Anyone who spotted four men in Ghostbusters gear at Container Park on July 23 couldn’t be blamed for wondering if some costumed characters from the Fremont Street Experience wandered over. No, the spook-snatching crew wasn’t there on pics-for-tips duty—they showed up to “patrol” the Downtown shopping complex’s Family Movie Night, which just happened to be featuring a certain 1984 supernatural comedy.
“People mistake us for typical Strip or Downtown street performers, and we work very hard to separate from them,” says Jeff Miller, being careful not to denigrate the buskers, either. “We refuse tips and we’ve never charged a cent to appear.”
What began as leisurely prop-making and costume-contest competing for two lifelong friends, Halloween enthusiasts and diehard fans of all things Ghostbusters, turned into Miller and Mike Garth co-founding the first Vegas-based franchise of the proton-pack-wielding heroes. But the Ghostbusters of Las Vegas didn’t want to limit their participation to fandom. They were inspired by “those in other cities that grew their [Ghostbusters cosplay] teams out for positive community service,” Miller says.
As such, the group—now rounded out by four other members—seeks to help charitable organizations, whether raising over $1,000 for a National MS Society 5K, luring followers on social media networks to Opportunity Village’s HallOVeen Magical Forest as a featured attraction, or assisting the Salvation Army with its holiday red-kettle fundraising efforts. Naturally, their shtick appeals to families and kids, from posing for free pictures at Container Park to cheering up patients at the Children’s Hospital at University Medical Center.
Miller says the local Ghostbusters’ activities not only aim higher than mere cosplay, but are more gratifying. “We’re regular, professional, white-collar guys that have families and are everyday schmoes. But when we put on [the costumes], people smile, laugh and want to talk to us. It’s especially rewarding seeing the kids light up when they see what the [proton-pack] switches do and give you high-fives. It gives you a euphoric feeling.”