The Proton Pack is a fictional piece of particle accelerating machinery created by Egon Spengler and used by the Ghostbusters. It is their primary tool in the 1984 & 1989 Ghostbusters films for “busting” ghosts. It has a hand-held wand (“Neutrona Wand” as scripted by Dan Aykroyd) connected to a backpack-sized cyclotron. The theory is that it fires a ‘semi-controlled’ stream of protons that neutralizes the negatively charged electromagnetic radiation of a ghost allowing it to be held in the active stream.
The packs were first tested in the Sedgewick Hotel, which was also the test run for theEcto Goggles and Ghost Trap.
Fan Named Parts
Very few parts of the proton pack were ever named in the original movie. A few terms were introduced in the novelization and the Real Ghostbusters cartoon. To aid the community in discussing the pack and its components a group of fans made up and agreed on a list of names for all the Proton Pack parts. These names have since gone into general usage by most of the fandom and can be found on the following page:
Proton Pack Part Names Page
Real World Found Parts
A number of parts on the Proton Pack are “found items” in that they are real industrial parts, some of which are still manufactured in one form or another. A majority of these parts have been identified.
Clippard Instrument Laboratory Parts
Legris Pneumatic Fittings
ALICE Pack Frame
Nycoil Pneumatic Fittings
The props representing proton packs were created by the prop department at Columbia Pictures. They are made of molded fiberglass shells on aluminium backplates (or “motherboards”) bolted to military surplus A.L.I.C.E. pack frames. The basic shape was sculpted from foam; later, a rubber mold was made, from which fiberglass shells were pulled. The “wand” had an extending barrel mechanism and the electronics were quite advanced for the time. They were then finished with various surplus 1960s resistors, pneumatic fittings, hoses and ribbon cable, as well as surplus warning labels and custom-made metal fittings. The overall weight of these props is said to be around 35lbs. The “hero” props were substituted in stunt scenes by flimsy foam rubber pulls from the same mold. The proton packs have a lightbar with 15 blue scrolling lights in a box on the left-hand side and 4 red lights in the circular “cyclotron” portion of the bottom of the prop that light up in rotation. The “wand” also featured numerous light features; the most elaborate versions had fluorescent bargraphs, incandescent bulbs, and strobing flashes in the tip for the visual effects crew to synchronize the famous ‘streams’.
Some of the packs from Ghostbusters were used in the film’s follow-up, Ghostbusters 2; these packs were slightly redressed with a black crank knob and thinner ribbon cable. On one pack the angle of the gun mount pitches foward slightly due to mis-drilled holes in the fiberglass shell. During the production the shoulder straps had padding added, which can be seen on and off during the film. In addition to these redressed props, one of the originals was hastily cast as a buck to produce basic, lightweight “mid-grade” props (as a solution to complaints by the actors about the weight of the original prop). These mid-grade pieces featured many details cast in as part of the mold, instead of separate fittings. The electronics and mechanisms were also cut down greatly, reducing the total weight. The original GB1 props would appear in close-ups, the mid-grade in all other scenes, and new rubber “stunt” packs were made for whenever the actor needed to take a fall. Several GB2 packs have surfaced for auction—at least one rubber stunt, and one fiberglass mid-grade prop. The auctioned mid-grade prop was lost shortly after sale in an airport baggage mishap. The piece was documented before its loss, revealing much of the shoddy casting techniques used in its creation. All three variations of the GB2 pack have been displayed at various Planet Hollywood restaurants around the U.S.
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