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Crusty Caretaker

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"Willie hears ya, Willie don't care!"
"I aM ToRgo. I tAkE CAre of ThE plAce whiLe the MasTeR is aWay."

He — and it is always he — is a caretaker, janitor, groundskeeper, or better yet, gravekeeper, who is crusty, uncouth, or otherwise lacking in people skills.

Popular in horror, because there's a lot of overlap with The Igor, Sycophantic Servant, and The Renfield.

Then, may also be the Old Retainer, in which case he is often the Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Expect the children of the house to love him despite his rough exterior.

His female counterpart is the Creepy Housekeeper. Compare Creepy Gas-Station Attendant.


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  • A TV spot for Verizon Wireless has a creepy motel night clerk inform a guest that there's only one room left, and one he probably won't want anyway: "It's a dead zone. Can't get your calls, your precious e-mails. It's like you don't even exist." When the customer points out that he has the Verizon network, the nonplussed manager ripostes, "Towels are kinda scratchy!" (Cue Scare Chord.)
  • "He stands behind every home he builds."

    Comic Books 
  • Mr. Smitty from Archie Comics
  • Cain from DC's The House of Mystery. His brother, Abel, who is caretaker of The House of Secrets, may also qualify, though perhaps he's more "chubby" than crusty.
  • The Caretaker, who shows up in Ghost Rider comics (and the movie) and related stories from Marvel Comics. In the books, he fills this trope to a tee. He guards the graveyard that much canon-scariness spills forth from. He's able to defend himself quite ably, often giving the main characters a literal smackdown when they are being stupid and or annoying. Enjoys scaring the naive by taking them through detours past some of the ickier bits of graveyard existence.
  • The cemetery caretaker Becca meets when she sneaks in Darkmoor Academy on a dare in All-Ghouls School (who might have been the headmaster in disguise).
  • Sensation Comics: "Creeper" Jackson is a bitter elderly man who looks after some property near Washington DC, and who is secretly growing Man Eating Plants which he tries to have eat Wonder Woman when she goes to save some of his victims.

    Fan Works 

  • The janitor who takes care of Freddy Fazbear's Pizza in Something Always Remains. He's pretty blunt in his belief that he thinks Mike won't last the week, as he's seen security guards come and go, refers to him as "kid" instead of by his name, and overall has a callous attitude. He eventually warms up to Mike, and reveals they've both suffered personal tragedies that keeps them coming back to Freddy's.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Riff Raff, Frank N. Furter's "faithful handyman" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, lacks in people skills. Also incorporates heavy elements of The Igor, as he is given a fake hump and seems to help Frank in the lab.
  • Francesco Dellamorte the Gravekeeper (Cemetery Man), while elegantly handsome (he's played by Rupert Everett), is gloomy, socially awkward and misanthropic. ("Go away. I have no time for the living.") The only people he tolerates are his mute assistant, an administrative secretary he sometimes telephones and the beautiful woman he relentlessly pursues. Sometimes no-one is lucky.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger used to work as a janitor at a high school when he was still human and living a double life as a serial killer. Thus his fondness for shaping his nightmare realm like a boiler room.
  • In a spot of Self-Referential Humor, the film Scream (1996) features a cameo by director Wes Craven as a crusty janitor called Fred, who wears a battered fedora and red/green striped sweater.
  • The Silent Hill film features Colin the Janitor, who is transformed into a contorted monster after being pulled into the Otherworld. Is is later strongly implied that he sexually assaulted Alessa prior to her burning.
  • The 2002 version of Dark Water has Kamiya, who doesn't seem to care for Yoshimi's concerns about the damp, leaky patches on her ceiling. The rest of the building seems to be falling into disrepair as well, and the water tank hasn't been cleaned for years (this becomes a relevant plot point). The 2005 remake also features a Crusty Caretaker, who is much more of a Jerkass.
  • The strange janitor in Famine is constantly fingering the vagina-shaped scar on his face.
  • The murderous Cropsy in The Burning was one in a summer camp who hated kids, and after one burned him badly in a prank gone wrong, hates them even more.
  • The graveyard where the wrestling tournament in Monster Brawl takes place is overseen by its odd caretaker Cyril, whose warnings about a curse (of the living dead) falls on deaf ears.
  • Prom Night (1980): Mr. Sykes, the janitor of Hamilton High is a weird guy who stares at the girls creepily, and is close at hand when many of the strange events occur.
  • In Curse of the Crimson Altar, Elder is the stuttering, seemingly mentally deficient, majordomo of Craxted Lodge; shuffling around the place, and appearing unnervingly behind people.
  • Claus is the caretaker of the cemetery in The Hollow, who staggers through the film uttering dire warnings and generally being taken for a crank and a drunk. He also serves as a Haunted House Historian for all matters related to the Headless Horseman.
  • Fisk the butler in What a Carve Up! (brilliantly played by Michael Gough), moves around the Old, Dark House silently—despite having a limp—and generally comes across as Lurch's shorter, slightly more talkative cousin.
  • In The Ghoul, Professor Morlant's manservant Laing shuffles around the Old, Dark House with a clubfoot, carrying out his master's spooky instructions for his internment while all the time muttering about what a dark business it is in a thick Scottish accent.
  • In The Initiation, the badly burned Jason Randall is an inmate groundskeeper at the Bedlam House sanitarium the killer escapes from.
  • In When Evil Calls, Sean Pertwee plays the embittered school janitor who narrates this lurid of doom. Twenty years of cleaning up after students have left him with an abiding hatred of all kids.
  • In The Gravedancers, the cemetery caretaker lurks around in the background of many scenes, looking threatening but not otherwise doing anything. However, at the very end of the film, it is revealed that he is the one leaving the incantation on graves.
  • In Curse of the Headless Horseman, Solomon is the disfigured caretaker who stands to inherit the ranch if Mark cannot make it turn a profit in six months. He skulks around the ranch, spying on people and making cryptic utterances about the Headless Horseman.
  • In Sheitan, Joseph—the caretaker of Eve's country house—initially comes across as a slightly dim-witted and eccentric farmer. Slowly, the visitors discover that Joseph is a devil worshiper, and he has something sinister planned for them.
  • Evil Breed: The Legend of Samhain: Gary, the caretaker at the cottage, is younger than the traditional crusty caretaker, but was born on Samhain and has psychic visions. He keeps lunging out unexpectedly at people to warn them in the most cryptic and ominous way to stay on the paths.
  • Count Yorga: Brudah in both films of the series is a deformed servant of Count Yorga and looks after the manor while Yorga sleeps during the daytime. Likewise taking care of any dirty work as well.
  • In Truth or Dare (2012), Woodbridge is the grumpy groundskeeper at the family estate. He is the one who sends the guests tramping through the woods to the keeper's cottage, and is later revealed to be in league with Justin and his scheme of revenge.
  • In Murder, She Said, the gardener Hillman is a surly devil who skulks about the estate and acts as Luther Ackenthorpe's enforcer and spy.
  • Frank, the school custodian in Serial Killing 4 Dummys, is a creepy individual who hits on the senior girls and is suspected of being the Serial Killer.
  • In Satan's Cheerleaders, Billy is the grumpy high school janitor. He is also a pervert who spies on the cheer squad while they are showering. He is also a Satanist who kidnaps the cheerleaders intending to rape them and them hand them over to the cult for Human Sacrifice.
  • Death Walks on High Heels: Hallory, the caretaker of Robert's cottage on the coast, is a strange, disheveled looking man, who has prosthetic hand constantly covered with a single black glove. He is mostly silent, and spends much of his time onscreen staring lecherously at Nicole. He is later revealed to be a Creepy Crossdresser as well.
  • In The Man Who Changed His Mind, Dr. Laurience's assistant is a wheelchair-bound bitter old man named Clayton who looks after the doctor's house and the doctor himself. Often verges into Servile Snarker territory.
  • In Cemetery Gates, John Martin is the groundskeeper at the Southern Cross Cemetery. He allows Hunter and his friends to film there, but then sends his sons to rob and, if necessary, murder them. From the conversation with his sons and the loot stashed in the caves, this is not the first time this has happened.
  • Terror At Blood Fart Lake has Caspian, whose testicles are in his calves and who cheerfully admits to watching pornographic snuff films and generally behaves extremely inappropriately.

  • Harry Potter:
    • Hogwarts has two: Hagrid the groundskeeper (good crusty) and Filch the caretaker (bad crusty). Interestingly, for two entirely different reasons, they're the only members of staff not to be practicing wizards.
    • Frank Bryce, in the first chapter of the fourth book, is this (good crusty) for the old crumbling house of the Riddle family, even though they're all dead. The townsfolk all falsely believe he murdered the Riddles, though he was never charged with the crime.
    • Kreacher, the Black family's house-elf, is another example of the bad type. Until he makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Watson, the Overlook Hotel's maintenance man in Stephen King's The Shining is aging and foul-mouthed.
  • In the Angel novel Shakedown, Harry Worthington is a suspicious cemetery groundskeeper who carries a shotgun with bullets mixed with communion bread to put down undead creatures.
  • Cold Comfort Farm has the dour and cryptic Adam Lambsbreath — although to be fair, his employers, the Starkadders, are mostly pretty dour and cryptic themselves.
  • The Discworld has Albert, Death's manservant. Keeps up a haughty demeanor in general, but especially towards young folks.
    Albert: It's no good thinking you can appeal to my better nature under this here crusty exterior, 'cos my interior's pretty damn crusty as well.
  • The Goblin Emperor: Haru does the outside work at the Edonomee lodge, such as gardening, and is a knowledgable yet standoffish man who inadvertently taught Maia several swear words during his angrier moments.
  • The Secret Garden has Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener.
  • Joseph in Wuthering Heights.
  • The Gardener in Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno.
  • Beetle in An Evening at The Larches by Harry Hearson and J. C. Trewin is the epitome of Crusty Caretaker. Jusitified, since the entire book is one long parody of thrillers.
  • In Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, Mr. Dudley is one of these, while his wife is a Creepy Housekeeper.
  • Head gardener Angus McAllister from P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle series.
    Honesty Angus McAllister's face had in full measure, and also intelligence; but it was a bit short on sweetness and light.
  • Catchpole in Aunt Dimity: Snowbound. Also an Old Retainer for the previous owner who can fill in some of the details of Lucasta DeClerke's life.
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Four Loves, he discusses how affection turns on familiarity: the children can love the crusty old gardener and fear the stranger who wants to win their regard.
  • Pylum, the Master of Cerements in Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead. He's the one person who still loudly believes that the old sacraments must be maintained to prevent the dead from rising... but actually he lost his faith and is helping a Mad Scientist create zombies.
  • Ben Weatherstaff of The Secret Garden — good crusty. He and the young heroine Mary have trouble getting along with most people, which is exactly why they get all along fairly well with each other almost from the start.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "The Loaded Custodians", Mr. Barlow is portrayed as a rather crusty old man.
  • Boothby, the groundskeeper of Star Fleet Academy from Star Trek: The Next Generation
    • Ned Quint, the groundskeeper in the episode "Sub Rosa" (definitely a tribute to this trope, complete with a Scottish accent that's a wee bit thick).
  • In CSI, it turned out that the miniature killer had been working as the lab's janitor for 6 months.
  • One episode of This is Wonderland had an Afghan refugee-turned-janitor, who had post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • The janitor from Scrubs fits this trope.
  • Doctor Who: Invoked when the Twelfth Doctor decides to go undercover at Coal Hill School and ends up posing as a caretaker. Much to Clara's dismay, his "disguise" consists only of a scruffier looking coat, but given his personality, he fits the bill perfectly...
  • Father Brown: When a schoolgirl is attacked in "The Cat of Mastigatus", the aggressive, stuttering gardener with metal prostheses on his crippled hands looks a likely suspect, until he turns up dead.

    Theme Parks 
  • Subverted with The Caretaker from Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights. While he looks creepy, he's actually perfectly well dressed, soft spoken, and polite. Too bad it's the wrong kind of soft spoken and polite and that he's a Mad Doctor with a penchant for live autopsies.
  • Disney's The Haunted Mansion has a Caretaker who serves as the only living person in a mansion inhabited by 999 happy haunts. In the ride itself, he appears just before guests enter the graveyard, where he stares at them with a look of fright, implying that when they descended from the balcony, the guests have died and are now ghosts as well, and his elderly look suggests that he's been working at the mansion for many years, and yet has always been freaked out by ghosts.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons has Springfield Elementary's Groundskeeper Willie. He has a crustier, creepier, crazier cousin, Gravedigger Billy, who only showed up in one episode and looked exactly like Willie except with white hair.
  • Scruffy ("the janitor") in Futurama.
  • Crops up quite often in Scooby-Doo.
    • A good way to pick out the villain half the time, come to think of it.
    • Gravedigger Evallo von Meanskrieg a.k.a the Graveyard Ghoul in the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "The Gathering Gloom".
  • In The Beatles debut episode "A Hard Day's Night", the boys encounter a figure emerging from a grave at a haunted castle.
    Caretaker: Being a caretaker here is a lonely lot.
    John: [relieved] Caretaker?
    George: Then you're not...
    Caretaker: One of "them"? Shucks, no. That's just where I keep my office. It's real cool.
    Ringo: Cool? It's altogether daft.