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The scariest ghosts in the Ghostbusters movies

Ray Parker Jr.’s classic theme song for Ghostbusters proudly states, “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost!” But perhaps he should be. Ghostbusters is a comedy franchise, but there are touches of horror in the films as well. Some of the ghosts are even genuinely terrifying, and they wouldn’t be out of place in a more serious take on the paranormal. Harmless spooks like Slimer seem like the exception rather than the rule. After all, there’s a reason why the Ghostbusters’ services are often needed. Now that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is finally in theaters, we’re taking a look back at the two previous films, as well as the 2016 reboot, to pick the scariest ghosts in the Ghostbusters movies.  You can keep the light on while reading this list, if you feel the need to.

10: The Driver

The Zombie Driver in Ghostbusters.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

We don’t actually know if the Driver is a sinister apparition. He only appears briefly in the original Ghostbusters as a taxi driver, which is perhaps the role he had during his mortal life. But the reason the Driver makes this list is that his zombie-like appearance is truly unsettling. He also drives like a madman. If we ever saw a ghost like this, we’d be running the other way even if he was our Uber driver.

9: The Impaled Heads

The severed heads in Ghostbusters II.
Columbia Pictures

During the team’s investigation in Ghostbusters II, they descend into the subway tunnels. After hearing a voice call out Winston’s name, the Ghostbusters are surrounded by an assortment of severed heads. It wasn’t an attack, but it was a frightening moment. We can only speculate about the identity of the heads, and who placed them on spikes. Our guess is that they may have been victims of Vigo. But we’ll get back to him later on the list.

8: The Electrocuted Ghost

The Electrocuted Ghost in Ghostbusters (2016).
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, the Electrocuted Ghost was the first ghost that the all-female team tried to trap. It didn’t go well at first, and this particular ghost appeared to be quite angry that they were attacking him. He was very threatening while escaping the first trap attempt, and he also happened to be the first ghost captured on video by the team. And yet a skeptical public quickly dismissed this ghost as a fake special effect.

7: Gertrude Aldridge

Gertrude Aldridge in Ghostbusters (2016).
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why is Gertrude Aldridge such a scary ghost? Because she was pure evil even when she was alive. According to the lore of Ghostbusters (2016), Gertrude murdered all of her father’s servants in a single night before she was confined to the basement for the rest of her life. Whatever made her a monster in life made her even deadlier as a spook. The team survived two encounters with Gertrude, but they may think twice before seeking out a third confrontation.

6: The Washington Square Ghost

The Washington Square Ghost in Ghostbusters II.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Most of the ghosts in the Ghostbusters franchise were clearly human when they were alive. But we can’t say that with any certainty about the Washington Square Ghost from Ghostbusters II. This giant ghost kaiju appeared while the Ghostbusters were committed to an asylum and Vigo was unopposed. And as supernatural phenomena swept through the city, the Washington Square Ghost appeared to a large crowd of people and sent them running for their lives.

5: The Scoleri Brothers

The Scoleri Brothers in Ghostbusters II.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Ghostbusters II offered a glimpse of how ghosts can manifest in the mortal world. Two factors led to the Scoleris’ emergence: The presence of negatively charged psychomagnotheric slime and a hate-filled diatribe by Judge Stephen Wexler as he prepared to send the Ghostbusters to prison for a very long time. Wexler’s anger was so great that it empowered the slime to summon Nunzio and Tony Scoleri, a pair of murderers whom the judge had sentenced to the electric chair years before. The Scoleri brothers even brought some electric chairs from the great beyond as they terrorized the courtroom. Judge Wexler was so scared that he agreed to release the Ghostbusters so they could save him.

4: The Terror Dogs

The Terror Dogs in Ghostbusters.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Ghostbusters‘ Terror Dogs actually do have names. Zuul The Gatekeeper and Vinz Clortho The Keymaster. But they also required hosts to fully manifest as physical hellhounds. That’s why Zuul possessed Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), while Vinz Clortho took over the body of Louis Tully (Rick Moranis). Under the control of these spirits, Dana and Louis became vicious beasts whose union allowed Gozer to return to this world as a herald of the ghost apocalypse.

3: Vigo the Carpathian

Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Vigo the Carpathian was a brutal tyrant who tortured and terrorized his subjects until they murdered him in 1610. The people hated him so much that he was “poisoned, shot, stabbed, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered.” And yet Vigo’s spirit lived on within his painted portrait, and he was the main antagonist in Ghostbusters II. In addition to overrunning NYC with spooks, Vigo attempted to possess Dana’s infant son, Oscar, so he could be reborn as a mortal.

2: Rowan the Destructor

Rowan the Destructor in Ghostbusters (2016).
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was simply too adorable to be truly frightening in the original Ghostbusters. That’s why the 2016 update went in a different direction with its final boss, Rowan the Destructor. Unlike many of the other ghosts on this list, Rowan first appeared in his human form, Rowan North, before his untimely death. Rowan may have been a genius, but he hated humanity and he teamed up with ghosts to plot the downfall of the mortal world. After Rowan killed himself, he was reborn as a ghost with uncommon power. He was able to grow in size and even change the shape of his body to resemble the ghost form seen in the picture above.

1: Gozer the Gozerian

Gozer in Ghostbusters
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Technically, Gozer the Gozerian is also the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. But as stated above, ol’ Stay Puft just isn’t very scary, largely because Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) picked the form of its body. Regardless, Gozer’s humanoid appearance near the end of the first Ghostbusters is very striking. It has no gender, perhaps because Gozer was never human at all. As discovered by the Ghostbusters, Gozer was worshiped as a god several centuries ago. Despite Gozer’s exile in another dimension, its followers paved the way for its return in 1984 to destroy the world. The only thing that could have given Gozer pause would be if the Ghostbusters were gods. Unfortunately, the guys told Gozer that they were not. Maybe if they had said, “yes,” Gozer would have left without a fight.

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Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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