. "WAITING FOR THE GHOSTS -- Disneyland's Haunted Mansion rises in Frontierland beside the Rivers of America. Slated as a major attraction
. for the future, the Mansion will be peopled by the world's most famous ghosts now being rounded up by Walt Disney's artists and craftsmen."
The familiar white building that we see today was constructed a full half century ago by artists and engineers planning a very different attraction than what actually went into it. Major changes were made to the grounds and to parts of the interior before the ride finally opened seven years later. Before even a year had gone by, further changes were necessary in the enclosed queue area to the south of the house. It's a place we have come to know well. We did a post on the modest and whimsical "family plot" that used to be there and another post on the ornate and monumental "lost graveyard" that was originally going to be there but was never built.
On the grounds of the Haunted Mansion are two sites that were originally graveyards but which have been altered beyond recognition, for reasons known today only to a few. There are hidden passageways leading to both sites that were extremely important at the time they were built, intended to serve a central and essential purpose, but which today are infrequently used and unknown to most people. The exit for one of these secret passages is hidden from view, seldom seen by any visitors today. Visible remnants of these older structures remain, having been incorporated into new structures or put to different use altogether. These are changes that happened so long ago that there are very few people still alive who can explain them, or who even know about them. They are part of a narrative unrecorded and long forgotten, a history unknown even to the Mansion's current occupants (i.e. Disney employees).
These mutations all stem from pragmatic, logistical issues which arose in the construction and subsequent operation of a popular theme park ride. In other words, none of it has anything to do with the imaginative world of the attraction itself. But if so, why does it almost feel like it does? With a few nips and tucks, that red paragraph could serve as background material for the plot of an interesting haunted house mystery.
This Old House
I briefly alluded to this phenomenon in an older post about The Missing Door. You will recall that the HM blueprints call for a door in a wall across from the Conservatory, but at Disneyland the door isn't there. In any other ride, a missing door like this would barely be of interest even to the most hardcore Disney freaks, but at the Mansion, a missing door is instantly romantic, easily absorbed into the imaginative world of the ride itself. You might ask yourself what the ghosts were up to as easily as you might ask yourself what the Disney architects were up to.
It's just the nature of the beast. With a haunted house, the house qua house is part of the story. When you read about some haunted hotel somewhere, it's not just that some guy committed suicide and now haunts, it's that some guy committed suicide in this very room and now haunts this building. That window right there is mysteriously found open all the time, etc. Unlike Pirates or Small World, if the park engineers fiddle with the grounds around the Haunted Mansion, there is a tendency for the changes to be sucked into the backstory of the ride if possible. And consider this Disneyan observation: Is there any other attraction where the prospect of "a backstage tour" somehow or other feels like it might make the fantasy more vivid rather than less, even though you should know better? It's because the house is not separable from the show.
Maybe that's why a real-world historical probe like this one appeals to more than just DL history geeks. In some strange way it seems to augment the experience of the attraction. It enhances the pleasurable illusion that this is a very old house with a shadowy past. Thanks to the freakishly long and convoluted history of the original Anaheim Mansion, it has an archaeological depth that is simultaneously genuine and feels like it belongs to the attraction's imaginary world.
All of this is unintentional of course, but in even the finest art, some things are just dumb luck.
A Tale of Two Courtyards
layout. We know they're exits for the attraction not only by the "exit" arrows, but by the presence of the turnstiles.
while the trapezoidal courtyard on the left is the site of our now-familiar "lost graveyard."
You can still use that original exit without there being an emergency: It's also the "chicken exit" from the changing portrait hall. Yep, if you're yeller, you can use one of the exits actually intended as a main exit for the attraction in 1962. That's the one you see if you're not bold enough.
likely have been fully themed to the rest of the house if the original plans had held.
(Bear in mind also that Rolly Crump was the main interior decorator at this point!)
In a way, this too is a lost graveyard. Lost, because we don't know exactly what they intended to put in there when it was built—with one important exception—and lost because most of the courtyard is generally closed to the public. Today, the zig-zag path of exit from the top of the speed ramp to the doorway into the open air is dressed out to look like three adjacent crypts. The large structure outside of the courtyard at the top is roofing/access over the speed ramp, cleverly disguised as a big sarcophagus slab, and it lies in the older and more "secret" of the two pet cemeteries. Oh all right, I guess it's worth a quick look, since many of you have never seen it and never will.
Enough of that. Of greater relevance to the present subject is the small crypt to which the emergency exit leads, marked with an asterisk on the map above. (The smaller unit above it is just a storage closet.) What's so special about that crypt, back there where no one can even see it?
Today, it's not only an emergency exit, it's also used by park security if they have a very naughty guest down below. This ain't no chicken exit, bruddah. If you are so exceedingly bold (and stupid, and evil) as to try to pilfer something, you're sure to get caught and whisked up the stairs, out of that little crypt, and interrogated right there in the lower right hand corner of the courtyard. That's what happened August 13, 2006, when a couple of teenage rocket scientists snatched a wicker suitcase from the attic as they went by. With walls and lockable gates all around, that corner of the courtyard is a semi-secure, makeshift holding cell until the cops show up, if it comes to that. Not exactly San Quentin, but at least there will be no sudden dashing off and losing oneself in the crowds. Oh, and there is no truth to the rumors that there used to be iron rings bolted into the masonry there and bloodstains on the wall, no truth at all. (How do these things get started, I wonder.)
Psst, hey, wanna see some forbidden mysteries? You know you do. Come, we're going back towards the exit, against the flow, you might say. However, we'll casually hang a right around the corner rather than go into the exit crypt. Dee dee dum dee dee...lovely day...dee dee dum
was left open, and you can see what the area back there is used for.) Many Bothans died to bring us this information.
We can't open the door, but Sandy Duncan did, in her 1974 Disneyland special, so I was able to cobble together a photo from that.
while big, unsmiling security men debate among themselves whether to call in the Anaheim police or simply throw you out of the park.
We've mentioned in other posts that the main show building was not erected until 1968, after they had settled on the omnimover system for the ride, but the two outer walls going under the berm and RR tracks were built in 1962, and the two openings intended for the two exits were carefully engineered and cast in concrete at that time. Later, they would be demoted to emergency exit status, but like I said, those tunnels and staircases were originally going to be fully themed and part of the attraction, probably presented as secret passages to the outside cemeteries.
And incidentally, note that the door is exactly like the door on the emergency exit crypt in the other courtyard.
they were replaced with regular door handles, and the rings were moved up. I just thought you should know. )
"mausoleum," as both of those jogs in the height of the wall are indicated on the 1962 blueprint.
Behold, the only part of the "lost graveyard" that was ever realized.
replaced about five years ago with a model undoubtedly more weather-proof
and more guest-proof (left), but also less charming. Otherwise, no changes.
Over on the other side, that little crypt which today is an emergency exit was in 1962 the site of an "open grave," which might call into question whether the current crypt structure was the original idea. Granted, it's an infelicitous choice of words, but yes, apparently that crypt was indeed what the blueprint called an "open grave." In fact, it's the only thing there today that we know was part of the original plans for this area. We know this because it was part of a WED model of the Mansion and its grounds, which model is most familiar to us from the 1965 "Tencennial" TV program. The model was already several years old even then, since the house reflects a design that was obsolete by the end of 1961.
Now at last we turn to the third staircase. And . . . I got nuthin. The staircase marked in yellow on our blueprint section up above was also supposed to lead to an "open grave," but on the other blueprint it doesn't line up with anything that's there now. My guess is that it hooked around and came out where the speed ramp is today, that is, the current exit, because I should think that the gap in the perimeter wall at that point was original to 1962, like the other openings. The "open grave" to which it lead would have been accessed via staircase rather than escalator. Ironically, this may have been the original emergency exit, servicing both walk-thrus, but as I say, this is guesswork.
The Missing Brick Wall
Got Concept Art?
We have a nice piece of concept artwork for the "lost graveyard" on the south side; viz, that striking watercolor near the top of this post which was a star feature in the previous post on the subject. Do we have anything similar showing what the north side graveyard would have looked like? Not that I'm aware of. There IS a graveyard there, of course: the current exit crypt complex. But that can't be the original layout. The small courtyard is clogged with bulky structures, dividing the space inefficiently and creating areas difficult to access (which are today used for storage or break areas). Among these, the only structure we know was going to be there is the emergency exit crypt.
But don't despair quite yet. We DO have one piece of artwork which I suspect is widely unrecognized for what it actually depicts.
In his well-known and well-loved artwork for the "Story and Song" booklet, Collin Campbell gives us this illustration, supposedly depicting the exit crypt into which Mike and Karen must go in order to escape from the graveyard. ("That's a crypt! That's the one by the fence! It's the way out!" exclaims Karen. How in hell she would know this, no one explains.) Oddly enough, the model for Collin's exit crypt from the inside to the outside is none other than the actual crypt that would lead you from outside to inside if you went into it. Everything's backwards, in other words.
In the montage below, take note in Campbell's painting not just of the crypt but of the brick wall alongside of it, topped with decorative ironwork, and compare all that with the actual exit crypt (lower right). In that modern picture, the greenery above the wall is too thick to let us see the house, but let's make like silly spooks and manipulate space and time. Let's (1) back away from the opening, and let's (2) return again to 1966. There. Now the house is visible (lower left). Compare it to the house in Campbell's painting. There is just no doubt.
We've emphasized on more than one occasion Campbell's extreme conservatism in rendering anything based on others' concepts. You can almost bet there is a Marc Davis sketch (or something) behind these paintings. Even the ghoul on the right in this very painting is nothing more than an elongated but extremely faithful version of a photo of a basic, Blaine Gibson, pop-up head model.
We began the post by pointing out the unintentional but genuine archaeological depth possessed by this possessed manor, built half a century ago. Cryptic alterations* that actually have bland, unmagical, Glendale-ish explanations nevertheless make the Haunted Mansion seem that much more mysterious (if you know about them, and now you do). The ghost show put on before you consists of the sort of fabricated authenticity you get with any good quality dark ride, but with the Disneyland Haunted Mansion you also get the opposite: a vaguely but pleasantly enhanced sense of age and secrecy springing not from the imaginations of storytellers but from the odd and accidental, clumsy, real-world history of the place.
For a sequel to this study that confirms some of its findings, go here.