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.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Lost Graveyard

Updated May 26 and Nov 21, 2012.
The orange text toward the end represents a radical revision of the
original post in light of new evidence that surfaced in November 2012.
Important new piece of artwork added April 18, 2022.

It sounds a little funny to say it, but graveyards obviously have different styles. Like any architectural and landscaping project, choices are made when a cemetery is created, and a certain look falls into place, sometimes over a long period of time. Take military cemeteries, for example. Here's Arlington:

Neat and clean as a dress uniform. Not spooky, but sombre.

For a contrast, you could compare Arlington with another famous boneyard, thought to be the most visited cemetery in the world, Père Lachaise in Paris, the final resting place of a million dead. Visitors come to see the graves of famous people, but also for the sheer spectacle.

It's a dense necropolis that covers 110 acres. One imagines that the wind moans and howls when it blows through there on a blustery night.

There have been two occasions within the Haunted Mansion imaginative universe when the Père Lachaise look has been attempted. At first blush, you might think that the climax of the show, the graveyard jamboree, is one of them. After all, it is supposed to be a very old public cemetery next to which the Mansion was built early in the 19th century, and it's supposed to be a pretty big one. (As I've mentioned elsewhere, the tombstones and crypts toward the back are smaller than the ones in the foreground, using forced perspective and darkness to make the place look bigger than it is.) When you come out on the balcony, you do get an impressive panorama. This is a still from the film that was taken in the summer of 1969, probably before the big scrims went up.

It's even better if you can do the "magic eye" thing and get a 3D view:

From up here it does have something of that crowded, sprawling, ancient, Père Lachaise look, but when you get closer, you see that it really isn't in that style. The tombstones, which we've examined before, are modeled on 17th—18th century New England grave markers.  Those are Disney stones on the left, specimens from the amazing Farber Collection on the right.

Incidentally, you sometimes find the influence of this style elsewhere in HM iconography as well.

The most striking feature of the graveyard, however, is how plain it is. Those tombstones are actually the fanciest things there. There is no statuary other than the singing busts. The sarcophagi are bare stone boxes. Most of the crypts are also utterly devoid of decoration, and none of them has any writing on it. They're just boxes made out of stone blocks. You don't really notice any of this because you're looking at the ghosts, the characters. And of course, that's precisely the idea.

The crypt with the shrouded ghost billowing inside of it is one of the few with any decorative carving at all,
but it sure isn't much, just an urn and a couple of simple branches. (The "carving" is only paint of course.)

(pic by Regions Beyond)

There is also the fancy Egyptian mausoleum, of course, but that is an
exception, part of a unique gag. Elsewhere, you find only a severe simplicity.

I think that once again we are seeing the influence of Claude Coats. Recall from the previous post that Marc Davis described how Coats provided the stages upon which his characters performed. Like the skilled background painter that he was, Coats was careful not to design a setting that would upstage the performers. With their rugged stonework, the crypts are certainly not unattractive, but they don't steal your attention away from the actors.

With Père Lachaise, it's the opposite. There isn't a soul in sight, and every monument is vying for your undivided attention. Detail abounds.

"Look at me!" "No, me!"

This is not to say that the background artwork at the Mansion's midnight jamboree has nothing important to do. The cemetery is supposed to look old and crumbling. To that end, there are places where they have the plaster falling off and the underlying brickwork showing through, but it's not likely that many guests notice this, because some of it is well-nigh invisible under normal show lighting conditions. One of the pleasures of doing a blog like this is in spotlighting little things that should be seen but which for one reason or another are not.

For the cemetery scene, I think they're shooting not for Père but for this kind of look (+ some crypts):

One of the places where you can find the full-on Père Lachaise look is not in the ride but in the much-despised 2003 Haunted Mansion movie. Whatever one thinks of the film, everyone seems to agree that the art direction and set designs were very good. In the film, that cemetery in back of the Mansion is quite a sight.

The more you see of it, the clearer it is that Père was a big influence.

(That last one is from The Chef and some of his
colleagues got a private tour of the sets during the filming of the movie.)

Compare those images with these images from Père Lachaise.

The second place where Père was an influence is the lost graveyard referred to in the title of this piece.
This is something no one has ever told us about, Forgottenistas.

We may begin with a couple of aerial shots taken during the construction of the Haunted Mansion façade building in 1962.

Here's an aerial shot from 1965:

Check out that large, trapezoidal, roofless enclosure to the south of the building. What is it? Well, it is recognizable as the place now used for the queue. Here's a diagram (adapted from a graphic by Datameister Joe Cardello) which shows that area as it is today, except that I have eliminated the Fastpass garden area.

In the process of turning it into a queue area, they opened a hole in one of the walls for the
entrance, and they took down the wall closest to the building and redesigned the planter abutting it.

(pic by Regions Beyond)

As we know, originally there was a small cemetery, a family plot, in the
far corner. I needn't repeat all that here; you can read That's My Queue.

Here's a recent Daveland shot taken from the same spot (i.e. down in the trench).

Today, all that is left of any sort of family plot in the area are the epitaphs painted on the crypts along the wall in the corner.
It's not even made clear that these are family members, although one would assume so by their location in the house's front yard.

(pic by Regions Beyond)

As we know, this is an idea that goes all the way back to Ken Anderson, except he didn't conceive of it as part of the
queue but rather as a spill area after the ride where you could take your time and stroll around among the tombs.

(Most of what follows is a revision of the original post)

Ken's concept and that wall of crypts give us exactly the right clues as to what the original enclosure
was going to be before it was redesigned as a queue area.  It was going to be a cemetery,
something far more elaborate than the family plot that was there when the HM opened.

Not only was the graveyard going to be bigger, it was going to be deeper.  As we all know, around part
of the interior perimeter is a trench for the chicken/emergency exit. The rest of the area is several
feet higher. It's been like that since the HM opened, through all the modifications in this area.

(pic by Regions Beyond)

What I didn't realize until relatively recently is that this ENTIRE AREA inside the enclosure was originally going to be at the same level as the trench is today (or possibly even deeper). It was going to be the stroll-around graveyard that Anderson originally thought up, but with high walls all the way around. And this graveyard was going to be in the ornate, dense, imposing style of Père Lachaise. Check out this piece of concept artwork by Duane Alt, and compare it to a panorama shot I composed of the same area as it appeared in 1970.

They raised the ground level and went for a simpler, more whimsical family
plot graveyard when this area was re-christened as a queue area.

Some photos of Père Lachaise are quite reminiscent (at least to me) of the kind
of thing you see in that concept sketch, including the big perimeter wall.

NEW! A piece of HM concept artwork I had never seen before surfaced in April of 2022. It looks like a second Duane Alt piece, and it's even more reminiscent of Père Lachaise than the other sketch. (Note the three guests, walking around.)

Here's an extremely rare video glimpse of the area where all this was going to go.

New Information, Mostly of Interest to Grim Grinning Geeks

The original "Lost Graveyard" post was reduced to speculation with regard to certain aspects of that original, mysterious courtyard.  But thanks to the November 2012 discovery of some 1962 blueprints that were new to me, most of the outstanding questions have been answered.  The entrance to the cemetery will be discussed in an upcoming post, so you'll just have to wait for that one, but the design of the northern end was also a real puzzler.  That's the wall nearest the house, the wall taken down.  With the new info, the fog is now lifted.

There was to be a narrow brick walkway (8' wide) which diverted from the wider main walkway in order to bring crowds over to an additional queue area on busy days.  It hooked around onto the south porch and up into a brick-paved area where undoubtedly there would be switchbacks.  Eventually you'd come down the south porch and turn and go across the front porch, much like the queue still does today.  Between this bricked area (pink) and the lost graveyard (gray) was a very large planter (dotted green) which turned into a narrow strip planter running along the back.  This whole planter was elevated above the walkway level and irregularly shaped, as you can see above.  Here's a side view:

This new information allows us to make sense of photographs that
previously were hard to decipher, like this construction photo . . .

. . . and this beautiful photo from 1964 or 65:

It's 1967 or 68, and the northern wall is still there:

A gorgeous photo from 1964 shows that massive eastern wall that was much
altered and opened up for the relocated queue entrance, long before opening.

(hat tip to outsidetheberm)

Notice the ironwork topping the wall. Through all of the alterations to this area, both before and after opening day, the original ironwork was retained in many places, recognizable by its distinctive design. It's already there in the concept sketch and in old photos. Today, we may perhaps see it as a relic from the lost graveyard, marking another piece of long-forgotten Mansion history.

For a sequel of sorts to this post, check out this.
For another one, check out that.


  1. Fantastic post, HBG2...very good illustrative examples and solid thinking. Love it. Your conclusions seem spot on and some photos of the Mansion I'd never seen before (besides some of what I think are mine, but don't begrudge you that at all ;) ). Cheers!

  2. Wow, wow, wow! What a FANTASTIC post!!! By the way, I love cemetaries, LOL.

  3. As always, yet another great post. Thankies for sharing!

  4. Another great post! It's great to be living in the digital age where these long-forgotten things can be researched and preserved.

    The HM cmeteries as they ended up remind me of two famous American cemeteries: St. Louis in New Orleans, with its severe Neoclassical crypts of plastrerd brick and stone, and Sleepy Hollow in the Hudson Valley, with its layers of 17th-19th century stones. I guess that's no surprise, given the locations of the Mansions.

  5. Really great post! Makes the layout make so much more sense. But now I wish they'd put one of those graveyards in the WDW HM instead of the babysitter queue.

  6. What an excellent and incredibly-detailed post. Well done!

  7. Perhaps another motivation by the designers of this space was to show that there's nothing behind the can walk all around it. This is the era when Walt loving the boxed trees on top of small world, after all. I think most of the designers at Imagineering liked to play with space-shifting in the park. And Pirates is deceptive, since you enter a small two story building...and Ryman's rendering did have ship's masts in the background...

    1. Ahh the boxed trees behind / on top of Small about "long forgotten". Their removal and the other changes to the queue actually bother me more than the addition of the Disney Characters inside the ride.

  8. Outstanding, thank you.


  9. The 80s map image of the mansion is the same as my 1968 image (in which it is marked as a coming attraction) The scenes in the show building arent marked, but otherwise it is exact. I think they simply liked the art workn and decided to reuse it!

  10. Ah, very good. That explains it. And as soon as Google fixes the Blogger problem that won't allow me (and a lot of other bloggers) to edit the most recent post, I'll revise that part of the discussion!

  11. HBG2, in your post on the Long Forgotten Haunted Mansion thread over at Micechat, you asked what the crypts adjacent to the attraction exit were being used for. The alcove between the exit crypt and the Pet Cemetery houses numerous poles, ropes, and signs for use in crowd control. You can see Fantasmic! cast members returning their equipment here shortly after the last showing. The other side, which you will find gated, leads around a corner to a small custodial break room and closet, and stairs that lead down into the Mansion show building.

  12. Okay, good. Thanks for the info.

  13. perhaps we could just chalk it up to how "wildly inaccurate" the illustration from the map is, but i don't see a way out of the mansion...

  14. thanks for the post, insight, and all the lovely illos!

  15. Wonderful!
    I love the images and the accompanying detective work!
    That pic of the graveyard from the balcony "before the big scrims went up" is just amazing! Where can I find out more about this change? Why did it happen?
    I have resolved not to use ANY periods in this comment!

  16. Thanks to one and all for the kind words. I really appreciate the comments.

    Jack, before a ride ever opens, one of the things WDI (then WED) typically does is film the ride from the rider's POV. Obviously, this gives them a way to catch problems and discuss ways to improve the show by viewing the film together. They filmed the HM in the summer of '69, a month or two before opening day. Somethings were still in flux at that point. They were evidently experimenting with lightning effects in the graveyard, for example, and some of the big scrims may not have been put up yet. Since filming the interior of the HM is difficult (especially with 1969 equipment), an edited version of this WED interior footage became available within Disney to use as stock footage, and it has been endlessly recycled ever since. You still see bits of it used in Disney videos and commercials right down to today.

    That edited footage was also sold in the parks in Super 8 reels as a HM souvenir. You can watch one of those here:

    That's the "pure" version. The 1970 Osmonds Disneyland TV special (easily found at youtube) made heavy use of the footage, and subsequent souvenir reels often incorporated clips from that TV show along with the older WED footage that was already there. You can find one of those "mixed" videos here:

  17. Excellent !
    Now I know why you took so long posting this one.
    By the way, not meaning to get off topic here but since you mentioned the Osmond's, have you noticed in the Sandy Duncan special with Ruth B. it seems at one point after they leave the Conservatory and enter the COD's that the Doom Buggies are removed?
    I think still has that HM segment posted in their media archives.
    Again Thanks for doing all your research!
    it's PHANTASTIC!

    1. For the Duncan special they simply removed a short string of buggies (maybe five or six) and scooted that blank around the ride to whatever scene they were filming at the moment, covering the big slot with loose pieces of plywood or carpet.

  18. Love this post so much! I was looking at a 1966 map of Disneyland and it showed the Haunted Mansion as a coming attraction. There seemed to be walled graveyards like the ones you describe at either side of the mansion (but the southern one was most visible). While it could just be a fun map representation of the spooky nature of the attraction, the fact that the red brick walls were so similar to your exploration in this post, as well as the fact that the graveyard was labelled separately from the Haunted Mansion (like it was a physical location), and that a fun map from years earlier showed the mansion lacking the graveyard all lead me to believe that they were trying to depict the exit graveyard(s) as they envisioned them at the time, and as you so cleverly discuss here.