One Of The Scariest Scenes In Ghostbusters Comes With Overdue Fees

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato. In this edition, Matt finds something scarier than overdue library books in "Ghostbusters.")

This week, I'm getting nostalgic over what used to scare me as a child. The quick answer is "everything," but specifically, a few horror movie sequences stand out as memorably malicious attacks against Little Donato's fear tolerance. No doubt "Ghostbusters" is more comedy than horror, but my childhood self wasn't such a genre snob. Are there ghosts? Rad, it's horror, and I wanted no part of it.

That said, there's a scene in "Ghostbusters" that used to be a no-go whenever babysitters or friends' parents would put the movie on. I'd hide my eyes for a minute and be alright, but the Busters' first encounter with a paranormal entity was too much for me. I know libraries aren't typically where horror exists, but maybe that conveys how terror-averse I was as a wee lad. Everyone remembers the librarian ghost from "Ghostbusters," especially me, whose nights were ruined by the translucent lavender apparition

The setup

What happens when Columbia University parapsychology professors are fired for telling ghost stories? The Ghostbusters are born. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) lose their positions after claiming to see a supernatural being because no one else believes ghosts are real. That's what prompts them to open their own ghost-bustin' business in New York City, taking on ghouls with their nuclear-powered proton weaponry.

You know what happens next. Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) calls upon the Ghostbusters to investigate her refrigerator monster, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) joins the team, and a marshmallow mascot stomps around Manhattan. Although, we're not venturing that far into Ivan Reitman's horror-comedy. My nemesis makes an early appearance before the Ghostbusters open for business.

The story so far

The movie starts. That's the story so far. There's nothing to reveal about storytelling details that would be different from explaining the film's first scare sequence, so let's save word count. Let's go back to the beginning.

The scene

Peter, Ray, and Egon pay a visit to the New York Public Library. The first signs of ghostly activity are a symmetrical book stack in the middle of two shelves, which seems a bit out of the ordinary. Ray moves his partners to classification shelves pulled out and covered in ectoplasmic goop. Egon asks Peter to scoop some of the slime for analysis — Peter quips about ghost snot and acts disgusted.

Nothing particularly scary yet, except the way Peter wipers gloppy residue all over clean hardcovers.

Egon follows his glowing handheld device toward an abnormal reading. After turning a corner, a bookshelf falls, almost as a threat. Peter hides behind his humor again, making light of the dangerous conditions. Ray seems less amused.

Peter, Egon, and Ray turn a corner and see a purple(ish) ghost levitating in front of their faces. The wayward soul reaches for books as the pre-Ghostbusters stand in awe of their spectral guest. Peter asks what their next step should be and learns a lesson about asking questions with immediacy. He's chosen to make contact with the librarian ghost, and hopefully, she'll be as sweet as Casper.

Peter asks the ghost — from afar — where she's from. As a good librarian does, the undead reader shushes Peter. It's a library, after all. Peter bails on "Mission Make Contact" so as not to anger their first encounter. Ray has other plans.

Ray claims to have a better plan and asks Peter and Egon to follow shortly behind. As they near the librarian ghost, Ray screams, "GET HER!" like she's powerless, which is a very incorrect statement. As Ray lunges towards the ghost, she turns from a mousy, grandmotherly shusher to an enlarged demonic ghost-figure with skeletal figures and boogeyman pop responses. She goes from harmless and focused to Reitman's haunted house with a villain right off the bat. Practical effects bring the ghost's repulsive form to life, as it loudly grows to scare away the Ghostbusters — frizzle-haired ol' dead librarian sure as a creepy-as-hell final form in "Ghostbusters."

The impact (Chris' take)

I love that Matt picked this. Yes, "Ghostbusters" isn't really a scary movie; it's a comedy. But part of what made the original so great — back before it became some sort of weird rallying cry of toxic fans — is that it deftly blended humor with scares. The ghosts in the film can be silly, but the effects work used to bring them to life is great. I always got a kick out of this opening, because in between all the quips — "Where are you from? ...originally?" — lurks a genuine air of creepiness. I personally prefer the library ghost in her pre-monster form, because there's something so haunting and cool about a floating spirit reading some books in a dark, sprawling library.