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AskBwog: Does Ghostbusters Pay for the Lawns?

Welcome back to Ask Bwog, a feature in which we answer the many burning questions of this campus.

If you have ever had the pleasure of taking the Official Columbia Campus Tour, you probably heard this story from your tour guide: when Ghostbusters was filmed at Columbia in 1984, the university set up a fund into which all the proceeds from the movie would go. This happened to be significantly more than they had expected, and so Columbia decided to use this fund to maintain campus lawns.

Another popular variation of this tale is that Columbia agreed to allow Ghostbusters to film scenes on campus on the condition that they would pay for Columbia’s lawn maintenance. Sound familiar?


According to several members of Columbia Facilities, this myth is completely untrue. Ghostbusters did film scenes for their movie here: Drs. Venkman, Stantz and Spengler conceive of their ghostbusting plan on the steps of Low, and the School of Psychology and Parapsychology is in Schermerhorn Havemeyer. But while the Ghostbusters would have had to pay for any damage to the lawns while filming, they have never contributed to the ongoing maintenance of Columbia lawns.

We’re all for the truth here at Bwog, but the story is interesting enough to bring out a little Columbia pride.  Tour guides, fib away.

– Mahrah Taufique

Photo via Wikipedia

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  • Who at facilities? says:

    @Who at facilities? This is probably the simplist, most concise form of investigative journalism Bwog has ever written.

    Can you cite / quote real people and their positions? This is fascinating.

    I’d love to hear more stuff like this

  • Wait says:

    @Wait I thought it was Havermeyer.

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum You’re right. It’s Havemeyer, not Schermerhorn. The lab scene where Bill Murray gives electric shocks to a male test subject while hitting on a young woman was actually filmed inside Havemeyer. (The producers wanted an indoor location on site in case it rained on a day they were scheduled to shoot outside.)

  • IMDB TRIVIA says:

    @IMDB TRIVIA Bill Murray battled his own personal ghosts throughout the filming of Ghostbusters. He would often wake up at night, screaming lines cut from Stripes.

    1. ... says:

      @... well you know, when in rome…

  • yeah says:

    @yeah the department of parapsychology was in havemeyer

  • This says:

    @This is so exciting. You’re about to find out who you’re gonna call!

  • Does this mean says:

    @Does this mean its okay for the sprinklers on South Lawn to cross streams now?

  • Alum says:

    @Alum I think Bwog is wrong about this one.

    When Ghostbusters was filmed in 1983 (1984 is when it was released), the western portion of South Field had no grass at all. Years of overuse by intrmural sports had compacted the soil to the point where nothing would grow there anymore. That’s why CU now limits how much use each side can be put to.

    The compacted soil was dug up and trucked away over the summer of ’84. CU then installed a new irrigation system, spread new topsoil over it and then sodded the field, which has been green ever since.

    Word at the time was that the project had indeed been financed by Ghostbusters location fees. Columbia used most location fees for campus maintenance, and Ghostbusters yielded a particularly large fee. Since the university had wanted to repair the lawn for years anyway, that’s what it decided to do with the money.

    While it’s true that the Ghostbusters fees didn’t set up a permanent fund to pay for lawn maintenance, I believe they did pay for this large, on-time project.

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum One minor correction — it was the east side of South Field that had to be repaired, not the west side. Mt mistake.

    2. Another alum says:

      @Another alum Of course–sometime around 2000-2002, Columbia dug up the lawns and put in a NEW irrigation system and re-sodded completely…so any Ghostbusters funded (either directly or indirectly) turf is long gone.

      [3rd try–Damn this human-verification test…it’s biased against the color blind!]

  • tour-guide says:

    @tour-guide Weird. My own version of this story was a combination of the two that Bwog mentions, plus some other stuff. Now I’m probably going to incorporate some of #8’s version.

  • john stuart mill says:

    @john stuart mill This is clearly a case of history versus memory. While we (the civilized) clearly have memory, the ghosts (whom we must colonize) do not.

  • obviously... says:

    @obviously... If Ghostbusters paid for the lawns, then maybe they could have kept the ghosts off and allowed living students on more than once a semester.

  • But... says:

    @But... I still don’t understand the tarps…?

    1. Easy says:

      @Easy Keep the gnomes from rising up and taking us over.

  • I thought says:

    @I thought that Columbia gets residual payments when the movie is sold on DVD/VHS, when it’s shown on TV, etc., and that the school uses these funds (that the company which produced Ghostbusters is required to give us, according to this theory) for the upkeep of the lawns. So Ghostbusters does pay for the upkeep of the lawns, but not so directly. I’m not 100% about the specifics of the contract, but it would make sense if Ghostbusters had to pay us residuals, and it would make even more sense if some Columbia administrator decided that these residuals should be used specifically for the upkeep of the lawns that, in a sense, generated the revenue in question.

    But I could be way off here.

    1. jumping to conclusions says:

      @jumping to conclusions Do you have any shred of evidence to support this theory?

      “Alum” above makes a reasoned theory about the one-time use of funds, but where did you get this info about residuals?

      But of course, you could be way off.

    2. Alum says:

      @Alum People get residuals. Locations don’t. I suppose a contract for a location shoot could include a residuals clause, but that seems unlikely.

      Most people who get residuals get them because of union contracts. The rest are major talents who negotiate deals independently of the union. There’s no reason to think location contracts work the same way.

      1. Agreed says:

        @Agreed Columbia didn’t get a penny when dozens of the Hitch DVD were sold!

      2. Guy from 17 says:

        @Guy from 17 Are you sure that locations don’t get any sort of residual payments? Not that I have any evidence to the contrary, but it seemed a natural thing to me that Columbia could get a clause like that. But if something like that is exceedingly rare, then yes, my theory is much less likely.

        Also… it’s a purely conjectural theory offered on the basis of limited knowlege. It’s what I think (thought?) not the gospel truth.

  • damnit says:

    @damnit i’ve been lying.

  • Big Fat says:

    @Big Fat Nerds!

  • Ask! says:

    @Ask! Why doesn’t anyone simply walk into the Trustees’ office and ask?

  • Because says:

    @Because it’s so much better to keep the legend alive. Columbia needs all the mystique we can get.

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