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Rich Recluse's Realm

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You're not rich until you can build your own private tropical paradise in Antarctica.

"He was disappointed in the world. So he built one of his own — an absolute monarchy!"
Jed Leland, Citizen Kane

Sometimes, it's not enough to have all the money in the world; sometimes, only a world in itself will do. For a select few among the super-rich, an ordinary Big Fancy House simply cannot satisfy their desire for a perfect home: instead, for these elite among elites, the only thing that will suffice is a kingdom — a unique, exclusive and often vast tract of land under their exclusive control, in which they can seclude themselves for the rest of their natural lives.

While usually remote, inaccessible or top-secret in some way, the private kingdom may take many forms: some unambitious tycoons are content with building exclusive domains within a city, or even buying out entire hotels just to accommodate them. In the case of traditionalist recluses, they make do with a plot of land containing nothing more than a ridiculously oversized home and enough grounds to encompass a small country. However, more outgoing plutocrats may establish an entire compound of buildings for whatever obscure desires they intend to pursue there. The most ambitious of all may end up building and controlling an entire city.

The reasons for going to such extremes vary — perhaps they simply can't stand humanity anymore, perhaps they desire total executive power but can't be bothered with politics, or maybe they have some particular goal or philosophy to focus on. Then again, for the ultra-rich, usually the only reason needed is "because I can".

May feature a Privately Owned Society if the region is sufficiently populated.

A hallmark of the Eccentric Millionaire, the Mr. Alt Disney, the Howard Hughes Homage, and especially wealthy breeds of Reclusive Artist. Also a possible venue for when The Elites Jump Ship.


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    Comic Books 
  • Taken to extremes in the Hellblazer "Roots Of Coincidence" plot arc. Here, Lord Calvin Burnham is found to have been arranging to build a private, isolated domain that will last for all eternity and prevent him from going to hell for his many, many sins. Known as a soul cage, it's essentially an Artificial Afterlife built to resemble a glorious palace, and with the help of the psychopathic war mage Mako, it's been populated with a workforce of houris that will suffer for every minute that they aren't pleasuring Burnham. It's also small enough on the outside to be contained and sealed within the vault of Burnham's nuclear facility, which will supposedly last forever. For good measure, Burnham is planning on giving himself a lethal overdose of heroin as soon as the work is complete so that he can enjoy the benefits of his private heaven immediately. Naturally, John Constantine spoils the whole thing by removing the houris and trapping Mako in their stead; he then allows Burnham to give himself the lethal injection... only to reveal that Burnham's heaven has turned into a hell, and he's going to be spending eternity in the company of an enraged cannibal war mage with no qualms about torturing his own employer for amusement.
  • In Michael Cray, the Wild Storm universe's version of Oliver Queen is an ultra-rich lunatic who created his own island in order to hunt people for sport.
  • In Watchmen, superhero-turned-businessman Adrian Veidt (a.k.a. Ozymandias) has become so successful that he's been able to create his own private retreat in Antarctica — and given that no governments hold any claim to the continent, he is allowed to do as he pleases there. Known as Karnak, his estate comes complete with a palatial house, a laboratory complex and a terrarium garden, all decorated in traditional Ancient Egyptian style. Normally quite chummy with journalists, Veidt has begun to spend more and more time here in recent days — and not out of fear of assassins. He's actually using the place as a base of operations for his efforts to prevent World War III via faked alien invasion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Citizen Kane provides one of the most famous examples of this trope: after ruining his political career and making himself a laughingstock, newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane orders the construction of a vast estate in Florida as a kiss-and-make-up gift for his second wife, Susan. Known as Xanadu, it's so vast it consists of an artificial mountain and over forty-nine thousand acres of grounds — roughly seventy-six square miles! Once there, Kane settles in so well that he almost never leaves the building except on business and the occasional picnic on the Everglades, gradually becoming a total recluse once Susan leaves him. The building ultimately becomes a reflection of himself: big and impressive, but ultimately empty. For good measure, it's never officially completed and by the time of Kane's death, Xanadu has already begun collapsing into disrepair.
  • Ex Machina: Tech mogul Nathan Bateman owns a vast area of Alaskan wilderness around his mansion/laboratory. When the protagonist asks the chopper pilot flying him there when they'll reach the estate, the pilot tells him they entered it 2 hours earlier.
  • Glass Onion: The bulk of the film is set on Miles Bron's private island off the coast of Greece, which includes a fantastical Banksy-designed dock, lush gardens with automated anti-smoke warnings, robotic servants for carrying luggage, and his palatial mansion, the Glass Onion. For good measure, Miles enjoys his privacy on the island so much that there's no phones - only an outdated fax machine. Unfortunately, it turns out that the aforementioned dock is set for low tide, so when a murder occurs on the island that evening, it's impossible for Bron's guests to escape the area.
  • In Phantom of the Paradise, legendary record producer Swan is well-known for rarely appearing in public, and even when he does, it's usually behind a two-way mirror, in shadow, or at press conferences where all cameras are confiscated in advance. This is because he's attained Dorian Grey-style immortality, and any photographs or film footage would reveal his inner corruption. At all other times, he's cloistered in his heavily-guarded mansion or at the eponymous concert hall; at both locations, his word is law, nobody dares refuse his orders (least of all the police) and the place is clustered with security cameras under Swan's direct control. For good measure, the Paradise is even referred to as "his Xanadu".
  • In Seven (1979), The Hermit is a millionaire crimelord who lives on his huge mountain estate which he never leaves.
  • Karl Stromberg, shipping magnate and the Big Bad of The Spy Who Loved Me, has used his fortune to create a floating palace off the coast of Sardinia; called Atlantis, it provides him with so much luxury that he rarely feels the need to leave it at all except to oversee operations on his flagship tanker. For good measure, the place can actually be submerged, making it the centerpiece of the Underwater City that Stromberg hopes to build once his apocalyptic plan is complete.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever, Willard Whyte, an Expy of Howard Hughes in the Real Life section, had moved into the penthouse suite of his Vegas casino, the Whyte House, and only communicated with the outside world over the phone. This allowed Blofeld to kidnap him and take his place. Because there was a voice-altering device on the phones, everyone heard his orders in Whyte's voice, and since nobody had seen the man in years anyway, nobody could tell or prove that he was missing until Bond broke into the penthouse.

  • In Carnosaur, Lord Darren Penward owns a massive estate in Cambridgeshire, England surrounded by all manner of high-security walls and armed guards. The estate contains not only Penward's mansion but also his private menagerie, where he keeps his extensive collection of animals — including the title dinosaurs.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is partly set in one of these: master confectioner Willy Wonka abandoned society after his business rivals began stealing the recipes to his best-selling products, retreating to his legendary chocolate factory — which remained closed to everyone except delivery vehicles from then on. As it turns out, the overwhelming majority of the building is deep underground and encompasses a lot more space than it first appears. Consequently, Wonka uses the factory as a home, a residence for his new workforce of Oompa-Loompas, a laboratory for new products, and a workshop for his own brand of art.
  • In Dead and Gone, Burke uncovers a scam to sell an island as a sovereign territory to the highest bidder. It's a scam because for one thing, none of the world powers would tolerate it and so the sovereignty wouldn't be worth the paper it was written on.
  • The eponymous Eccentric Millionaire Gog bought a large tract of land in the middle of a city, razed it to the ground, then built a walled-off nature reserve to which only he has access. He did this both because he hates humanity and wishes to separate himself from it as much as possible, and also to feel smug in the knowledge that no one else in the world could enjoy such a privilege.
  • In the third and final book in The Magicians trilogy, it's revealed that Rupert Chatwin got rich from the royalties left to him by author Christopher Plover and bought a spectacular mansion in the countryside beyond Penzance. Once there, Rupert secluded himself inside and barely maintained enough of a social life to get married, apparently suffering from unresolved guilt over the disappearance of his older brother, Martin who Rupert actually helped escape into Fillory to make his Deal with the Devil. The one time Rupert left the manor was to join the army in World War II - in which he ultimately died.
  • The Naked Sun: Solaria is an entire planet of these thanks to its Post-Scarcity Economy and solitary culture. Each of the planet's 20 000 humans lives alone in palatial luxury with hundreds or thousands of square miles of land, legions of robots attending their every whim, and a crippling terror of personal contact.
  • Night Film: Stanislas Cordova lives in a mansion in upstate New York called The Peak. So far, it's normal enough...until McGrath gets there and realizes that Cordova and his acolytes built all the sets for his films and possibly performed deadly child-killing rituals in the enormous grounds, turning the entire place into a sort of terrifying interactive exhibit in which he was essentially worshipped as a king.
  • In the Funfax INTER Active Secret Agent file Orbit Of Fear, super-rich film and TV director/producer Marvin Maximus Mogul his retreated to a privately-owned space station orbiting Earth, apparently full-time. A Prima Donna Director par excellence, Mogul wants to live and work entirely without restrictions, and is essentially using his geostationary orbit as the space equivalent of international waters: here, he can conduct as many demented experiments in robotics and virtual reality as he pleases, all while advertising anything to the Earth below as he pleases.
  • The Vampire Chronicles: In the modern day, the 500-year-old vampire Armand lives on Night Island, a luxurious resort community off the Florida coast that he designed and commissioned. It caters to all his wants, from world-class shopping to tourist prey, and operates exlusively overnight. However, he gifted the actual ownership to his reluctant protégé Daniel Molloy in an attempt to woo him.
  • One of the interviewees in World War Z, a con artist by the name of Breckenridge "Breck" Scott, made millions of dollars by peddling a fake vaccine for the zombie virus. He then acquired Vostok Station in Antarctica as his personal refuge from the ensuing Zombie Apocalypse, using his considerable resources to transform it into a comfortable home. Now that the apocalypse is over and humanity is recovered, however, Breck isn't interested in leaving — just in case anyone decides to take him to task for his crimes. The finale reveals that Russia is no longer renewing the lease on Vostok and the United States are out to get him, meaning that it's only a matter of time before Breck ends up being brought to justice.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story: Hotel:
    • In the backstory, eccentric oil baron James Patrick March established an urban variant on this trope in the form of the Hotel Cortez: a spectacular art deco complex of his own design, he adopted it as his home from then on and rarely ever left. As it turned out, March was actually a serial killer and built the Cortez so he could prey on the guests, using secret passages, hidden rooms, dead-end corridors, deathtraps and disposal chutes to get the most enjoyment from a hunt. After March killed himself to avoid getting arrested, his soul ended up trapped in the Cortez — ensuring that it remained a Rich Recluse's Realm for his ghost as well.
    • The current owner of the Cortez, Countess Elizabeth, also uses the hotel as her exclusive home and has done so ever since she inherited it from March, her late husband: as a vampire, she needs a place where she can sleep and hunt without being disturbed, making the Cortez ideal for her purposes. By now, the staff are either too indoctrinated or too afraid of her to rebel, and most guests never become aware of her presence in the building until it's too late — making her rule totally unchallenged. However, unlike March, the Countess has another, much more embarrassing reason for staying here: she doesn't have anywhere else, having been swindled out of all her money by Bernie Madoff, hence why she's trying to seduce Will Drake.
    • Fashion designer Will Drake eventually adopts the Cortez as his home and headquarters, initially out of a desperate need for inspiration but eventually due to falling in love with the Countess. After being murdered by the Countess, his ghost is naturally unable to leave the building; with help from Liz Taylor, Drake is eventually able to reinvent himself as a Howard Hughes Homage, using the mystery of his absence as a means of selling his newest brands - with the assorted ghosts and vampires of the Cortez serving as models in highly-exclusive camera-free fashion shows at the Cortez.
  • Invoked by Connor on Succession. While all of his siblings live in apartments (in the centre of New York), Connor has a huge ranch in New Mexico. It's normal enough there, but he owns it because he's planning for the inevitable collapse of society and he controls a water source that runs through the property, so he's planning to turn it into one of these.
  • In Watchmen, Lady Trieu, a Vietnamese billionaire who bought up all of Adrian Veidt's corporate assets after his disappearance, has built an entire habitat that mimics the environment of Vietnam — on the outskirts of Tulsa. This sort of grandiose insanity should probably be expected, as she is the illegitimate daughter of Adrian Veidt, conceived when her mother stole a vial of Veidt's semen and inseminated herself.

  • According to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the former galactic empire suffered an epidemic of super-rich individuals who just couldn't be satisfied with any world they happened to settle down on. The planet Magrathea exploited this demand by building custom-designed worlds to serve as private domains for the wealthiest members of galactic society. Unfortunately, these luxury products became so popular that the reckless spending triggered an economic collapse that destroyed the empire, forcing the Magratheans to retreat into cryogenic suspension until a civilization capable of affording their services emerged.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Vampire: The Masquerade book Havens Of The Damned, wealthy Malkavian slumlord Harriet Perkins has made an entire neighbourhood her domain, having exploited the events of the Great Depression to buy every house within a few blocks of her mansion and convert them into cheap apartments for the poor - providing her with victims that nobody would ever miss. In the decades since then, Harriet has become so reclusive that she's refused to leave her mansion for any reason whatsoever - instead ghouling all her surviving relatives into doing the work of acquiring victims for her. Worse still, she's an incorrigible hoarder and cannot bear to part with anything she's touched, believing that it contains a piece of her soul; anyone attempting to sneak into the mansion will find it both extremely messy and extensively booby-trapped.

    Video Games 
  • Bioshock 1 takes place in Rapture, Andrew Ryan's grand example of this trope: a glorious Underwater City hidden deep in the Atlantic Ocean, Ryan created it out of disillusionment with the state of politics post World War II, and established its society based on his unique philosophical beliefs. Unfortunately, Ryan's Objectivist system proved too dysfunctional to maintain stability: a lack of workers' rights allowed opportunists like Frank Fontaine and Sofia Lamb to foment rebellion, while a deregulated market with no government oversight resulted in a highly addictive Psycho Serum becoming endemic throughout the city. Add to that Ryan's growing obsession with controlling his paradise and open refusal to allow anyone to leave the city, and it wasn't long before a civil war broke out. Consequently, Rapture is little more than a monster-infested ruin by the time you stumble in, and Ryan is just barely running the show from a heavily-fortified panic room deep within the industrial district of Hephaestus — a recluse in his own city.
  • Fallout: New Vegas
    • The mysterious Mr. House is eventually revealed to be a pre-war business mogul who has kept himself preserved in a highly-sophisticated life support chamber hidden in the Lucky 38 casino for the last two centuries, using his resources to remotely save Las Vegas from the worst of the nuclear war, then take control of the town to serve as the seat of his post-apocalyptic financial empire. Today, New Vegas is run exclusively by Mr House, though nobody has ever seen him in person, and only robots are allowed to attend him at the Lucky 38 — unless you're seriously valuable to him. If you side with him over the course of the game, House is eventually able to expand his dominion to encompass the entire Mohave Wasteland.
    • In the DLC Dead Money, the Sierra Madre Hotel and Casino was originally constructed by Frederick Sinclair as a wartime shelter for his lover, Vera Keyes; in the event that the war between China and America turned nuclear (which it did), Sinclair and Vera would be able to ride out the disaster in comfort — along with the other celebrities invited to the gala. Sinclair organized the Sierra Madre according to laws of his own devising, with a long list of contraband to be confiscated by teleportation and payment for workers delivered exclusively in casino chips redeemable at the Matter Replicator vending machines scattered about the area. Unfortunately, Sinclair was also in the habit of leasing the place out as a proving ground for Big MT's Think Tank so he could make ends meet, hence why the place is so messed-up today. Plus, the vault hidden deep beneath the casino was also arranged as a deathtrap for potential thieves including Dean Domino and — very briefly — Vera.
  • Hitman (2016): Billionaire media mogul Thomas Cross is notoriously reclusive, having spent a good chunk of his career living exclusively on his private jet and only returning to the ground when it became necessary to refuel. By the start of the main game, however, he's permanently relocated to a heavily guarded estate hidden away on a private island just off the coast of Costa Rica, and now does all his business through emissaries like Ken Morgan. The only point he ever leaves the island is to attend the funeral of his son Jordan - Agent 47's target in "Club 27". Unfortunately for Thomas, the Shadow Client arranged for Jordan's assassination solely to draw him out into the open as part of the ongoing crusade against Providence; as such, Thomas Cross is kidnapped at the funeral, robbed of three billion dollars, and murdered shortly after.
  • Myst: In Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Guildmaster Kadish, one of the wealthiest of the D'ni wrote his own private Age, Kadish Tolesa, designed to safeguard his wealth in a hidden vault, protected in turn by a myriad of cryptic puzzles he designed. When the Fall of D'ni came, Kadish himself locked himself in his vault and died there despite having a Linking Book out, claiming in his death note that he would rather die with his riches than die with nothing.
  • During the backstory to The Park, millionaire construction tycoon Nathaniel Winter decided — apropos of nothing — to build a theme park on an obscure island just off the coast of Maine. Obsessed with his creation, he took to spending more and more time at the park, devoting huge sums of money to ensure it continued to follow his designs, even bribing government officials to ensure it remained open spite of the growing death toll. In the end, Atlantic Island Park was permanently shut down, and Winter retreated into the park full-time, never to be seen again. In reality, the park was his effort to achieve immortality by using Human Resources harvested from guests; having managed to finally get this method to work, he now rules over the abandoned park as the immortal Bogeyman — and is still doing so as of The Secret World.
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunter reveals that Gardulla the Hutt — Anakin Skywalker's owner prior to Watto — has become increasingly antisocial and retreated to a secluded hideout on Tatooine. Unlike the other main crime lord on the planet, she never leaves her isolated mountain palace for any reason, not even on business. Part of this is due to her ongoing feud with Jabba, but it's also because she's engaged in business that even other Hutts would find shady: providing transportation for the Bando Gora.

    Web Videos 

  • Defunctland discusses a memorable real-life attempt at this in the form of Walt Disney's E.P.C.O.T. (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow). Towards the end of his life, Disney became obsessed with the creation of a model community that would serve as a showcase for futuristic technology installed in the homes of the residents. He also began fantasizing about the possibility of living in E.P.C.O.T., even suggesting designs for a park where he and his wife could enjoy the evenings. Disney did all of this because he wanted to leave a legacy beyond just being an entertainer and an animator, and felt that contributing to mankind's future was a good way to do that. Unfortunately, Walt Disney also wanted total executive control over the community, and the showcase aspect would have made it necessary for the residents to be on display at all times and for the company to regularly upgrade the entire city just to stay on the cutting edge — a prohibitively expensive process. Plus, Walt was more-or-less expecting everyone in the theoretical town to have the same endless work ethic which he did, a prospect which simply wasn't viable. In the end, E.P.C.O.T. never got off the drawing board before Walt Disney died of cancer. Even if it had, Kevin openly speculates that E.P.C.O.T. would have failed, at best. At worst, it would have turned into a False Utopia that would have permanently stained Disney's legacy, making him go from an entertainer into a wannabe dictator.
  • The SF Debris miniseries The Shadow's Journey explains how George Lucas ended up creating one of these by accident: during the production of the original Star Wars trilogy, his dream project was Skywalker Ranch, a paradise where independent filmmakers could work away from the interference of major Hollywood studios. Unfortunately, Lucas' original goal ended in failure: the facility was so advanced that the only filmmakers who could reliably use it were big studios, and the Ranch's remoteness discouraged indies from making the journey. In the end, it became a base of operations for Lucasfilm — if only because it was already there and couldn't be sold. Like Charles Foster Kane, Lucas then left the spotlight for a long period of time, driven by a massive Heroic BSoD prompted by the collapse of his marriage.

    Web Comics 
  • Ennui GO!: After she and her friends got stranded on a deserted island, which was revealed to be an archipelago owned by an old billionaire, fellow billionaire Izzy Pritchard decides to purchase the land to create her own country. At the beginning of Vol. 3, Izzy invites her friends, family and others to her new island nation, Key Manati, where she rules as queen.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Batman Killgore Steed is a former big game hunter that maintains his own island to hunt with now that he's old. And of course he's set it up as a labyrinth with traps to hunt the most dangerous prey. Joker takes it over and hunts Batman, Batgirl, and Catwoman.
  • In the Over the Garden Wall episode "Mad Love", rival tea manufacturers Quincy Endicott and Margeurite Grey have built such elaborate and sprawling estates, they don't even notice that the two properties have become connected, and each assumes the other is a ghost haunting their mansion on the rare occasions they encounter each other.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Hail, Doofania", Professor Doofenshmirtz creates the titular floating city of Doofania — in a fit of jealousy after seeing his brother getting elected mayor.
    Doofenshmirtz: In the bay off the coast of the Tri-State Area/ Floats a country for me, and me!

    Real Life 
  • Howard Hughes provided one of the most famous instances of this trope in history: during his decline into seclusion, the eccentric billionaire moved into the Desert Inn in Las Vegas and began using the eighth floor as his business headquarters - and in order to avoid further conflicts with the owners, eventually bought the entire hotel. From there, he expanded his influence across the city, buying casinos and hotels in attempt to remake Las Vegas into something more to his liking; at one point, he went so far as to buy the Silver Slipper casino, supposedly because its sign was visible from his bedroom window and kept him awake at night! And throughout all of this, Hughes remained cloistered in his rooms, with his business dealings conducted entirely by a panel of chosen representatives.
  • Fox News founder Roger Ailes was, among other things, a notorious paranoiac convinced that people were out to kill him, and thus he bought out most of the properties around his Cold Spring, NY residence so that he would never have any close neighbors.
  • Some micronations have been founded because of this trope.
    • On 1970, pressed by wheat quotas which would have driven him to bankruptcy, Leonard Casley made his farm the Principality of Hutt River after separating from Australia, which lasted until August 2020.
    • On 1903, after a violent row with a concierge, Jacques Lebaudy went with 400 soldiers on the Moroccan coast and proclaimed the "Empire of the Sahara." The venture was a failure, with Moorish bandits kidnapping and ransoming settlers and French and Spanish troops wanting to put an end to an unwelcome settlement in their condominium.
  • Seasteading has been promoted by some as a mean to achieve this purpose: structures would have been created to be put on the high seas, far from any sovereign state's laws. Most ventures thus far have turned out to be nothing more than elaborate scams.
  • In late 2021, plans were announced for a unique island resort exclusive to affluent cryptocurrency enthusiasts, with only sixty residences available. Known as Cryptoland, it promised a luxurious environment in which blockchain entrepreneurs could live and work, complete with sixty plots of land for the "Cryptoland Kings," along with a host of Disneyland-like attractions. The trailer was met with immediate mockery, and the project was soon beset with problems: questions abounded concerning how the infrastructure of the island would work, how it would handle rising sea levels, or who would be catering to the needs of the residents. In the end, it turned out that the project leads didn't even own the island that they were advertising, and attempts to actually buy it fell apart, leaving Cryptoland as a failed example of this trope and conceptual laughingstock.