For Portland Ghostbusters Charity Cosplay Group, busting feels good

Samantha Swindler / (TNS)

One of the rules of the Portland Ghostbusters charter, and it’s surprising that it needs to be said, is that members don’t actually catch ghosts.

“We don’t do paranormal investigations,” said the group’s co-founder, James Nelson. “In fact, we’ve gotten messages from people saying, ‘My house is haunted, I need someone to come look at it.’ I know people who do paranormal investigations, so I’m sending them to you, but we’re just a cosplay group, we’re not really going out and catching ghosts.”

No, the Portland Ghostbusters won’t be cleaning out ancient demonic entities from the city’s skyscrapers, but they will be showing up to raise money for charity and run slime-making workshops for kids.

Similar Ghostbusters cosplay groups exist all over the world. The clubs call themselves “franchises,” but only as a nod to Bill Murray’s line in the first “Ghostbusters” movie, “Franchise rights alone will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams.” .

In reality, each Ghostbusters chapter or club is an entity of its own, not beholden to any international Ghostbusting authority.

James Nelson co-founded the charity cosplay group in April 2012. He posted a message on the fan website asking if anyone in the Portland area wanted to start a franchise. He heard of Boone Langston, and the two first met over beers at McMenamins Broadway Pub to work out plans for their ghost hunting team.

Langston has left behind more often than not as he pursued fame in his other passion: Lego building. He was one half of the “Bearded Builders” team that appeared on the “Lego Masters” competition television series.

But in 2012, Langston and Nelson formed the original Portland Ghostbusters. They soon recruited three others on the message board and made their first appearance at Rose City Comic Con that September.

Today, the group has grown to about 20 active members, making it the largest Ghostbusters franchise in the Pacific Northwest. They joined walks and fundraisers for Make a Wish, the Autism Society of Oregon and the Lupus Foundation of America and raised money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital with appearances at Spirit Halloween stores. They also attend free birthday parties and lead slime-making workshops with children at museums and conventions.

“We never charge for a birthday party,” said Joanna Nelson, James’s wife and co-chair of the group. “We don’t get paid to do this, this is all voluntary, we all have regular jobs.”

Instead of setting a fee, the Portland Ghostbusters accept tips that go toward replenishing their slime supplies, making donations to other charities, and covering the costs of appearances at parties where families can’t afford to pay.

Much of this work was halted during the pandemic, but for the opening weekend of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the members showed up at two Century 16 movie theaters to pose for photos with moviegoers and show off their hunting devices. ghosts.

Shawn Marshall joined the group in 2013 after seeing the members at Rose City Comic Con. He had been a lone wolf Ghostbuster for years, building his own proton pack in 1984 after the first movie came out.

That year, Marshall had attended a visual effects conference by Richard Edlund, who had just worked on the original “Ghostbusters” film and had the film’s Egon Spengler package on display.

Marshall and a friend brought a camera and a ruler and quickly snapped a bunch of reference photos of the package. They then went home to build their own versions.

Marshall’s proton pack, which he still uses today, was made from wood, PVC pipe, a Pringles can, White Out correction fluid caps, a can of Super 8 film, and a cast made from his roasting pan. mother. In the days before readily available home computers, he pulled warning labels from Atari games, electrical boxes, and a weed shredder to add some graphic elements to his creation.

Since then, he has also made his own PKE meter and Ecto glasses that are used in the movies.

Marshall admits the “Ghostbusters” movie didn’t exactly change his life, though he did win a $100 prize in a costume contest that first year.

“I’m coming from the point of view of the builders and the creators,” Marshall said. “It’s fertile ground for making cool stuff that people like to see.”

While some members take pride in building their own proton packs, store-bought accessories work just as well. And don’t let technology intimidate you. The new Portland Ghostbusters only need a flight suit, a “no ghost” patch, and a name patch to get started.

What draws Ghostbusters cosplayers is part nostalgia, part geeky fun.

“I remember for my seventh birthday I ordered a proton pack from Kenner,” said James Nelson. “That was the best birthday present I have ever received. Of course, I was a Ghostbuster that year for Halloween, and I remember playing Ghostbusters with my friends. Watching it again… I had this sense of joy and wonder that I had as a child.”

Scott Grohs, who joined the Portland Ghostbusters in 2015, had been a fan since he was a kid watching “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoons in the 1980s.

“I think the real genius of Ghostbusters is not just that there are ghosts and that they can be caught,” Grohs said. “It’s just that with the right equipment and a little bit of training, you can take them down.”

Mykel Gosch, a Portland Ghostbuster since 2018, echoed the sentiment. You don’t have to be a superhero to be a Ghostbuster. Anyone can be a Ghostbuster.

“The best thing about being a Ghostbuster is having your real name on your uniform,” Gosch said. “So, you can be Batman, you can be Superman. But when you’re a Ghostbuster, you’re yourself. You’re just a better version of yourself.”

Learn more about the Portland Ghostbusters at