Perhaps the most infamous scene in the original Ghostbusters isn’t even really a full scene. Of course, I’m talking about the moment when Ray Stantz, as played by series creator Dan Aykroyd, has his pants unzipped by a floating female apparition and is ... shall we say, “pleasured” by her. That experience is so intense that Ray’s eyes go crossed. It’s a moment that keeps coming up over and over again, because the latest movie, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, repurposes the franchise into a family-friendly coming-of-age story about teenagers taking on the ghostbusting mantle. The original Ghostbusters was very much not a family movie.
But beyond that very obvious point, that sex scene begs a rather difficult question: if ghosts can have sexual relations, they must have feelings, right? And if they have feelings, shouldn’t they have rights? The Ghostbusters go around trapping and incarcerating these spirits simply for existing. What happens to the ghosts in that containment unit is completely unknown. It could be Heaven or it could be Hell.
To answer those tricky questions, we go straight to the source. On this week’s Galaxy Brains, I’m joined by Dan Aykroyd himself to discuss the philosophical questions raised by ghost sex and entrapment.
As always, this conversation has been edited to sound less weird.
Dave: One thing I want to talk to you about is the philosophical implications of some of this stuff. Obviously, Ghostbusters is a romp. It’s a fun adventure story. It’s a comedy. But one of the things that always piqued my interest into adulthood is, you know, there are ghosts that can be intimate with the living. There’s a scene in the original Ghostbusters where your character Ray is intimate with a ghost.
Dan Aykroyd: Yes, I remember the woman who played that. Her name was Kym Herrin, and she was a Playboy Playmate. She played the ghost. Like, I wish they’d let that scene go a little longer.
Dave: As a child, I thought the same thing.
Dan Aykroyd: Sexual encounters with spirits are very, very common. And there are some people that I know that have a house that have a presence and they don’t try to purge it. They say, You know what, I’m going to stay with it and I’ll live with it.
Dave: Yeah. So the reason why I’m interested in this is not prurient or sexual, necessarily, but the idea that when you trap these ghosts in the containment unit in Ghostbusters, they live there, presumably forever because you can’t really dispose of them. They’re just trapped, right?
Dan Aykroyd: They’re trapped. But once they get in there, it’s an amalgamation of their energy. So think of it as a void. Once you get in there, they blend and they all become this ball of psychic energy. You could put a million spirits in there, and it’s not going to take up any more space. It’s not as if there’s any real concept of space in that space.
Dave: So they’re living inside of a vacuum and sort of a void. Does a ghost have consciousness if it can be intimate and feel love and, you know, engage in sexuality? Do they notice anything, at least in your conception of this universe? Are they aware of the void that they’re in?
Dan Aykroyd: You know, compassionately speaking, we would hope that the amalgam of their psychology all blends so that they can sit there and hum for years. I fear that there might be some vestiges of the residual consciousness left. So it is a prison, probably. I wanted it to be a compassionate one. But, you know, from my family’s research ... If you look at my dad’s book, History of Ghosts, which was just published in Poland, by the way, it’s a definitive piece on mediums and sciences and the world of paranormal research. They totally believe the spiritual, that the consciousness survives and that it does go on, as what you were when you came through this whole life. So I guess they do have consciousnesses like a fish. Once you take the hook out, they don’t really do too much.
Dave: Yeah, I’m just so fascinated by this. Not to say that like, oh, the whole premise is not compassionate. It’s just like, Oh yeah, what would that be like? What would it be like to live inside of that? I think maybe there’s something to be explored there in subsequent films because it’s a thing that I have no concept of.
Dan Aykroyd: Well, it would be a void. And I suppose I think it could be a great animated project.
Dave: Yeah. What is going on there?
Dan Aykroyd: Well, we have an animated idea in the works with Ivan Reitman at Ghost Corps. Maybe I don’t know where we’re going to go in terms of story with the first two movies or whether it’s going to take another turn and introduce a whole new world. We’re only in development on that right now. It’s exciting to think of Ghostbusters being animated because we’ve already had a very successful television show, The Real Ghostbusters.