The Way It Was – The Ghoul, 1977

The local TV personality was more ”foolish than ghoulish”
the ghoul
The Ghoul photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University (The Detroit News)

1977 With his slapstick humor, juvenile high jinks, and snarky contempt for the low-grade horror films he aired weekly, TV personality The Ghoul (real name Ron Sweed) was more foolish than ghoulish. In fact, nobody was afraid of The Ghoul, and that was quite the point, because he was a spoof of monsters and horror every Saturday night on WKBD (Channel 50) in The Ghoul Show.

Each week, he would appear as a latter-day beatnik in fright wig, lab coat, fake goatee, and wacky eyeglasses, and unleash a string of junior-high gags. He’d squirt Cheez Whiz in the studio, blow up pumpkins and pierogi with firecrackers, and pummel his unfortunate sidekick, Froggy, an inanimate amphibian, to a green pulp. The Ghoul was also outwardly disdainful of his schlocky horror films. He injected voiceover comments over the dialogue and never failed to burp when characters were eating. Sophomoric, even infantile? You bet, but Detroiters tuned into The Ghoul’s unhinged buffoonery in droves.

Sweed grew up in Cleveland and patterned his character on Ghoulardi, played by Ernie Anderson, on Cleveland television. Sweed eventually went to work for Anderson as an assistant. Later, when Anderson graduated to bigger things, he gave his blessing to Sweed, who wished to do his own version of Ghoulardi. The Ghoul was born, and Kaiser Broadcasting aired the show in Cleveland.

In short order, The Ghoul also appeared on Kaiser’s WKBD affiliate in Detroit. He was a smash. A few other cities picked up the show, but Sweed just didn’t click there as he did in Cleveland and Detroit. When Kaiser pulled the plug on the show in 1976, Sweed moved to Detroit, where Channel 20 (then WXON) aired his antics.

By the mid-’80s, The Ghoul had blown up his last pierogi, though he continued to do occasional live performances. Sweed died of a heart attack in 2019.