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Ghostbusters: Afterlife Resorted To eBay To Recover Classic Props

There's just something about "Ghostbusters" that keeps viewers coming back for more. The film's blend of comedy and supernatural elements still delights audiences after 30 years. It's hard to single out a single aspect that makes it work so well — ghostly events, hilarious moments, unforgettable effects, and a talented cast all get credit for the unending interest. It's why there was enough interest to warrant a new film in "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" despite the critical and commercial failure of its predecessor. (It's worth noting there was definitely a lot of hate involved in the backlash to the latter.)

When it came time to shoot the newest installment in the "Ghostbusters" franchise, filmmaker Jason Reitman knew what fans wanted. "This is a movie about all the people who grew up wanting to be Ghostbusters," he told Polygon in November 2021 around the time of the film's release. The director also realized that a new generation would also need to be on board for this. "And we needed to find four young people that really brought to life that idea of wanting to pick up the proton pack and wanting to get behind the wheel of Ecto One."

One thing that was pivotal for the project was nostalgic reminders of the original and its sequel. To do that, Reitman required props that were instantly recognizable to viewers. Getting back some of those famous — and not-so-famous — props proved to be a story worthy of its own film.

It took an exhaustive search to find props

Set decorator Pat Healy was tasked with finding props as well as introducing items with a nostalgic feel. Healy detailed that journey and the surprising steps he took as part of Ozzy Inguanzo's book "Ghostbusters: Afterlife: The Art and Making of the Movie," which provides in-depth access from script to screen with concept art and storyboards.

Healy's quest was all about maintaining accuracy, something enhanced by securing the most hard-to-find items. "That meant sometimes purchasing them on eBay or replicating them, and keeping it true, one hundred percent, to the littlest detail," he told the author. Going to sites such as eBay — Healy's team created secret accounts to track them — also provided a valuable resource as to which collectors or sellers might have items not listed at that time.

A helpful turn came in how many of those pieces were actual scientific equipment. Healy related using Google image search to determine one specific prop. Featured briefly, the Wolverson Angiographic Injector may not have meant much to the story yet it represented another link to the ghostbusting team's past at Columbia University.

Demands for props is high, even if they're in bad shape

Putting together items meant an extensive search through auctions and sales. Something that "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" crew members undoubtedly noticed was the competitive environment for these items. Props from "Ghostbusters II" went to auction in 2022 and brought in over $150,000 — a smoking ghost trap alone went for almost $90,000 (via Ghostbusters News).

As with all films, not every prop still exists. It was impossible for "Afterlife" to bring back the original Ecto-1 as it was hardly reliable back in the '80s. Cast member Ernie Hudson talked about the unstable vehicle. "We were filming crossing Central Park; the car broke down. We had traffic blocked up," he said of the difficult vehicle. "Me and Danny Aykroyd had to get out and push the car to a place they could get to it."

For years after the filming of "Ghostbusters," it supposedly sat on a backlot with little to no upkeep. The rusted vehicle did get somewhat of a second life thanks to a fan initiative but nothing close to what was needed for "Afterlife." Instead, filmmakers found better options to recreate the famous car.

Fans were involved in prop creation for Ghostbusters: Afterlife

"Ghostbusters" fans proved to be essential beyond just online auction sites. Certain cosplayers additionally made their mark on the final product. Tim Ebl, on behalf of the outlet Fanfare, spoke to one of those lucky enough to be included in that list. James Dalton's involvement stemmed from both his dedication to building "Ghostbusters" props and his proximity to the "Afterlife" production. Filming focused on Calgary in Canada — with the surrounding towns of Drumheller, Beiseker, Crossfield, and Fort Macleod included.

Dalton got the call to work with "Afterlife" thanks to his involvement with the Alberta Ghostbusters, a non-profit that raises money for various causes such as the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation and Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation. Fellow member Peter White invited Dalton after seeing the build quality of a proton pack. He may not have been a part of filming yet the self-described subcontractor was a necessary troubleshooter — citing fabricating, 3-D printing, and jury-rigging solutions as his contributions to the project. All of it turned out to be a dream for the fan.

"It was a bucket list item," Dalton said. "Working on a movie like 'Ghostbusters,' it's something that I didn't think was even possible."