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Dan Aykroyd’s Ancestors Were Literally Ghost Hunters — And The Real Stories Inspired ‘Ghostbusters’ Movies

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No, people, this is not a drill – Dan Aykroyd, of Ghostbusters fame – comes from a family who has hunted for actual ghosts.

It began with Samuel Augustus Aykroyd, who was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1855. He began his professional life as a teacher, but in his early thirties, abandoned that line of work for dentistry. He opened his practice in 1894, and along with some others in his field at the time, turned to hypnosis in an effort to help soothe anxious patients.

Through his association with this practice, his grandson, Peter Aykroyd, believes his grandfather came to believe that some people could be induced into a trance that allowed them to act as a conduit between the living and the dead.

His fascination grew, and he met others with similar interest – namely a machine operator named Walter Ashurst who believed he was the right person to communicate with the dead during the seances Aykroyd planned to host on his farm.

Ashurst moved onto the property, and together, they held regular gathering where they attempted to tune into the thoughts, feelings, and other communications from the afterlife.

Peter was 7 at the time, and watched the proceedings from a safe distances as Ashurst’s voice changed and even emerged in tongues other than English.

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

According to journals written by Samuel, Ashurst’s efforts drew attention from deceased notables all over the world, like members of the Ming Dynasty, an ancient Egyptian prince, and even Samuel’s own great-grandfather.

Even though many in their circle considered the seances to be a success, Samuel himself grew more and more dissatisfied that they were never able to provoke a physical spirit into showing itself to the group. He was also quite interested in seeing ectoplasm, a manifestation of ghostly activity that remained after the visible spirit receded into the ether.

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Samuel Aykroyd died in 1933, and though his seance group dissolved sometime soon afterward, his son, Maurice, spent year trying to perfect a radio frequency device that could reach the same realm that had so fascinated his father.

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

These stories, and others, trickled down the Aykroyd family tree until they reached Dan – Samuel’s great-grandson, who was inspired by the idea of a pragmatic approach to ghost hunting. It inspired the idea behind Ghostbusters, which he co-wrote with Harold Ramis in the early 1980s.

Which is all to say that Akyroyd came by his interest in ghost, ectoplasm, seances, and ghostbusting naturally. It is, after all, something of the family business (even if Samuel probably never could have dreamed of making a quarter of a billion dollars at it back in the day).

Peter, Dan’s father, reportedly felt proud that his family’s roots in paranormal research would continue to deepen through the generations.

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Dan himself said in 2014 that he’d inherited his passion for the paranormal, because “it’s the family business, for God’ sake.”

You can’t make this stuff up, and if you did, people would say it was just too perfect to be real.