Sounds Long-Forgotteny to me, babe.
The Imagineers who created this most fascinating of all Disney attractions filled it pretty thick with groovy special effects (yes, groovy; we ARE talking 1969 here). By "special effects," I'm not referring to static design elements like faces in the wallpaper or gryphons carved into furniture. I'm talking about things that happen in the ride, spooky occurrences that betray the presence of a ghost. Some are spectacular and impossible to miss. Others get noticed after a few rides. Still others are entirely missed by some but nevertheless seen by others. To my own everlasting shame, I never noticed the Hatchet Man portrait in the COD until well into the 21st century, when it was called to my attention.
Having nothing better to do one afternoon, I asked myself, "Self, what is the least noticed ghostly effect in the Haunted Mansion? Something that was made to be seen and yet is rarely noticed, even by Mansionological veterans and fanatics of standing?" I figured it would be worth a post, because said item is supposed to be part of the overall experience of the ride, and yet for 99.9% it is not.
There's some stiff competition here. I did an informal poll among the inmates over at The Haunted Mansion Fan Club and pretty much got the results I expected. It seems to me there are four strong contenders for this dubious distinction. As it happens, we've covered three of the four before, so I won't waste too much bandwidth on them here, but I will make a few new remarks about some of them before turning to number four.
One reason these are rarely noticed is because they are often out of commission, sometimes for years or even decades, before they get fixed. Currently, three and possibly all four are inoperative, and in such cases one wonders if they have been permanently decommissioned, or "Yesterlanded" in Disney parlance. What makes these four different is that even when they are there, they are missed by the vast majority of guests.
The Traveling Light
This first one was the subject of a post, HERE, and there's nothing more to say at this point. It's not certain whether it's currently in operation at Disneyland, because the shorter hours in effect since reopening in May of 2021 mean it doesn't really get dark enough long enough to see if it's there. It's easily my favorite of the four.
The Cold-Air Blast
This one too has been discussed in an earlier post. Of the four, it's the one most likely to be permanently Yesterlanded, at least at Disneyland. (It still works at WDW and presumably Tokyo.) To briefly recap, there are air-conditioning ducts pointed at you in the Endless Hallway area, with the intention of creating a "cold spot" in this location. It's been missing for so long at DL that some doubt it was ever there, but according to Paul Saunders, it certainly was, at least in the beginning.
Again, the difference between a missing and possibly-Yesterlanded effect like this and other such effects, such as the attic popups and bats, or various and sundry Séance Circle items (second drum, good ol' Purply Shroud, the ectoplasm ball), is that even when operative it was easily missed, and hence few remember it at all.
The Blowing Drapes
These were discussed in the same post as our previous remarks about the Cold Air blast, but some additional comments are in order about how difficult the effect is to notice.
The effect was there in the beginning, and in the past (alas, increasingly distant) I noticed it on numerous occasions, but it's been a long time since I've seen it in operation. I can't see any reason why it would be canceled altogether, since it's so simple. It's just a fan, for cryin' out loud. It's probably like the Traveling Light, an effect so little noticed that when broken, it tends to stay broken for a long time.
When the drapes in the door next to the so-called "Donald Duck" chair are blowing, even though easily overlooked, they are still noticed by enough visitors to knock this puppy out of the competition for any "least-noticed effect" award. Not so with the other door where the effect is supposed to be. At Disneyland, that one was / is virtually invisible.
The problem is in the way the doombuggies turn. On the blueprint above you can see that the first door on the left should easily be visible to riders, with drapes a-blowin', but when they put the actual ride together they adjusted the buggies so that they start turning to the right much sooner, with the result that by the time you pass the doorway it's behind you.
Whatever you do, my friends, don't look behind you!!!
With enough effort you might be able to see it, but it's usually so dark over there that even if you do you're not likely to see much. I doubt that one rider out of a hundred even knows that the door is there. In this night-vision video from 2013, you can see how difficult it is to see its full length, even if it were light enough. The other doorway's drapes seem to be blowing on this occasion (hat tip ThemeParkHD):
- (1) There are no references to it on the effects blueprints or on maintenance lists, at least not the ones that I have seen.
- (2) The fruit bowl is missing entirely from pre-opening publicity photos and WED test film footage.
- (3) It doesn't seem to be there in the 1974 "Sandy Duncan visits the HM" footage, and in fact clear video proof of the fruit bowl effect doesn't show up until 1992.
- (4) The centerpiece on the Pepper's Ghost set-up directly beneath your doombuggy as you pass by was certainly altered at some point from a black post with a fruit bowl on top to a more complete fixture with both the fruit bowl and the foliage on either side. Perhaps the older, post version was just a mask for the centerpiece and the change actually marks when the rejuvenating fruit effect was first introduced.