The Ghostbusters theme song has roots in Victorian England

Ray Parker, Jr.: Singer, songwriter ... fan of Victorian era literature?

Parker's hit 1984 song "Ghostbusters" for the film of the same name (which held the top slot on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for three weeks) is of course famous for its hook "I ain't afraid of no ghosts."

But the line actually has roots 96 years before "Ghostbusters."

In Ellen Price Wood's posthumous 1888 novel The Case of Charles Strange (also published in the Argosy magazine she owned), the ghost of Mr. Brightman just might be wreaking some havoc. Then again, it could be a hoax.

But one thing was for sure, the bold character of Hatch declared: "I'm not afraid of no ghostesses, not I."

The line, which almost seems handpicked and adapted by Parker, comes courtesy Price, known for the novel East Lynn, who was an international bestselling and wrote quite a bit of supernatural fiction (The Ghost (1862) Reality or Delusion? (1868)).

But wait, there's more.

Historian Craig Conley dug up this illustration from a 1892 issue of Thrilling Life Stories for the Masses, the one-penny per issue magazine filled with -- you guessed it, "thrilling" -- pulpy stories.

The illo. features the caption "'I'm not afraid of no old ghostesses,' said Harold."

Conley doesn't list which issue of Thrilling Life Stories this comes from, and I wasn't able to find it in the digital volume I own. Therefore I cannot speak to the plot and plight of young Harold, but I like to think his last name is Spengler.

So, here's the question: When did Ray Parker, Jr. get into Victorian lit? And does he owe any royalties to long-dead Victorian authors for borrowing the line? (Huey Lewis may have an opinion on this one.)

Finally, where else has this particular line emerged? I suspect two examples could be a coincidence, but it could have appeared elsewhere as a common phrase. If you see it in other Victorian examples, let me know!

And since you're here, you might as well watch the amazing Ghostbusters theme song video.

-Aaron Sagers



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