- "Well you heard them say they're leaving tomorrow morning? As soon as they're gone, I'm going over that fence, and I'm not coming back until I find a dead body. Nobody knocks off an old man in my neighborhood and gets away with it."
- ―Ray Peterson
Ray Peterson (played by Tom Hanks) is the protagonist of The 'Burbs.
A laid-back every man that has paranoid tendencies, Ray always tries to be logical but emotions sometimes get in the way.
Ray Peterson is attempting to learn more about his mysterious new next-door neighbors, the Klopeks. One evening, Ray and Art spy on the Klopeks with Rumsfield. The three watch Hans Klopek drive his dilapidated car from the garage to the curb, then pull a large, heavy garbage bag from the car, place it in a garbage can and bang it with a stick. During the night, Ray watches the Klopeks digging in their back yard with pick-axes in the middle of a rainstorm. The following morning, Art runs out to check the contents of the garbage truck as it is collecting the Klopeks' can from the previous night. He is soon joined by Rumsfield and Ray, but their search in the hope of finding human remains is futile.
After Queenie is found, Ray, Art, Bonnie and Ricky Butler go to Walter's house and find his toupee in the kitchen. Noting signs of a struggle, Art and Rumsfield begin to worry. Ray collects Queenie and leaves a note for Walter explaining the situation. The following night, Ray and Art have a meeting in the Petersons' basement and theorize about Walter's disappearance.
At the request of Carol, Ray's wife, she, Ray, and the Rumsfields pay the Klopeks a visit, meeting Hans, Reuben and Werner while Art snoops around in the back yard. Later that evening, Ray reveals to Art and Rumsfield that he found Walter's toupee in the Klopeks' basement, which he previously slipped through Walter's mailslot. The trio agree to investigate the Klopeks' back yard when the owners leave in the morning.
The next day, Carol and son Dave go to visit Carol's sister, leaving Ray free to explore the Klopeks' backyard. After Art disables the Klopeks' security system, he and Ray enter the yard and begin digging while Rumsfield stands guard on his roof. After hours of digging and finding nothing incriminating, Ray and Art enter the house, where they discover what they believe to be a crematorium. Ray then begins to dig into the loose soil that constitutes the basement floor, believing there may be bodies buried there.
That evening, the Klopeks drive back to their home, only to reverse out when they see lights on in the basement. Not long after, Rumsfield, Art and Ricky are shocked to see Walter return home. When the Klopeks return with the police, Art goes into the Klopeks' home to rescue Ray, who hits a gas line with his pick-axe. He yells for Art to flee right before the house explodes into flames with Ray still inside. A disheveled Ray emerges from the flames just as his wife returns.
Art talks to an officer, who explains that Walter had a medical problem and his family took him to the hospital. While away, Walter had made arrangements for the Klopeks to pick up his mail. When Ray had previously slipped the toupee back through the mail slot, it got picked up with the mail. Ray snaps at Art and declares that the neighbors were wrong about the Klopeks, before lunging at Art and then throwing himself into an ambulance on a gurney.
Joining Ray in the ambulance, Werner Klopek, thinking Ray must have seen the skull of one of his former neighbors in the basement, attempts to murder Ray to collect his skull too, revealing that Art was right all along. Hans assumes the role of the ambulance driver, but crashes into the Weingartners' house during the three-way struggle. The gurney, with Ray and Werner aboard, rolls out of the ambulance and down the street. Ray makes a hasty citizen's arrest on his would-be murderer as Ricky uncovers a large selection of human bones in the Klopeks' trunk. The Klopeks are then arrested and the charges against Ray are dropped. Ray then goes up to the lake with Carol, telling Ricky to "take care of the place" while he's gone.