Louisiana Ghostbusters Say Their Latest Replica Vehicle — Recreated By Stephen Hebert — Is The Best Yet
By Brad Goins
Louisiana Ghostbusters, a group based in Lake Charles, are all about paying homage to the 1984 comedy Ghostbusters. Group members dress as actors in the film and play out scenarios from the movie, which in its day was the highest-grossing comedy in history.
Louisiana Ghostbusters consider their work and play in the group to be a hobby. The primary purpose of the group, says Ben Langlinais, the group’s media manager, “is to be philanthropic.”
Much of their work is directed to children’s hospitals. “We’re [often] around sick kids in hospitals,” says Langlinais. Louisiana Ghostbusters have found that for hospitalized kids, the sight of the familiar characters of Ghostbusters “takes [the patients’] minds off” their conditions. The Ghostbusters have branched out in order to portray other beloved childhood characters, sometimes dressing in Star Wars or Marvel Comics costumes if that’s what the particular group of young patients prefers.
The group’s resources are significant. In addition to its core membership of 50, Louisiana Ghostbusters are constantly making contacts with artists, actors and filmmakers.
They’ve also “developed a small fleet of vehicles.” These vehicles can be “very helpful” – and not just for hauling people, props and other vehicles around.
Some of these cars strongly resemble the hearse-like vehicle driven in the original Ghostbusters. The car in the movie was called Ecto-1 (which was also the sequence of letters and numbers on its license plate). Sometimes the vehicle was referred to as the Ectomobile.
Louisiana Ghostbusters give their car names a Cajun twist, calling them Ecteaux-1, Ecteaux-2, etc.
“Just having a show car [at an event site] can double or triple the amount of contributions,” says Langlinais.
Until recently, the group only had three Ecteauxs. But it’s now gained access to its fourth hearse: Ecteaux-4. This new Ecteaux-4 was designed by Moss Bluff vintage car restorer Stephen Hebert. It’s the hearse (actually a combination ambulance and hearse) the local group considers the most eye-catching of their group.
It’s no surprise Hebert’s take on the Ectomobile pleases the Ghostbusters group’s members. Hebert appeared on the cover of Lagniappe Magazine on June 22, 2017, along with his meticulous recreation of the vehicle used in The Blue Brothers. He’s had the gig of comedy vehicle restoration before.
The Blues Brothers car, which was the result of a lot of painstaking work, looked an awful lot like the original Bluesmobile; the similarities ranged from the fact that the vehicle was a rare 1974 Dodge Monaco Police Pursuit Vehicle — just like the one used in the film — down to such nitpicky details as the crumpled packs of Chesterfields sitting on the vehicle’s dashboard.
Hebert was likewise meticulous in creating his Ecteaux 4. Just as he did with his Bluesmobile, Hebert successfully mimicked all the high-tech gadgetry the original Ghostbusters piled on top of their vehicle.
‘It’s The Car From Ghostbusters!’
The Louisiana Ghostbusters’ other hearses are ‘80s and ‘90s models. In this case, Hebert didn’t refurbish the exact vehicle used in the movie — a combination ambulance and hearse that was built with a 1959 Cadillac chassis by the Miller-Meteor company. But he came pretty close by using a Miller-Meteor ambulance-hearse from the mid-’60s.
The edition he had to work with was called a 48 High Top. The extra height enabled staff to work on their patients in the vehicle. The vehicle even had its own ventilation system.
The Miller-Meteor had been used at a children’s hospital in Pennsylvania. Thus it was put into service mainly for transportation, and not for calls to wrecks and so forth. As a result, the vehicle had only 36,000 miles on it.
But the Pennsylvania climate had taken its toll and generated rust, which meant that Hebert had to do a tremendous amount of metal work on the car. The fact that the car had not been used for some time also necessitated engine work. Hebert would work on the future Ectomobile for a year and a half before it was ready for primetime.
Miller-Meteors are extremely rare. In spite of this, though, the tremendous weight of this extra-long vehicle meant that it cost Hebert more to ship it from Pennsylvania than it did to buy it.
Louisiana Ghostbusters put Hebert’s car on display at the recent CyPhaCon sci-fi and fan convention in Lake Charles. This was the result of 18 months of phone conversations between Langlinais and Hebert about the possibility of working together.
Langlinais heard kids who saw the hearse say things like, “What is that? Oh my God! It’s the car from Ghostbusters!”
Hebert was very cooperative in agreeing to allow representatives of the group to come to his place and take his prized vehicle to Baton Rouge for a Louisiana Ghostbusters charity fundraising event to aid autistic children. The Ecteaux 4 has also been seen at several libraries in Calcasieu Parish. The group hopes to use the Ecteaux-4 at the Lake Charles Relay for Life benefit for cancer patients in May.
Hebert wants to be part of the Louisiana Ghostbusters group. He still has to go through part of the vetting process. (A vetting process is used because group members spend so much time volunteering with young children.)
Hebert would be a welcome addition. “He has a lot of resources,” says Langlinais. “He’s got a shop. We have a lot of props [that require work].”
The Louisiana Ghostbusters are “very particular” about who becomes a member. Among other things, background checks are run on prospective members. In spite of that, the group remains large and is growing.
The main philanthropic activity of Louisiana Ghostbusters is directed toward the American Cancer Society. Says Langlinais, the Louisiana Ghostbusters are not “a registered non-profit” group, but are, instead, agents of the American Cancer Society. Big ACS events in the area are top priorities for the group.
In the first half of the year, a key event is the Relay for Life (which, as was noted, takes place in Lake Charles this year). In the second half of the year, the big occasion is Making Strides, which takes place in New Orleans.
But the group works for many charitable causes: autism, animal rescue, Alzheimer’s and others. Recent charitable events in which the Louisiana Ghostbusters have participated include the Walk for Hope at Blackham Coliseum in Lafayette, the Snap for a Cure 5K in Maurice and Boo at the Zoo (a Halloween 2018 event to benefit the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans).
Members of the group also go to “birthday parties for special kids … We direct money to charities, participate in fundraisers for charities, attend fund-raising events, perform charitable acts and provide community service … We’re very busy. We do this year round,” says Langlinais.
The group’s work is entirely charitable. “We don’t keep a cent for anything but gas.”
Louisiana Ghostbusters try to go to a charitable event when they’re asked to. But, says Langlinais, “we can only do so many things a month.”
That’s where having the use of Hebert’s hearse may turn in handy. With a membership of 50, the large group can split into smaller groups and go to more than one place so long as they have the hearses that will enable them to do so.
The group has been good at what it does. Langlinais says Louisiana Ghostbusters is one of the three biggest Ghostbusters fan groups in existence; perhaps the biggest. It certainly has the largest social following.
Indeed, the group’s reach goes so far that Ghost Corps, the division of Sony Pictures devoted to promotion of Ghostbusters, has the new group’s Ghostbusters mobile on its radar. Sony Pictures may ship Ecteaux-4 to the 35th anniversary celebration of the original Ghostbusters movie at the Ghostbusters Fan Fest at the Sony Pictures Studio Lot in Culver City, Calif. The event is slated for June 7 and 8.
Louisiana Ghostbusters are serious about staying as true as possible to the details of the movie’s car and its characters’ costumes. And they get a great deal of entertainment out of engaging in role-playing modeled on scenes in the movie.
But just as the original Ghostbusters used their Neutrona Wands to direct beams of highly charged energy to ghosts, the members of Louisiana Ghostbusters direct the energy of their public performances toward the many audiences made up of children in need.
Says Langlinais, “We’re taking a hobby and turning it into something positive for the community.”