Dan Aykroyd's ghostbusting family business
TORONTO - "Ghostbusters" star Dan Aykroyd says he is often asked where he got the inspiration for his blockbuster '80s comedy. He says it's simple -- his own family.
Aykroyd's father, Peter, and great-grandfather, Samuel, regularly held seances in the parlour of their eastern Ontario home in a bid to contact the dead.
Samuel recorded their experiences in pencil-scrawled notes that were found in a locked trunk after his death.
Peter reworked the material in his new book, "A History of Ghosts" (Rodale).
"If you ever wanted to know anything about seances, mediums, everybody from (spiritual investigators) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Oliver Lodge to (Sir William) Crookes, (Emmanuel) Swedenborg, this is the encyclopedia," Dan Aykroyd said Thursday as he accompanied his 87-year-old father to Toronto for a media blitz.
"This is the absolute definitive book for anybody who is interested in mediumship today or in the past."
Having inherited an intense curiosity about the paranormal from his grandfather, Peter says he sought out to craft something that was part memoir and part primer on the supernatural.
The book features a foreword by Dan and mixes family tales with an introduction to ghostly terms like "glossolalia" (speaking in a language unknown to the speaker or listener) and "clairhambiance" (the ability of a medium to experience a taste associated with a spirit).
It also introduces the term "ectoplasm," which entered the mainstream lingo after being featured prominently in "Ghostbusters."
The comedian says he definitely believes that mediums exist and can communicate with the dead.
"What I do believe after reading this book is that there are people and have been people on this planet who can and are willingly able to submit to a control entity beyond this reality that we live in, a control entity being another spirit, a spirit from the other side," Aykroyd said in a booming voice reminiscent of his alter ego as the Super Bass-O-Matic pitchman on "Saturday Night Live."
"There are some people who can go into a trance and give themselves up and be controlled and speak as this being, as this spirit entity."
Dan, who lives in the renovated Kingston homestead where the family seances took place, said he's never experienced a supernatural event himself but freely discussed his spiritual leanings with his "Ghostbusters" collaborators.
"Harold Ramis was a complete non-believer, skeptic and agnostic full-on. Billy (Murray) of course is Irish and he knows ghosts exist and sometimes the dead do linger in the land of the living. Ivan Reitman, he's Jewish so he knows ... there's a lot of paranormal in the Kabbalah," he said.
"Sony Pictures -- our other partner -- they just saw a good movie and then they made it."
Dan says he's hoping the team can reunite to put together another sequel to the box office hit, noting there's plenty of audience appetite for ghostly fare.
"Look at 'Ghost Whisperer,' look at our culture," he says.
"You have TV shows, syndicated shows, we had one that lasted for four years called 'PSI Factor' based upon events of an engineering group that was studying this stuff out west. It's just in our culture and I look at it all through the filter of an entertainer."
Peter Aykroyd says his own research notes, and the journals of his grandfather, will be donated to the University of Manitoba for anyone to peruse.
"The University of Manitoba is becoming the locus for material on the paranormal of Canadian origin," says the white-haired author, who arrived at the interview with the aid of a cane.
"It's a very very rich archive," he says, noting it also contains the papers of Winnipeg psychic researcher Glen Hamilton.
"A History of Ghosts" is in bookstores now.