Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that its readers are already familiar with basic facts
about the Haunted Mansion. If you wanna keep up with the big boys, I suggest you check out
first of all the website, Doombuggies.com. After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY: Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009).

This site is not affiliated in any way with any Walt Disney company. It is an independent
fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
All images that are © Disney are posted under commonly understood guidelines of Fair Use.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Ghost of Ken Anderson in Ken Anderson's Ghost House

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Major new discovery in November 2012.  See the end of the post.

We've been making use of the detailed floor plan for his "Ghost House" that Ken Anderson drew up on September 2, 1957.  The plan was published in The "E" Ticket 41 (Fall 2004), pp 20-21.  A lower resolution, smaller copy has long been available for download at Doombuggies.com:


Possibly this is something already noticed by the Disney archivists, but if you examine the plan carefully, you can detect markings all through it that appear to be Anderson's own indications of crowd movements, and sometimes the tour guide's movements.  They amount to a mute commentary on how the attraction would "flow" from the man who created it.  You can't see these markings on the DB.com copy, but after you twiddle a few knobs they become visible on the "E"-Ticket copy.  If these Shroud-of-Turin-like markings have in fact not been noticed before, then I expect this will be regarded as a significant find in the eyes of Disney historians, Imagineers, and plain old Mansionoholics.

So let's do this thing.



Throughout the plans, it appears that blobs are either natural assembly points—places where knots of people spontaneously form—or else areas of movement by the guide(s).  Here at the beginning, a solid, organized group assembles outside the front door, on the step, and then enters in two lines.  The butler tour guide apparently enters on the left and hooks around to stand on the steps and address the group.  The set up is similar but not identical to what is seen in these sketches.


We know that the group descends to basement level, so it's difficult to know what Anderson had in mind with some of the markings, whether the marks indicate activity on the upper or lower level.  Before entering the "Portrait Gallery" hallway, at any rate, guests form three lines.



It looks like Anderson expected the lines to stop or hesitate several times along the hallway, no doubt to look at the paintings and doorways.



The group crosses the back of the Library.  There is activity at the other end, by the fireplace.  Sketches indicate that this is a point where the guide gives a major backstory presentation.  There are "Hairy the Arm" antics, and the Lonesome Ghost is introduced.


At least four times guests will exit rooms through secret panels or moving fireplaces.
It would appear that people are sometimes alerted to a secret door by a creaking noise.




The Gallery is the scene of the "ghost chase" on a balcony and an assault by Hairy that prevents use of the main door, forcing the group to use a sliding side panel to escape.  The movements of the guide and the group are complex and interesting, but I'll leave it each reader to decipher them, since your guesses are probably as good as mine anyway.  The "secret passage" by which the group moves around to the position from which they will view the Bedroom is unfinished, a precursor to the HM attic scene.  The Bedroom scene was intended to host a number of humorous gags and effects, including a glimpse into a bathroom.







In the oval "Salon" the group will view the Headless Horseman ride by through a huge cyclorama scene outside the large windows.  Skeletal ghosts fly up from graves and approach the house.  Naturally, guests will congregate in front of those windows.  The guide will go over to open the doors opposite—only to have a carpenter's corpse fall out on him!  The group exits by way of a "moving fireplace."



The "Ghost Arrival" room is the one with the hanging corpse gag overhead, closely anticipating the stretching galleries in the finished HM.  Outside the windows are stormy tableaux, with more skeletal ghosts going by.  The central pit seems to be a holdover from a version featuring a man-eating octopus.  For that gag, was Anderson inspired by the scary giant squid display at the 20,000 Leagues exhibit in Tomorrowland?


At any rate, the newly-discovered markings on the plan suggest a motive for retaining this architectural feature in some
form, since it has the effect of making the room into a pathway.  The group has to organize again into three lines before
exiting into the "traveling ghosts" hallway, forerunner to the hitchhiking ghost gag.  (See "Salon" above for that room.)



The "Drawing Room" is all mirrors (two-way), and guests see among themselves all the ghostly
guests assembling for the big wedding.  The group exits onto the "Great Hall" balcony.



Barricades restrict guests to only one part of the balcony, which would be necessary in order to enable the use of a Pepper's Ghost effect, and Anderson has suggested that he intended to use such an effect here.  Speaking in reference to Walt Disney, Anderson said, "He also liked my idea of a plate glass on a forty-five degree angle so when you are looking down you don't know you are looking at a reflection" (quoted in Didier Ghez, Walt's People Volume 1: Talking Disney with the Artists Who Knew Him).

Note how the "bride" and "groom" characters enter from the sides and pair up in the center on the right.

Guests exit into a short hallway in which they apparently form loosely into lines again before entering the "Trophy Hall."  From there everyone exits into another unfinished hallway via another moving fireplace.



The "unfinished passage" between the Trophy Room and the Exit hall would seem to be the best place for an elevator bringing guests up to ground level, but there is nothing in the marks to indicate that.  The markings in the Exit hall itself, however, may suggest it.  Guests exit the main attraction into a "covered shelter," with benches to sit on and souvenirs to purchase, including wedding cake.



The shelter opens out into a paved courtyard (complete with "echo well"), a garden, and a
"family graveyard" which people can explore a bit before finally exiting through iron gates.





These ghostly markings on the Ghost House floor plan allow us to follow Anderson's thinking a little
more clearly as he plotted out the presentation in this impressive forerunner to the Haunted Mansion.
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A Major New Development

A second blueprint of the Ken Anderson Ghost House has come to light.  It represents a revised version of the original blueprint we have been examining above.  One of the features of the new bprint is the formal incorporation of exactly the hand-drawn crowd movement markings we see in the original.  From the top down:





The revisions are mostly minor, except at the end of the ride, beginning with the "Trophy Hall."  The line of exit is reconfigured and a "Blood Family Crypt" appears where the old exit was located.  The newer print clearly reflects the incorporation of the "Blood Family" story line developed subsequently to the original print.  Compare this section with the same section in the original:





11 comments:

  1. You've out-done yourself. This walkthrough of Ken's blueprints is FANTASTIC!

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  2. Thanks. I'm hoping that at some point we can learn whether anyone has noticed Ken's phantom markings before.

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  3. Completely enjoyed this entire series. Can't believe how many details and obscure historical facts you're researched and written about. Learned a lot of new things about the ride as well. Looking forward to more.

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  4. Re: Scary vs Silly

    Herb Ryman told me once that Walt responded to someone (maybe Marty) in a meeting that was lamenting the fact that the HM dealt in the occult and death, etc and that it was not very Disney, he retorted "You don't get it, we're going to make it funny".

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  5. Even at third hand, I don't see anything in that report that seems implausible. In view of Anderson's material, it seems like it was "both/and" from the beginning. It's interesting, but in successful horror/comedy hybrids, it's the humor that makes the horror palatable, rather than the other way around. You don't want the horror making the comedy...making it what? less comedic? Epic fail, as the kids say. So you take the horrible and "make it funny"; the movement is never the other way (on purpose, anyway). The underlying optimism is quintessential Disney: Horrible experience, but a happy ending. Keep looking up, people! Always darkest before the dawn, etc.

    POTC makes the point as well as anything. After all, the subject matter there is murder, torture, rape, larceny, and arson. I have my own ideas as to how such a thing can be made into lighthearted, humorous entertainment, but the bottom line is, it can be done (and they did it).

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  6. What isn't clear to me here is how to guests get back up to the ground level. Was it much like the final version, where guests go up incrementally throughout (without the drop back to the "ground level" of the graveyard)? I don't see any indications of stairs or ramps that guests actually use; the only stairs shown are set pieces. Was the entire guest path on a gradual incline perhaps?

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  7. My hunch is that in these plans Anderson simply bracketed and ignored the problem of walk-thru vs. conveyance, including the down-and-up for the underberm channel, pending a final decision on the best way to solve the problem. I'm now thinking that the ambiguity of the movements in the first room may be due to the fact that no account is taken at all of the elevator thing. We know from sketches and descriptions that he had a provisional plan for descent in the first room, and on this floor plan he's left a couple of convenient places right at the end where something could bring 'em up, but he hasn't put any of that into this drawing. That's my guess.

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  8. HBG2, what an amazing blog you have! I wonder why I haven't visited here before – this place is absolutely swarming with important and fascinating info that Jason Surrell SHOULD HAVE included in his very uninformative book about HM. The last time I've spent an entire night nose glued to the computer screen was probably a dozen years ago when I found out about Doombuggies.com. My sincere thanks for your amazing work! Your blog has answered to all those questions that the Second Edition of Surrell's book left unanswered to me – especially about this truly important development of HM's history. My admiration towards the one and only Ken Anderson only grows and grows after these kinds of revelations!

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  9. I have been designing Haunted House attractions for over 30 years now, and as a huge Haunted Mansion fan, this discussion and the close up look at the drawings is fascinating. Thanks for putting all this on paper. However, may I shine some light on the mysterious unseen markings on the plan. Back in a time before computers and CAD, plans like these were drawn on velum paper with lead pencil. You did this because there are always changes to be made and a pencil can be erased, - velum is cloth based to take multiple erasing. Back in the day draftsmen, saddled with large ares of a drawing that needed to be erased came up with a device called an electric eraser. A device that held erasure material the size of a whole pencil and with the push of a button would spin the eraser by motor. These were powerful and could go right through to the table if not used properly. There is no doubt in my mind that it was an electric eraser that made the marks you see on the enhanced photos of the Anderson plans. This fact lends credence to your position that the marks show patron action that was once drawn on the page, but later erased for some reason or another.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the insights! Very interesting information.

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