She is a ghost buster

So let’s ask an actual female ghostbuster, shall we? Is it totally weird and off the wall to remake Ghostbusters with women in the eponymous roles? Is it weird the way it would be weird to remake Lone Star with frogs playing all the parts?

Ask her. Ask Hayley Stevens. Or don’t bother to ask her, because the answer is already there on her blog.

Throughout the history of paranormal research women have often been the leading figures despite being under-represented at every step of the way.

Eleanor Sidgwick was a leading figure in the Society for Psychical Research – easily the most established organisation dedicated to paranormal research in the country, if not the globe. Sidgwick was the president of the Society from 1908 to 1909. She had a huge hand in the work that went into theCensus of Hallucinations, described by the SPR as ‘a survey on a very considerable scale which set out to establish the probability of reports of crisis apparitions being due to chance coincidence; the report on this work, prepared largely by Eleanor Sidgwick, ruled out this possibility.’

Whether you agree with the researchor not isn’t the point here. The point is that the contribution of women is not ignorable. Other female SPR presidents have included Edith Balfour Lyttelton and Deborah Delonoy who, by the way, was also the president of the Parapsychological Association.

And there’s Susan Blackmore, she goes on; there’s Caroline Watt, there are Ann Winsper, Jenny Randles, Mary Rose Barrington. They are there.

We need more women to get involved in the field though, and we need to make those are involved in the field more visible because they often go without the credit they deserve – Becky Smith is just one example. Smith conducted a sort-of 21st Century version of the Census of Hauntings and has a Ph.D on ghosts and yet gets hardly any attention. I hope this will change because at paranormal research-related conferences male speakers routinely dominate and they don’t always deserve to (I’m looking at you, Malcolm Robinson.)

Sound familiar? The availability heuristic in action. Male speakers dominate so when people organize another conference, male speakers come to mind, so they continue to dominate, so when people organize another conference, male speakers come to mind, on into infinity. No, Dr Sommers, it’s not just preferences, it’s also invisibility, it’s also what comes to mind easily, it’s not being invited once becoming not being invited ever.

I’m not an academic and probably never will be. I am a ghost geek though and although I don’t believe in ghosts I actively investigate and research alleged paranormal activity using rational inquiry and scientific scepticism. I literally bust ghosts in my spare time, looking for rational causes for weird things people experience and detecting hoaxes. I’m not the best and I’ve still got loads to learn but I do my bit.

I am a ghost buster. A female ghostbuster.

This is not as startling as it would be if a frog said the same thing.

At school we would play Ghostbusters in the playground and I would be the receptionist, Janine. I would stand in the playground and shout “Ghostbusters! We got one!” and the boys would come to the rescue.

That’s why I think it is so bizarre that a number of people are angry at the recent news that a Ghostbusters film with an all-female cast has been announced. I’ve seen a small number of people say “I grew up with male ghostbusters and I find it difficult to accept an all female cast” Yeah? I grew up with an all-male Ghostbusters too and I don’t find it difficult to accept an all-female cast so I wonder what the difference must be?

What oh what could it be?


  1. says

    I literally bust ghosts in my spare time, looking for rational causes for weird things people experience and detecting hoaxes. I’m not the best and I’ve still got loads to learn but I do my bit.

    I remember hearing about a TV show about people who did the same thing. Sort of the opposite of Ghost Hunters. Such a show would perform a valuable public service for a viewing public who have been getting swamped with bogus supernaturalist nonsense for far too long.

  2. iknklast says

    A woman friend of mine is a ghost buster. She has all sorts of cool fake equipment.

    Now I want to see Lone Star with frogs.

  3. Jeremy Shaffer says

    This is tangential but I was wondering if Sidgwick was where the name for the hotel where the GhostBusters bust their first ghost in the movie (the one called Onionhead during production and later Slimer on the cartoon) came from. Alas, that was the Sedgewick, not the Sidgwick. It would have been a nice nod otherwise.

  4. says

    Tabby Lavalamp says: To be fair, real-life ghostbusting and paranormal research are things I’ll gladly let men have while we get greater equality in scepticism.

    Paranormal research is part of skepticism, so I’m not actually sure what your point is.

  5. says

    Hayley Stevens, I’m referring more to the type of paranormal researcher who, for example, starts with the belief that ghosts are real then goes on to try to study different kinds of ghosts. That kind of paranormal researcher.

  6. johnthedrunkard says

    As for remaking films, why not? An all-black Wizard of Oz, been there. Why not ‘Flower Drum Song’ reset in a medieval pueblo?

    The actors in this project deserve better. Can’t anyone actually write an ORIGINAL screenplay for Big Money production?

    But women in paranormalism verges on Women In Astrology, or Women in Alternative Medicine. Yes, real scholars and investigators aren’t going to be shilling their books on Oprah, but the whole topic is saturated in Sommers-like ‘girl thing’ cliché.

  7. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    I think the problem is trying to sell the ghostbusters a third time round. The central conceit is essentially the same as that for Men-in-Black or The Men Who Stare at Goats, that some bunch of wu-nonsense is true and demands the attention of a bunch of all-action heroes.

    Murray always said he would love to have a third outing but only if there was a good script. They never managed to find a peg to hang it on. The idea of a ghost extermination service alongside your fire and ambulance is funny. But only so much so.

    J. K. Rowling showed the way to do it: find a different genre to lampoon. Harry Potter’s world is more or less a send up of the Enid Blyton boarding school novels that used to be standard fare in the UK.

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