Andrew Whatley, Ghostbuster
How a cosplay fascination became a local nonprofit
Andrew Whatley pours himself a cup of coffee and contemplates whether or not he has time to eat breakfast before work. He decides against it and goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Next, he dons a navy blue jumpsuit that sports his last name embroidered in red. Dressed, he grabs his keys and wallet and gives his wife a goodbye kiss before heading out to his car. If it looks familiar, it’s because it’s modeled after the iconic Ecto-1 Ghostbuster car. It’s the perfect ride for Whatley, who founded the Sacramento Ghostbusters, a nonprofit organization that gives back to the community. Whatley and his crew, dressed as Ghostbusters, of course, show up to charity events in their Ecto-1 to grace people with a piece of nostalgia. “We are just a bunch of geeky guys who like to go out and have a good time as Ghostbusters,” Whatley said. Whatley set some time aside from chasing ghosts to chat with SN&R about his own terrible ghost hunting experience, and how his love for the franchise turned into a passion.
Ghostbusters was the first movie that I remember watching with my dad, so it has a special spot in my heart. So, right around 2009, I see all these other cosplay groups, like the 501st [Legion] Stormtroopers who go around and do stuff for hospitals. I was like, I wanted to do that, but I am a chubby guy so I’m not going to look good in a stormtrooper outfit. Then I thought, “Why not Ghostbusters?” That’s how I got started. And then I wrote my buddy, who is a big fan of Ghostbusters, and it started up from there.
How did it turn into a company?
Well it’s not really a company, it’s more of a group of friends who have a mutual love for the franchise. Our first event was at a Halloween haunted house, then we started going to Comic-Cons and it just started to snowball from there. We were networking and talking to people, and eventually we got tables at events, and from there it became a lot easier doing community events. We are now a part of a branch under Sony called Ghost Corps. The branch started in 2016 when the new film came out and it united all the Ghostbuster groups.
What do the Sacramento Ghostbusters do?
We do a lot of charity work like the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walks, Vehicles for Veterans and toy drives. The charity work we do goes back to my dad, who sadly passed away in 2009. I was like, I want to do something but I’m not a doctor and I can’t cure cancer but I can make stuff and bring smiles to people, so why not do that? We are open to all charities if they call us and ask us to help out. We are like, “Sure.” We are technically a nonprofit, and we don’t handle any money. People want to donate to us, but we say donate in our names so that way it goes directly back to the charity. We do attend other events like comic conventions where they provide us with tables and booths, and we can show up and take pictures with people.
Did you ever go ghost hunting?
Well, my phone number is on the side of my car, so people have actually called me up to investigate their house for paranormal activity, and I have to tell them no and explain what I do. I did go on one supposed investigation, but the way it turned out was the group who operated in Sacramento didn’t have permission to be on this Indian reservation. We were walking around at like 9 o’clock at night supposedly looking for ghosts. We wanted to see what it’s all about and we were not impressed with how the group handled things. The cops were called at one point, so we don’t associate ourselves with them for various reasons.
Who is your favorite Ghostbuster and why?
Egon Spengler is my favorite because he is the nerdy type, and he’s always coming up with new inventions and stuff to solve a problem. I actually met one of the Ghostbusters, Ernie Hudson, and the puppeteer for Slimer in Ghostbusters II, Robin Shelby, and they were really cool.
Among your crew, who is the Venkman, Ray and Winston?
My Ray would be my longtime buddy and my hetero life-mate Alex, that I have known since kindergarten. The Venkman in our group would be our buddy Shawn, who drives the other truck. And our Winston would be our buddy Jay. I am Spengler because I make a lot of my stuff.
How did you manage to get a Ghostbuster car?
Actually this is my second Ghostbuster car. My first one was a big truck, but it was getting old and it was kinda of a gas guzzler. So I downgraded to my current car. I made most of my stuff on my car. I love going to Goodwill and looking around and finding different things. I have friends who are in [the] vinyl business who hooked me up with all the stickers. I drive for Lyft and people are always excited when they see me roll up. That’s one of the reasons why I like driving for Lyft.
What were your feelings toward the recent Ghostbusters remake?
I love it. People always ask me how could I like it. I am like, well, I looked at it this way: It worked for me, and they figured out a way to build the franchise, but also the majority of the cast members were from Saturday Night Live and that right there showed that they wanted to go for a comedy.