I learned of Harold Ramis’ passing almost by accident, and it was early when the news broke. At first a little piece of me hoped it was one of those mistakes that the news outlets jump to reporting before confirmed. Someone hacked an account, somewhere. Someone posted without running it past their editor. Somehow, sadly, I knew it was true. That one of the Ghostbusters – one of my childhood heroes from the entertainment world – had passed. For real.
I don’t remember seeing Ghostbusters in the theater. I was 5 years old when the movie came out, so I probably didn’t see it then. Honestly, I don’t know for sure if I was hooked on the movie or the cartoon series first. What I do remember, though, is going to the video rental store in our neighborhood and getting to pick out whatever movie I wanted (within reason, at least, for a kid). Every time, without hesitation, I picked Ghostbusters.
I remember going home to watch it. I remember rewinding the VHS tape after the final credits had rolled and watching it again. And again. And again. Then I remember going to bed, waking up the next morning and pushing play again. Sometimes before school, sometimes on the weekend when I could watch it replay over and over again as a special treat. I would normally watch it six to nine times before it was time to return it back to the video store. That’s in no way an exaggeration. I don’t really know why my parents never bought the movie for me. I don’t recall really asking at the time. Being a parent now myself, it probably had something to do with the fear that it would never be off of the TV. That I would watch it in perpetuity, only every once in a while coming up for air or food or water.
I didn’t perfectly relate to Egon Spengler, Ramis’ character in the movie, though there were some parallels. I had glasses, I was skinny and quiet. I liked to study and learn things and figure out how things worked. Egon was a scientist who somehow became an action hero when he slipped on that Ghostbusters uniform and proton pack. That was pretty cool to me. He always had his PKE meter (probably more of a memory from the cartoon) that would read how strong the ghost in the room or vicinity might be (and by extension how scared we should be of the impending ghost(s) that would come on screen). So, I always had my toy PKE meter to investigate the anomalies around the house and the back yard.
In a way, modeling the way the Ghostbusters investigated the latest case helped me to learn how to imagine and create and discover. We look back at these things now as adults as ‘playtime’ or ‘kids being kids,’ but imagination is an important tool in a child’s learning and social development and without it, we can sometimes grow to become detached and unrelatable. Some of these traits come natural to people and those kids get to where they need to be developmentally at a faster pace than others. For me, it didn’t. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. There weren’t any kids in the neighborhood to play with and my friends from school lived in a different neighborhood, so I had a lot of alone time. A lot of time to think and figure out how things worked, pretend and above all have Egon and the other Ghostbusters as my imaginary friends to play with and go on adventures of discovery with me. I can’t say definitively that I would have had as rich of a life as I do without having been introduced to these characters and this world, a world that Harold Ramis had a large hand in creating. For that, I am truly grateful.
(This article was originally posted on Feb. 25, 2014)