The first two Ghostbusters films are ‘80s classics. Excellent special effects, brilliant writing and some awesomely freaky ghosts combine to make these films genuinely scary and incredibly memorable.
Now with the all-female Ghostbusters reboot unleashing even more ghouls in cinemas this summer, it’s definitely time to find out which is the scariest ghost of them all. Our list is a ghoulish ranking featuring every ghost – and a couple of possessed souls – who have ever crossed streams with Egon (Harold Ramis), Peter (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston (Ernie Hudson). But who’s the scariest of them all?
Here’s Every Ghost in Ghostbusters I & II, Ranked From Worst To Best.
Film: Ghostbusters I & II
This floating green ball of ectoplasm is more interested in pigging out than scaring guests at the swanky Sedgewick Hotel. Although ugly, this rotund glutton is hardly the most terrifying of ghosts. And Slimer has earnt himself a special place in the Ghostbusters universe, appearing in Ghostbusters I & II and the cartoon series. Director Ivan Reitman describes Slimer as a party guy looking to have a good time, much like the first actor who was supposed to play Peter Venkman, John Belushi.
However, Slimer wasn’t always known as Slimer. On set the ghost was referred to as ‘Onion Head’. It was audiences that christened the foul smelling ghost with the name Slimer after the film was released.
16 Dream Ghost
The next ghost barely registers on the Scare-O-Meter. The Dream Ghost (also known as the Fort Derring Ghost) is a heavenly body that floats above Ray while he’s asleep and, ahem, unzips his pants. Unluckily for Ray, he rolls off his bed, crashing to the floor.
Ray’s encounter with this seductive spook appears in the montage sequence charting the Ghostbusters’ rise to fame. However, a longer scene was shot featuring Ray and Winston investigating a ghost sighting at Fort Derring. When Ray falls asleep in the officer’s quarters… well, the rest is in the film. Harold Ramis justified the cutting of the scene as it was too long and didn’t feel right for the film. Dan Aykroyd himself has no regrets about shooting the scene, telling Ghostbusters: The Ultimate History: “I have a friend who had three women visit him in a haunted house in Louisiana, and it was one of the greatest nights of his life.”
15 Central Park Jogger Ghost
Film: Ghostbusters II
Even in the afterlife the Jogger Ghost continues his fitness regime, running circuits around New York’s Central Park in Ghostbusters II. Now that's dedication. This sporty ghost is so locked into his fitness regime he fails to notice the trap set for him by Peter Venkman. Check out Ray and Peter’s little victory dance upon catching this ghost during the end credits. The boys have moves.
Actor Jim Faye not only played the Jogger Ghost, but portrayed the Statue of Liberty and Tony Scoleri, one of the criminal ghosts that plague the Ghostbusters trial in Ghostbusters II. Must have been quite a gig!
14 Subway ghost
When pencil pushing government official Walter Peck shuts down the Ghostbusters’s containment facility, he unknowingly unleashes the undead on New York City. This includes the Subway Ghost, which terrorizes commuters during the daily rush hour with its mouthful of tentacles and banshee-like wailing.
Initially, this ghost was to have three heads. Unfortunately, this design would have cost too much for a ghost that features in the film for mere seconds. It’s probably just as well. Surely, subway commuters have been traumatized enough.
13 City of Albany ghost train
Film: Ghostbusters II
While trying to locate the river of slime down in the pits of New York’s subterranean metro and sewer systems, Egon, Ray and Winston are railroaded by the City of Albany Ghost Train. Winston gets it worst, with the train running right through his body as the other two Ghostbusters duck out of the way.
Coming after the horrifying discovery of dozens of severed heads mounted on spikes, The City of Albany Ghost Train is without doubt one of the scariest sequences in both films. However, the ghost train was only added after principal photography had finished. The filmmakers wanted to add more special effects and scares to the second half of the movie. They succeeded.
12 Mink coat ghost, Titanic, Washington Square ghost, Cinema ghost
Film: Ghostbusters II
With Vigo’s power intensifying (more on him later), New York becomes plagued by paranormal activity. In classic ‘80s style, Ghostbusters 2 depicts this with a montage sequence in which four ghosts run riot.
The mink fur coat that comes back to life and attacks its wealthy owner gets ghoul-points for viciousness. But little can match the epic gloom of the wrecked Titanic docking 77 years after its scheduled arrival. Like they say in the film, “better late than never.” Over on Washington Square, gridlocked commuters are being terrified by some kind of monstrous dinosaur. While in a dark cinema a movie-going ghost is causing popcorn munchers to flee. But hey, perhaps it wasn’t the ghost that caused them to run. After all, The Karate Kid: Part III was released in 1986.
11 Psychomagnotheric Slime
Film: Ghostbusters II
Psychomagnotheric slime – otherwise known as mood slime – has the power to heighten a person’s mood either negatively or positively. But it doesn’t just have to be people. This pinky-purplely goop can also animate inanimate objects. In one of Ghostbusters II’s most memorable scenes, Ray and Egon demonstrate the power of the ooze to a skeptical Peter by making a toaster dance to Jackie Wilson. Later in the film, it causes Dana’s bath to try and eat poor baby Oscar.
Our ghost-busting heroes get a bad feeling when they discover a river of slime running beneath New York’s streets and leading to the ill-fated Museum of Modern Art – home to the villainous Vigo. When Ray, Egon and Winston fall in to the river, they emerge trying to kill each other. During filming, 100,000 gallons of slime was used. Apparently the stuff is edible, with the film crew using the same ingredients used to make pie thickeners and salad dressing. Yum! Somebody call Slimer.
10 Zombie Taxi Driver
Alright, New York taxi drivers have a reputation. But a zombie taxi driver? That’s one tip you wouldn’t dare skimp on. One of the scarier ghosts in Ghostbusters, this decrepit member of the walking dead could have easily featured in any straight-up horror movie. His driving is also pretty terrifying, but maybe we should cut him some slack. He is dead, after all. In an early version of the script the character was a zombie biker. But a taxi driver is far more New Yawk.
Apparently Dan Aykroyd has been confirmed as a taxi driver in this summer’s Ghostbusters sequel. Hopefully not in a zombified form.
9 Scoleri Brothers
Film: Ghostbusters II
The Scoleri Brothers (Nunzio and Tony) were condemned to the electric chair by Judge Stephen Wexler (Harris Yulin). The very same judge that tries Ray, Peter and Egon in Ghostbusters II. Brought into being by a sample of slime and Wexler’s tirade while sentencing the Ghostbusters, these two criminals ride their electric chairs through the courtroom looking for their own brand of justice.
Designing the Scoleris, the visual effects crew took inspiration from that other Dan Aykroyd classic, The Blues Brothers. However, the little and large pair swap sunglasses and fedoras for singed prison uniforms, crackling electricity, and gaping mouths. Nunzio Scoleri – the larger of the two brothers – is played by an uncredited Tim Lawrence. Lawrence was part of the visual effects crew and played a key role in designing the Scoleris.
8 Library Ghost
The Library Ghost is one of the first ghosts Peter, Egon and Ray encounter. Initially appearing as a mild-mannered, old-fashioned librarian, this spook uses the element of surprise to give audiences an old-fashioned fright. Incredibly, an even scarier Library Ghost puppet was built but it was deemed way too scary for the PG-rated film. This version of the puppet did, however, experience an afterlife of sorts when it was reused for the original Fright Night.
Ghostbusters is very much a New York film. And while the hall of the New York Public Library is used to film the Ghostbusters’s arrival, it’s the Los Angeles Public Library that’s used for the discovery of the Library Ghost.
7 Dr. Janosz Poha
Film: Ghostbusters II
OK, Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol) isn’t really a ghost. However, once he is possessed by Ghostbusters II villain Vigo, this quirky museum curator turned minion takes on some decidedly ghost-like supernatural abilities. First, during a city-wide blackout, he uses his eyes as beams of light. Handy, if a little disturbing. Secondly, he takes the spectral form of an English nanny to fly to Dana’s apartment and kidnap her baby so that Vigo may live again. A demonic Mary Poppins? Now that’s the stuff of nightmares.
But Poha wasn’t always going to be the one to kidnap little Oscar. Everything from a two-headed dragon, gargoyles and a ghoulish Santa were pitched for the devilish deed.
6 Possessed Ray
Film: Ghostbusters II
It was possession at first sight when Ray laid eyes on the painting of Vigo the Carpathian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Ghostbusters II. Although it was only at the film’s climax that Vigo fully took control of Ray, turning the good-natured Ghostbuster into a grotesque demon, complete with red eyes and horns. Like Poha, this entry is more a possessed soul than a ghost. However, being possessed by a ghost just about makes the criteria for the list, especially when it’s this scary.
While it’s hinted at throughout the film, Ray’s possession was originally a little more obvious. In a deleted scene from Ghostbusters II, Ray, behind the wheel of Ecto-1, runs a red light and threatens to kill everyone. Luckily, Winston’s on hand to knock Ray out and stomp on the brakes.
5 Vinz Clortho the Keymaster
Vinz Clortho the Keymaster is one of the two demonic dog-like minions of Gozer. Awoken atop Dana Barrett’s apartment building, Vinz seeks a human body to possess in order to mate with fellow demi-god, Zuul the Gatekeeper, and bring Gozer back into this world. Vinz’s dog-form is a pretty formidable beast with glowing red eyes and large demonic horns. However, he doesn’t seem to be the smartest puppy in the supernatural pet shop. After possessing accountant Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), a seemingly bewildered Vinz repeatedly asks passersby - including a horse - if they are the Gatekeeper.
Originally Vinz’s victim Louis was to be played by the late, great John Candy. This resulted in a version of Vinz Clortho being designed that was short and dumpy. But Candy ultimately walked away from the movie when the writers were not prepared to expand the role of Louis.
4 Zuul the Gatekeeper
Next time you think your fridge has something demonically out-of-date in it, give a thought for poor Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver). Dana’s fridge contains Zuul the Gatekeeper – a minion of Gozer who takes the form of a demonic dog-like creature. Poor Dana is dragged into this fridge where she is possessed by Zuul. She emerges to lie in wait for Vinz Clortho, another of Gozer’s minions, so they can bring forth the return of Gozer. An unholy union if ever there was one.
In her audition for the part, Weaver pretended to transform into Zuul’s dog form. A process that apparently involved a lot of writhing around and snarling at director Ivan Reitman. Speaking of Reitman, the director also lent his deep tones for Dana’s possessed Zuul voice, which were intensified further in post production.
3 Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
When Gozer seemingly vanishes into thin air, the god offers the Ghostbusters a sadistic choice: choose the appearance of their destructor. Unfortunately, Ray picks the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. After all, he reasons his choice is “something that could never, ever possibly destroy us." Wrong, Ray, very wrong. Little spells terror like a 100ft marshmallow crushing all before it with the destructive glee of Godzilla on a sugar high.
The only way to roast this marshmallow is for the Ghostbusters to cross the streams from their proton packs – an ending that was only decided midway through filming.
In the original script, Mr. Stay Puft was to appear around 20 minutes into the film. But that script also featured time travel, numerous similarly-sized monsters and was estimated to have cost $300 million to film.
2 Gozer the Destroyer
Despite narrowly missing out on the top spot, Gozer the Destroyer is easily one of the scariest foes the Ghostbusters have had to take down. This ancient god has all kinds of crazy powers, not least the ability to shoot lightning bolts from her fingers and inter-dimensional travel. And like any supernatural marauder, Gozer has several boss nicknames, including: Gozer the Gozerian, Gozer the Destructor and Gozer the Traveler. Gozer was once worshipped by the Sumarians in about 6000 BC, and comes back to do what any ancient god-like figure would do: end the world.
But Gozer wasn’t always going to be the red-eyed demoness that makes the final film. Gozer was initially intended to take the form of Ivo Sandler, the architect behind the Gozer temple. Paul ‘Pee Wee Herman’ Reubens was envisioned for the part and would have appeared in a mundane suit and tie - a sartorial choice several dimensions away from the sparkliest of sparkly leotards Gozer wears in the final film.
1 Vigo the Carpathian
Film: Ghostbusters II
Vigo the Carpathian, the Scourge of Carpathia, the Sorrow of Moldovia, is so out-and-out evil that even his furniture is scary. Check out how he bigs himself up: “On a mountain of skulls, in the castle of pain, I sat on a throne of blood.” Whoaa! Not something you’d find in Ikea. We can only assume he’s compensating for that receding hairline. Not one to age gracefully is Vigo. Without a doubt, Vigo is the scariest hombre in the Ghostbusters universe, with several mean-sounding aliases: Vigo the Cruel, the Torturer, the Despised, the Unholy, and, according to Peter Venkman, the Butch.
Vigo was a tyrant and sorcerer from Carpathia in Hungary, and, it seems, not great at taking a hint. Moments before being thoroughly killed by his disgruntled people (including being shot, stabbed, disemboweled and hung) Vigo said, “Death is but a door. Time is but a window. I’ll be back.” Next stop was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where his spirit resided in a creepy self-portrait. Vigo’s big plan to reenter the world and restart his reign of terror was to possess Dana Barrett’s baby, Oscar. Thankfully the Ghostbusters – with a little help from Lady Liberty – put a stop to this in the film’s awesomely slime-splattered showdown.
Vigo was played by the late Norbert Grupe (credited with his stage name Wilhelm von Homburg). Grupe was a former boxer and wrestler who had also appeared as one of Alan Rickman’s henchmen in Die Hard - he’s the one who bazookas the S.W.A.T team’s armored car. Unfortunately for Grupe all his lines were dubbed in post-production by Max von Sydow. By the way, it’s well worth reading Deadspin’s in-depth profile of Grupe, especially for Ghostbusters II’s executive producer Michael C. Gross’s frank recollection of the actor.
Will the Ghostbusters reboot feature anyone as scary as Vigo? Let us know in the comments.