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Ghostbusters: Afterlife Ending Explained - How Jason Reitman Connects The Franchise’s Past To Its Future

Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, and Logan Kim stand in front of Ecto-1 in a field in Ghostbusters Afterlife.
(Image credit: Columbia/Ghost Corps)

Warning: spoilers for Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s ending are in the trap. If you haven’t seen the film yet, and want to go in surprised, the light is red and out you should head. 

Bringing a fresh outlook to the legacy of the franchise, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a legacy-quel that operates as a bridge between the past and the future. Introducing a new cast of paranormal experts, while also reuniting the previous crew of busters, co-writer/director Jason Reitman builds on the foundation that his father Ivan laid down back in 1984. So it’s only fitting that almost 40 years later, his entry in the Ghostbusters canon is the one that carries the torch for a new generation.

In the spirit of the latest movie that ain’t afraid of no ghosts, let’s take a look at how the past and the future link together in greater detail. Which means this is your final warning before spoilers start to haunt your every step! Time to light ‘em up, and show that prehistoric bitch how we do things in Summerville, Oklahoma, as the secrets of Ghostbusters: Afterlife await!

young ghostbusters in 2021's Ghostbusters: Afterlife

(Image credit: Sony)

What Happened At The End Of Ghostbusters: Afterlife?

37 years ago, the Ghostbusters of New York shut down an attempt by Gozer the Gozerian to invade the world of the living. A couple years after that, Viggo the Carpatian was thwarted in his attempt to possess a young child, and bring forth a new reign of terror. Yet after two mass scale paranormal events, the Ghostbusters faded into obscurity, and had a massive falling out. 

It took the family of the late Egon Spengler (Harold Raimis) to reunite the gang, while building a ghost busting crew of their own, in an attempt to fight off Gozer yet again. Phoebe Spengler (Mckenna Grace) and her brother, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), teamed up with friends Podcast (Logan Kim) and Lucky Domingo (Celeste O'Connor), are the new crew savin’ the day this time around. Though they do get some help from the old guard, reunited in the name of taking down Gozer in round 2.

Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) grab their gear, and make their way to Egon’s Summerville farm, just in the nick of time. Ghostbusters young and old fend off Gozer, and its hell hounds, with proton packs and a gigantic contraption Egon built in his later years. With a last minute assist by Mr. Spengler’s ghost, evil is vanquished, and old fences are mended, after decades of silence. 

Harold Ramis holding up a Twinkie in Ghostbusters.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

The Last Days Of Egon Spengler, The Dirt Farmer

Ghostbusters: Afterlife eventually fills in the story of Egon Spengler’s seemingly erratic past. Obsessed with a doomsday prophecy that ties back into the scripture quoted by Ray in the original Ghostbusters, the man ran off with all of the ghost busting gear and high tailed it to Summerville, Oklahoma. Becoming known to the town as “The Dirt Farmer,” he’s presumed to have no family, and keeps to himself. 

Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true, as Egon abandoned his family, including his daughter Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon) for a good reason. In his eyes, at least. Egon was attempting to prevent all Hell from breaking loose yet again. Summerville wasn’t just a sleepy town he selected out of nowhere. It was the epicenter of a paranormal fault line. One that, without his constant attention, would spell certain doom. Leaving his house, his notes, and a treasure trove of memories proving he never forgot his family, Egon died holding down the fort.

McKenna Grace fires a stream in Ghostbusters: Afterlife

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

How The Spengler Family Defeated Gozer The Gozerian

After a frantic scramble to use the gigantic scale ghost trap he built into his “dirt farm,” Egon Spengler is killed by a villainous ghost. Which then prompts his family to move out to the farm, and eventually continue his work. Spearheaded by the ever-curious Phoebe, a chip off of the weird block her grandfather always was, the seemingly forgotten legacy of the Ghostbusters is resurrected. This includes discovering all of the old Ghostbusters gear that Egon made off with; including the newly restored Ecto-1 (thanks to the eager hands of Trevor), proton packs and traps, and vintage uniforms. 

When Egon’s mechanism for keeping Gozer at bay is sabotaged, there’s a bunch of paranormal anomalies that are released as a result; Gozer itself especially. Eventually joined by the OG Ghostbusters, and Egon himself, Phoebe and her team successfully activate the farm’s massive ghost trap, and capture Gozer and the hellhounds with a proton pack assist. 

The Ghostbusters cast

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

What Have The Other Ghostbusters Been Up To Prior To Ghostbusters: Afterlife?

So what was the original Ghostbusters team up to in the years since Egon Spengler’s disappearance/supposed betrayal? Well, Peter Venkman became a professor at the university that once threw him and the rest of his initial team out. Meanwhile, just like in Ghostbusters II, Dr. Ray Stantz is still running Ray’s Occult Books, and some believe it’ll make a profit one day! 

One of those people happens to be Winston Zeddemore, who not only pays the rent on Ray’s shop, but happens to be a business magnate who’s made his own fortune. That fortune’s going to come in handy, as Winston gets a bright idea after running with his old pals again in the field. The past has inspired not only the next generation of Ghostbusters, but also the ones that started it all. 

Paul Rudd

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment)

How Ghostbusters: Afterlife Ties Into The Franchise’s Past

The huge notion that Ghostbusters: Afterlife uses to tie into the franchise’s past is that the world, somehow, has forgotten that ghosts are even a thing. Worse still, the Ghostbusters and their adventures are unknown to the generations that came after those events even took place. Highlighted by Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a fan/student of parapsychology himself, it’s his knowledge that inspires Phoebe Spengler, Podcast, and the rest of the crew to dig into the archives of history. Which shows tons of footage from Ghostbusters, including the original commercial they released to advertise their burgeoning business. 

Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon looking over a map and equipment in Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

(Image credit: Columbia/Ghost Corps)

The Major Prophecy That Could Come Back In Future Ghostbusters Sequels

Dubbed “The Manhattan Crossrip of 1984,” the first encounter between Gozer the Gozerian and the Ghostbusters was apparently part of a much larger prophecy. While digging around the Summerville steel mine owned by Cult of Gozer leader/architect Ivo Shandor (J.K. Simmons), Phoebe and her team soon realize that there’s a bunch of key dates inscribed in a weird chamber that looks like an altar to Gozer. Some familiar dates correspond to scientific phenomenon of the past, with 1984 being the most relevant to Ghostbusters’ past events.

2021 is the latest date on that line, but there’s definitely more dates that run after that point on the timeline. Ghostbusters: Afterlife definitely seems to be setting itself up for another gigantic event, as the last post-credits scene ends with a glowing red light on the containment unit of the old firehouse headquarters. Looks like that Starbucks location is going out of business, because the clock is ticking.

Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver standing together with a baby in Ghostbusters II.

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Peter Venkman And Dana Barrett: A Shocking Revelation

There are two Ghostbusters: Afterlife follow ups during the credits, and the first exposes a long con that Peter Venkman was running on his students back in the ‘80s. Sitting down with the woman he loves, Ms. Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) herself, Peter lets Dana run his old experiment to test his student’s psychic abilities. That’s right: Dana gets to shock Peter whenever she wants, despite the fact that he actually guesses the cards right! Which, as it turns out, is a result of Peter marking them on the other side, so he knows which card is which. 

Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis make a plan in the streets in Ghostbusters.

(Image credit: Columbia PIctures)

They’re Ready To Believe You... Again!

After the credits to the latest Ghostbusters sequel have run, we’re shown footage from the 1984 original. Replaying the scene where Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), loyal secretary and one-time love interest for Egon Spengler, gives her lucky World’s Fair coin to Egon for good luck, we’re eventually reunited with her again in the present day. On a visit to Winston Zeddemore’s office, we find out that after defeating Gozer a second time, he buys back the old firehouse.

Intending to reopen the company, it looks like the gang is going to get back together, and at exactly the right time too. That’s probably why, as Ernie Hudson recently revealed, Ghostbusters 4 is already being written; though one could argue that it should be called Ghostbusters 5, depending on whether the official video game is canon. In any case, it looks like Winston’s ready to believe again, and it’s only a matter of time before more ghosts are busted.

Should you enjoy spoiling endings in order to gage your interest in a film like Ghostbusters: Afterlife, you can currently see that film in theaters now. If you’ve taken the journey, and are ready to move on, 2021’s new movie releases are waiting to be discovered and trapped by your ticket money. Who knows, you just might find another ghost heading to the movies in the near future. 

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.