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Who is, the school Ghostbuster

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

Brendan Sheehan l Associate Editor

The year is 2005. A young Connor Oplinger contemplates what to be for Halloween, until it hits him. He wanted to be a Ghostbuster.

Eager and excited he approaches his father, sharing the exciting realization. His father dismisses it at first, handing him some money to buy a quick costume at Target, but the young Oplinger had something much greater in mind.

“No Dad, we’re going to make it ourselves.”

This moment would mark the origin of the iconic Mr. Oplinger Ghostbusters costume, a tradition looked forward to by students every year. What many students may not know, however, is how the costume came to be.

Technology and architectural design teacher Jim Oplinger has kept the tradition going for about 12 years now with his iconic Egon Spengler inspired costume. According to Oplinger, the completion of the full suit took years of time, money, and painstaking effort to create.

A self-proclaimed old movie geek with a vested interest and immersion into the Ghostbusters lore, Oplinger wanted to make sure he had included and manufactured each part to the finest of details. When his son, Connor, urged him to make it on his own, he had no idea the amount of commitment he would get himself into.

“I didn’t really think anything of it after seeing it the day it came out in ‘84, having a wife and kids and everything,” said Oplinger. “But then I started researching and it really got me interested in finding ways to get all the parts.”

Starting with research into forums and catalogs filled with likeminded convention-goers and costume makers, Oplinger started with the development of his homemade “proton pack,” containing a series of lights, effects, and sounds.

Pairing his efforts with his work, he began the development of the pack around Aug. 1, 2005 and finished around Oct. 23, each night working from when he got finished with school until midnight to 1 a.m. Eventually burnt out by his strenuous efforts and emerging diagnosis of his son’s autism, Oplinger subsided the project for about 3 years.

“I was so burned out and just needed a break,” said Oplinger. “So, I shelfed that gun and didn’t do anything with that for years.”

Returning to the project in 2009 with the aid of his friend Jeff who he had met through prop-making forums and websites, Oplinger had revisited the proton pack with the extension of the “particle hopper” gun and the ghost trap.

According to Oplinger, the upcoming relevance of the 3D printer found him lots of success in creating the subtle parts he needed. Although the full-sized models were developed and sold for $17,000, he was able to finesse clientele into letting him test-run some equipment for weeklong periods.

In addition to his particle hopper, proton pack, and cyclotron, the costume also comes equipped with a full military-grade suit, personally embroidered to replicate that of Spengler’s in the movie. Over $2,000 later, the suit had reached completion in 2010.

“Since the movie is so dated, many students don’t know what Ghostbusters is,” said Oplinger. “By wearing the costume, I’m able to talk about and get into the lore of (the movie) I love.”

Since he has started wearing the costume, he has created many memorable moments with students sharing the love of a classic film. A smile paints Oplinger’s face as he recalls the year of a girl dressing up as a female ghostbuster and trying on the pack for a picture.

“She had all the parts she needed and made the costume completely on her own,” said Oplinger. “She had her own interpretation, which I thought was just awesome.”

On years where Oplinger has fallen short of his expectation to wear the costume, students have expressed their disappointment rather passionately, according to Oplinger.

Now, Oplinger is involved with several groups within Pennsylvania such as the Philadelphia Ghostbusters and the Susquehanna Valley Ghostbusters who all support various causes in autism awareness. By attending various conventions and parades, he can showcase his costume inside and outside of the school.

“I like to put the pack on, walk around a little bit and talk about the movie,” said Oplinger. “I also like to act like a Ghostbuster a bit, its just the inner child in me.”

As Falcoween approaches this coming Monday, be on the lookout for a ghost-hunting teacher and take the time to appreciate this adorkable and intensive project.

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