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, Doombuggies.com. 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.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A 1976 Ride Through the Haunted Mansion

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What did the Haunted Mansion sound like in 1976, just seven years after opening?  Here is a rare audio document that will be of interest to ordinary HM fans as well as dedicated Mansionologists.  The tape is about sixteen and a quarter minutes long.

I owe a big thanks to Doombuggies.com board member "Guy the Ghoul" for sending me a few years ago an audio cassette recording made while riding the Disneyland Haunted Mansion circa 1976.  I also owe thanks to a knowledgeable source who prefers to remain anonymous, plus comments by the usual gang of idiots over at the ongoing "Long-Forgotten" thread.

Here it is, slightly cleaned up (with our thanks) by "Grim Grinning" Gerry:



Here are some mini-files featuring particular points of interest:

Load Area Laugh #1


Load Area Laugh #2


Conservatory and Corridor of Doors


The Attic


The Graveyard


Some notes on the recording.
  • It is a little ragged at the beginning, with one or two tiny deletions (pause button accidentally hit?). The tape ends abruptly part way through Little Leota's goodbye speech.  The version above edits out these defects and cross-fades the beginning and end.
  • Either it was horrendously crowded, or the pranky spirits were having a very good day, because the section between the stretchroom and the doombuggy is incredibly long.  You board the doombuggy at about 9.5 minutes on a 16.5 minute tape.
  • There are ghostly laughs, etc., heard from time to time in the loading area.  These are long-forgotten Haunted Mansion effects in the most literal sense; it's doubtful that many people remember them today.  I don't think they're crowd noise, not with that artificial reverb.
  • The graveyard soundtrack is full of interest.  You can clearly hear the so-called "la-la" singer, a track since deleted.  Even better, the pop-up ghosts loudly vocalize during the last line of each verse of the "Grim Grinning Ghosts" song.
That last point needs elaborating.  There are seven pop-up ghosts in the graveyard.  Today, they have no special, individual lighting and have no vocal tracks, but it wasn't always that way.  Originally they would spring up as the last line of each verse of the GGG tune trailed off and let loose with some kind of vocal: screaming, yelping, growling, laughing, belching, cussing (okay, maybe not those).  There is evidence that they had individual illumination as well.  In short, these much-maligned figures were originally a much more integral part of the show:  The pop-up ghosts served as visual exclamation points for "Grim Grinning Ghosts."  GGG is also known as "The Screaming Song."  Does this explain why?

All together now...

Previously, the only readily available audio evidence for this original show choreography was the graveyard sequence on the "Story and Song" record album, which furnishes a few examples of the pop-ups (presumably it is they) vocalizing on cue.  But the recording on S&S is an early, pre-opening mix, including several items that were never used in the actual show.  This 1976 tape provides valuable evidence—nay, ironclad proof—that the original pop-up sound element was indeed used in the early years.  Many of these vocalisms I have never heard before.

Some respect, if you please

Those fans who like the pop-up ghosts often defend them against their detractors on the grounds that these over-caffeinated ghosts represent an affectionate nod to the darkride roots of the Haunted Mansion.  This is how "Chef Mayhem" interprets them at Doombuggies.com.  According to this view, the pop-ups are admittedly a cheesy effect, typical of the old-fashioned spook houses still rattling away in amusement parks all over the land, but that is precisely the point:  Those old rides may reek of stale cotton candy and bad taste, but they are the HM's forebears, and the Imagineers pay them the tribute they deserve.

This argument may be valid to some degree, but it can only be pushed so far.  Yes, the pop-ups may be cheesy, but they used to be more and do more than the current show suggests.  With individual on-and-off illumination, their rickety appearance may have been less obvious.  With their synchronized boppin' to the music, they were well-integrated into the overall show.  In short, they were not quite so cheesy in the early years.  Bottom line:  this debate is more complex than the way it has often been framed.

Plus, if the pop-ups weren't there, the HM wouldn't really have anything that makes you jump, and that, my friends, would make the HM an Epic Fail in the eyes of some.  Fans frequently testify that the pop-ups were the only things that really frightened them when they were younger.

How long did this original show production last?  At Disneyland and at Walt Disney World, sharp-eyed riders may notice that the long-silenced pop-ups, robbed of their individual lighting, are still synchronized with the last line of the GGG verses.  At Tokyo, however, they are not.  This suggests that by the early 1980s (when Tokyo DL was built), the glory days for the pop-up ghosts were over.

Note! A 1973 recording has now been found and can be heard HERE.

10 comments:

  1. I never was a fan of the pop-up ghost (Sans the wonderful blast ghost/s) myself, but I love the story about them. Thanks for taking us back to the 1976-era HM!

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  2. Thanks for uploading! Hopefully one day they'll fix the pop-up ghosts and give them audio.

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  3. It did sound like someone was goofing around by shouting or laughing in the Load, plus I could hear the creaking door from the Endless Hallway.
    I love the audio mix in the COD, did they tame down the sheiks and hOwls. Over all pretty good recording, probaly with a built in mic.

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  4. I Love this thanks for doing this. Disney should put this back the vocals and lighting. I wish I could ride it again. I was last there when I was young and watched thriller at night so I was afraid of the dark and hid in the doombuggy. but I did peak out in the attic scene and saw a skeleton figure ( I think the Hatbox ghost) with it's head disappearing and reappearing. and I never looked ount until I saw Phineas was in the doombuggy with me. lol

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  5. As a child visiting in the 70s, the pop ups scared me. I recalled more jumping heads than the slower pop ups they have today.

    Disneyland did indeed have some ghost noises in the load area after the stretch room at least as recently as the 2000s. I was hanging around in there, letting everyone else load. I was all alone in the hallway, just checking things out (not a busy day; not running both elevators so another one didn't dump immediately). After a short bit of time, I heard one of the ghost laugh/scream things and it scared me. At the time, I wondered if it was something the control tower monitor person could trigger.

    I am enjoying reading through all of this to get caught up. There's so much "same stuff over and over" on the 'net, it's nice to read about things I am not overly familiar with.

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    1. Thanks Allen, and I have to say your site has been an invaluable resource. I've tried to credit you every time I borrowed something, but if along the way you catch any places I slipped up, be sure and let me know. I moderate all comments, so you can message me about any old thing and it won't be posted unless it's intended to be public.

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  6. Hey, whatever happened to those master recordings??? I recognize at least 2 or three from several sources including the Vinyl, but The rest I've never heard until hearing these. What happened to them????

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  7. My family's first big vacation was to Disneyland in February 1974. I remember the pop up ghosts as the scariest part of the ride. Of course I rode it as many times as I could afford another E-ticket. I also remember the bride with the red, beating heart and no face.

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