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ECTO-1

Columbia Pictures
The abandoned "Ectomobile" from "Ghostbusters" set to be started up again in 2020's "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," set in rural, western Oklahoma.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In 1988 or thereabouts, a friend of mine, “Kate,” was in her hometown of Elk City, Oklahoma and were hanging out at a convenience store (“strange things are afoot at the Circle K”) near Interstate 40, which runs through this section of western Oklahoma.

Kate, and two of her friends, were stunned to see a flatbed truck on the side of the highway. On the trailer – much to their shock! – was the Ectomobile from Ghostbusters.

They walked over to the truck and noticed the truck driver was waiting for a flat tire to be changed. He was hauling the converted 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Futura Duplex limo-style endloader (ambulance conversion) combination car likely west to California. The assumption being that with Ghostbusters II in production in both Los Angeles and New York City, that the iconic movie car was being hauled back to the Sony Pictures backlot, where it would remain.

The Wikipedia entry for the Ectomobile notes: “Three cars have played the vehicle in the movies; the third 1959 Miller-Meteor was purchased after the second died during shooting of Ghostbusters II. The black Miller-Meteor seen at the beginning of the first movie was leased and used only for that scene and never converted for filming, though it was later purchased by the studio and completely converted to a full Ecto-1 for touring. Both of the other Ectomobiles are currently sitting in a Sony pictures backlot, having undergone a full restoration after years of deterioration.”

Anyway, Kate told me that they were really excited to see the Ectomobile and the driver showed them the interior of the car, which Kate said was “hollowed out.” Kate got the driver’s autograph and he gave her a Ghostbusters sticker, which she still has somewhere. Her two friends, however, came back for something else: when the driver wasn’t looking, they unscrewed the orange New York ECTO-1 license plate off the Ectomobile and took it home as a souvenir – right there in western Oklahoma!

Kate told me this story approximately 18 months ago. I had told her about my first visit to Elk City back in June 1985 when a church group I was traveling with to the Navajo reservation in Arizona stopped at a restaurant right off of I-40 (near Route 66, of course) and I knocked an unopened can of Dr Pepper out of the van and onto the asphalt parking lot. Afraid it was “gonna blow,” I chucked it hard and it landed with a carbonated explosion next to some people standing outside of a UHaul, showering them with sugary soda pop. I felt bad about it.

Anyway, fastforward to this past weekend. Unbenknownst to me, Jason Reitman, the son of original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II director Ivan Reitman, took on a script for a third Ghostbusters film (the 2016, all-female reboot Ghostbusters being seen as a standalone film) titled Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The setting? The small, western Oklahoma town of Summerville! I should also note that Ivan Reitman is producing this new film in the Ghostbusters franchise, a film that features actor Paul Rudd, who attended the University of Kansas and was a Sigma Nu, the same fraternity at KU I rushed when he was there, although I ended up going to another school.

Yes, western Oklahoma, which is where Elk City is located. And the first image I see is the back end of the old Ectomobile in a barn, the orange New York ECTO-1 plate visible. The emphasis of the promo shot was not even the Ghostbusters logo. It was the ECTO-1 New York license plate, which takes the viewer back to a specific place and time – the 1980’s. Is it any surprise that Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler in the 1980’s-set sci-fi show Stranger Things is in Ghostbusters: Afterlife?

As Kate herself told me of her hometown of Elk City: “Strange things happen in that town.”

It was as if the fact that the old ECTO-1 license plate, stolen from the Ectomobile (circa 1988), had actually remained in western Oklahoma in the film/fantasy world of the Ghostbusters franchise and that Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman, who wrote the script, were somehow linked up to the collective unconscious and were compelled to keep the story – which bridges Ghostbusters II from 1989 to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, 30 years in the future and remaining in that Oklahoma setting.

While set in Oklahoma, Ghostbusters: Afterlife was literally filmed in Alberta, Canada, a place that has been coming up quite a bit of late in my sync world (the scenes of “Smallville, Kansas” in 1978’s Superman: The Movie, were shot in rural Alberta).

I reached out to Kate this morning and reminded her of our conversation, which took place in late 2017. I explained how the new film was set in fictional Summerville, Oklahoma and that the “western” landscape of the setting (near Calgary) is most like western Oklahoma, where she grew up.

She was amazed I remembered the story of coming upon the Ectomobile on the transport truck and her friend’s stealing the ECTO-1 license plate.

“Not much happened in our town, and to see the Ghostbusters car was pretty amazing,” Kate told me Monday morning. She said it wasn’t until later that she learned her companions stole the prop plate.

When I explained to her the synchromystical significance of the ECTO-1 plate remaining in western Oklahoma (although her friend told her it had since been “lost”), she said she got goosebumps and found the notion “truly awesome and weird.”

“I imagine that when (the trucker) got to his destination he wondered what had happened to the ECTO-1 license plate,” she added.

I should note that license plates (which I collected as a child) often show up in my dreams. I learn them. Memorize them. I was thinking about the recent (alleged) Mothman sightings in and around Chicago, and I look up at my wall and see my prop 1980 Ilinois Blues Brothers license plate BDR 529  hanging there. Scenes in the film shot in and around Chicago. There is a power in license plates that most people don't recognize. The combination of numbers and letters. Is it surprising that my license plate includes both "66" (specialty plate) and "237" (standard-issue plate)?

In the meantime, Kate said she would try and reach out to one of her old Elk City pals and see if they had any idea where it might be today, even if it is presumed lost – reappearing in the “fictional” cinematic world of Summerville, Oklahoma in next summer’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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