by Meg Huber
“When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”
Recognized and loved by all generations are the words from the timeless theme song of Ghostbusters, the 1984 classic paranormal comedy that spurred a group of Pittsburghers to grab their gear and respond to the call.
You may have seen the Steel City Ghostbusters, dressed in full ghost-busting gear and accompanied by their 21-foot Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, at various events around the Burgh. They’re not searching high and low for ghosts, but rather they’re helping to raise money for charities and participating in food drives.
Dave Swartz, one of the founders of the SCGB, said the group had a rather unusual start. His best friend was getting married and wanted to dress up as Ghostbusters at the wedding reception. Dave had the task of finding out where to purchase the Ghostbusters uniform. In doing so, he came across a website called GBfans.com and other people in the area who loved the idea of creating a fan group.
“We had our first meeting in May 2008 at Uncle Sam’s Subs in the Fox Chapel Waterworks Plaza. There were five members that day that started the group but only three of us are still around. We now have roughly 20 members today and we have become a very tight-knit crew of friends from it,” said Dave.
Although it started as a costumed fan group, Dave decided that the attention the group received in public would be a great attraction for local charities. To raise more hype about the Ghostbusters, Ligonier Township Police Officer Bob Shapiro converted a 1967 Cadillac hearse into his own prototype of the Ecto-1 from the Ghostbusters movie. The car gets a lot of attention on its own and adds a little something extra to the charity events.
Dave says that the main goal for the Steel City Ghostbusters as a fan group is to raise money for charities and to be a staple in the Pittsburgh area.
“I basically get to enjoy time with my friends while being the one thing I dreamt of being since I was a kid. We don’t pretend to be something we’re not. We’re big kids and we know and admit it. We dress up, have fun, take pictures and most importantly we get to see people smile. We especially love seeing people’s faces when they first see us and when we hear people say ‘Its Ghostbusters!’” said Dave.
The group attends anywhere between ten and 25 events per year, helping to raise money and donate food for charities like the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank and the Junior League of Pittsburgh. They teamed up with a Ghostbusters fan group in Philadelphia to raise money for an Autism Speaks Charity Walk in 2010, and Dave said he’d like to get involved with Autism Speaks in the Pittsburgh area as well. The group is completely non-profit and pays for everything out of their own pockets, from their official Ghostbusters patches to their proton packs.
For the past two years, SCGB has attended events like the Pittsburgh Zombie Fest in Market Square, helping with the registration and taking canned food donations. They’ve also been asked to participate in 96.1 Kiss FM’s Stuff-A-Bus Toy Drive every year, and, on several occasions, SCGB has helped out New Dimension Comics in Pittsburgh Mills Mall, taking pictures and drawing a crowd. More recently, they ran a food drive there called “Fill the Ecto” for the Food Bank, with the Ecto actually parked inside the mall.
Dave said that last October was a pretty busy month for the Ghostbusters and this year they’ll try to participate in more Halloween-related events. They usually make sure to attend haunted houses as a group, and this month they were asked to participate in Idlewild Park’s HallowBoo! event.
As part of the group’s goal to become a staple for charities and the city of Pittsburgh, they have worked to spread the word about the Ghostbusters and the events they attend. They were featured on 96.1 Kiss FM and their YouTube video with Mikey and Big Bob from the Morning Freak Show received over 750 views. WTAE and the Valley News Dispatch featured Shapiro’s converted Ecto-1.
Two years ago, the group started a short video series called Bustin’ 101 and several episodes of the show were posted on YouTube.
“Bustin’ 101 was going to become our own little web show where we basically played ourselves but to an exaggerated level and made it our hometown version of the movies,” said Dave.
The series has since tapered off, but Dave said they’d like to compete with other fan groups that have made their own full-length films, so they’re hoping to get the show moving again.
The Steel City Ghostbusters get to participate in many interesting events around the city, but Dave said the most memorable for all of the members was getting to meet the writer and star of the original Ghostbusters film, Dan Aykroyd. Mr. Aykroyd came to the city to promote his line of vodka (Crystal Head Vodka) but when he saw the Ghostbusters all in gear in the crowd, he gave them each the opportunity to get individual pictures and autographs.
“He was amazing and it’s something I know all of us will cherish,” said Dave.
The Steel City Ghostbusters will continue to make as many appearances as they can and help out with more local charities. One of their goals is to get involved with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Dave said the Steel City Ghostbusters are different from some other charitable groups.
“Aside from the obvious, we don’t treat this as work because it really isn’t to us. We go to an appearance or event and we just be ourselves and have fun, which seems to make a difference,” said Dave.
To learn more about the Steel City Ghostbusters and how to become a member visit the website at www.steelcityghostbusters.com. To request the SCGB for events, visit their Facebook page or email them at email@example.com.
(Photos are courtesy of Dave Swartz.)