Some of you regular readers from the Micechat "Long-Forgotten" threads may well have wondered when this post was going to show up. "The weather vane post" was inevitable, given the number of times the topic wandered in and out of the threads. I hesitated, you know. It's an exercise in ludicrous hyper-trivia, or it would be, except there are two reasons that taken together are barely enough to justify treating the topic here. One of them is a purely practical note and the other touches on thematics and history, much more in the Long-Forgotten vein.
I questioned whether "vein" is a good word to use in a post about a weather vane; in other words, whether I, while surveyin' the subject, would flood the post with bad puns. I tried to stand firm against the withering gale of enticing ideas that the temptation was conveyin' to my mind, but it was more than I could weather. Vain it was, to resist.
Okay, here we go. The Disneyland Haunted Mansion weather vane looks today pretty much like what you see on the 1962 blueprints.
But it wasn't always so.
Preliminary site work on the building began at the end of 1961, and by December of 1962 it was pretty much finished, with mostly landscaping and things like that slopping the project into January of 1963.
Here's the vane — all shiny-new — in December — '62.
A year or so later, still looking good:
But darker days lay ahead for our brave little weather vane. Sometime after January of 1964, the back sail dropped off. For you nautical types, that would be the "main sail."
The good news is, this situation didn't last long. The bad news is, that's because it got worse.
By July of 1964, the front sail had also dropped off. (Let's see...that would be the "jib.")
The vane continued in this vein for a long time. You would have thought they might fix it up for the grand opening in 1969.
Instead, the years roll by — but a hundred years, to a steadfast heart (and to an overworked maintenance staff), are but a day.
As late as June of 1972, we still had one sail hanging in there.
(See how the cropping on that photo acts to sorta foreshadow what comes next? Dang I'm good.)
This sorry state of saillessness continued year after year. But a hundred years—oh, wait, we already did that.
About the time they started working on Splash Mountain in 1987, someone noticed the shameful condition of the weather vane and took pity on it. It actually got fixed. For the first time since 1964, our brave little boat had all three of its sails.
Alas for our happy ending; they did a crappy job. Sometime between May of '92 and the end of '95, after some bad weather or perhaps a worker's inadvertent jab, the jib was off the job again. (Still reading? You must have the patience of Job.)
As we've come to expect by now, this fractured state lasted for a long time. Someone finally put the weather vane out of its misery. Unless it went up for a time during the gap in our photographic record, it looks like it was gone entirely for about two years.
As if that wasn't bad enough, when they put it back up it was still missing the jib. And thus it finished out the 90's.
For the first Haunted Mansion Holiday in 2001, it was still a two-sail affair, but by the second HMH, the weather vane had finally been restored to its original glory. Maybe it got fixed when they switched back to classic Mansion after the first HMH. Anyway, it's been fine ever since.
I hear those fingers drumming. Let's get to the "so what" paragraphs. On a practical level, this phenomenon is very handy with undated Mansion exterior photos. If the vane is visible, you can use it to assign an approximate date.
Thematically, the sorry tale of the weather vane is troublesome for a cherished theory held by some HM aficionados, who hold that the ship weather vane has always been a mute testimony to the real backstory of the Mansion, the old sea-captain tale, going back to Ken Anderson. In reality, it's obvious from our photo study that nobody cared very much about that thing on top before the 21st century. The short-lived telescope on the balcony (1997-2001), on the other hand, is doubtless a nod to the old backstory.
But other things adduced in its favor, like supposedly "nautical" props in the attic and the "ship" weather vane, tend to shrink a bit under scrutiny. It's not a ship anyway; it's a schooner. In size, it's like a small yacht or a fishing boat. Oh sure, a sea captain might own a schooner or two, but it's not the kind of vessel you imagine when you hear "sea captain." The Haunted Mansion weather vane was probably an off-the-shelf item. You can get ones like it without difficulty.
You can connect the weather vane with the sea captain thing if you want.
It's certainly agreeable to that kind of backstory. But there's less there than some people realize..