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.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Father of the Haunted Mansion, Part One

That's Ken Anderson (1909-1993).  In a 2003 article, Disney historian Jim Korkis (aka "Wade Sampson") suggested that when it comes to an appreciation of the talents who created the Haunted Mansion, Ken Anderson has been the "forgotten man."  In some sense this stills feels true, even though objectively speaking, it is not.  Not only Korkis, but Bruce Gordon and David Mumford (pp. 260-63 of The Nickel Tour),  Leon J. Janzen (The "E" Ticket #13; Summer 1992), Ed Squair (The "E" Ticket #41; Fall, 2004), Jason Surrell (pp. 15-19 of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies), and Jeff Baham have all tried to give Mr. Anderson his proper due, and I'm probably missing some authors in that survey.  That's a lot more attention than most of the HM Imagineers have been given, so why does Anderson still feel like the "forgotten man"?

Anderson playing with dolls . . . for a worthy cause.  He's testing a two-way mirror effect in a scale model of one of the rooms in his Ghost House

The answer is simple:  It's because he had been off the project for over ten years by the time the Mansion opened. All the other big names who worked on the attraction stayed on.  They simply accumulated over the years, leading to the "too many cooks" situation that Marc Davis would later bemoan.  Anderson was the first man given the haunted house assignment for Disneyland, and he worked closely with Walt himself on the "Ghost House" for two years (1957-58) before Walt removed him and added him to the small army working on Sleeping Beauty at the time.  Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey took over the project in 1959.  When Marc Davis, Claude Coats, X. Atencio, Blaine Gibson, and so many other great talents were added to the crew in the 60's, Crump and Gracey remained, so Ken Anderson was in fact the only major talent to get "fired" from the Haunted Mansion assignment, and consequently he has nothing to do directly with anything you find in the finished attraction.  Since you can't point to anything and say, "Ken Anderson did that," it is all too easy for him to slip off the radar screen.

If you've been down this road before, you already know that Anderson is said to have come up with four different show scripts during the course of 1957, but realistically, I'd say it's only two. The "third" and "fourth" versions are minor variants on the second, "Bloodmere Manor" story.  In addition to the scripts, Anderson produced a great deal of concept art for his Ghost House, and there is plenty in those that has no counterpart in any of the known show scripts, so clearly those scripts do not represent anything like the full extent of Anderson's ideas.  I don't think there's much point in rehearsing here the contents of the two (or "four") scripts; interested readers can check out some of the sources listed earlier. The Korkis articles, parts one and two, were completely reworked and republished in 2014 at Mouse Planet and are highly recommended.

I've got a different idea.  What's say we wander through the Mansion and take closer note of things that go back originally not to Marc or Claude or X. but to Ken?  This has only been done in a haphazard, hit-and-miss manner up to this point, and besides, I've got some goodies you probably haven't seen before.  By the time we're through, it should be apparent that Anderson deserves the title, "Father of the Haunted Mansion."

First stop is the exterior and an observation we (and others) have already made more than once.  Suffice it to say, yet again, that Anderson's sketch of the Shipley-Leydecker house in Baltimore became . . . The Look.

What hasn't been noticed so much is where Anderson wanted to place this.  We know that he wanted it back from view, off the beaten track, "behind a grove of trees, shielded from the view of people approaching, until they passed through the iron gates...they would turn a corner and suddenly see this big moss-covered haunted house" ("E" Ticket 13, p 4).

Before the Shipley house fell across Anderson's radar screen, Ken had in mind a different, much smaller design. The location for that version was in the midst of the future New Orleans Square, on the southeast side, approximately where the Indiana Jones ride is today, as can be seen in this Sam McKim/Marvin Davis sketch:

Back then that area was known as "Magnolia Park."  It had a bandstand and seating.  You can see it clearly in this 1956 photo.  (The large building is the "Chicken Plantation" restaurant, which they originally hoped to keep as part of New Orleans Square.  You can see it toward the bottom of McKim's drawing.)

If that was still where Ken wanted it after going to the larger, Shipley house design, he didn't situate it quite the way McKim did.  In fact, Ken deserves credit for being the first Imagineer to think outside the box berm.  Today, we take it for granted that major attractions will typically be located near the outside perimeter of the park, with the bulk of the actual ride inside a warehouse-like structure on the other side of the RR berm.  The Haunted Mansion was the first ride to be planned like this from the beginning, and that planning goes all the way back to Anderson in 1957.  Here's how Anderson himself described the problem and the solution, in a memo dated 9-17-57:

"The problem involving Disneyland 3/4 size scale for the house - which is incompatible with the large rooms needed for maximum crowd capacity is solved by the addition of a basic ride building connected to the rear of the house - but separated from it and completely hidden from view. The majority of the rooms will be in this building without the visitors being aware of it as both entrance and exit will be through the handsome antebellum old Southern Mansion."

The Ghost House, with its façade building resembling the one that was actually built, would actually house only the first room.  You would then go below ground via an elevator-like conveyance, and from there you would pass through a changing-portrait hall (!) to a larger building which housed the bulk of the attraction, located outside the berm and hidden from view.  This can all be seen on a plan drawn up by Anderson himself, dated September 2, 1957:

Needless to say, this is uncannily similar to the layout of the ride as it was eventually built:

Wow, we haven't even gotten inside yet, and the Andersonian debt is already deeper than we thought.  But wait, there's more.  In Anderson's house, you enter through the central front door, which happens to bear a strong resemblance to the door by which you enter the real attraction.

Once inside, Anderson had a variety of proposals for what would happen next.  You'd meet a butler tour guide in one version, a carpenter tour guide in another, with various stories given to set the stage.  There was an enormous spiral staircase (visible in the plans above) taking up a good part of the room, with some kind of dark figure a few stories up giving us a scare.  In one version, he was a hanging victim, so the idea of having that gag very near the beginning of the attraction is Andersonian.

In one version, ghostly writing appeared on the wall:
"Foolish mortals—go home!"
Yep, Anderson gets credit for the immortal "foolish mortals."

You can't pick it up from the extant show scripts, written between February and September of 1957, or from the floor plan done in September, but at least by the end of that year Ken (and Walt) had figured out that the Ghost House would have to be a ride, not a walk-thru.  Ken's thinking evidently evolved in this manner.  If the house is built by the RR berm, with the bulk of the attraction on the other side, then people will have to go down below ground level and tunnel underneath.  That requires some means of lowering the guests.  The solution was to claim that guests needed to stay on the scaffolding constructed by the carpenters if they wished to remain safe.  They would load up at the foot of the stairs, expecting to go up.  Instead, the section they stood upon would prove itself to be a cart-like, tracked conveyance, and it would drop them down below floor level.

But at this point things get murky.  All of Anderson's show scripts, concept art, and the floor plan assume a walking tour in groups, led by a guide.  Yet, he apparently knew that some kind of conveyance would likely be necessary even after the drop.  As far as we know, he never resolved this issue during his two years on the project.  Even his sketch of the basement area leaves the options open:  note that the guests continue on through the house "via platform or walking."

Still, we have to credit Anderson with the idea that guests could be taken below on an unexpected, contrived elevator, in order that they might pass under the berm.

In part two, we'll continue our little tour.  And let's all stay together, pleeeeze.


  1. Have never commented before, but I am long-time lurker on the micechat "long-forgotten" threads and love this blog.

    FYI, I beleive that I recently heard that Wade Sampson is in fact a nom de plume for Jim Korkis. DOn't know if anyone else hear can corroborate that.


  2. Wade Sampson published his "last" column, and came out as Jim Korkis at MousePlanet:

    This is a fantastic blog. Great work being done! Thanks,


  3. Wow, cool. Didn't know that. I'll be adjusting the opening of this post accordingly, since it's still fresh. And thanks for the kind words.

  4. Fantastic!

    I think you and Foxxfur at Passport2Dreams should consider working together on some pieces. The two of you write the most academic and intelligent treatises on Disney.

  5. "Ken Anderson... has nothing to do directly with anything you find in the finished attraction. Since you can't point to anything and say, "Ken Anderson did that,..."

    May I politely disagree. My cousin Isabel Shipley Cunningham's Baltimore mansion was wonderfully re-envisioned as a haunted mansion by Ken Anderson in his now famous sketch work that was colorized by Sam McKim. Yes, a few minor tweeks were made to the facade (such as the changing of the cupola from four to six sides, the addition of a semi-temple entry to the left side, and the absence of the iron decoratives on the right side), but there is no doubt that Anderson's vision of the mansion facade is what sits in Disneyland today.

    Sidenote: it just so happens that I spoke last week with Isabel Shipley Cunningham (now 93), and as unbelievable as it may seem to us, she was utterly unaware that her house was used as the model for the Disneyland mansion, but she is thrilled to know that the memory lives on. Her Shipley Mansion, after being sold (or given - I couldn't understand her answer to that question) to the VFW to use, coincidentally, as a memorial to the dead of WWII, was demolished. There are only three publically know images of that mansion (one drawing and two photos), and I am hoping that further communications with my cousin David Cunningham, Isabel's son, can help me locate more images from the family collections. I'll be hosting the Clan Cunningham booth at the South Florida Scottish Highland Festival & Games this Saturday (2nd March 2013), where I will have a model of the mansion (courtesy of Ray Keim at HauntedDimensions, and model-maker Matt Harp), along with a display discussing the Shipley Cunningham family mansion's connection to the Disney mansion.

    I'll be glad to send you photos afterward, HBG2, if you're interested.

    1. I would be very happy indeed to see any new photos of the Shipley house!

    2. The easiest way to contact me for exchanging email addresses is by joining Micechat (if you're not already a member on that site) and sending me a PM. I'm HBG2 over there also.