: This is Part V in a series of blog posts. Click here
to read the entire series.]
My DeLorean has now been outfitted with Time Traveling, Dimension Hopping, Ghostbusting, and Knight Riding gear. It's nearly ready for my book tour next week:
- Flux Capacitor — check.
- Oscillation Overthruster — check.
- KITT Knight Rider Scanner — check.
- Personalized ECTO88 License Plates — check.
- PKE Meter, Ghost Trap, and Ecto Goggles — check.
Only one key piece of Ghostbusting equipment is still missing, my Ghostbusters Proton Pack. And, according to my UPS tracking number, it should be arriving on my doorstep sometime later today!
At the end of my last post, I promised to tell you the tale of how I came to own one of the coolest and most screen-accurate Ghostbusters Proton Packs ever built. It's a strange-but-epic tale, and it begins way back in 2003 with my friend Chris Stewart.
Chris is easily one of the coolest people I know, and I've still never met him in person. He's been a vocal champion of my geeky writing for almost a decade. Way back in 2003, he emailed me to tell me that he really enjoyed my spoken word stuff and to ask if he could interview me for the online magazine he worked on. (You can read that ancient interview here. My favorite bit is where I predict that my novel, Ready Player One, which I'd just started working on, would "hit the shelves within a year or so." I was only off the mark by about half a decade. Ah, the hubris of youth.)
In addition to being a writer and video game producer, Chris is also an extremely talented graphic designer. In the years since I've known him, he's sent me more unannounced packages of awesome stuff than I can count. Chris is the guy who designed the "Ernie Cline has a Posse" image on my website, and, after he read my novel, he designed this "Anti-Sixer logo" described in the book:
One other thing about Chris? He's also the biggest Ghostbusters fanboy I know. He runs Proton Charging, the oldest (and coolest) Ghostbusters fan news site on the Internet. So when I decided that I needed to obtain a Proton Pack, Chris was the first guy I contacted.
Over email, Chris immediately introduced me to his friend Bryan Fear of the West Coast Busters. Chris described Brian to me like this: "Bryan is the platonic ideal of a Ghostbusters fan. First guy I ever met with a PKE meter, takes a team to SDCC every year, makes it a point to visit sick kids in hospital (what kids doesn't want to meet a Ghostbuster when stuck in the hospital?), always let's me know there's a spare couch and pack for me if I ever make it to SDCC, and is the proud owner of a Dan Aykroyd-signed, PERFECT Ecto-1. He even built Ernie Hudson a pack so he could wear it at cons with his GB jumpsuit — Ernie is now a con favorite, thanks to being that cool, and Bryan's pack."
Brian is the fellow at the far left in the photo above (and that's Ernie "Winston Zeddemore" Hudson in the center). Readers of my blog might remember that Bryan is the guy who gave me a ride to W00tstock in his Ectomobile last month at Comic-Con. I've gotten to know him over the past few months, and he's just an unbelievably friendly and generous guy. He's also some sort of jack-of-all-trades car mechanic/electrical engineer/movie buff/prop builder/artist/Ghostbusters-lore expert. His Ecto-1 is the coolest and most screen-accurate Ectomobile I've ever seen, and he and his friend Eric Eseke (the guy on the far right in the photo above) built the entire thing themselves. For fun. And since they live in San Diego, they drive it down to Comic Con every year so that other fans can enjoy this thing of beauty they've created. For me, that captures the whole spirit of what a fan (of anything) should be.
I told Bryan about my Ghostbusting Time Vehicle project and my mission to obtain a proton pack. I wouldn't learn until later that this is one of the most common (and annoying) questions that prop builders like Bryan get asked by other fans: "Hey, can you build me a proton pack? Or will you sell me one of the ones you built?" This is something akin to blasphemy. Screen-accurate proton packs can take months and cost thousands of dollars to build, and an awful lot of knowledge and attention to detail has to go into them. Someone who invests that kind of time and energy to create a work of art probably isn't going to hand it over to some stranger. Bryan explained that he couldn't build a pack for me, but he had another idea of where I could get one...
This proton pack replica has just gone up for auction on eBay. I'd seen the listing while searching for a pack, but I'd passed right over this one, because it looked like total crap. It clearly hadn't been taken care of, and someone had sprayed red paint all over it, in a half-assed attempt to age it or simulate rust or something. And the guy selling it clearly wasn't even a Ghostbusters fan, because in every single photo of the pack on his auction listing it showed the pack displayed upside down, like you see above.
What I didn't know was that this pack had originally been built by one of the most talented and meticulous prop builders in the world. Bryan laid out the history of the pack for me in his email:
Many years ago an uber-fan friend of ours bought a screen-used "hero" pack from Ghostbusters 2 for a princely sum. But he never received the COA (Certificate of Authenticity) from the auction house who conveniently seemed to have it on the podium during the auction but then lost it. Our friend's screen used pack was later stolen from baggage claim in an airport, never to be seen or heard from again. But his never-issued COA later showed up on an auction for another proton pack. A fan-built proton pack, being passed off as one that had been screen used. The fan-built pack was built by Sean "Venkman71" Bishop. Sean recognized his work immediately and asked for them to take the auction down. Although the auction was rescinded, the COA was never recovered and Sean's former pack was an item he had sold years ago and could lay no claim