Sac Ghostbusters remember their past haunt of ARC


Sacramento Ghostbusters founder Andrew Whatley poses with his Ecto-1 model car and his slimer prop on Oct. 11, 2018. The Sacramento Ghostbusters is a cosplay non-profit organization that attends charity events to help raise awarness of the charity. (Photo by Ashley Hayes-Stone)

Ashley Hayes-Stone

Halloween is just around the corner, which means thrift stores are crammed with customers who want to assemble their festive attire on a budget. Aisles overflow with Halloween items, broken devil pitchforks, faded witch hats and a plethora of used costumes with missing accessories litter the floor. Here, customers become hunters adventuring into the unknown, not knowing what lurks behind the next corner.

However, thrift stores are also an unlikely place to stumble upon unique equipment parts ghost hunting equipment, that is. Not unlikely for Sacramento Ghostbuster founder Andrew Whatley and his crew. The charitable cosplay group has discovered that thrift stores are a great source to gather parts for proton packs and Psychokinetic Energy. Meters all year-round.

American River College alumnus Whatley is one of the founders of the Sacramento Ghostbusters, a non-profit organization. Whatley and his team of Ghostbusters attend charity events and comic conventions to give back to the community they grew up in.

“We are just a bunch of geeky guys who like to go out and have a good time as Ghostbusters,” Whatley says.

Before he was busting ghosts, Whatley studied art new media in 2003 and roamed the halls of ARC with his friends. During lunchtime, Whatley and his crew were either found playing arcade games in the cafeteria, headbanging to music or watching movies in one of the lecture rooms in Raef Hall. They even referred to themselves as “The Lunch Club” — a parody of the classic 80s movie “The Breakfast Club.”

“I think [ARC] prepared me for the new world,” Whatley says. “It gave me a taste of what things are going to be out there for me.”

In 2007, Whatley graduated and started working as a paraprofessional educator in a preschool. Two years later, Whatley’s father died and he realized he wanted to make a difference while paying tribute to his late father, but didn’t know how. It wasn’t until he heard about a Stormtroopers cosplay group that did charity work that he had an idea.

“I was like I want to do that, but I am a chubby guy so I’m not going to look good in a Stormtrooper outfit. Then I thought: why not Ghostbusters,” Whatley says.

Whatley says he chose to cosplay as the Ghostbusters in order to pay tribute to his father because it was the first movie they watched together.

Longtime friend and fellow ARC alumnus Alex Ortega helped Whatley establish the non-profit organization.

The Ghostbusters are not only a passion but represent something personal to Ortega.

“I love watching the movie with my dad and [Whatley and I have] been best friends all our lives and if he wanted to do this I will do this with him,” Ortega says. “In the beginning, it was just the two of us.”

In order to be a Ghostbuster, one must obtain the iconic jumpsuit. So Whatley and Ortega assemble their ghostly attire complete with the iconic symbol.

The second thing they needed was the equipment. They created their own proton packs and P.K.E. meters with items found in thrift stores. But Whatley didn’t stop there, he converted his father’s old truck into a ghost-catching-mobile. By 2010, the Sacramento Ghostbusters were in business.

Sacramento Ghostbusters founder Andrew Whatley poses with his Ecto-1 model car and his slimer prop on Oct. 11, 2018. The Sacramento Ghostbusters is a cosplay non-profit organization that attends charity events to help raise awareness of the charity. (Photo by Ashley Hayes-Stone)

Whatley has formed a whole ghost-fighting crew, with each team member having personality traits similar to that of the original Ghostbusters.

“My ‘Ray’ would be my longtime buddy and my hetero life mate, Alex, that I have known since kindergarten,” Whatley said, comparing his friends to the characters in the original film. “The ‘Venkman’ in our group would be our buddy Shawn who drives the other truck and our ‘Winston’ would be our buddy, Jay. I am ‘Spengler’ because I make a lot of my stuff.”

Much like Venkman, Shawn Pugh says he’s passionate about what he does, that’s why he’s acting operation officer, responsible for a majority of the group’s promotion and organized events that they attend.  

“For me, it’s more like a second job and it’s a way to escape from the daily grind and at the same time go out, have fun and give back to the community in ways that others can’t or couldn’t,” Pugh says.

Whatley’s Ecto-1 car isn’t just for hunting ghosts — he also uses it to drive for Lyft, which gives Sacramentans a piece of nostalgia. While driving around, locals often call the phone number on the side of the mock Ghostmobile to ask about investigating paranormal activity in their houses. Whatley, a skeptic of the supernatural, informs them that they are just a non-profit organization and don’t actually hunt ghosts.

While people are calling him for his assistance, they frequently ask, who Whatley is going to call? When asked the question that every Ghostbuster is bound to be asked, Whatley has one simple reply.

“‘He-Man,’ it’s an inside joke. In ‘Ghostbusters II,’ they go to a birthday party and they start playing [the Ghostbusters theme] song and the kids start shouting ‘He-Man, He-Man,’” Whatley said. “So whenever somebody asks me that, it’s my own personal thing I say: ‘He-Man.’”

Piling in their Ghostmobile, the crew sports its ghost gear at several charity events such as the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walks, Vehicles for Veterans and toy drives. They even became a part of Sony Ghost Corps, a branch that unites all Ghostbuster groups.

Later this month, they will partner up with Sony and the Make-A-Wish Foundation to make a little boy, who is battling heart disease, an honorary Ghostbuster for a day.

“He wanted to be a Ghostbuster for a day so at the end of October we are going to shuttle him around Sacramento busting ghosts,” Whatley says.

Looking forward to what is next for the Sacramento Ghostbusters, Whatley says he will keep their ghost busting legacy alive by spreading positive messages through their charitable causes and keeping the people of Sacramento ghost-free.

“I am proud of what we accomplished and I look forward to what else we can accomplish in the future,” Whatley said.