Members of Steel City Ghostbusters with Ernie Hudson, who played Winston Zeddemore in the 1984 film. Photo courtesy of Steel City Ghostbusters.

Most Tarentum residents weren’t surprised when they saw a 21-foot inflatable Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in front of David Swartz’s home … in April.

Photo courtesy of Steel City Ghostbusters.

If there’s something strange in the neighborhood, he’s usually responsible for it. He did, after all, convert his Jeep Cherokee into an Ecto-1.

Swartz runs Steel City Ghostbusters (SCGB), a fan group that makes appearances dressed as the phantom-fighting characters from the iconic film. The organization is part of an international network of diehard devotees.

On Nov. 19 from 6 to 9 p.m., SCGB will be stationed outside the AMC Waterfront 22 theater in Homestead to celebrate the release of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” The crew will pose for pictures with fellow enthusiasts, recruit new members and pass out spooky swag. Raising spirits, especially during a pandemic, is their mission.

Photo courtesy of Steel City Ghostbusters.

Swartz and his best friend Adam Ameel (who is on deployment with the Navy) founded SCGB in 2008. The pair donned the famous tan jumpsuits and makeshift proton packs for Ameel’s wedding reception.

Swartz says his love for “Ghostbusters” runs deep. He grew up idolizing Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spangler and Winston Zeddemore. “I think ‘80s movies, and ‘Ghostbusters’ specifically, had this wonderful mix of adult and kid humor. All of the actors and director Ivan Reitman had great chemistry.”

He was first introduced to the franchise when he was 4 years old through “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon series. It wasn’t long before he was captivated by the movie and its sequels, including the 2016 release which featured an all-female ghostbusting team.

Now 36, Swartz is riding a wave of nostalgia as he awaits the latest installment.

Swartz hopes “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” will introduce a new generation to Zuul and the gang and attract new members to SCGB.

Potential participants don’t have to believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis. But they do need to read and understand the group’s bylaws, fill out an online form and don the proper gear. Because SCGB does a lot of work involving children, members must by law obtain state and national clearances.

In addition to attending private birthday parties, horror conventions, community gatherings and Halloween happenings, the ghoulish group donates to Project Bundle-Up and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. They also participate in 96.1 KISS FM’s annual Stuff-A-Bus Toy Drive.

Photo courtesy of Steel City Ghostbusters.

While they ain’t afraid of no ghosts, SCGB members do not conduct paranormal investigations.

Swartz admits he got emotional when he saw a trailer for “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which is directed by Ivan Reitman’s son Jason Reitman. Actors Bill Murray, Dan Akyroyd and Ernie Hudson will reprise their starring roles. Harold Ramis, who played Egon, died in 2014, adding yet another heartbreaking chapter to “Tobin’s Spirit Guide.”

“This is a movie I never thought I was going to see,” Swartz says. “I never thought there was going to be a continuation of the original ‘Ghostbusters’ that is so in the vein of everything those guys created in 1984. This is my childhood.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.