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The Ecto-1 Siren In Ghostbusters Is Partly Based On A Cat's Scream

Ever since the Ecto-1 debuted in the first "Ghostbusters" movie in 1984, it has become one of the most iconic cars in movie history. It's even more impressive to know that it was put together at the very last minute. According to an interview with Beyond the Marquee, the head of props thought the set designer was going to make all the key props and the designer thought the props guy was doing it. Two weeks before shooting began, they realized they still didn't have a lot of important props, and Stephen Dane, whose official title on the film was "Hardware Consultant," was called in to design the Ecto-1 as well as the proton packs, the blasters, and the traps. So Dane was left to design all of that in very little time, and despite that, he still described himself during that time as being "happy as a pig in cool mud."

According to Motor Trend, underneath the paint of the Ecto-1 is a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Futura Duplex with ambulance/hearse conversion. Only about 400 of these cars were even made, making the Ecto-1 an especially unique car. The original script called for it to be black with purple lights, but that was mercifully changed to the white design that fans know and love.

Even with the car's ambulance conversion, the siren sound was clearly not that of a normal ambulance siren. It's a distinctly different sound that fans remember keenly from the movie. And, according to the son of the film's director, part of the sound of the famous siren comes from the sound of a cat screaming.

Your nostalgia is built on a cat's abject terror

In an appearance on "A Trip to the Movies with Alex Zane" with both "Ghostbusters" director Ivan Reitman and his son Jason Reitman, who directed "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," Zane talked to the pair about hearing the sound of the original Ecto-1 siren in "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" and how it brought him to tears. Jason Reitman then felt it a good time to mention that one of the sounds that the Ecto-1's siren is built on is that of a cat screaming. "I've never cried at a cat screaming before," the host responded.

Zane isn't the only one who gets nostalgic over the distinctive sound of that converted hearse. In a 2019 thread in the r/movies subreddit, u/GizmosArrow started a thread asking what movie noises can be recognized instantly, and u/literated, u/Ryderman1231, and u/Nihilismisanthrope all cited the Ecto-1 as an example. Two other users, u/ThePookaMacPhellimy and u/WanderingThespian, also mentioned the proton packs from the movies. Little did they know that the nostalgic sound is built on cat terror.

In fact, according to the New Orleans EMS Twitter page, they experimented with ambulances in 2021 that used the Ecto-1 siren instead of a traditional ambulance siren and found that it did a better job at moving traffic than the old siren did. Whether that's because of the nostalgia that people feel from hearing the siren, or simply because most humans know to move out of the way of a screaming cat, remains a mystery.