Gaspard was born in Paris in 1815 to a laundress and a painter. His father soon disappeared, rumored to have left for the South Seas. His mother died in 1830 from cholera. Orphaned Gaspard spent some time on the streets before he was sent to live with three uncles in New York.
In a lower East End tenement Gaspard attempted to live a reasonable life, raising hens and a rooster in a small patch behind the tenement, and keeping a mole, a mouse he named Herman and a cat named La Cataire as pets.
However his uncles, all petty crooks, also employed him in a number of criminal schemes. Skilled at pickpocketing and various persuasion schemes, including luring newcomers to New York down alleyways where one of his uncles would be waiting. Small, frail, and often overlooked Gaspard also showed a talent for shoplifting and supplemented his income selling stolen candy to neighborhood children.
All three of Gaspard’s uncles died in quick succession. Uncle Tendre went first, knifed in a bar fight following a particularly successful side-street robbery. Uncle Potelé, who had ambitions of being an opera singer, despondent after yet another unsuccessful audition, either fell or jumped into the Hudson River. His body was recovered some days later. Uncle Puant’s death was the most mysterious, caused by a gas explosion at a local theater that was otherwise empty at the time.
Neighbors would recall Gaspard being despondent over the deaths of his uncles but also irritable, claiming they were still with him in the tenement building, unwilling to let him sleep or be alone. Gaspard took to drinking heavily, regaling fellow saloon patrons with stories of his uncles not only tormenting him but driving away potential renters who might help him maintain the building. One night, drunk but also possibly having taken laudanum, he wandered through the train yards and fell asleep on some tracks. He was only twenty-seven.
Death, of course, was not the end for Gaspard, but the beginning of a new phase. Puzzled at finding himself still conscious, he returned to his former tenement building. There he found the spirits of his three uncles still present; it was they who taught him to manifest himself so he’d be visible to the living. For them it was a way to torment “the fleshies”, although, as incorporeal beings there was little harm they could do.
Soon the tenement was also occupied by a widow and her two children. As the widow struggled to pay the rent and faced threats of eviction, or worse, from the landlord, Gaspard had an epiphany. Perhaps he could free himself from his confinement by good deeds. He’d never liked the landlord anyway. Taking on a childish appearance, with an oversized head, large eyes, and a broad smile so as not to frighten the widow and the children, Gaspard nevertheless convinced the landlord the tenement was haunted by malevolent forces. The landlord, a deeply superstitious man, quickly handed over full ownership of the building to the widow.
Finding himself still tethered to the Earthly realm he decided to continue his strategy of benefiting others, still convinced good deeds would ultimately win his release. He would go on to befriend a good witch, a thousand-year old ghost, several more children, and a pair of Space Police officers.
Over time his name would be Anglicized, but he didn’t mind. At least he didn’t mind it so much as the fact that, no matter how many good deeds he performed, he seemed no closer to passing on to the next phase of the afterlife, or fading altogether. He began to think he should perhaps turn the other way, even follow the examples of his uncles, instead of just being Casper, the friendly ghost.