[THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS: EASTERN MYSTERY] (GBA#10) ('I' hereinunder = Peter Venkman) (See GBA#0 'Our Equipment' for notes)

Some of the ghosts that we bust are like things from Chinese history or myth; two such busts stand out in my memory.

In the first, we busted several ghosts in a Chinese restaurant and backtracked their PKE trail to a nearby shop where a Chinese mystic calling himself Ho Shang Rai ushered us through a door which proved to be an interdimensional gate into a temple in what he said was ancient China {GBM57.3 & GBM193 'A Wok on the Wild Side'}. In there Ho and some Buddhist monks started worshipping us as 'promised saviours'. Alarmed, we did not wait to hear all his unclear mystical explanation but fled abruptly back to our own world through the interdimensional gate while it was still there, and destroyed it with proton gun blast. The explosion demolished the shop also.

Later we were again called to a Chinese restaurant, and were met by Ho Shang Rai, who this time explained clearly and unmystically and led us into the same world as before, to trap a powerful rogue dragon-demon who had got out of control. Ho said that our going there to do that had been foretold from times of old: he had an old-looking picture of the event that depicted us and our kit accurately. I was surprised and confused but led the rest of us through, and we did the job {GBM58.3 & GBM193 'The Copper Kid'}.

I presume that where we went was an alternate dimension rather than actual ancient China. This query arose again later. I was tired after an arduous bust in an office in New Jersey that had been built on the site of a forgotten tragedy among early settlers, and sank into a deep armchair and a deep pizza safely away from our greedy green pet ghost Slimer who was helping Egon in his lab. Ray interrupted my sleepy contemplation of the mysteries of the universe. "Look at this!" he said, "I've been filling out on what the Chinese believed about the ghost world. I got a big Chinese to English dictionary from a library as part of this. Many Chinese characters are made of simpler characters put together, often one for the approximate meaning and one for the sound, like we'd draw a man pulling something and a dragon to spell 'drag' ...".

I sighed. Ray's knowledge of the occult is often very useful to our work, but I couldn't see what Chinese spelling had to do with it. Certainly I hadn't the time to learn Chinese well enough to understand it. I knew enough characters to read such things as signs saying 'car park' when going to busts in our local Chinatown: the character for 'vehicle' is a stylized top view of a chariot, easy to remember. "Go on. Startle me with the latest news from the Beyond." I said tiredly.

"I was looking through the characters made from radical 194, that's 'ghost', and I found this one. It's pronounced 'tchyenn' in the 4th tone ...".

"Great." I interrupted, "You've found a character with 'ghost' in it that sounds like a ghost trap shutting. I don't know how I ever managed without it. Just the thing to spell that noise if I ever draw comic matter in Chinese.".

"And it means 'the death of the ghost of a man' and it's made up of 'water' and 'vehicle' and 'hatchet' in a row from left to right, all on top of a 'ghost' character. It's here." he continued in his rush of boyish enthusiasm and showed me a page full of undecipherable characters and bits of English translation. [This is a genuine Chinese character: Author.]

"Thankyou. Now I know how they tried to bust ghosts in ancient China. Or the water's the sea we'd have to cross to go to China, and the vehicle's the Ecto-1, and so on, and they saw us coming. I still prefer my good old proton pack and a ghost trap." I said yawning, and went to sleep with my proton pack still on.

A few days later the other three of us were out in the evening on the sixth job of a busy day. I had stayed in to catch up with paperwork, but the phone rang again. The caller sounded important and urgent. "There's been a ghost in here for the last fortnight." he said, and gave his name (Mr.Kenworth) and an address on Staten Island, "It's got to be got rid of before an annual meeting next week.".

"What does it look like? What's it doing?" I asked routinely.

"Like a frilly python with legs. Queer thing. It's in the library usually. It just hangs about scaring people. And our water pipes have been acting odd since it appeared: the heater misbehaving and the mechanic can't find anything wrong, taps left running or the mains tap turned off and nobody says they did it. And if I try to do any gardening in the garden pond, it or something poltergeists about and moves stuff or puts it back to where I took it from." he said.

"I'll come and take a look." I said, trying unsccessfully to avoid yawning over the phone, "I'll come in the Ecto-2, that's our helicopter.".

I had seen too many strange-looking ghosts to be surprised by his description. I locked up our base, pushed the Ecto-2 out of its hanger bay, locked up behind it, and flew down the river to his address, which had a big lawn to land on. His idea of a helicopter, whether gunship or police or civilian, was one that could carry several men; he was surprised when the Ecto-2 came, only six feet high and fourteen feet long, with a half-open single-seat cockpit that with a proton pack on I fitted into almost as tightly as into a spacesuit. He led me in and led me into a library. "The ghost usually appears in here." he said. I reached behind my back and started my proton pack. I unclipped my PKE meter from my belt and found the ghost easily enough, quiescent in a wall.

"I'd have to use my proton gun to catch it, and that'd likely damage these ornaments. I thought you'd have taken them out or warned me about them before." I said, "Unless you can take them all out now I'll have to go back and come tomorrow with the rest of us and different kit.".

He pleaded personal reasons but had to accept that I could not do the job that night. I went out and flew back to base. The rest of us were back but asleep. I also had to sleep, and was too tired to handwrite legibly, so I switched a PC computer on, activated a text editor program, typed a message, printed it on the computer's printer, left it in Egon's mail rack, and went to bed.

"Staten I. job. House full of valuable antiques that he said are sheenwazzery, not free-fire zone for proton guns. Says he can't move them out as too many and nowhere else secure to put them. Need whole team with ectofl's and more traps. Easy on ecto-fire fuel as we're running short of it. ..." he read next morning, deciphering the sleepy mistypes. "I like the Egyptian-style decoration." he said drily about the arrows and ankhs and other odd characters that the printer had printed when presented with the results of me sleepily pressing the control key instead of the shift key when typing, skipped one of the text editor's help files that I had autocopied into the message by mistake and had been too sleepy to edit out, and pointedly told me how to spell 'chinoiserie' and what the word meant. "I see that that ghost Smiley's {GBA#1} been helping you, judging by those cheeky little faces dotted about the text." he added.

"They're PC screen standard for control-A and control-B, and that printer prints the same, the way it's set up. Yes I know, they're silly little things." I said, "Another ectoflamethrower {GBA#0} job, unless he shifts those ornaments after all. If we don't get a few more ecto-burners we'll have none left except empties. When will you and Ray come up with a way to refill them ourselves?".

"He's trying to mend Nekkdasgeddon's machine's RD [= recycler destructor] {GBA#0}." he said, "It was blown to bits when that machine's fuel tanks blew up, but we've got all the bits and he can see a way to mending it and getting it working eventually. When that's done we can breed ectoplasm like we do in an ecto-splat gun's backpack tank {GBA#0} but much bigger scale, and feed it to that RD which'll turn it into ecto-fire fuel like that machine used to run on. But it'll use a lot of electricity. And care that all the ectoplasm ends up in the RD: if it leaks, or if we can't stop the process and it blows out, and turns into a mass production line making ghosts, we'll be for the [electric] chair.".

"Likely, if we cause anything like a repeat of all those possessed plastic toy ghosts running about that Clonamatic {GBM137.10 WD} made, mucking about with that occult book they'd got hold of: dangerous and a stupid waste of materials." I said, "And I've seen where that RD's intake's inside's scratched by I don't like to think what vanishing into it down the years to refuel it, until we put a stop to it. OK, lets go to the Staten Island job. An ecto-burner each. Only use them to chase the ghost out onto his lawn, then bust it there the usual way.".

Ray phoned Mr.Kenworth to say we were coming. We kitted up and set off and got there easily, for we were going against the rush hour traffic. He met us at his front gate and showed us where to park. "I'm Mr.Kenworth. Not 'K-Whopper' or the like, I'm not a truck or a trucker or a CB-er. I get tired of nicknames of that sort." he said and led us inside, looking with some apprehension at the way our ectoflamethrower fuel tanks shimmered and went through things without affecting them. As they are made of ecto-matter our arms and chins could interpenetrate them unaffected, else they would have been badly in the way, as we had to wear them on our chests away from our proton packs.

"I didn't know helicopters came as small as that one you came in yesterday." he said, "No way to give anyone a lift in it! The only one much smaller than that'd be a motor and rotor strapped to your back.".

"Oh no, please don't give Ray any more ideas." I thought, but too late, for I saw a look of realization on Ray's face.

"I hope that whatever comes out of those things only affects ghosts and not ordinary matter such as my very valuable ornaments." he said insistently.

"That's right, they make what we call ecto-fire..." Egon said, starting a long scientific explanation which I had to interrupt.

In the house exotic-looking ornaments and furniture were everywhere, some of them weird. Egon switched his PKE meter on and found the ghost in the library, quiescent in a wall as before. We started our proton packs.

"The ghost started when I got this Chinese temple idol recently." he said, "It came from a Taoist temple at Chieh-erh-lien in Shantung when the Communists slung everything out to make it into a granary. Someone got it onto a ship at Tientsin and took it to San Francisco, where someone bought it and recently died and I picked it up when his son sold the collection.".

"Oh. One of those. There's always that risk with stuff that's been used in rituals." said Ray, "I read in Tobin's Spirit Guide of a case when ...".

"Perhaps. You'll get rid of this thing quickly and quietly, will you." he said, in his important managerial manner that annoyed me until, probably with my mouth in a sly V-shaped smile, I said a codeword. Winston ran out to the Ecto-1 and came back with a fifth ectoflamethrower. We had plenty of them, but they were all low on fuel; but I felt that something needed doing. As Mr.Kenworth was carrying on about important delegations coming and suchlike, and the need to make a good appearance, we closed in on him. He knew too little of us to realise what us bringing kit for five rather than four meant; he feared the worst; but after a minute we backed away from him. "Here's a really 'now' line in men's wear accessories for you! It sets off that flashy suit of yours just right!" I said. He found backpack harness straps across his chest and round his waist, and an ectoflamethrower's gun part held in his hand. Seeing that the gun's feed hose came from something close behind his back that moved with him, he looked in an ornamental mirror at the shimmering unearthly backpack fuel tanks which now adorned his flashy-suited back, struggled with the straps but could not unfasten the buckles, and had to listen to Ray telling him quickly how to operate it. Hardly ever had we seen such a dismayed look on a face. I have seen that perpetually scared-looking skinny tax lawyer Louis Tully trying to act tough in a spare uniform of Egon's with a proton pack on {GBF2}. I have seen how an actor playing a Crocodile Dundee imitator called Kangaroo Jones {GBM113.3 'Wailing Matilda'} looked when he had a ghost on set in Australia and did not realize what our fifth proton pack was for until after a short chase we cornered him and equipped him with it, for he was not as tough-minded as the character that he played, when he realised that he was going to have to face the paranormal with us. It was Mr.Kenworth's first close contact with the paranormal, and the nature of his weapon did nothing to help his peace of mind.

We held all the ghost traps that we could open at the ghost's resting place. They disturbed it but did not suck it in. It came out of the wall at us. As I thought it would be, it was shaped like a typical wingless frilly snake-bodied Chinese dragon, thirty feet long and three feet thick, yet another ghost in the form of something believed in by people living about where it formed. Its living original was merely the Yangtse alligator, known of by distorting exaggerating travellers' tales from the jungles of the south in ancient times when China was the Hwang Ho river area only. It was not a rogue man-eater like European dragon legends but a beneficient water-spirit and rain-maker and steed of the gods, a belief reinforced by seeing tornadoes or waterspouts in thunderstorms in a drought-prone country where rain is important. We fired at it. Mr.Kenworth backed away and muttered about acting as a long-stop, but I got behind him, and he had to face it with us. With short economical bursts we scorched it enough to chase it out through the wall into the garden; he looked very relieved when the hot-looking fire blasts washed over books and papers without affecting them. The dragon tried to breathe fire back but could not. It made speech-like noises which a cassette recorder inside my uniform recorded.

A burglar alarm complained as we climbed out through a window after it. He again held back, staying inside, and I let him, telling him to stop it from going back inside, for we had no fifth proton pack with us. He pleaded urgent office work, but I told him to stay at his post. He wished desperately to get back to his office desk and its international communication links instead of chasing about after a ghost monster wearing a dangerous-looking weapon made in the Beyond by no hand of living man. He was working out how to unfasten its straps when the ghost broke away back through the wall to its usual haunt, throwing books about in a fury at being opposed. Angry at the damage, he forgot his office-bound mentality and set mode and aimed at the monster and pressed the firing button. He looked scaredly at the lethal-looking jet of ecto-fire blasting forward from the wide front nozzle of the bulky gun-part that he held. The unearthly ecto-metal mechanism inside its efficient-looking casing did its job as he fired at the ghost dragon full power, emptying his fuel tanks but burning the ghost until it fled outside. Meanwhile we had holstered our ecto-burner guns and got our proton guns at the ready with safety catches off; we fired at it, holding it twisting and coiling and roaring in a net of particle beams which steadily broke down its strength until it distorted and collapsed and vanished into a ghost trap. We switched off. Peace and normality suddenly returned. Birds were singing.

I retrieved the ectoflamethrower from him; he was excited and scared, and relieved to be rid of it. His suit jacket was rumpled where its straps had been. I gave him our bill with no more than the usual trouble: he pleaded penlessness, and I replied that it didn't matter as cash would be fine. He asked us somewhat desperately to get rid of the idol for him, and gladly went back to his normal comfortable office life.

"Oh, and with the idol the man that brought it from China brought some of the priests' papers that went with it. They look very old. He had them translated. I'll get them for you." he said.

While he was fetching them we checked for any more ghosts but found none. He came back with some yellowing papers covered with Chinese characters, thankfully with typed English translations attached. These we read. Much of it was merely philosophy and details of ritual, but among them a legend caught my eye. In summary and rid of much moralizing using details of the events as symbols, it said that once an alliance of demons and the ghosts of evil men gathered weapons and attacked the palace of the Emperor of Heaven and overcame all defences until just in time some human heroes from the far future came with weapons that shot spears of burning light which slew or trapped many of the attackers and scared the rest away. On reading it I vaguely remembered something, then dismissed it as another priests' or storytellers' wonder-tale and came back to practicality. We went out, put our kit and the idol into the Ecto-1, and left.

On the way back to base we examined the idol. It was a typical Chinese temple idol. I and Ray looked at a row of characters along its base. "That character like someone lying folded up at the foot of a cliff means 'danger'. The law in Japan says it must be on all hazard warning signs." he said.

"This one's 'heaven', to be expected I suppose -" I said, "Hallo, there's that 'ghost bust' character that you showed me earlier. Some Taoist priest's trick to make whatever spirit the idol represents sound as powerful as possible to get offerings from worshippers, I suppose. And then sometimes a ghost forms in the likeness of what people think is real and makes it actually real, or at least 'ecto-real', and we or someone ends up having to clean up after them. I don't trust Taoist magic any more than ordinary black magic. Regardless of whatever role in the mythos any particular god was assigned originally, it becomes a centre of ritual to excite emotions with the end result that we had here. Cults often get very far from the intentions of whoever they were founded around.".

"Too many people go after Eastern cults because they look exotic." said Egon, "Like chanting 'om manu padme hum', that's 'hail the fruit of the lotus flower', or just 'ommm', hundreds of times. Mostly if anything at all apart from just wasting time they just brainwash themselves and make work for psychiatrists, but once someone doing that created a ghost copy of his head that then gave him and his neighbours no peace {GBM35.17, GBM156.13F 'Ghost of a Chant'}.".

"And yet again we had to get rid of it. I'd make 'many pads hum' if I could catch who started that cult. None of them seem to know who the 'Fruit of the Lotus Flower' is supposed to be, or what they want him to do when they finally get him to answer." I said, then added: "I'm more for the Fruit of the Avocado Flower: it's tasty, and its stone can be germinated into a handy house plant.".

"Lotus is a sort of tropical water lily, and I read somewhere that its fruit has a 'downer' drug that people used to abuse." said Winston, "The matter leads back to that sort of stuff yet again.".

"Like that 'soma' stuff that the Hindu Indian Veda sacred books go on about." said Ray, "They used it in rituals. They pressed it out of some plant that's not around now, so the soma junkies must've wiped out the species collecting too much of it, so the world's now got one less abuse drug. Nowadays when their ritual books call for soma they have to use ordinary alcoholic drink instead.".

I played my cassette recording back to a Chinese shopkeeper. It proved to be ordinary blustering and threats and stale much-quoted bits of old philosophies in Mandarin Chinese, which he translated to us. The inscription on the idol proved to be its name, much as I thought it would be. So ended yet another ghost's acting as a distorted petty imitation of its legendary original's magnificence, interfering with a house's water system and garden pond in such fragment as it could manage of the purpose of the supposed mighty heavenly agents and guardians of Chinese water and wet weather. Within an hour in our base's basement our containment summarily swallowed that supposed servant of a god who Taoist priests had once named 'The Heavenly Palace's Guardian against Dangers, the "death of the ghost of a man" weapon wielder', and Egon cleaned and recharged the trap.

Mr.Kenworth of Staten Island could now use his water system and maintain his garden pond in peace. One house and garden may seem petty, but everyone is important to himself, and results far from petty might have happened if that ambitious ghost had gathered power and become a big demon enforcing worship by force. We looked at the idol while deciding what to do with it. It looked old and too valuable to casually destroy, though we sometimes have to destroy valuable ecto-active ritual objects as the only way to make them safe.

We remember a carved crystal 'Demon Skull of the Underworld' which a pop group manager had got hold of and prayed to for success, some time earlier. Its effect on his group's members was fearsomely horrific {GBM54.3, GBM77.10F 'Zombies - Dance of the Dead'} amd we only reluctantly allowed it into matter published for children, and then 'watered down', to warn them not to mess about with the paranormal or other unknown supposed help. We remember too well the unpleasant job of clearing up after the bust, and after Egon examined it quickly and carefully the spectacular ecto-explosion and filthy smell it made when he smashed it in our base's yard with a proton gun shot. But the Chinese idol was now safe to handle. An expert later dated it in the late Sung dynasty, several centuries ago.

The idol as carved wore an odd-shaped backpack, and in the so-called 'ghost bust' character in the inscription on its base the 'hatchet' part looked more like a proton pack.