After the ponderous parade of parallels in the previous posts, possibly you're a little pooped. I can imagine an objection right about now:
"Sure, there are gobs of individual inspirations and hold-overs from Ken Anderson's two years of labor on the Disneyland Ghost House, but when deciding who (if anyone) deserves the title, 'Father of the Haunted Mansion,' you need to go beyond details and think thematically as well. Who is most responsible for the over-all personality of the attraction? Who set its tone? Surely Marc Davis has to be considered here, and possibly X. Atencio, who wrote the final show script."
Those guys are certainly worthy of consideration, and a case may be made for either of them, but even in this arena there are two BIG reasons to award the palm to Ken Anderson.
First, it was Ken's idea to use a wedding or marriage gone south as the central motif of the Mansion's backstory. It plays a role in all of his show scripts. In the oldest, "The Legend of Captain Gore," innocent young Priscilla has recently married a mysterious Captain Gore, who turns out to be a bloodthirsty pirate, much to her horror. He kills her. She haunts him. He kills himself. Now they both haunt. Talk about your bad karma; it's doubtful that even Dr. Phil could have salvaged that marriage.
In the second script, "Bloodmere Manor," we hear a lot about the ill-fated, accursed, Blood family. Their "supreme tragedy" happened on the eve of their daughter's wedding, when an event, "too horrible to mention" prevented the marriage. On every anniversary of the non-event the spirits attempt to complete the ceremony, trying to lift some curse. The show climaxes at the Grand Hall, where many famous ghosts from history and literature are assembled for the wedding. The groom lifts the bride's head off her shoulders and gives it a kiss. She slaps him. "All hell breaks loose." Wedding = epic fail. Try again next year, I guess.
So a doomed marriage or a wedding gone awry lies at the center of all of Anderson's Ghost House backstories. Obviously, with the mysterious attic bride now emphasized and centralized more than ever in the Constance saga, we can point to Anderson as the fons et origo of this motif.
lady ghost for "E"- Ticket magazine
Scary vs. Silly: So Silly it's Scary
The other reason for regarding Anderson as the Man is that he wrote the recipe for a haunted attraction combining horror and comedy, screams and laughs. That claim requires some elaboration. Fortunately (or unfortunately—take your pick), Long-Forgotten is all about elaboration.
In practically every account of the Haunted Mansion's history that you read, the "scary vs. silly" controversy is put forth as THE explanatory paradigm. In the mighty struggle between kooky and spooky, so the story goes, you've got Marc Davis in this corner and Claude Coats and X. Atencio in that corner. We're told that the warring parties eventually worked out a compromise, giving Claude the scary first half of the ride and Davis the funny second half. That has essentially become the official Disney version, and some of the Imagineers (especially X. Atencio) have been happy to affirm it every time they're asked.
I find this explanation a little too pat, and it falls apart the minute you begin to analyze it. While it is broadly true that the first half of the ride is spooky and the second half is given over to fun, note that you hit sublime silliness right away with Davis's stretchroom portraits, and later on, Davis's light-hearted second half is interrupted by the scary attic. Davis is, in fact, the main problem for the prevailing theory. Some people seem to think he always lobbied for the humorous approach, but that kind of pigeon-holing won't do. Look at his changing portraits, both actual and proposed. The majority of them are utterly creepy, with no humor to them at all. Once, when he was asked about the funny/scary controversy, Davis referred immediately to Walt Disney's famous dictum that the outside of the HM should be kept up, but that inside they could do what they wanted. "I took that to be a very definite instruction to me, and it meant we could be scary inside the ride if we wanted to. And you know when you're in the ride that you're not in there for some 'sweetness and light' " (E-Ticket 16 [Summer 1993] 26). That doesn't fit the sultan-of-silly stereotype, does it? Davis wrote a show script in 1964 that certainly contained its share of whimsical elements, but at its core it featured a character known as "the most dangerous ghost in the mansion," who makes a frightening personal appearance near the end of the attraction. It turns out that he is both your Ghost Host and the murderer of a young bride and her fiancé. At that point, guests are expected to flee the scene.
In the same way, if you peruse the artwork produced by X., who is commonly assigned to the scary camp, you find both humor and horror.
In short, to the degree that there was a tug-of-war, it should probably be regarded as a disagreement between Marc and Claude over the relative balance of fun and fear in the total mix, not some sort of life-and-death struggle for the soul of the Mansion.
Where does Ken Anderson stand with regard to all of this? When you look through his scripts and artwork, you find generous helpings from both ends of the spectrum, with no sense of tension, no disharmony between the two. It's perfectly true that he found delight in the gruesome and grim, 'cause he's the magnificent, marvelous Ken Andersim.