In the short story, though, Frank straight-up tortures Ernest for the amusement of his social media followers, dunking buckets of water on him, drunkenly bursting into his room with “a strobe light, playing heavy metal music on a portable speaker” and tying him up with “discount climbing rope” during dinner parties for guests to take videos and selfies. Ernest isn’t even the ghost’s real name; it’s just given to him by Frank because he “looks like Ernest Borgnine.”
In the film, Frank’s son takes off with Ernest in order to solve the mystery of his identity – in the short story, the pair leave because they’re both clearly fleeing from an abusive alcoholic who is taking out his own impotent rage on whoever he can. And while we don’t want to give away what happens at the end of We Have a Ghost, in Ernest, we learn that the titular specter was murdered by his own uncle, who was later “killed in a drunk-driving accident.” Which is depressing as hell.
Making it extra-bleak: These tragic details are all revealed by Jimmy Kimmel.
You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).