Bradenton man 'ain't afraid of no ghosts'

Bradenton man ‘ain’t afraid of no ghosts’

jajones1@bradenton.comAugust 19, 2011 

MANATEE -- True story: a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy was recently patrolling when he thought he saw one of the characters from the movie “Ghostbusters” standing on the side of a street.

The man was clad in a khaki jump suit, wore a proton backpack, had a set of ecto-goggles on his head and held a P.K.E. meter to detect psycho-kinetic activity.

The “Ghostbusters” character was waving at passing traffic.

No apparition nor ghost, the figure was Robert Stokes, 27, maybe the most passionate “Ghostbusters” fan in Manatee County.

“The things you see driving down Orlando Avenue,” the deputy told Stokes, a Manatee High School graduate.

Legally blind and unable to work, Stokes gives full rein to his obsession with “Ghostbusters” by waving at local traffic, hoping to raise a smile here and there.

The first “Ghostbusters” movie, starring Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray, was released in 1984, the same year that Stokes was born. The sequel was released in 1989, and fans have been waiting for “Ghostbusters III” ever since.

Stokes, who is a walking encyclopedia of everything “Ghostbusters,” is a little peeved at Murray, who he says has the script but refuses to read it.

“I think I was 5 when I saw the movie the first time. I have always been in love with ‘Ghostbusters,’ ” he said.

He has been collecting memorabilia for years, everything from cards to costumes, much of it purchased through eBay and other websites.

He purchased his SWAT boots through one website, and his U.S. Army surplus chemical gloves through another.

He got the proton pack and uniform by outbidding other fans on eBay.

The first piece of his costume was a set of ecto-goggles, which, like many of the other pieces, has colored flashing lights and moving parts.

Then he added the jump suit, followed by the gloves, the boots, and the proton pack and elbow pads.

He outfit is almost complete, although he still needs a belt “gizmo,” a couple of pistol-belt key chains and a sound board for the proton pack.

As with any avid collector, his collection will probably never be really complete.

He dreams that one day he may be able to bring Ecto-1, the 1959 Cadillac used by the “Ghostbusters” parapsychologists, to life in order to pursue and capture ghosts in Bradenton for Halloween.

In fact, the ring tone on his cell phone is the siren sound from Ecto-1.

“It takes a strong will for a person to do what they really want to do,” said Betty Stokes of her son’s embrace of all things “Ghostbusters.”

“He gets out in that 100-degree weather just to wave and make people smile,” she said.

But she has to admit that when she first learned her son planned to wear his “Ghostbusters” regalia out front of their Orlando Avenue home, she was hesitant.

“Bob, don’t go out in front of the house like that,” Betty Stokes said. “I wondered what the drivers would think.”

Now, she accepts “Ghostbusters” as her son’s calling, and she encourages him to spread his “Ghostbusters” persona to birthday parties and other special events.

Just as there are those obsessed with “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” to name two other sci-fi universes, Robert Stokes has “Ghostbusters” company out there.

There’s a chat room on the website www.gbfans.com, which Stokes frequently visits.

“I talk to a lot of people there,” he said.

While “Ghostbusters” has his heart, he also is a big fan of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, and likes Green Lantern, Captain America and the Transformers, too.

Stokes was unable to attend the Comic-Con International Convention last month in San Diego, but he did the next best thing. He wore his “Ghostbusters” outfit for an hour a day for the five days leading up to Comic-Con, and then he wore it all day long the three days of the convention for comic book fans.

By the way, just who is Stokes’ favorite character in “Ghostbusters?” Would it be the Aykroyd, Ramis or Murray characters?

None of the above. That honor goes to Winston Zeddemore, played by Ernie Hudson.

“He’s the guy with the attitude and the mouth,” Stokes said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.

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