It's been 30 years since the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man first squished through Manhattan. With Ghostbusters returning to theaters tomorrow for an anniversary run, we thought it appropriate to consider a very serious question: How would New York City actually fight an evil god in the form of a marshmallow man? Stickiness and spoilers ensue.
Now, for the sake of making this a legit late summer afternoon thought experiment, suppose there are no ghostbusters and no proton packs in this world. Who you gonna call? Actually, make it into two questions: Who you gonna call to fight Mr. Stay Puft, and who you gonna call to clean up his sweet sweet marshmallow guts?
How to Battle a Giant Marshmallow Man
As you might recall (or not), when evil Gozer the Gozerian first enters through a supernatural portal on the Upper West Side, he/she/it appears in the form of a woman dressed in David Bowie custume. Gozer then tells the Ghostbuster gang to "Choose the form of The Destructor," and Dan Aykroyd thinks of "something that could never, ever possibly destroy us! Mr. Stay Puft!" Enter Marshmallow Man.
A video assessing the possible damage done by Mr. Stay Puft, made by Cube Cities, a building visualization company.
Who would you call? Well it seems plausible to assume someone might recognize a supernatural portal forming over 55 Central Park West, setting off an evacuation of the Upper West Side. Evacuations in New York City are coordinated by the Office of Emergency Management. But given the size and unique danger posed by giant Marshmallow Man, the city is probably going to call for backup from the state's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
"We're like the brain," said Kristin Devoe of the DHSES. "All of your arms and legs and hands are the different government agencies." Homeland Security, coordinating the response, could then call in the National Guard, and they could bring the firepower to take down Mr. Stay Puft.
For the purposes of this thought experiment, let's assume we just need to take down Mr. Stay Puft and not the entire supernatural portal. (Because honestly, if a supernatural portal really opens, we're just fucked.) Flamethrowers, which seem like the most obvious real-world weapons with which to melt a marshmallow, are no longer in the US military's arsenal. In 1978, the Department of Defense stopped using the flamethrower in part because it was too unstable. A taser on the other hand might melt a small patch of Marshmallow Man if you get right next to one of its massive, fluffy legs, but as the destructor (presumably) doesn't have nerves or muscles, a taser wouldn't paralyze it.
If the city did evacuate the Upper West Side and surrounding neighborhoods—or hell, the whole island—then more powerful bombs could come into play. The Air Force's McGuire-Dix-Lakeshurst is a short 75 miles away, and as Marshmallow Man doesn't look especially nimble I'd imagine dropping a few bombs on him shouldn't be very hard. The buildings of New York, however, might take a beating, presumably after an evacuation.
The Sweet, Sticky Aftermath
By bomb or flamethrower or proton pack, suppose we did manage to blast Mister Marshmallow into smithereens. The cleanup effort would start right away. The DHSES told me there are stockpiles of equipment like tractors all over the state that can be mobilized to clean up rubble.
But there is a stickier problem: Uptown Manhattan is now covered in melted marshmallow, nearly 2,000 tons of it. I did the math.
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is exactly
112.5 feet tall according to Ghostbusters' model shop supervisor. To account for his chubby arms and
beer belly marshmallow belly, let's assume he's about one-third wide as he is tall. And for the sake of simplicity, let's assume he's roughly a cylinder, whose volume formula we of course remember from the SATs.
Volume of MM = π(18.75)^2*(112.5) ≈ 124,000 cubic feet
But Marshmallow Man has presumably since melted and congealed, so it's more helpful to think of his mass. Ordinary unmelted marshmallow is light and fluffy, with a density of about 0.5 g/mL. Do a few conversions and we get the total mass of sweet marshmallow guts spilled across Manhattan:
3,870,000 lbs or about 2,000 tons
And what exactly do you do with 2,000 tons of melted marshmallow? To that end, I called up some folks who regularly deal with marshmallow in industrial quantities: Just Born, the makers of beloved Peeps. "This is probably the weirdest question you've ever gotten," I said. "Yeah, it would definitely have to rank up there," Sally, Just Born's customer relations rep replied.
To get rid of melted marshmallow, you can take one of two tacks, Sally told me. There's ice or cold water to make the marshmallow brittle enough to chip off. Or there's hot water, so you can melt the sugary stuff away. "If you had marshmallow all over your building and your car," she said, "I would say warm water over cold."
The Ghostbusters covered in marshmallow.
So, that leaves us with vast volumes of tepid sugar syrup streaming into sewers, where it flows
away never to be seen straight into the hungry mouths of rats (and cockroaches and ants). 2,000 tons of marshmallow is over 5 billion extra calories for the hungry rodents. "You're going to have a surge in the rat population. You're going to have a frenzy," said Timothy Wong, technical director of M&M Pest Control in New York.
When the marshmallow reserves are exhausted, the rats, which normally live outdoors, are going to look for food in new places. "They can easily go indoors and go into people's homes," he added. That's assuming eating the marshmallow flesh of a reincarnated evil god does not give the rats superpowers, in which case all rat bets would be off.
At the triumphant end of Ghostbusters, our heroes drive off into a cheering crowd. But next time you watch the movie, you might think of the vermin. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is likely to have a long, disgusting legacy in New York City.
The Marshmallow Man aftermath. Definitely not enough melted marshmallow.