Proton pack

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Proton pack
Plot element from the Ghostbusters franchise
Publisher Columbia Pictures
First appearance Ghostbusters (1984)
Created by Egon Spengler and Ray Stantz
Genre Science fiction, Comedy
In-story information
Type Paranormal elimination tool

The proton pack is a fictional energy weapon used for weakening ghosts and aiding in capturing them within the Ghostbusters universe.[1] First depicted in the film Ghostbusters, it has a hand-held wand ("Neutrino Wand" or particle thrower) connected to a backpack-sized particle accelerator. It fires a stream of protons that polarizes the negatively charged energy of a ghost, allowing it to be held in the stream.[2]

In the Ghostbusters universe[edit]

The proton pack, designed by Dr. Egon Spengler, is a man-portable particle accelerator system that is used to create a charged particle beam - composed of protons - that is fired by the proton gun (also referred to as the "neutrona wand"[citation needed]). Described in the first movie as a "positron collider", it presumably functions by colliding high-energy positrons to generate its proton beam. The beam allows a Ghostbuster to contain and hold "negatively charged ectoplasmic entities". This containment ability allows the wielder to position a ghost above a trap for capture.[3] The name proton pack is not used in the original movie at all,[4] and is not used until the subway tunnel scene in Ghostbusters II, when Egon says that they should get their proton packs. The doorman to the Mayor's mansion also uses the term proton pack as a toy for his little brother. Egon then replies that "A proton pack is not a toy."

While the Ghostbusters' dialogue indicates that the accelerator system operates similarly to a cyclotron (and indeed Dr. Peter Venkman refers to the proton packs in one scene as "unlicensed nuclear accelerators"),[3] modern particle accelerators produce well collimated particle beams.[5] This is far different from the beam from a proton pack, which tends to undulate wildly (though it still stays within the general area at which the user is aiming). The proton stream is quite destructive to physical objects, and can cause extensive property damage.[3]

In the 2009 Ghostbusters game, Ray explains how the proton pack works early in the game; the energy emitted by the proton stream helps to dissipate psychokinetic (PK) energy which ghosts use to manifest themselves. Draining them of their PK energy weakens them, allowing them to be captured in their portable ghost traps.

According to a line spoken by Egon in Ghostbusters II, each pack's energy cell has a half-life of 5,000 years.[6] Knobs on the main stock of the proton pack can perform various functions to customize the proton stream, including adjustments for stream intensity, length, and degrees of polarization.[citation needed] In the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters, the maximum power setting for the proton packs is "500,000 MHz," which possibly refers to the rate of positron collisions occurring within the pack's accelerator system. In the cartoon the packs also have a self-destruct mechanism capable of affecting at least a half-mile radius. The Real Ghostbusters and the Extreme Ghostbusters also made proton packs less efficient with power cells, allowing them to run out of energy when appropriate for dramatic tension; in the latter show, the proton packs require replaceable power cartridges.[7]

The IDW monthly Ghostbusters comic storyline has shown the movie pack, a boson dart capable pack and the Extreme Ghostbusters pack in use. The IDW comic also shows a proton pistol attachment to the movie pack being used by Winston while hunting down Slimer.

Crossing the streams[edit]

There's something very important I forgot to tell you! Don't cross the streams… It would be bad… Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

—Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) on crossing proton streams

Crossing the streams was initially discouraged, as Egon believed that "total protonic reversal" would occur: this effect would have catastrophic results (see quote above). However, in a desperate effort to stop the powerful Gozer the Gozerian, Egon noted that the door to Gozer's temple "swings both ways" and that by crossing the streams, they may be able to create enough force to close the door on Gozer and its control. As the Ghostbusters cross the streams, the combination of that much energy closes the door to Gozer's dimension and severs its ties to our world. The resulting blast destroys a good portion of the roof and blows up the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.[3]

In Ghostbusters: The Video Game, the Ghostbusters mention that "crossing the streams" during the Gozer Incident (events of the first Ghostbusters film) only worked due to the presence of a cross-dimension portal (a tactic which is referred to as the "Gozer gambit" by Ray) and should only be used as a last resort. During the game's climax, the Ghostbusters are pulled into Ivo Shandor's ghostly realm and come face-to-face with Shandor's Destructor form, forcing them to resort to "crossing the streams" to defeat Shandor. The resulting blast not only destroys Shandor but also sends the team flying back to their dimension. During gameplay, it is possible for the player to cross the streams with another Ghostbuster, but this will only cause a burst of energy to travel down the stream and deal a massive amount of damage to the player, also knocking them off their feet for a short time, due to a new "safety" that was installed on the neutrona wand.

In Ghostbusters: The Video Game[edit]

The game features a modified version of the proton pack (an experimental prototype) which is given to the player (the Ghostbuster's new experimental equipment technician/guinea pig) for field testing. This new proton pack is equipped with other features (and upgrades) besides the standard proton stream.

Prop construction[edit]

The props are made of molded fiberglass shells on aluminium backplates (or "motherboards") bolted to military surplus A.L.I.C.E. frames. The basic shape was sculpted from foam; later, a rubber mold was made of it, from which fiberglass shells were pulled. They were then finished with various surplus resistors, pneumatic fittings, hoses and ribbon cable, and warning labels and custom-made metal fittings.

Some packs from Ghostbusters I were used in the follow-up Ghostbusters II; these packs were slightly redressed with a black crank knob and thinner ribbon cable. The angle of the gun, or "wand" mount was changed to pitch forward slightly, in order to make the prop easier for the actor to use. In addition to these redressed props, one of the originals was hastily cast as a buck to produce basic lightweight "midgrade" props (as a solution to complaints by the actors about the weight of the original prop). These midgrade pieces featured many details cast in as part of the mould, instead of separate fittings. The electronics and mechanisms were also cut down greatly, reducing the total weight. The original GB1 props would appear in close-ups, the midgrade in all other scenes, and new rubber "stunt" packs were made for whenever the actor needed to take a fall.


  1. ^ "A Ghost-Zapping Device Is the Season's Stunner". The New York Times. 1987-12-25. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  2. ^ Bergman, Gregory; Lambert, Josh (2011). Geektionary: From Anime to Zettabyte, An A to Z Guide to All Things Geek. Adams Media. p. 228. ISBN 978-1440511141. 
  3. ^ a b c d Reitman, Ivan (Director), Aykroyd, Dan and Ramis, Harold (Writers) (1984-07-08). Ghostbusters (Motion picture). Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  4. ^ Bergman, Lambert 2011, p. 229.
  5. ^ Particle accelerator
  6. ^ Reitman, Ivan (Director), Aykroyd, Dan and Ramis, Harold (Writers) (1989-07-16). Ghostbusters II (Motion picture). Retrieved 2009-09-13. 
  7. ^ The Real Ghostbusters (Television show). 1986. Retrieved 2009-09-13.