By Scott Markus
The media has memorialized Harold Ramis a thousand times already today and he will get the same well-earned treatment for the next few days. As someone who has never met Mr. Ramis personally, I have little of substance to contribute. That said, he has long been an influence in my life. For one, watching and re-watching Ghostbusters as a kid was like a religion for me. I can’t say that I am a current paranormal investigator and writer BECAUSE of the film, but a mainstream, popular, timeless classic that treats ghosts and ghost stories in a fun, palatable way is truly a unique approach. As a kid, “Ghostbusters” was my first favorite movie. It doesn’t seem like too big a leap to think that Ramis had a little something to do with it.
To a larger degree, it was his writing that always captured my attention. His comedies (namely “Stripes,” “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day”) are among my all-time favorites. He “got” comedy and how to make an ensemble comedy work. His continued connection to Chicago was also a point of pride for this Chicago kid – New York can keep Woody Allen – we have Harold Ramis.
To keep this post somewhat thematically linked to the rest of our web site – let’s take a quick look at the haunted locations that Ramis is forever linked to thanks to his films:
The Woodstock Opera house (Woodstock, IL): This location is frequently seen in the Ramis written-and-directed film “Groundhog Day.” In fact, during one of Bill Murray’s more depressed episodes, he commits suicide by jumping from this small town landmark. Meanwhile, inside the theater is the ghost of a woman nicknamed “Elvira.” There are more rumors than truths to her story, but her are some claims that she jumped to her death from the same tower. To this day, people attending plays at this theater can hear Elvira’s disembodied sounds of approval dismissal depending on whether or not she is enjoying the performance.
The Biltmore (downtown Los Angeles): LA served as NY for some of the most iconic moments in the Ramis written-and-starring “Ghostbusters.” The scenes in the lobby where the ‘busters arrive to catch Slimer is the Biltmore. The staircases double for Dana Barrett’s building where they have to make the long, climb to the roof to fight Gozer at the end of the film. While they were there, the Ghostbusters may have had even more lucky if they checked out the first floor lounge. It is here that bartenders whisper about seeing a phantom couple on a date. When the servers go to take their order, the bashful ghosts vanish. This is also the last place Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) was seen alive. Though we don’t have any ghost stories with this fact, we do urge ghost hunters to attempt to reach her and possibly find a clue in this still unsolved homicide.
The Hancock Tower (downtown Chicago): Though Ramis never filmed here (Did he? Someone tell me if I’m wrong), this landmark was the inspiration for the film “Ghostbusters.” The land is considered cursed by it’s original, squatting “owner,” Cap Streeter. Since Cap was run off the land, another notable oddball called this area home – this land was the birth site of Anton LaVey, known as the creator of the Church of Satan. Later, the Hancock Tower was built here, coincidentally, in the shape of a portal for evil forces. True or another baseless tradition of a bygone spiritualist movement, the site has been the scene of repeated tragedy, physically unexplainable deaths and unusual biological phenomena.