Ron Sweed

Last updated

Ron Sweed
Born(1949-01-23)January 23, 1949
DiedApril 1, 2019(2019-04-01) (aged 70)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Alma mater Bowling Green State University
Years active19632019
  • Barbara J. King (m. ????????)
  • Mary Therese Matousek (m. (c.)19932019) [1]

Ronald D. Sweed (January 23, 1949 – April 1, 2019) was an American entertainer and author, known for his late-night television horror host character "The Ghoul".


Early life and career

Sweed was born on January 23, 1949 in Euclid, Ohio. [2] His mother is Irene Barnard. [3] His father was Robert Sweed. [1] He grew up in Cleveland. [4] In an interview with his mother, Metro Times reporter Anita Schmaltz asked, "Did you ever expect to give birth to a Ghoul?" She responded, "Ron was very different right from the time he came out of the chute." [3] Sweed was 3 or 4 when he went to downtown Cleveland with his grandfather to see Santa Claus and buy him a Christmas present. He picked out a puppet. When Sweed was 8 or 9, he was given marionettes. [3] Sweed would put on shows for the neighborhood kids with the marionettes. His fourth grade teacher at one time could not keep his attention. Every Wednesday Sweed would put on a show for the class with his Jerry Mahoney dummy. [3]

Euclid, Ohio City in Ohio, United States

Euclid is a city in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States. It is an inner ring suburb of Cleveland. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 48,920. In 2009, Euclid celebrated its bicentennial.

<i>Metro Times</i> newspaper in Detroit, Michigan

The Detroit Metro Times is an alternative weekly located in Detroit, Michigan. It is the largest circulating weekly newspaper in the metro Detroit area.

Santa Claus Folkloric figure, said to deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, is a legendary figure originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on the night of Christmas Eve and the early morning hours of Christmas Day. The modern Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas, the British figure of Father Christmas and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas. Some maintain Santa Claus also absorbed elements of the Germanic god Wodan, who was associated with the pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky.

In 1963, 13-year-old Sweed and his friends went to an afternoon matinee of “Dr. Silkini and his live stage show of horrors, on stage in person, the Frankenstein monster, Dracula, King Kong and 45 horror movies”. [3] On the way home, he found a gorilla suit in an open trunk of Silkini's. He wore the gorilla suit to a live appearance by Ghoulardi, a popular Cleveland television personality played by Ernie Anderson on WJW. Ghoulardi took note of the costume and brought Sweed on stage, and over the next few weeks, Sweed became Anderson's production assistant. [3] [5]

Ghoulardi Fictional character

Ghoulardi was a fictional character invented and portrayed by voice announcer, actor and disc jockey Ernie Anderson as the horror host of Shock Theater at WJW-TV, Channel 8 in Cleveland, Ohio, from January 13, 1963, through December 16, 1966. Shock Theater featured grade-"B" science fiction films and horror films, aired in a Friday late-night time slot. At the peak of Ghoulardi's popularity, the character also hosted the Saturday afternoon Masterpiece Theater, and the weekday children's program Laurel, Ghoulardi and Hardy.

Ernie Anderson American disc jockey, and television and radio announcer/voiceover artist

Ernest Earle Anderson was an American radio and television personality, horror host, and announcer.

WJW (TV) Fox affiliate in Cleveland

WJW, virtual and VHF digital channel 8, is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, United States. Its second digital subchannel serves as an owned-and-operated station of the classic TV network Antenna TV. The station is owned by Nexstar Media Group. WJW's studios are located on Dick Goddard Way just northeast of downtown Cleveland near the shore of Lake Erie, and its transmitter is located in the Cleveland suburb of Parma, Ohio.

After Anderson left Cleveland for Los Angeles in 1966, Sweed left for Bowling Green State University, but continued to help with the production of the Hoolihan and Big Chuck show, which was Ghoulardi's replacement on WJW. [6]

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California; the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City; and the third-most populous city in North America, after Mexico City and New York City. With an estimated population of nearly four million people, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean-like climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood, the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis.

Bowling Green State University public university in Bowling Green, Ohio, United States

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is a public research university in Bowling Green, Ohio. The 1,338-acre (541.5 ha) main academic and residential campus is 15 miles (24 km) south of Toledo, Ohio. The university has nationally recognized programs and research facilities in the natural and social sciences, education, arts, business, health and wellness, humanities and applied technologies. The institution was granted a charter in 1910 as a normal school, specializing in teacher training and education, as part of the Lowry Normal School Bill that authorized two new normal schools in the state of Ohio. Over the university's history, it developed from a small rural normal school into a comprehensive public university.

The Ghoul Show

In 1970, Sweed approached Ernie Anderson with a proposal to revive Anderson's "Ghoulardi" character. Anderson was not interested, but gave Sweed his blessing to revive the character on his own. With that blessing, Sweed took "The Ghoul" to Cleveland's Kaiser Broadcasting station WKBF-TV in 1971. [7] [8] Though it started as a tribute to Ghoulardi, Sweed soon developed his own eye-catching gags and energetic style. Known for his zany, early-adolescent humor (particularly surrounding his abuse of a rubber frog named "Froggy," his well-known penchant for blowing up model ships and aircraft with firecrackers, and his habitual smearing of Cheez Whiz over everything in sight), late night monster movies were a unique experience for Cleveland viewers in the 1970s. [4] [9] Catch phrases included "zingy-zingy," "Overdey!" and "stay sick, turn blue".

Kaiser Broadcasting

The Kaiser Broadcasting Corp. owned and operated broadcast television and radio stations in the United States from 1958 to 1977.

WKBF-TV Defunct TV station in Cleveland

WKBF-TV, UHF analog channel 61, was an independent television station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio, United States. The station was owned as a joint venture between Kaiser Broadcasting, Frank V. Mavec and Associates and, later, Field Communications. WKBF is perhaps the least remembered for its position in television history, although many nationally recognized broadcast professionals began their career at the station. The station operated from studio facilities located on St. Clair Avenue in Euclid. WKBF's microwave studio-transmitter link (STL) was assigned the microwave license of KZM-32.

The Ghoul would typically take an unbelievably bad horror movie and dump in sound bites at appropriate moments, using audio clips from novelty records, George Carlin, Firesign Theater and rock albums of the '60s and early '70s. And whenever a character took a drink of something on-screen, The Ghoul would supply a good, loud belch. [10]

George Carlin American stand-up comedian

George Denis Patrick Carlin was an American stand-up comedian, actor, author, and social critic. He was known for his black comedy and reflections on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects. He and his "seven dirty words" comedy routine were central to the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, in which a 5–4 decision affirmed the government's power to regulate indecent material on the public airwaves. Widely regarded as one of the most important and influential American stand-up comics of all time, Carlin was dubbed by one newspaper to be "the dean of counterculture comedians".

"Shooting from no-budget studio sets, the Ghoul inserted his own dialogue and sound effects over insufferably bad B movies, blew up food, model cars and figurines with firecrackers, and produced strangely compelling, culturally relevant skits and parodies. The show was destructive and childish enough for little kids, subversive and timely enough for young adults." [11]

Later in the 1970s, Kaiser Broadcasting syndicated The Ghoul Show to Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles. [8] It bombed in Chicago (where Sweed had the thankless task of replacing the popular Svengoolie) and in Boston, but was huge in Detroit at WKBD TV-50, [12] and enjoyed varying degrees of success in the other markets. Despite the show's popularity, Kaiser eventually canceled it in 1975 amid complaints from parents about the content of some of Sweed's skits, as well as the permanent closure of WKBF by Kaiser itself. But The Ghoul resurfaced in 1976 on independent Detroit station WXON TV-20, and on WKBF's successor station, WCLQ TV-61. [9] Meanwhile, Kaiser Broadcasting 's successor, Field Communications bought back Horror Film Features by airing Son of Svengoolie on Chicago's WFLD on June 16, 1979. As a result, Sweed never appeared on air in Chicago again.

Sweed was on and off the air in Cleveland and Detroit for over three decades, at times even branching out into radio and the internet. [8] [13] The Ghoul returned to Cleveland TV in 1998 on WBNX-TV Channel 55 where he remained for the next six years airing on Friday, then later Sunday nights. He also did a Saturday night request show on classic rock station WNCX FM 98.5 during the same time period. [6]

The same year, Sweed co-authored (with Mike Olszewski) The Ghoul (S)crapbook ( ISBN   978-1886228221), a book collecting memories, on-set photographs, transcripts, correspondence, and memos from his years on the air. [14] Said Robert St Mary, a Detroit journalist and author of The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry: [15] “Ron understood that times had changed from the beatnik version of Ernie. It was spectacle. It was blowing stuff up. He was using the crazy hip lingo that Ernie had, and tweaking it a bit more.” [4]

In 2015, Sweed appeared at the Redford Theatre. It would be his final appearance there as he was scheduled to perform there in October 2018, but due to health problems, it was canceled. [16] In an October 2017 interview with Metro Times Jarrett Koral, he stated how he gets ready for a show: "smoke a good kielbasa," further remarking that "smoking a kielbasa will take you to places Steppenwolf never imagined on his magic carpet ride." For a boost of instant insanity? "Snort a couple blobs of Cheez Whiz." [17]


The Ghoul was well known enough in the Cleveland and Detroit markets that some of his catch phrases ("Overdey!", "Hey group!", "Scratch glass, turn blue", "Stay sick, climb walls", "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!", "Holy Parma", "Amrap" and Froggy's "Hiya gang, hiya hiya hiya!") are still widely recognized among the children of the 1970s. [10]

An interesting side element is that the aforementioned rubber toy referred to simply as "Froggy" (and much abused by the Ghoul) was a toy dating from 1948 by a company named Rempel and featured often in comedic skits on the 1955 television show Andy's Gang where he was named Froggy the Gremlin. The Ghoul's oft-uttered catch phrases "Hiya, gang. Hiya, hiya, hiya" and "Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy" originate from that earlier show.

Awards and honors

On March 5, 2016, Sweed was presented with a Certificate of Recognition by Cleveland mayor Frank G. Jackson to commemorate the 45th anniversary of his debut on Cleveland TV, and to honor his continuing popularity in the city. [18]


Sweed sued Keven Scarpino, a.k.a. the Son of Ghoul, in 1987 for infringing upon The Ghoul's character, but eventually lost the case. The judge ruled that no infringement occurred, as most horror show hosts portrayed the same basic character, a ghoulish individual who pranced about in costume, performed comedy routines, and showed horror movies. [19]

Personal life and death

Sweed met his first wife, Barbara J. King, when she was 17, and she was 18 when they married. They were married for 14 years. King and Sweed remained friends. [4] [5] [16] He met Mary Therese Matousek in 1988. [3] Sweed later married Matousek around 1993 as they were married for 26 years. [1] [20]

Sweed died on April 1, 2019, five months after suffering a massive heart attack. He had undergone triple bypass surgery on November 7, 2018. [16] [20] [21]

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Charles "Big Chuck" Schodowski and "Lil' John" Rinaldi – together commonly known as Big Chuck and Lil' John – are a duo of entertainers who served as late-night horror hosts of The Big Chuck and Lil' John Show on television station WJW in Cleveland, Ohio from 1979 to 2007. In addition to hosting a movie with a live audience, they also performed original sketch comedy routines. At the end of each sketch was a very distinctive laugh voiced by comedian/actor Jay Lawrence, who was a disc jockey for KYW radio in Cleveland during the early 1960s.

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  1. 1 2 3 "Obituary of Ron Sweed". . Cleveland: Advance Publications. April 4, 2019. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  2. "birth reference results for Ronald Sweed". FamilySearch . United States: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Schmaltz, Anita (August 22, 2001). "What's a Ghoul to do?". Metro Times . Detroit: Euclid Media Group . Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Kiska, Tim (April 3, 2019). "Legendary '70s TV horror host the Ghoul, a.k.a. Ron Sweed, has died". Detroit Free Press . Detroit: Gannett Company . Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  5. 1 2 WJW Staff (April 2, 2019). "Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed, legendary TV personality, has passed away". WJW . Cleveland: WJW License, LLC (Tribune Broadcasting). Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  6. 1 2 Sweed interview - Utter
  7. Introduction at, first paragraph
  8. 1 2 3 DeNatale, Dave "Dino" (April 2, 2019). "Legendary Cleveland television personality Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed passes away". WKYC . Cleveland: WKYC-TV, LLC (Tegna Inc.). Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  9. 1 2 Ghoul profile -
  10. 1 2 NE Ohio movie hosts - Retro
  11. "Tribute to The Ghoul". Yahoo! GeoCities.
  12. Hlavaty, Kaylyn (April 3, 2019). "TV personality and legend Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed dies". WXYZ-TV . Detroit: Scripps Broadcasting Holdings LLC (E. W. Scripps Company). Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  13. Introduction at, second paragraph
  14. Sweed, Ron; Olszewski, Mike (1998). Ghoul Scrapbook (Ohio) (1st ed.). Cleveland: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN   978-1886228221.
  15. St Mary, Robert (2015). The Orbit Magazine Anthology: Re-Entry. Detroit: Painted Turtle. ISBN   978-0814337318.
  16. 1 2 3 Culham, Devin (April 3, 2019). "Late-night TV horror host Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed dead at age 70". Metro Times . Detroit: Euclid Media Group . Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  17. Koral, Jarrett (October 20, 2017). "For horror host 'the Ghoul,' every day is Halloween". Metro Times . Detroit: Euclid Media Group . Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  18. "The Ghoul honored by Cleveland mayor". . Cleveland: Advance Publications. March 7, 2016. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  19. Son of Ghoul - Utter
  20. 1 2 Cole, Amber (April 3, 2019). "Cleveland icon 'The Ghoul' dies 5 months after suffering heart attack". WOIO . Cleveland: Gray Television Licensee, LLC (Gray Television). Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  21. Petkovic, John (April 3, 2019). "Legendary Cleveland horror host Ron 'The Ghoul' Sweed has died". . Cleveland: Advance Publications . Retrieved April 3, 2019.

Further reading