Once upon a time this drunkard ghost living in a castle wrote down his (after)life story and gave it to us to do with as we pleased. Easiest origin story for a sitcom ever. Unfortunately, the reality of the origin of the Hearst Castle Ghost is a lot less strange and far more cyclical in nature, in this case starting on the road to a convention with a conversation…
The year was 2017 and, as was our tradition, my brother, Greg, and I were on our yearly pilgrimage to San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). We had been attending for a number of years at this point; designing and dressing in new costumes each year and had even gone so far as to enter into the Masquerade one of those years. For a geek there really is no better vacation.
As part of our tradition, each year I fly out the weekend prior to “Preview Night” and meet up with Greg to wander across California and hit up some of the sights, attractions, and landmarks available. At this time, Greg had been residing in California since the mid-90s so he knew most of the oddball places to take me each year. For 2017 that oddball place was the Hearst Castle, located in San Simeon, CA and built by William Randolph Hearst.
I use the word “oddball” when referring to historic sites because of the simple fact that the majority of these places were either built by persons known for being completely bat-shit crazy, are known for being haunted by some sort of “intelligent” ghost, or both (such as the Winchester Mystery House we visited the year prior). Thus oddball. To the best of my knowledge, William Randolph Hearst was not completely bat-shit crazy. Eccentric, yes. He was rich after all. But not bat-shit crazy.
Anyway, to keep myself from getting too long winded in the telling of the rest of the Hearst Castle Ghost origin story I am going to switch over to script writing format without all the font and formatting rules. Enjoy.
INT. BLACK SUV – NIGHT
Greg is driving a rental SUV through the unlit shoreline roadways leading to San Simeon. Andrew relaxes in the passenger seat.
So this place is haunted right?
It’s a castle in the middle of nowhere, how can it not be haunted?
It’s not. We asked on a couple of the tours. All the guides said it wasn’t haunted. As far as I know, no one ever died there.
Andrew leans his head back and closes his eyes. Greg continues navigating the dark twists and turns of the road in silence.
What if it really was haunted?
(in voice of H.C.G.)
Jesus Fucking Christ Guys. I’m right here. Why do you have to keep telling people I don’t exist. That’s just fucked up. It’s hurtful, that’s what it is. Just hurtful.
Greg and Andrew spend the remainder of the drive riffing back and forth in the voice of the Hearst Castle Ghost, expanding upon the character and laughing uncontrollably.
That is pretty much where the idea for the Hearst Castle Ghost character came from. At some point during that drive Greg threw out the names of Brad and Becca, and so they became canon. Additional details were added in during our tour of the Hearst Castle based on what we saw, or didn’t see, such as all of the fountains and the Neptune Pool being empty for repair.
SDCC2017 ended and time went on with monthly phone calls between Greg and I invariably degrading into one or both of us switching into the voice for H.C.G. and riffing out the afterlife of this poor character. I truly feel bad for the friends and family who had to listen to us switch over to H.C.G. for 30 minutes or more during these phone calls. We have the habit of going too far and then sprinting a little further.
It was during one of our monthly calls at the end of winter 2018 when Greg asked me what I was dressing as for Comic Con this year. We usually try to work in a costume or two with the same theme or as an ensemble (previous years included Steam Punk Alice in Wonderland and Steam Punk Avengers). I can’t really remember why, but when my brother asked me I wasn’t really feeling the whole cosplay thing yet, so I responded “I’m going as Hearst Castle Ghost.”
That opened a small can of worms in the form of who actually made a better Hearst Castle Ghost. Not that we had any real intention of going to SDCC dressed as the Ghost, but I must admit Greg definitely makes a better H.C.G. Granted, he is more likely to cross the line from funny to WTF, but on a whole he just pulls off the character to perfection. All said and done, for SDCC2018 I dressed as two different mashups: the Avengers (all of them) and Justice League (all of them).
Fast forward to end of winter 2019 and I get the same question from Greg. Only this year two things were different. First, I had been dealing with a lot of health issues from the end of 2018 forward which limited my time to construct a new costume as well as my desire to sweat my balls off in costume. Second, Greg and I had another year under our belts of fine tuning Hearst Castle Ghost to where we began taking the concept seriously as a direct to Internet sitcom. Thus my response was, “I’m going as Brad.”
There was a lot of back and forth at this point of, “You can’t go as Brad” or “No one knows who Brad is,” from Greg, which was counterbalanced by my most elegant argument, “I don’t give a shit.” Eventually my argument won out over his logic and instead of spending a ton of time creating cosplay costumes for SDCC2019, we have spent a ton of time brainstorming, designing, fine tuning, writing, and casting for a web series about a drunk ghost living in a castle that was never haunted.
And I’m still going to SDCC2019 as Brad. I have the costume after all.