Even with Halloween (objectively the best holiday) on the horizon, it’s tough to find reason to smile. This year looks vastly different from last, or any year before. No parties, no hordes of adorable trick-or-treaters knocking down the door, and even the Emma Crawford Coffin Races have been canceled.
But one local young woman has decided that nothing, not even coronavirus, will stop her from spreading a little Halloween love.
AJ Juhala, also known as AJ the Ghostbuster, has become a beloved and integral part of her community during Halloween and beyond. As a paranormal investigator herself, Juhala dresses in a full Ghostbuster costume for most any occasion — from Halloween to Christmas to charitable events like food drives — and hands out candy. She says she doesn’t have a lot to give in life, but it’s important to her to at least give folks something to smile and talk about.
She started dressing up back in the early aughts, when she lived in a condo complex on Jetwing Drive. She wanted to make a difference in her neighborhood, “but I just didn’t know how,” she says. “Then I remembered the movie I liked best, Ghostbusters.” Since the movie brought her joy, she reasoned it might make others happy, too. So Juhala decided to get herself a full Ghostbusters costume, including all the gear from the famous film. Her first outfit was homemade, but it did the trick. “I started making everyone there smile,” she says. “Sadly they [the condos] burnt down, and my family had to move to Stratmoor Valley, where I grew up.”
It wasn’t until a few years ago that Juhala found the real-deal costume at a Spirit Halloween store and began to go by AJ the Ghostbuster, which is also her burgeoning YouTube identity (tinyurl.com/AJGhostbuster). “People at first thought I just dressed up for nothing,” she says. “but it was for others.” She can always tease out a smile from someone by demonstrating her Ghostbusters gear or handing out a piece of candy, or just having a conversation. It makes a difference, having something to talk about and something to share. Even if it’s something small.
Juhala says she cares very deeply for everyone she meets, and she’s always trying to find ways to help out. When we talk, she’s preparing to lend a hand at a local food drive — all dressed up, of course.
As a transgender person on the autism spectrum, Juhala has faced her share of struggles, but if anything, they have only encouraged her to continue bettering the world around her.
“I hear bad things have been happening to [transgender people]. I don’t want to get hurt or even killed for who I am. I am just trying to be myself. It took me a long time to even find what that was. I mean no harm, myself. … So for my community, what I decide to do if I’m able is to give back. Especially in these hard times.”
Every Halloween, Juhala walks around the neighborhood and hands out candy to kids while wearing her Ghostbusters outfit. This year, she plans to do the same, just with precautions. “I will be wearing a mask and gloves,” she says, “[and] sanitize everything before it’s given. Or leave it for those who aren’t home. Because if I don’t care and nobody else does, who will?”