Updated December 20, 2015 and May 24, 2017
As we noted in our last post, oddities and anomalies with regard to the Mansion augment its imaginative impact, whereas with other attractions the flukes are dull dull dull. A wall that lacks a door that is supposed to be there raises one or two extra goosebumps. It's a triviality that rises to the level of "a curiosity." There are other such items with regard to the Mansion. One has to do with its opening day. Yes, it is possible to give a definite answer to the question, "When did it officially open?," but only by choosing between two absurdities. There is no sane third option.
Curious? See, I told you.
Wait, everyone knows it opened on Saturday, August 9, 1969, right? That's what every official Disney organ says, that's what Jason Surrell's book says, and that's what all the Disney fan sites say. The problem is that there is overwhelming evidence that the official opening day was actually Tuesday the 12th. It's in all the papers, Thelma. *insert crinkling sound effects here*
“Ghosts, ghouls, witches and bats—all swaying and screaming to the eerie tune of 'Grim Grinning Ghosts'—moved into Disneyland’s new Haunted Mansion at midnight.”
. —Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Aug 12, 1969, p. A-6
“So the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, which opened with appropriately spectral rites at midnight Monday, is a horrifying delight....” Picture caption: “The $7 million scare treat opens its creaky doors for the first time Tuesday.”
“After more than 10 years of planning and development, Disneyland opened its Haunted Mansion Tuesday.”
“Employees were given a creep preview August 7 and 8, between the bewitching hours of 7 p. m. and Midnight, before the attraction opened to the public. Official opening of Disneyland’s 53rd major attraction was Tuesday, August 12.”
As you can gather from some of those clippings, there was a "sneak preview" for the press at midnight, Monday the 11th/Tuesday the 12th, marking the official opening of the Mansion. A large number of press reports over the next few days refer to it.
This is a pretty crushing set of documentary evidence. There is also some anecdotal evidence, like this note to Jeff Baham at Doombuggies.com:
No one would have been freaked out about the Manson murders in time for an August 9 grand opening. The Sharon Tate murders took place that very morning.
So where did the August 9 date come from? From Marc Davis, apparently. The can of worms spreads out like this. There was indeed a Cast Member preview on the 7th and 8th, a so-called "soft opening." There was also the Monday night/Tuesday morning press preview, marking the official grand opening at midnight. These were planned and announced in advance. But according to "Todd Hackett," who worked for Marc Davis many years and was around for the Mansion's debut, Marc took out ads in the LA Times announcing that the Mansion was "now open." This full-page ad ran on August 9:
Todd Hackett saved a copy of that ad, plus an ad that ran in the Calendar section of the LA Times Sunday, the 10th, and this one is our smoking gun, since the "August 10" date is printed on the ad itself.
According to Hackett, Davis felt the public had waited long enough and decided to pull in one more weekend for the Mansion before the summer was over by opening a few days early. His impatience with the long delay is manifest in the full-page ad, which he drew himself:
As for the question in our title, that chamber has no windows and no doors. Either the Mansion had two official grand openings (which is nuts), or it had one official opening and one unofficial "soft opening" to the public, except that the soft opening was announced in the newspapers, which makes it, um, official, doesn't it? An advertised soft opening—yeah, that's also nuts. Aieeee, I've got me some cognitive dissonance going on here. I too feel the disturbance in the Force, but I cannot help you. You'll just have to decide which absurdity is the less intolerable, pick up the shattered pieces of your life, and move on.
In truth, the fact that the Haunted Mansion had a debut that defiantly and definitely defies all definition only makes it more fun.