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.


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Missing Door

In the Conservatory of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion, directly across from the coffin, on the other side of the tracks, you'll find a door, and to the left of the door, you'll find this:

Nice, but so what?  Curiously enough, there's supposed to be a door there.  It's on all the blueprints . . .

. . . and in the Orlando and Tokyo Mansions, there is a door there.  Here's a side-by-side, with DL on the left, WDW on the right.

Again, in more recent pix: DL top, WDW bottom.

It's supposed to have a clack-clack phantom knocker on it, and again, at Orlando and Tokyo, that's what you get.

So where's the door, and why the mirror?  The answer is: No one seems to know.  The mirror has always
been there, at any rate.  You can glimpse it in the Osmonds special from March 1970:

The answer is probably something mundane.  Perhaps the door frame came out of the mold defectively, and there was no time or money to cast another one.  (Like other HM fixtures, it's fiberglass.)  So they had to improvise.  There is another possibility, however, and this is admittedly speculation.

One effect the Imagineers were reportedly contemplating for the Corridor of Doors was a "girl in the mirror" gag.  The following piece of concept art comes from the 1990's, but I understand that the effect it shows was kicked around by the original Imagineers as well:

A form of this effect was eventually used—at Phantom Manor, in Paris.  (And, I might add, you can find it other places: the Cheshire Cat in the mirrors in The Mad Hatter shop and Mickey in a magic mirror in his Toontown house, both at DL.)  One can't help wondering if, by some small chance, the missing DL door was deliberately omitted, and the innocent looking mirror now hanging there was actually intended for something much more sinister, but the gag was scrapped for some reason or other.

It is a tribute to the Haunted Mansion (and to the geekiness of its fans, I suppose) that a trivial find like this one engages the imagination.  I doubt that a missing door in It's a Small World would get blogged anywhere.  But the Mansion Imagineers have created an environment that encourages you to enjoy the illusion of a house that's more than a house, one that's almost alive.  Looking at some concept art, you can see just how far Imagineers like Claude Coats were willing to push the surreal nature of the building itself.

So for those who are happy to absorb the atmosphere of the place, the missing door becomes something intriguing once you're aware of it.  You could almost think it may appear someday, or better, that it is there right now but you can't see it.  *cue the eerie organ music*


  1. I appreciate that little mirror flower vase arrangement as a touch of homely realness to the corridor. It's one of my favorite parts of the ride, and think the arrangement makes it more believable. I do wish they had done the mirror girl gag, though putting her in the mirror between the ballroom and the Attic would have broken up that mundane transition which is sorely needed.

  2. It may be that they felt instinctively that no ghost should be visible before Madame Leota, which seems to be an unwritten rule, an element of the narrative within the HM's "three act play" structure.

  3. I only get to Disneyland every few years, but distictly remembered that picture of the hatbox ghost next to the mirror. The picture was SO distinctive, that I expected to see that face somewhere in the ride but could never find him. Thanks for your blog, now I know that he did actually exist in there.

    Thanks for putting all of this backstage stuff together for us.

  4. You're welcome. Actually, the "leering skull" is used in a number of places in the HM. It's the Hatbox Ghost head, of course, but also the head of "Ezra," the tall hitchhiker. The actual HBG head was photographed with a crown on it ("King Leer"?) for a CoD portrait, and a copy of this photo had a bowler hat airbrushed over the crown to create a second CoD portrait. The leering skull also served as the model for the Grim Reaper sketch in Mdm Leota's spellbook and it appears as the head of the ticket-seller at Phantom Manor. Several pop-up ghosts in the graveyard use the leering skull head (at DL, it's the one in front of the band and the one in front of Brick-Arm guy).

  5. Hello! I know this post is relatively old, but I just had to chime in. Over Nevada Day weekend 2011 (yes, Nevada day is a real holiday), my mom and I went to Disney for my birthday. When I was passing the table and mirrors set, I noticed something completely new to me: there was an imprint of a skeleton appearing on the mirror. It struck me as pretty lame at the time, with the skeletal figure looking remarkably store bought. However, ever since then I have looked for that effect and it's been missing/broken. Has anyone else noticed this, or was it just my over active 13 year old brain?

    1. It sounds like you are recollecting the mirror as it appears during the "Haunted Mansion Holiday" (Nightmare Before Christmas) seasonal overlay. Take a look:

  6. A strange door that suddenly appears out of nowhere (even after all these years) would certainly fit in well in the HM. It doesn't even need a concrete reason to be there all of a sudden. It would also add to the feeling like the house is sort of alive,like it can choose to make things like doors appear and disappear at will