This is another one of those posts that focuses on quirks and curios rather than Profound Meanings. With the Mansion, you don't get one without the other. I have a couple of good, meaty posts in the works, but I'm saving those bad boys for later on when I've got more time. Today is Labor Day, and everyone has barbecues to get to.
The title alludes to Walt's "Nine Old Men," of course (his nickname for a set of senior animators in his stable). Since he's all done with it, I've stolen it to use for the nine major tombstone types in the graveyard scene. They're pretty interesting, really. Like the outdoor "family plot" cemeteries, the epitaphs are not gibberish (for the most part) but cryptic tributes, put there by the sculptors in the model shop. Unlike the outdoor stones, however, the writing on these nine was never really intended for public consumption. I'm sure no one ever expected that someday Haunted Mansion fan(atic)s would subject them to microscopic scrutiny. Good thing there wasn't anything naughty on them.
We'll deal with the little blanks first, the "ironing board" and the "knobby" types. Judging by old photos, they may have been more common in the beginning than they are now, but a bunch of them are still there. These noticeably smaller stones go into the background of the various tableaux, part of the forced perspective they use to make the place look bigger. An old Disney trick.
Seven of the nine have dates on them. They could be based on Imagineer's birth years, minus two or three or four centuries. That's a favorite game among the Imagineers. But I suspect that the final digit is used to identify them and organize them. Otherwise, this is a curious coincidence:
Left to right in the top row of that montage, we start with RESEER, and I'm ashamed to admit that I have no idea whom that refers to. Since all the other names run backwards but keep the word order running forwards, I'm guessing this is for somebody named "R. Reese." That could be a now-obscure Disney employee who worked on the HM, or was a friend to somebody who did, or . . . pthhh, it could be the sculptor's brother-in-law, for all I know. This is embarrassing; let's move on to the next.
TREBOR LLEWE is Robert (S)ewell. I'm not sure why the "s" is missing. Maybe it's there but sculpted too shallow, and it didn't survive the molding process well enough for the painter to notice it. Note that the "OR" is barely readable.
Sewell joined WED soon after Disneyland opened in 1955 and did a lot of work in the model shop. He ended up in charge of the installation of many of the major attractions in the park. Here he is working on Small World:
Moving on to SNEVETS NOR, originally, this is what I wrote: "...again, sorry, I got nothin'. Somebody named Ron Stevens. Maybe some of these enigmatic names will be identified in the Comments section, if some of our Disney employee readers know something I don't know." In January 2012, someone did exactly that, and a long-standing mystery is ended:
I think can solve one of your mystery tombstones. "Snevets Nor" is, as you surmised, Ron Stevens. Mr. Stevens worked for WED on the HM interior and "ride works" effort. (The exterior building was long completed by then.) To the best of my memory, he would have been about 20 years old at that time and was probably a junior drafter or job captain in the architectural dept.
He went on to become an architect with his own practice in Southern California and later moved to Northern California or Oregon. I have not seen him for many years. We worked together briefly in an architectural firm as drafters and designers. He was once kind enough to allow me to examine his copies of the HM construction documents, probably progress checksets, since many of the details are missing or at variance with those you publish in the blog. I remember that he kept a tape dispenser on his desk, with "SNEVETS" written on it in large black letters. I asked about it, since it's the sort of anonymous thing that drafters put their names on, to prevent "drift". He remarked that "everyone used their name backward" where he used to work. Hope this helps.
I have since found Stevens' name on some HM blueprints, so we've got a match. There is a curious story involving this stone. The Haunted Mansion Holiday switchover every year must be a routine business by now, but after the first Nightmare Before Christmas overlay in 2001, it must have been pretty crazy around there when they switched back again, since no one had ever done it before. Call it the Nightmare After Christmas. Well, when they were all done, they apparently had a Ron Stevens stone left over. Kinda like taking apart an engine or a clock or something and putting it back together. You're very proud of yourself until you notice that there's a wheel left over. Anyway, they put it outside in the pet cemetery, which makes sense since Snevets Nor is such a common pet name. I know my friend had a hard time deciding between "Prince" and "Snevets Nor" when he named his German Shepherd. SNEVETS NOR stayed out there for more than a year.
The epitaph on the last stone in the top row is just gibberish, unless there's a pun in PAX BETA, which would be "Peace B." Peace be, get it? Far out, man. Remember, this is 1969. "ETI N" in Greek would be "Yet the" or "Still the," but that's grasping at straws. Gibberish, says I. [Edit: But see now the suggestion by John Edwards in the Comments. Possibly Et In Terra Pax ("and on earth, peace") lies behind the epitaph.]
Bottom left. SAHC NOSUF. Charles Fuson was a layout artist for the old Crusader Rabbit cartoon series before coming to Disney in 1953. He did some in-betweener work in the animation department, but from 1960 until 1965 he mostly did pencil sketches for comic books and comic strips, including the popular Sunday edition of Scamp.
Unless there were two Chuck Fusons at Disney during this period, our Charles apparently went to WED and became an Imagineer. Here he is (right) working with Yale Gracey (left) on a burning ember effect for Pirates of the Caribbean:
Next, we have TEUH - 1803 - FILIC. This is a slightly garbled inversion of Cliff Huet. He's another guy who got both an inside and an outside stone: "Rest in peace, Cousin Huet, we all know you didn't do it." Cliff Huet was a WED architect and one of the lead interior designers for the Mansion.
The inscription, "My Glass is Run" (i.e., the sand in my hourglass has run out) was popular on tombstones. It's from a 16th c. poem by Charles Tichborne, an interesting guy who. . . let's just say he fought the law, and the law won.
- My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
- My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
- My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
- And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
- The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
- And now I live, and now my life is done.
- My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
- My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,
- My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
- I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
- My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
- And now I live, and now my life is done.
- I sought my death and found it in my womb,
- I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
- I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
- And now I die, and now I was but made;
- My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
- And now I live, and now my life is done.
If he sounds a little down, it might be because the next day he was hanged, drawn, and quartered.
We talked about LAUDEMUS TE ("We glorify thee") in a previous post. 'Nuff said.
MURDNIWG is George Windrum, an Imagineer who did "show set design" for the If You Had Wings attraction at WDW. According to his daughter Gayle, "He ran the Show Set Design department at W.E.D. (former name of WDI)--creating working drawings for the interiors of many rides including the H. M." A certain "G. K. Windrum" drew up some Haunted Mansion blueprints that I have seen. There is also a "George Windrum" who does oil paintings and won first place in an art show put on by the Glendale Art Association in September of 2008. And that, dear friends, is the sum total of my knowledge about George Windrum.
NEKEESORF is Ken Forsse. The last name is often misspelled as Frosee or Forsee; even this tombstone seems to assume "Frosee." Ken worked for Disney for awhile, and he did do some work on the HM, but he's more famous for what he did after he left. His genius was in recognizing that low-level, mechanical audio-animatronics had come well within the economic reach of the toy market. He invented Teddy Ruxpin, the biggest selling toy of 1985.
That concludes our tour of the inside graveyard tombstones. Between the nine old men and the two types of smaller stones, we've accounted for almost all of them. There are, however, a couple of one-offs.
We already know about the Rolo Rumkin stone, which was one of the original family plot stones in the DL queue. Currently, it's directly across the tracks from the teaparty. The "Jay" stone is from a charity auction in 2004, where the highest bidder got his or her own gravestone in the Mansion. The winner was Cary "Jay" Sharp. He bid $37,400. Find it in front of the Caretaker and Dog, on the opposite side of the track.
The big one is at WDW and pays tribute to Judi Gray, Fred Joerger, and Harriet Burns, plus "Ed" and "Art," whoever they are. Fred is yet another Imagineer who ended up with both an inside and outside stone. He's "Good Old Fred," upon whose head a "big old rock" fell. Both he and Harriet are Disney legends in every sense of the word, and both did valuable work on the Mansion. In 2011 Harriet got a second tribute, in the WDW interactive queue, where a gravestone reads: "First lady of the opera, our haunting Harriet, searched for a tune, but never could carry it." I don't know anything about Judi Gray, sorry to say. Some of you readers may.
Nothing profound, just team members in an extraordinary creative enterprise giving each other subtle high-fives or paying tribute to personal heroes. That's profound enough, I guess.