “Most things you could buy at a dollar store and it was made of mostly cardboard.”
Another difficulty in replicating the pack is that it isn’t symmetrical. Early builders of the replicas contacted the prop department only to find most of the pack was assembled from things lying around a movie set. Holmes said someone recently created the cyclotron for a proton pack using pieces from an old camera.
Nowadays, 3D printing is the preferred method for recreating the suits. Holmes built four so far, taking about two months of work each.
His current proton pack is vacuum molded, reinforced with fiberglass and has the majority of its parts 3D printed. His proton gun relies on a set of magnets clipped to his proton pack when it isn’t being used.
The handheld “P.K.E. Meter” and “Ghost Trap” are Mattel reissues. Holmes scuffed them up by hand to make them more rugged looking.
Some replica makers even get as deep as repurposing vape pens to shoot steam out of a vent in the proton pack, according to Holmes.
He added that some people take it to the next level and make the vapor toasted marshmallow flavor, a nod to the antagonist Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the original 1984 film.
Armed to the teeth against paranormal forces, Holmes now shows up as a Ghostbuster in Lansing for almost any event.
“Come 2016 for me, every holiday was Ghostbusters day. St. Patrick’s day? I’m out looking for leprechauns. Christmas and New Year’s? The second movie was around that time so I put on a Santa hat and would go out,” Holmes said.
In his travels, Holmes inspired a whole new generation of children in Lansing who believe Ghostbusting is an actual occupation.
“As soon as they see the outfit, they tell me they want to be a Ghostbuster. I tell them to stay in school, do your math and science work. I’ll tell them also to get to the gym because these packs get heavy,” Holmes said.
Holmes is a member of the Great Lakes Ghostbuster Coalition, a group of 13 Ghostbuster crews and 60 members from Michigan.
He leads a group of five Ghostbusters in Lansing with its very own Ecto 1 replica Ghostbusters vehicle, a remodeled Cadillac hearse.
Last year, a meet up of three Ecto 1 vehicles with Ghostbuster crews at the Capitol stirred some trouble.
“We thought we should go to the Capitol building to take a picture of our cars and hopped a curb to take it.”
After a quick trip for lunch, the group returned to grab another shot near the building. A sheriff greeted them by flagging the three cars immediately down to the side on Capitol Avenue.
“He got up to the window and said ‘I’m going to ask you a question and I already know the answer. Are you three the same Ghostbuster vehicles who came up here, popped the curb and took pictures?’”
Holmes remembered wanting to say, “No officer that was the three otherGhostbusters cars in Lansing, our evil doppelgangers and that’s who we’re after.”
The cop gave Holmes a stern warning never to do that again and take his ghostbusting elsewhere. He has for the time being.
The national network of amateur Ghostbusters extends all the way back to the Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. studio, where it dedicated a branch of its organization to support its fan group with the Ghost Corps.
Holmes reaches out to the organization occasionally for his day job working with emotionally impaired special needs children.
“I’ve reached out to them and told them where I worked and they’ve given me books for my classroom and stickers,” Holmes said. “A few years ago, four students of mine wanted to perform a Ghostbusters dance at a talent show and they sent me four inflatable proton packs with ‘rookie’ stickers.”
In January 2019, a teaser trailer dropped for the new Ghostbusters movie coming out in 2020. Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd already signed on to the project. It will be directed by the original director’s son Jason Reitman. The 2016 remake had mixed reviews.
“With the remake, they wanted to use what they thought Ghostbusters was: four people, some gear, a car and jokes,” Holmes said. “That’s not what the first one was. The first one was almost like a horror movie.”
The original wasn’t pandering to children to get extra money from the family-friendly crowd, he added. It was merely the result of creative people “with a vision they’re passionate about” that were left to their own devices.
“Anybody could be a Ghostbuster. You didn’t have to get bit by a spider. You show up to the firehouse, ask for a job, handle it and become a hero,” Holmes said.