Saturday, November 1, 2008

1905 Ghostbusters story

Back in 1905, Gellet Burgess (most well known today for his poem Purple Cow) published a little tale called The Ghost-Extinguisher, about a scientist who discovers a Japanese technique for disabling ghosts and putting them in jars. The scientist refines the process a bit:

Such elusive spirits are able to pass through walls and elude pursuit with ease. It became necessary for me to obtain some instrument by which their capture could be conveniently effected. The ordinary fire-extinguisher of commerce gave me the hint as to how the problem could be solved. One of these portable hand-instruments I filled with the proper chemicals. When inverted, the ingredients were commingled in vacuo and a vast volume of gas was liberated. This was collected in the reservoir provided with a rubber tube having a nozzle at the end. The whole apparatus being strapped upon my back, I was enabled to direct a stream of powerful precipitating gas in any desired direction, the flow being under control through the agency of a small stopcock. By means of this ghost-extinguisher I was enabled to pursue my experiments as far as I desired.

Yeah, it sure sounds like the devices Bill Murray & pals were using in the film Ghostbusters. There's some other interesting similarities to the movie as well, although the story is obviously different. So let's just call it inspirational and enjoy.

Since the story is in the public domain, I Bowlderized it just a tad -- my apologies to purists who feel this thing shouldn't be done, and to people who are sensitive to the 1905 language that wouldn't be tolerated today. In the story, Burgess uses the term "Japs" much more than the designation "Japanese," so I changed them all to Japanese (the nationality is kind of crucial to the story). He also utilized racist dialogue like:

“You hully up, bling me one pair bellows pletty quick!” he commanded.

That I tried to change as much as possible in my reading. I hope I succeeded.

I welcome your comments on this discovery. It is Mister Ron's Basement Episode Number 1189, and can be found at:

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