“Are you troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night?” If you answered yes to Ghostbuster Ray Stantz’s (Dan Aykroyd) question and it has nothing to do with the upstairs tenants’ breaking in their new set of leather-clad playtime accessories, then you will definitely want to read on.
In advance of the juicy details of this blog, I feel there is significance in my fellow Outlaws knowing that before the event of which I speak below, I had never been part of any serious real-life haunted tour. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing ghosts on a paid guided tour is the last time I shelled out the equivalent of Warren Buffet’s real estate holdings to sit on a ride that was eventually made into an Eddie Murphy movie. Please don’t jump to conclusions though, it’s not because I’m scared per se. It’s more of a precaution that should an incident ever occur on a tour where supernatural phenomena actually makes itself present, I wouldn’t want to subject the other attendees to any potential high-pitched shrieks followed by loss of bowel movements. Excuse ME for being a gentleman.
All that changed recently however when I caught wind—and not the Taco Bell-induced variety—of a haunted bus tour that was strictly devoted to visiting all of the locations where Ghostbusters was filmed in the Los Angeles area. Most may think the film was shot completely in New York, when in fact most of the scenes were shot in LA (minus a few exterior shots). For many, that may be the first new nugget of info you absorb from this post. For most, they probably stopped reading after they realized what blog they were reading. Alas, I digress.
The tour itself was offered as a one day only event by GHOULA (Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles) in honor of the film’s 30th anniversary. That in itself was enough to make the pilgrimage to Los Angeles and give me the courage to face my inner demons—but not the outer ones—and conquer my fear of getting possessed by an entity that could potentially turn me into a terror dog, or worse, an IRS agent.
THE BILTMORE HOTEL
After showing up in the infamous Outlaw jersey and making it clear I had no shame (or fashion sense), the tour started in the iconic main lobby of The Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Fans of the movie will instantly recognize the distinguishable arches through which our favorite paranormal exterminators enter as they arrive on their first call to investigate a slimy green visitor.
Speaking of slime-producing-ghouls, the entire scene with Slimer (aka onion head, aka John Belushi) in the ballroom was actually never a ballroom at all. The room itself is actually a reception area that was transformed into a ballroom thanks to the work of some movie magic—or wooden boards for the non-magically inclined.
In the movie, the hotel is known as The Sedgewick, but even that was a phony moniker as the hotel is purportedly based on the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Nonetheless, The Biltmore was used for the ultra-brief exterior scene as well.
All of these film fun facts were quickly followed by actual ghost stories, one of which involved The Biltmore’s service stairwell where not one, but two grooms pushed their brides over the staircase railing to their death. Both incidents were decades apart, but apparently the haunting of one had to do with the second event. While this sounds more like an X-Files episode than anything else, the most depressing part of the entire story dealt with the fact that the same stairwell was the exact one used to represent Dana Barrett’s apartment at the end of Ghostbusters but was unfortunately closed due to the double murders that took place within. Dammit! Leave it to a couple of guys who got cold feet about marriage to put a damper on the tour.
THE PUBLIC LIBRARY
Unlike The Biltmore, the external shots of the New York Public Library were actually captured outside the library on the east coast, as was the inside shot of the pre-busters scientists walking through the reading room. However, the scenes in the underground library archive that follow were all filmed at the public library also in Downtown LA.
Tragically, the library as seen in Ghostbusters fell to arson several years ago, thus requiring a rebuild of most of the library. Only parts of the older architecture were saved in the aftermath and one of the sections spared is now a children’s reading room.
THE SONY LOT – STAGE 15
After walking around for approximately 45 minutes and wondering exactly when the heck the bus came into play, we finally made our way to our transportation. Granted I wasn’t expecting a state-of-the-art luxury cruiser but I was a tad bewildered by the fact that our bus wasn’t a bus at all, but rather a white van with blacked-out windows. I was half-expecting our tour guide to offer us candy in order to get us to board.
The first stop on the motor vehicle part of the tour took us to the Sony Studios Lot to give us a glimpse of the storied Stage 15, which is the largest sound stage in North America and the second largest in the world. When I say “stop” and “take a glimpse” I’m not joking as our tour van literally stopped in the middle of the street with heavy traffic in order to allow us to take in the stage from roughly a half mile away. While we didn’t see much, we did learn that the famous sound stage, originally built in 1927, was used for the now infamous rooftop scene of the Ghostbusters finale and actually had to be expanded to accommodate the set required for the final battle with Gozer.
THE AYROYD HOUSE THAT BUILT GHOSTBUSTERS
Inspiration for anything in life starts somewhere and most fans—casual and die-hard alike—are aware of the fact that Ghostbusters is Dan Aykroyd’s baby. What many might not know is where exactly the idea behind the ghost-capturing team originated . Following a seven mile trek through the Hollywood Hills that played hide-and-seek with my lunch, the little-van-that-could pulled up to a well-hidden bungalow of a house that Aykroyd himself used to own.
Also owned at one point by actress Donna Dixon, Aykroyd claimed (as did Dixon) the house was haunted and thus fueled his already paranormal obsession in creating the concept for Ghostbusters. After our guide shared the multitude of haunted encounters reportedly experienced by Aykroyd and Dixon, I was more than happy to view this site from a safe distance for a limited period of time.
Last but not least, the final stop on our Ghostbusters Bus-That’s-Really-A-Van haunted mobile tour took us to what might be the most identifiable locale of the movie: the firehouse. Again, regrettably the LA version of the firehouse was used for interior scenes only, whereas the exterior visuals were provided by Hook & Ladder #8 in New York. I insinuate the negative in my statement above due in large part because the firehouse we drove by was locked up and condemned. While I was dismayed by this, I didn’t argue about not getting out of the vehicle to take a closer look seeing as the condemned building was conveniently located in the quaint surroundings of Skid Row.
Despite some of the limitations of access to certain buildings, the Ghostbuster Ghost Bus/Van Tour was more enjoyable than I could have anticipated. In addition, for someone like myself who knows almost every factoid about the film that the internet can dish out, I definitely found the whole experience more informative than I could have imagined.
Looking back on the whole day, I was indeed happy to take part in the tour as it was something I had never originally planned on taking part in. GHOULA’s creation of a Ghostbusters centric tour did just the trick in dragging me out of the house and into the world of reportedly real paranormal hot spots. The tour brought me back to an extended version of my original question: “When you hear strange noises in the night, who ya gonna call?” If the stories I heard on this excursion are even remotely true, then you can bet I’ll be dialing up my local pharmacist informing them to double my dosage of sedatives.