Dana lived in the same building as Louis Tully off of Central Park West. Upon arriving home, she has a casual conversation with Louis (she is rushing to get to apartment knowing he is interested in her). He lets her know someone phoned the manager due to her television set being so loud. She found it odd that the television was left on while she was away. As he ratifies how he tried to bring trouble on himself to keep her from trouble, but she shuts the door in his face saying, "Bye."
Settled into her apartment at last, she put her bags down on the counter and began putting things away. The phenomena began. Eggs popped out of their shells and began frying on her kitchen counter and her refrigerator was making a strange noise and emitting a very bright light. Upon opening the door, she saw an otherworldly mythic pyramid-shaped temple in front of which laid a Terror Dog who suddenly glared at her and roared the word "Zuul!" at her. Frightened, she slammed the refrigerator door shut, screaming, left her apartment and stayed in a hotel room for a couple days. After seeing the Ghostbusters' advertisement on TV, she showed up at the Firehouse to get some help from the boys in grey. She seemed to be a skeptic regarding the paranormal, but was convinced that something had happened in her apartment.
Dr. Venkman followed Dana to her apartment to investigate the case, antagonizing her with his inappropriate flirtatious attitude, but hints concern with him saying he is "odd", which promotes him to chastise her more before she finally excuses him from her apartment. Later Ghostbusters, Inc. took off and the guys got busy with other cases, Peter had stopped by at one of her orchestra rehearsals. He happened upon her talking to a colleague whom played in the orchestra with her that was interested her as well. He asked her, "Who's the stiff?" She answers, "The stiff happens to be one of the finest musicians in the world." Peter has found some answers for Dana, but say they can find out more on another night. Peter continues to compliment and flirt in confidence and Dana reluctantly says trying to keep down commotion, "I'll see you Thursday." He says, "We'll eat and read." As she walks away with her male colleague, he addresses her somewhat jealously, "So, who the hell is that?!" and Dana replies, "A friend. An old friend." She smiled because of Peter's constant compliments towards her appearance which he started stating in front of her male colleague. The night of her date with Peter, she was attacked by animal-like claws ripping through her sofa while she was changing. Dana screamed in horror as the claws restrained her to her sofa while it slid into her kitchen, where the Terror Dog Zuul awaited her, roaring savagely. When Peter showed up for his date, he found Dana possessed by Zuul. She referred to herself as "The Gatekeeper" and spoke of awaiting the coming of Gozer, "The Destructor". Dana's primary objective was to find and mate with Vinz Clortho, another minion of Gozer who had likewise now inhabited Dana's nerdy, stalkerish neighbor, Louis. Under Zuul's control, Dana became a lot more sensual and sexually aggressive, desperately attempting to seduce Peter under the false impression that he was The Keymaster. Peter steadfastly refused her advances realizing she was possessed, he ignored "Zuul" and continued asking to speak to "Dana" which frustrated her to the point she began growling like a beast and magically levitating above her bed.
Dana was later sedated by Peter, waking up once the Ghostbusters' Firehouse exploded, unleashing all of the ghosts into the city. Upon witnessing the massive release of supernatural energy, she blew out her living room wall with an inhuman roar to leave a way for The Keymaster to eventually find her. Dana and Louis, the real Vinz Clortho, finally meet at her demolished apartment, the two demons kissed lustfully before Dana led Louis toward an ominous staircase up to the rooftop Temple where they then consummated their union in order to bring Gozer into this world. Upon climaxing Dana and Louis rested briefly atop a large stone table before taking their inhabitants ritual positions on top of the opposite stone pedestals once occupied by Terror Dog statues. The demonic couple awaited anxiously for the right moment to complete ritual to bring their master into the world. Upon realizing this moment both possessed beings raised their arms to the sky and were struck by bolts of lightning shooting out from the top of the Temple, redirecting the supernatural energy toward the Temple doors causing them to open. With the doors open, the birth of Gozer into this world was complete and Dana and Louis finished their summoning ritual by transforming into the satanic Terror Dog forms of their inhabitants, Zuul and Vinz Clortho. The Ghostbusters arrived just in time to see Dana, shaking violently under the supernatural force of the lightning bolts, transform into a savage, horned red-eyed beast. Peter was shocked as Dana, in Terror Dog form, turns toward the Ghostbusters, staring menacingly at them with her beaming red eyes ablaze and unleashed a ferocious roar before leaping towards the mythic gateway to take her place beside Gozer.
After the particle flow was reversed by the crossing of the streams and Gozer was defeated, Zuul was banished and Dana transformed back into a human being, having no recollection of the events that she took part of while possessed. There was obvious romantic tension between her and Peter.
Apparently, things went for the worse between Ms. Barrett and Dr. Venkman. After they grew apart, seemingly due to Dr. Venkman's fear of commitment and taking her for granted, Dana became involved with her other interest. They married and had a son they named Oscar. However, their relationship fell apart and he decided to "ditch" her by taking a very good offer from an orchestra in London and thereby breaking up their marriage. Dana hired Maria to provide daycare for Oscar while she worked at the Manhattan Museum of Art in restorations. She was under the very watchful eye of Janosz Poha, the head of the restoration department.
In late 1989, Dana was given a scare when the stroller containing Oscar rolled off to the middle of First Avenue. She went to Egon Spengler for help. He agreed to look into it with Ray Stantz. Dana made it clear she didn't want Peter involved yet still asked about him. Dana admitted they didn't part on very good terms, and sort of lost track of each other after she got married. Amid this crisis, Dana still planned to resign from the museum and return to the orchestra. Peter found out about the investigation and rekindled his relationship with Dana. While preparing to give Oscar a bath, a tub full of slime tried to kidnap him. Dana grabbed Oscar and fled to Peter's apartment. Dana and Oscar stayed there as the Ghostbusters continued their investigation. Dana took it upon herself to clean up Peter's place and even found his hamper.
Peter was able to convince Dana to go out to dinner with him. They went to Armand's Restaurant and became closer. However, the romance was interrupted by the arrival of the other Ghostbusters. Covered in slime and wearing only their long underwear, they made little sense but Dana became alarmed when they revealed the slime flow was heading straight to the Manhattan Museum of Art. After the police took all four of them away, Dana returned to Peter's place and walked in on Louis and Janine making out. Dana went to go check on Oscar. Vigo had chosen Oscar to be his vessel and tasked Janosz with kidnapping him. Dana only watched in horror as an ethereal Janosz swiped Oscar from the apartment window ledge. Dana recognized Janosz and went straight to the museum. She was imprisoned by Vigo. As the New Year arrived, the Ghostbusters arrived to save the world. Dana was restrained once more by Vigo. She implored the Ghostbusters to do something. Peter did his best to stall Vigo and luckily, the singing of bystanders outside weakened Vigo. Peter reunited Oscar with Dana and advised her to take cover. Once Vigo was defeated, Dana and Oscar went outside the museum with the Ghostbusters. She attended a special ceremony on Liberty Island weeks later in honor of the Statue of Liberty and Ghostbusters.
After the Ghostbusters return to the Firehouse with the Gozerian Codex, they attempt to make sense of the Mandala. Ilyssa Selwyn reveals a connection it has with Ivo Shandor and his firm's renovations and public works. Egon Spengler mentions Dana and Central Park West. Ray also later mentions both when the team discusses the Mandala upon returning from the Natural History Museum. When the Ghostbusters arrive at Central Park, they see Psychokinetic Atmospheric Influence coming from Shandor's mausoleum. Winston answers Egon's hint that it looks very similar to what happened atop Dana Barrett's building when Gozer first arrived.