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Northland group harnesses ‘Ghostbusters’ cosplay for a good cause

The men made a recent visit to a 4-year-old boy's birthday party, raising money for Ronald McDonald House along the way.

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Clark Anderson, from left, Matt Rasmussen and Jeremy Dickson discuss their volunteer work for the Ghostbusters North, a local group of fans who march in parades, make birthday party appearances and more with permission from the film franchise to wear the gear. While they work for free and donations to them go to the Ronald McDonald House, the group has invested various amounts of their own money for their shared hobby. Dickson is on his second Ectomobile; Anderson and Rasmussen are more Ghostbusters on a budget. Rasmussen has paid $10 or less for every suit, and Anderson crafted his own proton pack from scraps. “(Melinda Lavine / mlavine@duluthnews.com)
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An Ectomobile quietly moved up a wooded driveway.

On went the sirens, lights and the immortal theme song as the car neared a party of adults and kiddos waiting in a front yard. Soon, three members of the Ghostbusters North exited the wagon, dressed in full gear, offering waves and hugs to grinning children as parents snapped photos.

Jeremy Dickson, Matt Rasmussen, Clark Anderson and Adam Nori are behind this group of longtime “Ghostbusters” fans whose business is fundraising vs. battling spooks.

They’ve got it all: proton packs, P.K.E. meters, a couple Ectomobiles and a 14-foot inflatable Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And in exchange for their appearances, they ask for donations to the Ronald McDonald House. It’s a way to pay it forward.

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What started as a Halloween idea between Nori and Rasmussen became the Ghostbusters North. Around the same time in 2015, Nori found out he was going to be a father.
“My daughter came into the world a little bumpy, with a heart condition, aortic stenosis. She had open heart surgery immediately when she was born,” he said.

As Harper recovered, Nori stayed in a Ronald McDonald House for more than two months.

Soon after, their first donation was in her name.

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She’s 5 today, “sassy and sweet,” Nori said, adding, “She understands that dad and his friends do this because of her.”

Each year, the donations are around $800-$1,000. They’ve given more than $1,000 so far this summer.

“We have fun doing things as friends to help brighten other people’s lives and those donations … matter so much to the families that benefit from them,” Nori said.

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Michael Anderson, 4, of Duluth hugs Jeremy Dickson of Ghostbusters North outside the Anderson home on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Ghostbusters North made a surprise appearance at Michael's birthday party. (Dan Williamson / dwilliamson@duluthnews.com)

Jeremy Dickson heard about the group through a mutual friend. He soon donned one of Nori’s extra flight suits to join him and Rasmussen at an event.

“Within a week, I had ordered my flight suit. Within a month, I had ordered a proton pack. In the spring, I turned my mini van into a Ghostbusters-mobile. A year after that, the van was starting to rust pretty bad, so I bought the car.

“Our little adventure turned into a lot of money out of my pocket, but it’s so fun,” he said. “You’re recognized everywhere and raising a lot of money for the Ronald McDonald House, so it’s all worth it.”

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Clark Anderson signed on in November. A fan of the films since he was a kid, Anderson was glad to find his people. “Even my wife was getting tired of all my ‘Ghostbusters’ quotes,” he said.

Before the pandemic, the group had traveled to the Cities, the Iron Range, Chicago.

During the past year, their events have been limited to drive-bys, but Anderson said he’s excited to see his first season rev up.

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“Dressing up and saying ‘hi’ to people is great, but that underlying layer of giving back and caring about others, that’s pretty special,” he said.

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Ghostbusters North member Adam Nori (right) poses for a photo with "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" director Jason Reitman in Los Angeles. Nori, of Hibbing, has met many Ghostbusters-related stars, including Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson. (Photo courtesy of Ghostbusters North)

Ghostbusters North is a chapter of the Ghost Corps. production company — founded by Dan Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman — which allows the group to bear the name, insignia, etc.

They’re essentially brand ambassadors, and along with events, they help market the franchise. In 2016, they handed out promotional materials for the “Ghostbusters” remake, and they’ll do the same for the fall release of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”

And, this gig comes with perks.

Before the pandemic, Ghostbusters North members, and other franchise members across the U.S., were flown to Los Angeles for a kickoff of “Afterlife.” They met Dan Aykroyd, director Jason Reitman and Dave Coulier (a voice actor in the GB cartoon).

This was all nothing new for Nori, who had already met the three living original Ghostbusters.

"The only mystical, legendary icon you expect him to be is Bill Murray,” he recalled.

“Obviously, going to L.A. and meeting my childhood actor-heroes … it doesn’t measure up to the fact that my daughter gets to step into a legacy of something she knows she’s a part of and can be happy about,” Nori added.

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Michael Anderson (center), 4, of Duluth smiles while Matt Rasmussen of Ghostbusters North plays with the toy version of Ecto-1 from the Ghostbusters film. Ghostbusters North surprised Michael on June 3, 2021, at his birthday party. Michael has many of the classic Ghostbusters toys, which were kept by his father, Tom. (Dan Williamson / dwilliamson@duluthnews.com)

Being a Ghostbuster can be an investment of time and money.

It’s easy to find flight suits and prop builders online. You can buy a costume replica pack with lights and sounds for pretty cheap, the fancier proton packs are $1,200, Rasmussen said.

Every flight suit Rasmussen has cost less than $10, he said, adding that you don’t have to get everything right away.

Anderson is more of a Ghostbuster on a budget; he made his proton pack from scraps. “It’s really hard to get an unlicensed nuclear accelerator, they’re expensive,” he said.

It costs less than $100 to get set up, said Dickson, and you don’t have to go as big and loud as he did.

Over time, they upgraded their marshmallow man from 8 to 14 feet, which makes regular showings in the Christmas City of the North parade. “We now have to ‘limbo’ Stay Puft under street lamps,” Nori said.

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Michael Anderson (right) and guests to his birthday party hover over some toy P.K.E. meters during a visit from the Ghostbusters North June 3, 2021, outside Michael's Hermantown home. He has been "obsessed" with the films, said his mother, Andrea. (Melinda Lavine / mlavine@duluthnews.com)

While they’re walking in the footsteps of their movie heroes, when they suit up, they show up as themselves, dotted by the fact that their last names are etched into their suits.

They try to take it seriously: no swearing, no politics, just promoting the movie and the franchise.

And they try to be good role models, said Rasmussen. “We want kids to grow up to be a Ghostbuster because they provide a service.”

It’s instilling the passion for this in future generations. “The best thing is when you pull up in a car, and the kids go crazy, and you’ve got the siren going. It gets me excited, and I’m a grown man!” Anderson said.

The appeal of the franchise is universal and timeless. “Ghostbusters” is not just a children’s movie; it appeals to all ages for different reasons, Nori said.

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Michael Anderson, 4, of Duluth smiles while sitting in the driver's seat of Ghostbusters North's replica Ecto-1 vehicle from the "Ghostbusters" films. Ghostbusters North surprised Michael with a visit on June 3, 2021, at his birthday party. (Dan Williamson / dwilliamson@duluthnews.com)

Back at the party, birthday boy Michael, 4, dressed in a tiny flight suit, cheered and grinned from ear to ear before kangaroo-hopping in the opposite direction of his approaching heroes. Eventually, his mother, Andrea, steered him back.

The only thing he wanted for his birthday was a Slimer birthday cake and to meet the Ghostbusters. “He’s obsessed,” she said.

Dickson, Rasmussen and Anderson handed out goody bags, as some marveled at a statue of Slimer in the Ectomobile and others played with a toy P.K.E. meter.

“I’m a Ghostbuster,” Michael exclaimed, and the crew joined him inside the house to look at the cake, decor and figurines that matched their garb.

Tom Anderson grew up watching the franchise when he was his son’s age, and today, the two have bonded over the film.

It was “heart-melting” to see Michael's response, he said. “I’m not sure how we’re going to top that one.”

More info: facebook.com/ghostbustersnorth

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Slimer peers out of Jeremy Dickson's Ectomobile as a child peeks through the window. Dickson, a member of the Ghostbusters North, dropped by for a birthday party June 3, 2021, in Hermantown. (Melinda Lavine / mlavine@duluthnews.com)

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Which character are you?

As I get older, I think I’m more of a Ray or a Winston, maybe. Might be a Zeddemore.”

— Clark Anderson

“A little Venkman, a little Spengler.”

— Jeremy Dickson

“I’ve always been kind of the Peter Venkman / Bill Murray character: dry sense of humor and quick wit.”

— Adam Nori

“I’m Stantz. I’m the big kid, excited for everything. He’s always at 20, everything excites him, the equipment, technology, ghosts, the adventure. He’s just a big kid.”

— Matt Rasmussen

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Members of the Ghostbusters North stand near a table with tiny toy "Ghostbusters" figures and an Ectomobile in the Hermantown living room of the Tom and Andrea Anderson. The Andersons invited the local group for their son Michael's birthday party. Tom introduced Michael to the movies, and it's now a father-son shared interest. These figurines were at one time Tom's, and they have now been passed on to Michael. (Melinda Lavine / mlavine@duluthnews.com)

Related Topics: DULUTHPEOPLEDNT-INSTAGRAM
Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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