It’s early October, and Lydia Hearst has just put the finishing touches on the “Halloween tree” in her foyer. The delicate actress, model, and media heiress crouches in cobalt heels to switch on two animatronic hellhounds guarding her cobweb-covered evergreen, and they howl to life.
In a sense, it’s Halloween year-round in the Los Angeles home she shares with her husband, the TV host and comedian Chris Hardwick. While both stars collect entertainment props and curiosities, Hearst’s taste slithers toward the macabre.
[On Hearst: Jacket: Rachel Zoe; Bodysuit: Fleur de Mal; Jeans: Nobody Denim; Boots: Kenneth Cole; Necklace and ring: Dana Rebecca Designs; Earrings: Sara Weinstock.]
She isn’t a bit scared by their company. “They’re works of art, really, just not the typical kind most people go out of their way to recognize or collect,” she says.
Hearst, who stars alongside Nicolas Cage in the upcoming thriller Between Worlds, has always loved horror. “I think I used to watch Army of Darkness probably every week with my dad when I was a little kid,” she says.
But until recently, her hectic schedule, combined with living in apartments that felt temporary, kept her from building a prop collection. “I was always in this transitional period,” she says. “It wasn’t until I found Chris that I think I found my home.”
After the couple bought their Mediterranean-style villa near Griffith Park in late 2015, Hearst began an unconventional, ongoing shopping spree. She prowls online auctions and the local Monsterpalooza show (yep, it’s a real thing) to find gremlins and ghouls. “Thankfully [Chris] tolerates my obsession of oddities and props. It’s perfect, because we do have the same taste in just about everything,” she says. Hardwick has more of an affinity for zombies—he hosts Talking Dead, the live after show that dissects the latest episodes of The Walking Dead.
[On Hearst: Top: Petersyn; Jeans: L’Agence; Boots: Kenneth Cole; Rings: Dana Rebecca Designs, Rachel Katz Jewelry; Earrings: Dana Rebecca Designs.]
She has made deep ties in the special effects community and even commissions custom pieces. The home gym holds an otherworldly captor in a six-foot-tall tank, a one-of-a-kind creation by Midnight Studios FX. “I love aliens, and so does Chris,” she says. “It’s just fun.”
She stresses that the collection is meaningful, not random. “Every little detail in the house has a memory behind it,” she says. “[Props] that we buy are really ones that are special to us from films that we love or [that] helped shape our love of horror or cinema.”
She points to the giant ragdoll in the “package room,” a small space near the kitchen where the couple sorts deliveries. String-haired Sally, a character from Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, reminds Hearst of R&R time on the couch with Hardwick, whom she married in 2016. “That’s a big part of our life, Disney. If we’re not watching scary movies or sci-fi, it’s a Disney film,” she says.
Hardwick’s mother, a realtor, found the approximately 8,200-square-foot home for the couple before it went on the market. “The second we both walked in, we were in awe of the detail, and the woodwork, and the carvings, and the moldings,” Hearst says. She adds that it reminds her of Hearst Castle, the opulent estate in central California built by William Randolph Hearst, her great-grandfather.
The 1928 home designed by Paul Williams twists and turns down the hillside, with walls obstructing lines of sight. The layout is a far cry from today’s open floor plans, and Hearst asserts that’s a good thing. “There really are true rooms,” she says. “For us, as art and oddity collectors, it’s perfect because every room is unique and has its own character.”
No Prohibition-era mansion would be complete without a hidden passage. In the package room, Hearst swings open a door disguised as a bookcase to reveal a narrow stairway to the basement. The walls wear one of her favorite patterns, a Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper called “Lily,” which also adorns the Victorian foyer of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.
A second staircase in plain sight descends to the media room, where the entryway mimics the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Hardwick had the doors custom made as an homage to the British sci-fi show.
In the media room, too many eyes for comfort are watching. A casting of the possessed girl Regan used in The Exorcist sits in a velvet-cushioned niche, looking as ready as ever to vomit pea soup.
Props from films such as Gremlins 2 and Wolf—including Jack Nicholson’s original mask from the latter—share a carved cabinet with Hardwick’s two Emmy Awards.
A built-in bar clad with dragon tiles, which Hearst installed herself, shows off a bottle of Tru Blood, a cybernetic arm from Hardcore Henry, and other trophies above bins of sour candies.
Although she’s running out of surfaces, Hearst is not done collecting. “I’ll probably just become an eccentric hoarder,” she laughs. “I’m ashamed to admit that were I to auction off [my collectibles], I’d probably just end up buying them back myself and giving the money to charity. I’m very attached to every item.”