Earl Hamner was labeled a kook for claiming he saw Will Geer's ghost

The Waltons creator said he wasn't crazy. He just felt that Grandpa's spirit "permeated the set."

Read to Me

Earl Hamner's poignant writing at the heart of The Waltons made him a popular graduation speaker across the country in the Seventies.

But one college president in the midwest abruptly canceled Hamner's appearance after hearing a rumor that The Waltons creator had been known to claim he felt the ghost of Grandpa actor Will Geer on the set after Geer passed away during the show's run in 1978.

"This man is some kind of kook. He sees ghosts," the president insisted, according to how Hamner told the story to the Television Academy.

For all his experience as a gifted narrator, Hamner couldn't find the words to make the college president understand his point-of-view.

"What he didn't understand and what I later tried to explain to him was that there are certain people whose personality's so great, so forceful, so unique, that they leave an imprint on where they lived," Hamner said.

"What I meant to say and what this college president simply never understood, was that Will was that kind of person. He permeated the set with his personality. With his love. With things that he did. He planted a rose garden. He planted a vegetable garden. How many people do that on a movie set?"

Geer's costar Michael Learned likened the Grandpa actor to Johnny Appleseed, saying, "Wherever he went, he planted a garden."

In his interview, The Waltons star Richard Thomas echoed a feeling of ample admiration for Geer's "larger-than-life personality." Losing him must have been incredibly tough for everybody on set, who no doubt like Hamner thought of Grandpa every time they passed by the gardens.

Hamner said that Geer was "a big, mischievous, fun-loving guy" who "didn't really portray Grandpa. He was Grandpa."

The series creator recalled how people from his Virginia hometown would come to set to take a tour and see behind the scenes of the show. It was Geer who would always make them feel most welcome.

"He'd be in his dressing room and he'd come to the door and he'd say, 'Any Virginians out there?' which is charming," Hamner added.

But perhaps Hamner's fondest memory of Grandpa happened on the day his hometown declared the first-ever Earl Hamner Day.

Geer surprised Hamner by showing up, after driving a bus from Alabama and stealing a bushel of corn from a farm along the way. When he got to the ceremony, he presented the corn to Earl with a wink, joking, "They called The Waltons corny, but I want you to know there's more corn than concrete in the country."

"Will, I adored," Hamner said decades later, clearly still touched by their special friendship.

Watch The Waltons on MeTV!

Weekdays at 11 AM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

22 Comments

Post a comment
Hogansucks1 12 days ago
The whole premise of the Waltons was down to earth and family oriented subject matter really hits home . Family values and good ole upbringing, morals, mannerisms,principals,etc- I’m not surprised Will Geer’s spirt would have been present on the set. A lot a love and friendship on and behind the scenes!! Printed on most U.S. currency, it says, (“In God We Trust”). Does that make our beliefs as a county Kooky also ? (?). To each has their own opinion, and live and let live- I always say. I for one believe Earl Hamner’s story. ☮️ 😇
stephaniestavropoulos 17 days ago
I wonder if the kids and MIchael Learned, Ralph Waite and Ellen Corby knew Will Gear was a communist, and didn't care, but of course never mentioned that whenever they talked about him. {Like the entire cast of the Brady Bunch, knew that Robert Reed was gay, but never discussed it whenever they were interviewed.}
the kids and the rest were most likely too scared to say anything. If they did they risked being taken away at midnight for reprograming to think right.
I don't think his past was hidden. It's well known that he was involved n "The Salt of the Earth in 1954, made by people on the blacklist. I think he's mentioned in Woody Guthrie's "Bound for Glory". He was at one of the Woody Guthrie memorial concerts in 1968 or 70, reciting some of Woody's words.

But I knew about the Waltons before I knew that, by a few years, I can't be certain that his infamy was known without the fame if the show.
chickycat 17 days ago
I love this show....loved it as a kid when it first ran.
Andybandit 18 days ago
Cool story. I really don't watch the Walton, I never liked the show.
chickycat Andybandit 17 days ago
that is too bad.
007 18 days ago
i did not know too much about will greer until i read about hiim. He was commie, i have now no use for someone like that and yes he can believe whatever he wanted to but that kind of thinking destroys a country.
Load previous comments
007 Michael 17 days ago
well michael, since i have been to russia several times, its really not so pretty living in a two room apartment, having to go to the store about once daily etc. And yes the people of Germany thought Hitler was saving them from famine??? Go figure.
007 Michael 17 days ago
also you are right on the walton's, i have only watched it a few times and they are fairly well off while almost everyone else in the time period are struggling just to eat.
Wil Geer had hutzpah and balls!
CouchPotato19 007 3 days ago
Yeah. He's not so cute anymore. Besides, he STOLE a bushel of corn from a farm?
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?