Chad Charton runs out to meet him, while 25 other kids watch in open-mouthed awe. Soon the two are in deep consultation—Chad, having his fifth birthday party, and Peter Mosen, 38, freelance Ghostbuster-at-large, available for kiddie parties. Mosen is grilling Chad closely. "Who spotted the spud?" he asks. "Did it have arms and legs or was it just a mist?" He strides indoors. "Come on, everybody," he calls to the kids. "Let's trash the house. We can do a lot of damage here." For the next 45 minutes, Mosen busts ghosts and cracks jokes. Then he's off in the ambulance, $275 richer, heading for his next kiddie party.
"It was a lot of money," says Chad's mother, Lori, "but it was worth every penny. Chad's whole life is Ghostbusters."
Much of Mosen's life, not to mention his livelihood, is Ghostbusters as well. He won a ticket to a screening of the original movie—and decided to go in uniform. "A friend had gotten me one of those jumpsuits out of a Dumpster at the airport where he worked," says Mosen. Then he went to Columbia Pictures and scrounged some more effects. "Harold Ramis had left some stuff there, and I got his boots, elbow pads and belt," he says. "Then it took me about three days to build a fairly decent nuclear accelerator, and I was ready to go." He started his Ghostbusters party service in 1985 and since then has averaged 10 to 15 parties a week. Business has been given a boost by the release of Ghostbusters II last month.
Ghostbusting is merely the latest of his alter-ego guises. "I made my first costume when I was 8 years old," says Mosen, who grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y. "It was Zorro—he was a hot number back then." From that beginning he went on to a wardrobe of more than 135 costumes and masks, many of which he wears in his party persona of Rent-an-Alien.
Mosen's own fantasy was fulfilled last year when he worked as an extra in Ghostbusters II. "They asked for volunteers who wanted to get slimed," he says. "And I said, 'Me, me, me!' " His dedication brought him an extra $60, which proves that for Peter Mosen, at least, slime pays.
The white-and-red Cadillac ambulance squeals to a stop in front of Chad Charton's home in West Hills, Calif. The license plate reads ECTO-1; the stereo is blasting the Ghostbusters theme song. The man who jumps out and bounds up the driveway looks like he's loaded for ectoplasm. He's wearing a khaki jumpsuit, big boots and a proton pack. He also happens to look a little like Dan Aykroyd.