The Willy Wonka of Hollywood

An Invitation to hearst castle

An invitation to "the Ranch" back in the days of Old Hollywood was like finding Willy Wonka's golden ticket -- only instead of Wonka your host was William Randolph Hearst. Instead of chocolate fountains, you received glittering champagne. Guests of Hearst Castle included the greatest of the glittering Hollywood elite: David Niven, Joan Crawford, Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn, and Cary Grant.

The general public read about the mysterious palace on the hill in awe. If you found yourself in the newspaper for some venerable feat, you might find yourself lucky enough to garner an invitation -- Hearst was in the publishing world, after all. He loved to meet the people that made headlines. 

Now, Hearst Castle is a State Park. For the fee of $25 per tour, you can enter the place that once upon a time, was esconced in mystery, only accessible to very few. 


I recently visited Hearst Castle, and asked our tour guide for her favorite story from the place. When it turned out to be a ghost story, I was excited, because I love a good ghost story! 

Watch the video below to see what she had to say: 




That's the story as I heard it on-site, but when I got home I had to do a bit more research. It turns out that Marion Davies did indeed bail Hearst out of debt, to the tune of over $1 million dollars. She did so by liquidating some of her stocks, and selling some of her jewelry.

After Hearst passed away, he left the entire estate to Marion as a sign of gratitude. Her reaction? To sell it back to the Hearst Family for the hefty amount of...

One dollar.

If that isn't selflessness and true devotion in action, I don't know what is. The real marion Davies seems a far cry from the Citizen Kane representation of her.

The Gothic Study where William Randolph Hearst's portrait resides -- as well as a few lanterns that swing in a ghostly way?

The Gothic Study where William Randolph Hearst's portrait resides -- as well as a few lanterns that swing in a ghostly way?


It is interesting to note that the Hearst family retains a few privileges in regards to the estate. Though Hearst Castle was gifted to the state of California, the Hearst family retained the Casa Mar guest house. It is the most coveted guest house with a view of the ocean. Ultimately though, the Hearst estate relinquished control and donated it back to the state which means no overnight stays for anyone, anywhere. No matter how much money you pay, the tour guide said, "... this will never be the most expensive AirBNB in the world."

Nonetheless, Hearst family members can swim in the historic swimming pools, which are off limits to everyone else. And recently, they hosted a wedding there -- but they had to buy out the entire place. If you Hearst Castle is just about as good as it gets in terms of a wedding venue. Who knows, perhaps the ghosts of Marion Davies, Clark Gable, and Cary Grant were nearby, martinis in hand, drinking a toast to the happy couple. 

Read the love story of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies -- in her own words -- here

love a good classic hollywood ghost story? read on!

Stefanie CosmanComment