Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that 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, After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (NY: Disney Editions; 2015). That's the
re-named third edition of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY:
Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009). Also essential reading is Jeff Baham's The Unauthorized
Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion (USA: Theme Park Press, 2014; 2nd ed. 2016).

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.


Friday, May 28, 2010

The Bride and the Leaping Skull


In evaluating the thematic cohesion of the original attic, in which the two blast-up ghosts foreshadowed the Hat Box Ghost, who in turn was husband to the Beating Heart bride, I thought it would be helpful to re-create the original bride in her original position as much as possible, showing how the second blast-up may have looked positioned directly in front of her.

It should be stipulated that it is possible that no blast-up was in that location when the HM opened.  The blueprints show that as of May 1969 there was no popup planned for there.  They show instead a popup at the right side of the attic exit, just inside the attic.  I have no recollection of that arrangement, and I suspect but cannot now prove that they decided to move the popup (a blast-up type) to its position in front of the bride before the ride opened.  A blast-up was in that spot until Constance showed up in 2006, and no one seems to remember a popup by the exit.

According to Tony Baxter, documentary evidence suggests that "a lot of drapery material made from transparent plastic" was there with the bride. In reality, we now know (thanks to new evidence rediscovered in August 2013) that between the two attic posts in front of her was stretched, floor to ceiling and post to post, a sheet of plastic or nylon, and perhaps this is the fabric that Tony was referring to.  It probably would have served the purpose of making her look cloudier or distorted.  This accords very well with my personal memories, which I described in 2007 like this:  "Well, when we saw her there 8/14/69 my brother and I both thought she looked murky. The fabric [of which Tony B spoke] plus the figure plus the adjacent wooden attic structure almost made her look like she was standing in a doorway or cabinet or something. My theory is that they were worried that a simple figure so close to the track would just look like a mannequin, and they deliberately tried to obscure her a bit."  
At that time I knew nothing about the plastic/nylon screen between the parallel attic posts. That would explain the impression of her standing in a cabinet or doorway.

There are no photos, but some murky film footage emerged in July of 2011, and together with other clues we have established that this version of Beating Heart was the "Corpse Bride" version.  I've worked up a pair of photoshops of the scene, one with the blast-up hidden and one with it in sight.  If this is indeed what was there originally, the way the two figures were arranged violently juxtaposed them.  Their relationship would have been made clear by the Hat Box Ghost.

Just to get your bearings, here's the same scene pre-Constance, in 2002.  Note the piano on the far right, added in 1995.

And here's the same scene today, uglified by the flash but useful for getting your spatial orientation.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Hat Box Ghost

(animated gif by Boogafrito)
I'm interrupting our bride series because I'm hoping to get permission to use some very fine photos.  Seems like as good a time as any to turn to the attic's other famous resident, her groom. (Please note that this post was written several years before the return of the Hat Box Ghost in May of 2015. That event is discussed  HERE.)

The Hat Box Ghost:  Fact and Fiction

If this were the mid-1990s, an article on the Hat Box Ghost would have to spend a lot of space (1) explaining what the heck the "Hat Box Ghost" is, and (2) arguing that such a figure once existed.  It was a classic case of a "Long-Forgotten Haunted Mansion Effect."

What a difference 15 years makes—especially if a little thing that starts with "www" explodes during those 15 years.  Now the problem with writing about the Hat Box Ghost is how to say something that hasn't already been said umpteen times, and how not to alienate readers who are tired of hearing about him.  In some ways I can't blame them.  When the merchandizing arm of Disney began planning how best to celebrate the Haunted Mansion's 40th anniversary (and how best to soak the fans for every spare nickel), they decided to make the HBG their main mascot and plastered his visage all over the place: HBG on posters, HBG on online announcements, HBG pins, computer-animated HBG hosting the Haunted Holidays website—you couldn't escape the HBG's evil grin if you paid any attention to the HM 40th at all.  Frankly, I couldn't wait for it to be over and gone.

For readers who still need the basic facts about the HBG, there are good treatments herehere and here.  (If some of what follows sounds suspiciously similar to what you find at those links, it's not because I'm ripping them off; it's because I had a hand in their composition.)  Most of the known photographs of the HBG can be seen at those links as well.  They've been posted and re-posted ad infinitum (some would say ad nauseum).  Nowadays, you can even feast your eyes on schematic and electrical diagrams for the figure.  Among the photos, one stands out.  It's unique, and it's regarded by many aficionados as the most precious photographic relic of all time from the Mansion's entire history:

This photo simultaneously explodes two myths.  It proves that he did exist and was installed in the ride, and it proves that the general public did see him.  This shot is taken from a doombuggy.  It is highly unlikely that Cast Members were allowed to take flash photos during their pre-opening preview (the "soft opening") or that one of them would have foolishly risked his/her job by trying to take one on the sly. This is not a professional photo either. Just about the only thing it can be is a tourist snapshot. Any remaining doubt, however, was obliterated forever in July of 2011, when some amazing home movie footage was posted at Disney History Institute It includes actual film of the Hat Box Ghost taken in August 1969.

That's exactly the sort of horizontal sweep that allows one to construct a 3D "magic eye" photo:

I'll be danged.  The original Hatbox Ghost in 3D.  Who'da thought we'd ever see that?

Well, what can I say here that hasn't been said everywhere else?  How about a couple of eyewitness testimonies?  Here's my lovely little tale, something I've recounted many times.  If you've heard this one before, let it scroll, baby, scroll.  Our family had our usual annual DL trip during the first week of August, 1969.  On the Jungle Cruise, between Trader Sam and the dock, the skipper asked us if anyone knew what was happening this weekend.  Nope.  In a basso profundo, he told us that the Haunted Mansion was opening, wisecracking that as usual Disney only took ten years to build a ride.  My brother and I went from ecstasy to despair in the course of about three seconds.  We had been waiting it seemed like forever for that old house to open its gates.  Now we had barely missed it and would have to wait a whole year to see it.  Reasonably enough, we concluded that life stank.

Well, a week or so later, some business or other required us all to ride through Anaheim, and as we passed within eyesight of the park, my Dad suddenly asked my brother and me if we'd like to go in for a couple of hours (it was already late in the day).  This was unheard of.  Once or twice a year was about it for our family DL trips, and the visits were never close together.  He knew how badly we wanted to see the haunted house, and—bless 'im—he just decided to indulge us this once.

Ka-chow.  Speed, I am speed.  I'm racing down Main Street, swinging through Adventureland, knocking over old ladies (kidding, just kidding), and getting into the looooooooong line.  I've got some great memories from that day.  I've told you about the hitchhiking ghosts in the mirror.  But in retrospect the most valuable has turned out to be my memory of seeing the Hat Box Ghost.  This was August 14th, Thursday of opening week.

As our doombuggy turned to scoot into the attic, the first blast-up ghost caught me just perfectly, just exactly as designed.  It's one of those things that can only really surprise you once, and luckily for me the timing was exquisite.  There were the other pop-up ghosts too, of course.  The methodical screams and squeals every few seconds pretty much advertised their presence. Coming up soon on the left was this murky, bridal figure, back among the rafters and debris.  The first time through I don't think either of us even recognized that she was a bride.   And at the end of the attic scene there was this well-illuminated, creepy little old man in the corner on the right, wearing a cloak and top hat, and holding a...I guess that's a hat box?, with his hand quavering on top of his cane, as if he was a very old man.  Very creepy, and unlike anything else in the attic.  It is my recollection that in the course of what must have been two or three or four rides that day I noticed that the hat box would slowly light up and had a head inside.  I noticed nothing unusual about the other head.  It wasn't disappearing and reappearing, like we learned later it was supposed to.  You know, like this:

(animated gif by maddartist Larry Higbee)

And that was it.  On our next visit several weeks later (with a church youth group—we really got lucky with DL visits that year), the weird little old man was gone, and the bride was in his spot.  I figured this was a temporary situation, that something was wrong with the little guy.  Even at the age of 14, I knew that figures disappeared from rides now and then for repairs, but they always came back.  For a long, long time—far longer than seems rational—I always looked for him whenever we visited DL, thinking he might be back.  Not until 2002 and the discovery of did I learn enough about what had come to be called "The Hat Box Ghost" to know that he had never really come back.

In conversation with the one other trustworthy eyewitness that I've found (a guy who went on to work with Marc Davis for some 14 years, incidentally), more details emerged.  He visited the park often in those early days.  He tells me that the first time he saw the HBG his face did indeed disappear and flash into the hat box, but the next time the effect didn't work right:  the face was continually lit, but the hatbox face continued to flash on and off.  (This is what I remember.)  Another time the face was completely blackened while the hatbox continued to flash away.  He says that later on, at least once, they moved the bride out of his spot and tried the figure yet again.

Now, these are the recollections of one person from when he was 11 years old, so the usual precautions about the deceptiveness of memory apply, but the account is inherently plausible, and together with other testimonies, a tentative history can be patched together.

The HBG was definitely there for the "soft opening" and seen by Cast Members August 7—8.  It was noticed immediately that the effect didn't work very well (catching problems is one of the reasons they have CM "soft openings," after all).  They pulled him out before the HM opened to the public the next day, Saturday the 9th, but he was already re-installed by the 10th. Thanks to maintenance records discovered by Tony Baxter in 2013, we know that the figure was certainly in use for at least a couple of weeks. They tried to get the effect to work. After removing and reinstalling the figure—perhaps several times—they finally gave up and permanently removed him. This explains why some early riders, even opening-day riders, have no recollection of the figure, and the false notion that he was never seen by the public became such common currency that it wound up in the first edition of Jason Surrell's generally reliable book, The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (2003).  Significantly, in the second edition (2009), this denial has been watered down to an admission that maybe the public saw him.

What was the problem?  Various reasons have been given, but the most likely explanation is that the effect didn't work. The face was painted with fluorescent paint that glows under a black light.  It was supposed to disappear when the focused black light spotlight on it was turned off. The problem was that there was too much ambient light in the attic for the face to fully disappear on a figure so close to the track, and the illusion was unconvincing.  After he was removed, the bride was shifted to his spot so that the attic would still have a climax of sorts, and that was that.

The Hat Box Ghost:  Becoming a Legend

So.... how did this failed character become such a legend, almost a cult hero?  Well, you can credit (or blame) the souvenir record albums, first and foremost.  Both the "Story and Song" LP, intended for older kids and young teens, and the children's record describe him in some detail and feature him prominently in their artwork.  These records were popular and were sold at the parks for years.  This means that an entire generation of HM fans grew up hearing about the ghost and seeing his image.  He is described in connection with the bride in the attic.  Well, here's the attic, and there's the bride.  This is where that ghost with the hat box is supposed to be.  So where is he?  The records ensured that he was never going to be completely forgotten.  In short, you can credit a lot of the Hat Box mystique to these words...

The Hat Box Ghost on the Children's Record

The Hat Box Ghost on the "Story and Song" album

...and to these images:

Note that the "Story and Song" LP cover puts him smack dab in the middle, like he owns the place:

He also gets his own page in the 11-page booklet included with the album:

The other thing that kept the HBG flame lit was Disney's use and reuse of publicity shots for the HM featuring the HBG.  It seems that sometime in the latter part of 1968 Disney decided they would need some eye-catching promotional photos to include with press releases about the soon-to-be-opened Haunted Mansion.  Special effects whiz Yale Gracey was recruited, and he struck a series of whimsical poses with HM ghosts, most of them reflected cleverly in a sheet of glass (the old "Pepper's Ghost" trick) or double-exposed.  There were a lot of these, giving newspapers a wide assortment from which to choose.

Not only that, but numerous poses from the same photo session were usually released, giving the papers even more choices within choices.  As it turned out, the most popular shot was Yale posing with a HBG prototype (not the actual figure).

At least eight different pictures from that particular photo shoot found their way into various publications.

(The prototype head had much more detail than the final production figure [see both below],
but they are the same head. The difference between the two is paint and nothing more.)

Disney used these photos in their own publications, naturally.

The significant thing is that Disney continued to recycle these, even after the HM had opened.  The shot below appeared in a popular souvenir history book, Disneyland: The First Quarter Century, published in 1979, as well as in subsequent incarnations of the book (...The First 30 Years; ...The first 35 Years).  In the book's treatment of the HM, the HBG was the only ghost shown, since this was the only "interior" HM photo in the spread:

Naturally, anyone familiar with the record albums recognized the HBG immediately and was set to wondering whether it had, in fact, existed.  Look Fred!  There it is in a photo!  Thanks to this misleading photo, and perhaps others in the series, some people (including Tony Baxter at one point) concluded that the HBG effect was accomplished through the use of a Pepper's Ghost illusion.

So you've got the souvenir record albums and you've got the Yale and HBG photos.  Last but not least, there was a groundbreaking article about the HBG in E-Ticket magazine #32 (Fall 1999), including never-before-seen photos of the actual figure.  Imagineer Chris Merritt, a long-time HBG aficionado, can be credited with exhuming most of this new material from long-forgotten files in the WED/WDI archives.  In turn, Jeff Baham and gave the Merritt/E-Ticket material wide exposure, recapping it for the Internet-savvy HM fan and adding a few new tidbits as well.

You often hear another detail that is supposed to deepen the mystery:  All the original molds for the figure have disappeared without a trace!  This claim may have been true when Tony Baxter first made it, but it's been false now for years. The original mold for the head was located and used in the creation of the new Hatbox Ghost (May 2015), and the mold is labeled "hatbox figure." Other than the head, there were never any exclusive molds to be lost.  His hands are identical to the hands on the guy trying to open his coffin.  His hat is the same thing the coachman and the picnic guy in the graveyard scene originally wore.  There are no other molded parts to the figure, just aluminum tubing, wire, costuming, and wads of plastic wrap.

Put it all together, friends, and it's no mystery why a sort of Hat Box mystique began to develop.  He was the ghost of a ghost, leaving an ongoing sense of his absence in the attic.  He was a palpable presence there, made real only by memory.  A mystery.  An enigma.  The perfect place for a ghost, living his unlife somewhere between your imagination and the solid walls of the Mansion.  Best ghost in the house, some would say, because he's there but you never see him.  Hey, who am I to disagree?

I came up with a photoshop to try to give some inkling of what he looked like, and now even that stupid picture has been sucked into the vortex of HBG misinformation.  It has been taken as genuine by many people—including Disney, who used it at their Haunted Holidays website!

This thing was even included in a display at the Disney Gallery on Main Street in Disneyland, in July 2014!

It's a photoshop, people.  It's. Not. Real.  I even made some "magic eye" 3Ds out of it:

The Hat Box Ghost:  The Background

Oboy, this is the good part.  Shut up, it is too.

We have already remarked in earlier posts how the HM gags had to be instantly recognizable, jokes you could "get" in a split second.  We saw how the Mummy tableau in the graveyard represented a rare failure in this regard.  What about the HBG?  What's the background there?

Dude, this one works.  Let's say you're (1) watching a scary movie, and (2) the "OMG-something-horrible's-about-to-happen" music starts up, and (3) the camera directs your attention to a round hatbox sitting there by itself.  What do you think is in it?  Oh come on, this is an easy one.  There's a severed head in there.  Gotta be.  This is a no-brainer (um, okay, that's probably not the best choice of words).  Why is it that when you look at a round hatbox in anything like an ominous atmosphere, you CAN'T avoid the dreadful suspicion that there's a severed head in it?  Well, for one thing, the motif is a Hollywood cliché, being used in a number of films.  For example:
  • Night Must Fall (1937) remake: 1964
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • The Thing That Couldn't Die (1958)
  • Crazy in Alabama (1999)
For another, the motif is also found in pop-culture print media.  Here's a 1968 paperback for your viewing pleasure (you sicko):

[Further examples of the same motif have been brought to our attention by readers in the Comments: "The Screaming Skull" (story) and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (film).]

The main contributer among all these is probably Night Must Fall, which was first a play, then a film, then a radio adaptation, then a film remake.  The stage version is still performed, and the films were international hits.

Still, I have to wonder how those relatively modest sources created such a universally recognized symbol.  I almost want to go rummaging around in Freudian or Jungian categories, but I won't.  Let's go back into the attic; that's creepy enough.

The original attic in DL's Haunted Mansion was a LOT more coherent and thematically sophisticated than it is given credit for.  It's not uncommon for fans to point to the two major overhauls of the room as proof that the Imagineers were never satisfied with it, that it was the weakest room in the HM, etc., etc.

Bull-only.  Back in the day, what was the first ghost you saw when you went into the attic?  A skull-like head leaping out of a round hatbox, that's what.  Here he is in glorious 3D, and if you think that's cool, check out the same thing animated.  (Boogafrito, you rock.)

You go a little further, and just in case you missed it the first time, there it is again, this time on the left: a skull-like head jumping out of a round hatbox.

Practically right behind that second blast-up stands the original bride in her original spot.  (That standing screen wasn't there in the old days.)  Her heartbeat fills the room, so her presence fills the room.  Is she dangerous or just sort of sad?  The attic also has three regular ol' head-on-a-stick pop-ups.  They're probably a tribute to traditional spook houses, like everyone says, but they also add a touch of...I don't the atmosphere.  Finally, you see the climax of the scene: the Hat Box Ghost.  Holy crap, now you know what was being foreshadowed.  It's the groom!  Apparently, the Imagineers assumed from the beginning that you would assume—and correctly so—that this is the groom to the bride.  How did he get beheaded, and how came his head to be hidden in a hatbox?  The ride only gives you one real suspect to contemplate, and of course that's the bride.  Remember, her presence fills the room, and the hat box head is hideously-mockingly flipping back and forth in synch with her heartbeat.  You leave the attic full of dark suspicions.  A grisly crime, a shadowy suspect, a perverse nuptial.   Clues to something, but only clues.

The severed-head-in-a-hatbox motif dominated the original attic, and it worked because it is an instantly recognizable visual cliché drawn from the vast pop-cultural milieu of horror, crime, and mystery.  Removing the Hat Box Ghost removed the linchpin of the entire presentation, taking away the unifying climax.  It left the bride without any connection to the blast-up ghosts, and it left the blast-up ghosts without anything to distinguish them from the other pop-ups.  The overhauls of 1995 and 2006 were essentially attempts to repair the artistic damage that was done mere weeks after the Mansion opened in 1969.

Just to clinch the fact that the blast-up ghosts are indeed foreshadowing the Hat Box Ghost, it may be noted that Yale Gracey originally intended them to be much more explicitly skulls.  Compare his early sketch with the actual schematic for the effect:

He even built one like that.  You can barely see the top of it in this photo of Yale in his workshop.  It's at the bottom in the extreme foreground.  If you can "magic eye" it, it's much easier to see.  (I'm telling you kids, it's a skill worth acquiring).  If that isn't a "rocket skull" in a leather hatbox, then it has something to do with the Hat Box Ghost himself, I'll bet.

Speaking of leather hatboxes, that one in the Yale photo looks like it could be the actual one used in the ride, which is curious because...

I suppose I could take that further, but I'll quit while I'm a head.

If you're paying attention, you might have noticed how little the attic of today has departed from the original, thematically.  Next up, when we start taking a look at Constance, we'll see how closely related the old and the new attics are.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Here Comes the Bride, Part Three: Black and Blue

(The post was extensively rewritten in October, 2019 and May-June, 2020.)

                            Disneyland Goes Black

Sometime in the late 1970's, but before the end of 1979, the face of the original Corpse Bride at Disneyland was changed. This was the new look: a blackened face with hollow, round eyes. 

I now think (2019) it will be most helpful to refer to this version as
the "black faced bride." It looks like her entire head was changed:

How different did she look? Here are a couple of side-by-side comparisons to help you imagine:

When the black faced bride debuted, it was obviously a throwback to some earlier Marc Davis concepts (see Part One). The Disneyland story is slightly different from the Orlando story, so we'll tell them one at a time.  That one at the top of the post is a Disneyland photo. Hey, how about a "magic eye" 3-D image?  Get used to these, folks; I've got a million of 'em.  Use the practice thingy over there on the right and maybe you can get the hang of it if you can't already do it.  At worst, you get two images for the price of one, so what is there to complain about?  From 1990:

For many, including your blog administrator, this is still the classic bride.  She's scary precisely because she is ambiguous.  Is she evil and threatening?  Or is she forlorn and tragic?  Is she gonna get you or is she going to plead with you for help?  The candle suggests a searching figure, which in turn suggests victimhood.  Bad guys don't search around with candles; they LIKE it dark (see John 3:20).  But I dunno, Beating Heart still gives you the creeps.  Indeed, she's the number one suspect in the murder of the Hat Box Ghost, but since he's gone, she's what the FBI calls a "person of interest."

Disneyland Turns Blue

In September of 1995 (many sources erroneously date this to the 80's), the Imagineers decided to beef up the attic scene (unnecessarily, in my book).  They put in a phantom piano player plunking out a distorted wedding march and made the pop-up ghosts stop their screeching and start yelling "I do" in a mocking sort of way. They replaced the bride's black head with a blue one. It looks kinda green in this photo, but in others it is more clearly a pale blue.

The idea, I guess, was to give the bride more of a personality.
This widely-reproduced photograph makes her look kind of sweet.

Maybe too sweet.  Here's another shot in which she looks a little tougher:

Pulling her veil down over her face somehow made her look scarier. These shots by professional photogs make it easy to compare "black face" with "blue face." With the veil, I'll grant that blue looks creepy, but still not as creepy as black.

In 2006 they overhauled the attic yet again, replacing Beating Heart and the pop-up groomsmen with Constance and her grisly wedding portraits. The ambiguity is now gone; she's threatening and definitely not forlorn; plus she's something that no other version of the bride has ever been: comic. People definitely take sides over Constance. You like her or you don't. Me, I dislike having a full-blown storyline foisted on me, excluding me from the imaginative process and making me a spectator only. That makes it boring. And that's without even considering how well the character fits into its context (meh) or how well the effect is executed (double meh). We'll talk more about Constance in an upcoming post.

I would vote to bring back Beating Heart in a heartbeat.

Meanwhile in Orlando

UPDATED June 2020: As best we can piece together the clues, the Orlando story goes like this: The bride started out as a milder version of the Corpse Bride, but with slit-like eyes. They must not have liked it, because that version lasted only about two years. In 1973 (as best we can tell), they opened her eyes (almost made them round) and eliminated the Corpse Bride look in favor of the dark-faced version, several years earlier than Disneyland's bride. At least in photos, the black-faced version looks not so much black as very dark blue, as in these Kenneth Sundberg shots from '89 and '90.  They played around with the veil and the bouquet quite a bit in Orlando as well.

This widely-reproduced pic is undated, but she looks a lot like the '89 model above, except veiled.

The real revolution came in 1997, when she got her pale blue face. Unlike DL's blue-faced version, the Florida bride also got a wild hairdo, and she was finally elevated off the floor like Anaheim's bride, giving her a floating effect. Fans were installed to billow out her dress and hair.

Speaking of fans, a lot of Orlando Mansion freaks didn't really like this version ("the smurf bride"), preferring the spookier Disneyland version. The Imagineers were continually tinkering with her face, and unfortunately the figure frequently fell into disrepair (a big problem at WDW in those days). Here she is in 1997 or 1998; in 2001 (+ or - a year); and in 2006.

(pix by Allen Huffmann and Mick2005)

"Smurfette" is probably a little unfair.  Some people who were there tell me she
actually looked pretty good, at least at first, and some photos bear this judgment out:

Here's a killer recreation by Brandon Hardy:

But just as was the case at DL, the blue-faced bride tends to look less threatening than forlorn (yes, I realize I'm overusing that word). Oddly enough, with the popup ghosts, WDW did the opposite of DL. Whereas the Ahaheim spooks were dressed the same as always but now shouted "I do," like groomsmen, in Florida they were dressed as groomsmen, but they screamed and screeched the same as always. For some reason Orlando was spared the "I do's."

Next up, Constance Hatchaway.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Here Comes the Bride, Part Two: "Beating Heart"

(This post was extensively rewritten in October, 2019 and in May-June, 2020.)

That was her name, or title, I suppose you'd say.  "Beating Heart."  It's on all the blueprints and on the schematics for the figure herself, but somehow it never made its way into public usage. As we saw in the previous post, the title was originally attached to the Moving-Lights ghost, who had picked up several features from an earlier ghost.

In our last exciting episode, we traced BH's roots from the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall to the red-hearted candle bearer in the attic.  The project had proceeded to scale model phase, and still the attic ghostette wasn't clearly recognizable as a bride.  This final touch to the character was probably added late in 1968. The script for the "Story and Song" album refers to her as a bride, and this script in turn closely follows a '68 show script by X. Atencio.  Whose idea was it to turn this ghost into a bride, anyway?

Ken Anderson makes a contribution, early in the process. He wrote a large number of show scripts in 1957-58.  The first script in particular (Feb '57) is often cited as the beginning of our attic bride.  In it, Beauregard the butler directs our attention to a painting and tells the sad story of Captain Bartholomew Gore and his young bride Priscilla.

Priscilla discovers the horrible truth that her husband is, in fact, a bloodthirsty pirate, and when he finds this out, he kills her by locking her in a trunk (in most versions of the story; there are several).  The ghost of his unfortunate young bride comes back for vengeance and eventually drives Capt. Gore to suicide.  Now the place is haunted.  Bingo, haunted house.

A bride, murdered in a trunk, haunting the house, looking for revenge.  Case closed.  They got the attic bride idea from Ken Anderson.

Well . . . not so fast. There are a couple of things missing here.  Like the attic.  And the bride.

Anderson came up with more than one version of the sea captain story. In the first one, Pris and Gore are already married. She is only a "bride" in the secondary sense that she was wed not very long ago. In none of the artwork is Priscilla wearing a wedding gown.

In an alternate version of the story, Pris and Gore are not yet married, only betrothed, and once she makes her grim discovery—she refuses to marry him. In that one, Priscilla is almost but not yet a bride and never dons a wedding gown at all. As for the location of the murder, I'll grant that it's easy to picture the trunk in which she died as being located in the attic, but it isn't. Anderson actually places it in the cellar. (Perhaps our memories of the numerous bodies-in-trunks in the Mansion attic—the popups—are playing tricks with our imaginations here.) So there does not seem to be an attic murder scene or an actual bride figure in Anderson's first script.

It should be mentioned that one re-telling of the story does have Priscilla actually wearing her wedding gown as she prys open Gore's pirate trunk in the attic on her wedding day. That article is by esteemed Disney historian Jim Korkis and is a 2014 re-working of a similar article by Korkis published at Jim Hill Media in 2003 (under the pseudonym "Wade Sampson"). Much of the older article is reproduced verbatim in the new one, with the result that Korkis introduces a contradiction into his narrative. In the 2014 version Priscilla is killed in her gown on her wedding day, but in the 2003 version, still visible as part of the 2014 article, Gore is "an old sea captain who had married a young woman named Priscilla." In a 2007 article, published in Disney Vacation Magic magazine, Korkis says that Gore "kills his bride on their wedding day," without giving any details about her attire or her location.

As long as Anderson's actual Captain Gore notes remain unpublished, we are in the dark here.

Anderson's other scripts, at any rate, get us a little closer to our ghostly bride. In one, "Monsieur Bogeyman" is planning to marry "Mlle. Vampire," and all kinds of famous spooks and monsters are showing up (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.).  She jilts him at the altar, and things get ugly.  (Truth be told, I'm very thankful that one ended up on the cutting room floor.)  In another, the narrator guides you through the house toward a wedding reception.  It seems the ghosts of the luckless Blood family have been trying to complete the tragically-interrupted marriage plans of one of their daughters, and sure enough, you do eventually see a ghostly wedding banquet of sorts taking place.

Anderson can be credited with the notion that a wedding gone awry would make a good basis for a haunted house, and in some of his scripts he does show you ghost brides. This might be a good place to ask the question: "Do we ever encounter a ghost bride in popular (or unpopular) culture before now?" Somehow she feels familiar, or at least not odd, but examples of ghost brides are less common than you might expect. Nevertheless:

From Judy, Or The London Serio-Comic Journal, 1876. Hat tip Craig Conley

Doombuggies found another example.

Okay, so when do we get to see a ghost bride in Haunted Mansion artwork? Well, we left off at 1968 in the
previous post, but we are going to need to back up, because Mare Davis did a sketch of a ghost bride in 1964.

MDIHOW (342)

The Haunted Mansion project was put on ice for the remainder of 1964 and 1965, while the New York World's Fair consumed everyone's attention. When it was over, the Pirates ride sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the room. It really wasn't until 1968 that Marc returned to the HM in earnest. At that time he did more bride sketches:

MDIHOW (397)

It's possible that this Davis sketch of a ghost bride on a stairway landing was done about this time.


Obviously, Davis liked the ghost bride idea, and we may speculate that one day the light bulb clicked on, and he realized that his weird "Beating Heart" ghostette could be conflated yet again with a different ghost, this time the bride.

At last our elusive ghost has donned a wedding gown.

One final decision remained, however. It was decided at some point that the bride should have a corpse-like face. It used to be thought that Marc's "changing portrait" showing a forlorn bride turning into a corpse belongs here, but it has been plausibly explained that this isn't a changing portrait at all but an effects concept showing how the attic bride could be transformed from one stage to the other (presumably through projections of some sort). Since there is no trace here of Moving-Lights (no beating heart, no bubbling weirdness), my guess is that it pre-dates Marc's decision to merge the ghost bride with Beating Heart. See the Comments.

The ghost we finally got was actually a combination of three different characters:
Anderson's candle-holder, Davis's Moving-Lights ghost, and a "corpse bride."

They put Beating Heart in exactly the spot occupied by the maquette figure in the scale model; that is, on the left side, and a little ways to the left of the spot where today there is a ghostly piano (I'm talking DL, of course).  For you young'uns with short memories, her heart glowed red and visibly pumped back and forth, while the sound filled the attic:  Lub dub.  Lub dub.

That's where BH was on opening day, and that's where I remember seeing her on August 14th. Some new information that came to light a few years ago reveals that a large plastic sheet (called "nylon 6") was in front of her, stretching from post to post and floor to ceiling, probably with the intent of making her appear fuzzier. That too jibes with my memory. I remember her slowly rocking back and forth in an area that reminded me of a door frame, and yeah, she was definitely murky.

She was there for perhaps a month.  When the (infamous) Hatbox Ghost, which was located near the exit on the right, failed to perform as hoped and was removed, BH was transplanted to his old spot.  There she remained from approximately early September 1969 until May 2006, when she jumped the track to the other side and became Constance, that zany hubby-whackin' axe murderer.

What did that original "Beating Heart" bride look like?  Her body was essentially that of the Moving-Lights ghost in a wedding dress, and it remained so right up until she was replaced by Constance. Many of you have probably never seen the Moving-Lights body in action. It's very clear in certain WDW videos:

It may be possible to detect it also in this 1990 video of the Anaheim bride:

bubbling at DL 90

It's difficult to say how conspicuous this bubbling effect really was. In WDW videos from about 1993 until the advent of Constance in 2007 it's very clear, and you can also see it in a rare 1976 video of the original WDW bride, but in most videos from either HM it's not visible at all. It may be that this simply reflects the capabilities of video photography at the time, but what I suspect is that the rippling, bubbling effect was toned down or even turned off for most of the bride's history, and in all of the Mansions. Nevertheless, in the schematic for the figure you can plainly see the loops of small light bulbs built into her frame, ready to go. Note that only her left leg has lights in it. Compare that with the 1990 video of the DL bride above, which plainly shows inner lighting only in that leg.

We know more about the appearance of her face. In the beginning it bore a strong resemblance to the corpse phase of the Marc Davis "changing portrait" above, and for that reason this first version of the bride has picked up the name "Corpse Bride." For the Disneyland original, we have a number of good photos of the figure, from pre-opening photos of the figure before installation, down to 1975. Here's a montage:

Here's one of the oldest photos we've got, dating from 1969 or 1970, by Greg Ziak. Although
it's very early, it was nevertheless taken after her move across the attic to the Hatbox Ghost's spot.

Greg Ziak

We also catch a fleeting glimpse of her in the background of a scene from the March 1970 Disneyland Showtime episode, which featured the Osmond brothers and showcased the new Haunted Mansion.  The program was filmed in January or February of that year, so we're mere months past opening day.  The Osmonds glimpse may seem hopeless, but here's what happens if we blur and fade one of the above photos and put it alongside the Osmonds bride (which is on the right). It's kinda amazing.

However, even that is not the oldest photography of the original bride in the attic. One day in June of 2011, Disney fan and historian Todd J. Pierce was going through a box of old home movies and photos he had acquired, and there he found a small reel dated August 1969.  To his astonishment, this one-minute film featured a rare glimpse of the Hat Box Ghost, as well as about three seconds of murky footage of the bride, to date the only known photography of the original bride in her original position.  An edited version of the film was posted at the Disney History Institute and eventually Youtube. Not much of the bride is visible, but you can see the red heart, beating back and forth, the tip of her glowing candle, and a number of large white smears and smudges.  Occasional details like her hair are visible only in a frame or two here and there.


Here's a GIF with a picture of the Corpse Bride superimposed on a composite of stills from the film. The fit is exact.

The eyes of the Corpse Bride were never very bright, so they don't show up except very dimly in one frame:

Exactly when the Corpse Bride was replaced is not known, neither for DL, nor for her twin at WDW.  At DL she was
definitely still there toward the end of 1975 but gone by 1979. At Orlando the change may have happened as early as 1973.

"Long-Forgotten" threadster Michigan Guy has put together an artist's conception of what the Disneyland
original looked like, and based on available evidence I'd say it's pretty accurate.  Kids, hide your eyes!

Okay, fine.  Not my fault if you have nightmares.  Where are your parents?

Meanwhile, in Orlando

UPDATED June 2020: So far we've been focusing mostly on Disneyland. The Walt Disney World story is a little different. For one thing, there's a shocking lack of evidence available. For the first 18 years of her existence, there are currently only three snapshots, plus a five-second video clip, plus some mysterious photos taken while Imagineering was re-working her in the early 70's. No doubt there are lots of pictures in the Disney archives and lots more gathering dust and turning magenta in drawers and long-forgotten vacation scrapbooks all over the world, but for now, three or four pix and a short vid are all that's publicly available for her, 1971-1989!


One of the three photos only surfaced in February of 2013 at the irreplaceable Daveland site. With those rings around the eye sockets, it's the Corpse Bride, all right, but it looks like her face in Orlando was never painted with the same amount of detail as the DL version, especially in the lower part of the face.

The second photo is from Hoot Gibson and dates to 1976:

With a little knob-twiddling we can see a bit more of the face and also come up
with something a little closer to what she might have looked like in the dark.

The third snapshot only surfaced in June of 2020. The source who sent it to me dates it 1974-1976:

 The film clip is from 1976 and is of remarkable quality, considering the vintage:

bride seventysix copy

Something we can glean from this clip is that the bubbling/rippling light effect was in
operation right from the start (or at least by 1976). Look carefully at her bouquet arm.

Whenever we have a video with a horizontal sweep there's the potential for creating a 3D image by taking two screen grabs in quick succession and making a stereoscopic pair out of them. That means it's possible for us to get a look at the WDW Beating Heart bride in 3D, assuming you can do the "magic eye" thing.

I mentioned some photos taken during a re-tooling in the early 70's.
That's a story in its own right, and it gets its own post.