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, August 1, 2013

The Shadow Man

We've explored the cultural/mythical backgrounds of so many supernatural manifestations encountered in the Haunted Mansion that you'd think by now we must have covered them all, but not so.  Here's one we have not discussed at all:

What we have here is not a ghost so much as a paranormal being, variously classified. If you Google "Shadow People," you'll be inundated with sites discussing this phenomenon. You'll read of demons, or you'll read of aliens, and nowadays "interdimensional beings" is a pretty popular explanation too.  Belief in Shadow People seems to run independently of belief in ghosts. There are people who have never seen a ghost and even have doubts about their existence who swear that they have had creepy encounters with Shadow People.

These beings are no strangers to popular entertainment culture.  A recent example is the 2012 horror film Shadow People, which claims to be "based on a true phenomenon."  Gosh.  (I'm sitting here trying to think what it would take to falsify the claim, "based on a true phenomenon.")

The Hat Man

The "Hat Man" is one particular variety of Shadow folk who shows up over and over, and I have to say that I find the hatted figure at least ten times scarier than the hatless types, and I don't even know why.

People rarely get a good look at him.  It's usually an "out of the corner
of your eye" manifestation, which only makes him that much scarier.

Merchandizers of horror haven't let this opportunity slide by, of course.
The Jeepers Creepers film series cashes in on it with their villain:

One of the better episodes of the new Twilight Zone series in the 80's was a Joe Dante directed piece called "The Shadow Man," about one of these dark fellows who lived under a 13-year-old boy's bed and was definitely up to no good.  I remember that when I first saw it back in '85, it was just about the scariest thing I had ever seen on a regular TV program.  It's up on youtube as of this writing, and if you haven't seen it, you should. Terrible music and utterly unconvincing performances by the young actors, but forget all that.  It's got one of the best twist endings evah.

I am the Shadow Man...

In pop culture, the basic Hat Man image goes back at least to the early 1930's and the creepy anti-hero, "The Shadow," famous from pulp novels, comics, and an immortal radio program, where he was sometimes portrayed by Orson Welles.  (That seems right; in later years Welles did indeed cast quite a shadow, as I recall.)  The Shadow bears a remarkable resemblance to our Hat Man.

The Shadow Knows

As the first "dark knight" avenger and anti-hero, The Shadow may have served
as a prototype for Batman, although in this one he looks more like Bela Legosi:

We could chase this guy around all day. People continue to report sightings in the Santa Lucia mountains along the central California coast of what have come to be known as "Dark Watchers," black robed and broad-rimmed hatted specters.  They're always in the distance, either staring at the visitors or off into nowhere in particular.  If you approach them they vanish.  They say.  No one knows how long they've been reported, but they're mentioned in a John Steinbeck short story, so they've been around since the 1930's at least.  There are supposed to be old stories about them among the local Native Americans, taking us back into the mists of antiquity, but *yawn* that's de rigueur with these kinds of things.  It seems like any time any weird thing like this is reported anywhere in North America, it isn't long before someone makes confident claims about old Indian traditions in connection with said Weird Thing. (For the record, in this case, responsible anthropologists who have learned everything they can about Native Americans in the Santa Lucia area—those would be the Chumash Indians—haven't found anything there about the Dark Watchers.)

Nevertheless, I do suspect that the essential image here goes back a lot further than the 1930's.  No doubt you've heard of the artist Edvard Munch? You know, the guy who did "The Scream"?  Yeah, him. Well, here's an equally cheerful Munch piece from 1890, innocently called "Night in St. Cloud."  Would you sit next to this guy?  Hey . . . where's his shadow, anyway?

Yeesh.  I'm tellin' ya, it's that damn hat.

(pic by erix!)

Shadow People in the Mansion

So now that we're a little more familiar with the territory, we may ask whether the Haunted Mansion Imagineers put any Shadow People into the house.  And of course the answer is yes. Some of the early concept art definitely tries to tap into those vague, amorphous, SP atmospherics. Here are two sketches, most likely by Ken Anderson.  Feast your eyes; they're extremely rare.

This first one was on display in the Disney Gallery for awhile in 2003, but I don't think it's ever been published.

And I don't think this second one has ever been officially displayed or published anywhere.
[Edit: It was displayed at the 50th HM Anny exhibit in the Opera House]

Incidentally, that second one is a superb example of Mansion cross-pollination with other Disney attractions.  It's obviously
inspired by a piece of Eyvand Earle concept art for the Sleeping Beauty walk-thru, especially if you reverse it like I do here:

Anderson was working on the Sleeping Beauty attraction at about the same time that he was also working on the Ghost House project.  We really don't need evidence in order to suppose that Anderson knew this particular piece—he must have—but as a matter of fact we happen to have such evidence anyway, in this photo which we've run before showing Ken and Claude Coats working on the Sleeping Beauty project:

Speaking of Coats...

These ominous figures recall the more amorphous, unhatted variety of Shadow People, but in the
80's and 90's the Imagineers went full-on Hat Man, starting with Phantom Manor concept artwork...

(Hat tip DHI)

...and ending with the introduction of a new character at Disneyland, the attic pianist of 1995.

(pic by K447)

Some people think the pianist is supposed to be the Hatbox Ghost, or at least a tribute
to the Hatbox Ghost.  It's possible, but I doubt it.  The style of hat isn't quite right.

But if it's wrong for him, it's right for the Hat Man, with its slightly droopy, downward-sloping brim, quite noticeable in this crisp Daveland shot:

According to some interpretations of the Shadow People, the shadow is all there is. These aren't shadows OF someone or something; the shadow is itself the being. The attic piano player seems to be precisely this kind of apparition.  The shadow demons in The Princess and the Frog are also good examples of this type of manifestion.

This makes me wonder whether there are other specters in the Mansion that could or should be regarded
as Shadow People rather than the cast shadow of some sort of unidentified spook.  How about this one?

(pic by Jeff Filmore -LifebytheDrop)

Probably not.  Notice that unlike the attic pianist at Disneyland, the shadow is not itself in the position of the player.  We're supposed to
take this as the cast shadow of a not-quite-yet materialized spirit, similar to what you find in this gag from Mickey's Christmas Carol:

By the way, that gag isn't new:

Okay, well, how about this one?

This is a better candidate.  Have you ever considered the possibility that there may not be anyone behind you at all, casting that shadow?

As it happens, one of the most celebrated ghosts in the Mansion may be drawing inspiration from these same murky wells.  Besides the Hat Man,
a few other "species" of Shadow People have been identified, including a hooded figure with glowing eyes.  Kind of a tall, dark Jawa, I guess.

Look familiar?  Lots of people, including myself, think that the creepiest, scariest attic bride was the dark-faced, round-eyed, Beating Heart
version.  Could that be because she seems vaguely like something more or other than your garden variety ghost?  I don't know, but I wonder.

Come to think of it, that illustration of the two most often reported varieties of shadow people is eerily reminiscent of the attic occupants in general.  I don't know if this a matter of sheer coincidence or another example of well-tuned artistic instinct. On the other hand, this particular incarnation of the bride was taken out at the same time that the pianist went in, so they've never been seen there together. Perhaps I'm making something out of nothing (again).  I don't know what's going on here, if anything, but I wonder.

I don't know, but I  wonder.
Sometimes I think that's my life motto right there.
And sometimes it doesn't bother me if it is.

It's a Joke...

It would probably be a huge mistake to assume that the Imagineers thought they were dealing with a wholly other type of critter when they threw Shadow People into the mix.  One of the ground rules in the world of the Haunted Mansion is that no real lines are drawn between one netherworldish being and another.  "Ghosts" includes not only spirits of the dead, but banshees, wraiths, demons, phantoms, poltergeists, goblins——you name it. Shadow men are just another part of the ghoulish goulash presented under the catch-all rubric of "ghosts" or "spirits."  You are further given to understand that almost all of them are "happy haunts" and "silly spooks," and since no one actually believes in fun-loving ghosts, the attraction disclaims any and all attempts to tell you anything serious about what populates The Unknown.  There's wisdom in that.  Marc Davis ain't no theologian and he ain't no paranormal investigator.

But for sure Davis does know what he's doing.  He's going after Disney's biggest target audience: the Average Joe.  To be sure, you and I know exactly what a banshee is. ("She's not quite a ghost, but a spirit of the fairy folk," says one source.)  Demons are quite another thing, and poltergeists yet another. But we Forgottenistas are a little peculiar in our intellectual pursuits.  Average Joe just sort of smiles and says, "Whatever.  A spook's a spook." He's skeptical about whether they exist at all, but even if they do, he's still skeptical that we can know anything about them with certainty.

That seems to be the premise of the Haunted Mansion as well, but curiously enough, this ghostly homogenization for purely comic purposes is agreeable to not one but two decidedly uncomical schools of thought on the subject.

...And Therefore It Should Be Taken Seriously

First of all, on the Christian side, the Church has always held that undisciplined curiosity about the occult world is unhealthy, for the simple reason that you don't know who or what it is you're pursuing.  Yes, there are beings over there, says the Church.  No, you have no way of judging which are good and which are bad, especially since the bad are going to try to look like they're good, and they seem to have such skills as are necessary to do it convincingly. Between their shape-shifting abilities and their suspect motives, how are you supposed to know who or what you're dealing with?  Spiritually speaking, it just isn't safe to travel through that forest alone at night.

Second, some of the most respected secular paranormal investigators have come to much the same conclusion.  I'm thinking in particular of Jacques Vallée and John Keel.  Many sane and serious people believe that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that there are non-human intelligences cohabiting the planet with us who are normally imperceptible by us.  Beyond that general observation, you've got your angels, demons, gods, fairies, ghosts, sprites, kelpies, gnomes, aliens, extra/intra-terrestrials, reptilians, elves, Care Bears, Men in Black, Shadow People——there's simply no way to know how many of these are actually separate "species" or even if they're all the same thing, wearing different masks for God knows what reasons.  The Care Bears, at least, have been revealed for what they really are (*shudder*).

(right: Vallée; left: Keel)

Vallée and Keel do think these critters are generally untrustworthy, whatever they are.  When they choose to communicate with us, they frequently turn out to be liars, and sometimes malicious ones.  Hence, Vallée and Keel, neither of them religious, end up giving you advice similar to that of the Pope or your local Baptist pastor: You don't know and can't know what you're pursuing, and it is probably not wise to actively seek such contact.  Even if you're skeptical and regard this whole mess as a human psychological phenomenon, it's still the case that that way lies madness.

Of course, we don't get anything posing as an ET from Venus at the Mansion.  Here, the only interest is in the sort of "goblins and ghoulies" that can reasonably be said to have come "from last Halloween." Still, when the show jumbles these all together and presents them to us in a comic venue, it may, if we let it, have the healthy effect of reminding us that Average Joe has a point: We know a lot less than perhaps we like to think we do when it comes to sorting out what lies in regions beyond, and that's the kind of attitude that can keep you out of trouble.  There's a reason it's called The Unknown.


  1. Very good post... ans the "Shadow-Things" around here are "disturbing" to say the least ... I seldom see them but many of the visitors to my home have been rather badly frightened by them ( and some even refuse to ever return to my house...)About three feet tall ( or about three foot section of upper figure) do Not know what they are.. They do seem to avoid being seen by me and often will "spook" people who visit me...
    We are at a loss of just what to do ... for now they seem harmless.... In case they are a "demonic" entity... we do Not wish to "piss-off" these things by use of a "cleansing" or "spirit dismissal" or even resort to a "Banishment"... Regardless these "Shadows" are Real...

  2. I've had an encounter with a shadowy hat man myself. When I lived in PA, my family and myself had consistent ghostly encounters. I believed this hatted man to be a Quaker, due to the history of the area, but who knows? I've also had encounters with the 3 foot tall shadow people in other places I've been. I've gotten used to seeing them as much as the ghosts I've seen. They don't bother me and I don't bother them. As for the Haunted Mansion, I always thought the hand on the clock was the "physical" creature. The lighting on the clock where the shadow appears like light through a window, but I don't think there is a window in that hall. Correct me if I'm wrong. Either it's a physical being or something possessing the clock. It makes you wonder about what other spirits inhabit the mansion that you may or may not be seeing. There are 999 happy haunts: there's nothing that says they are all human souls.

  3. I havr always thought "shadow people" were disturbing because there is always the rather upsetting possibility that they DON'T exist apart from he viewer. It is sort of a situation that " We have found the demons, and they are within." How do you escape from that??? Madness and being demon possessed have always had muddled lines, and shadow people muddle them further.

    By the way, I sort of recall a quote from an historical paranormal investigation that goes something like, "I don't know who or what these things are, but what I do know is that they lie." Maybe I will try to look it up later, lol. But, that fits in well with the warnings about not trusting the unknown.

    Also, Care Bears........shudder.........the horror!!!!!

  4. A big problem with Shadow People is that in most reported encounters it's a corner-of-the-eye phenomenon. You rarely get a good, lengthy, hard look. So it's pretty easy to dismiss them as optical/psychological phenomena. Your brain fills in the blanks for the incoming optical data. That's why you can look at a grid pattern, say, and perceive no "holes," even though it can be easily demonstrated that you have a blind spot. The brain fills in the pattern for that spot automatically, and you experience only "seeing" it. The skeptic would argue that dark shapes and forms seen from the corner of the eye are inner-eyeball optical phenomena, interpreted by the brain as humanoid because they're about the right size and shape and they "move," so the brain takes them as part of the viewed landscape and obliging fills in the gap with a dark human shape.

    Of course, that explanation doesn't match up well with some reports. In such cases I suspect the brain is using that explanation to paper over all uncooperative data, giving an illusion of satisfactorily accounting for the entire phenomenon. Hey, turnabout is fair play.

    I imagine a space probe to Earth that grabs a few samples of plant and animal life with its robotic arms and heads back to planet Q with them for its scientists to study. Okay, so they now know about earthworms, squirrels, and about two dozen insect and plant species, and they can't help but envision Earth as covered over with squirrels and oleanders and little else, because there's no other data with which to fuel their imaginations. They can't possibly imagine the rich diversity of plant and animal life here, including humans, based on the little evidence they have collected.

    I figure the Unseen and Unknown are at least as thickly populated with diverse beings as the Seen and Known. But with regard to the intelligences out/in there, it's quite possible that I do not have the (cap)ability to discern the harmful from the harmless. If the Q scientists think all our animals are as harmless as squirrels, their astronauts will be ill-equipped for the grizzly bears when they show up. I'm with Keel and the Church on this one. Occultic exploration sounds exciting and is undeniably very enticing to a lot of people, and some people seem to get in and out safely enough, but I also hear about people who have lost their minds and souls. In my book it's extremely dangerous. This world is fascinating enough.

  5. I am nearly certain that I have encountered a ghost, but of course, nothing to see or touch. Just feelings.

    I visited a moth-balled warship which was opened as a museum. Of course, the ship had seen battles in WWII, with all the horror and death those events entailed, but that's all just empirical knowledge, no specific facts or photos of conditions, events etc.

    I was making my way down a dark corridor well below deck and felt a cold presence in front of me, nothing visible, and what felt like a force pushing me backward. I put my head and shoulder down like a linebacker and slowly walked forward into the cold dark since I could hear my party up ahead, I knew this was the direct route to join them, so I just pushed forward and through the coldest wind I have ever known. A couple of turns in the hallway and I found my group again.

    Later that evening, the docent running our tour event told the story of the portside corridor that had been blown open by a kamikaze plane, where several sailors died. He pointed right into the corridor where I had walked earlier. I knew nothing of this story when I went that way, but I had definitely felt someone trying to keep me from walking that route, as well as bitter cold.

    I asked later why that corridor was kept dark (the starboard, right hand corridor was well-lit and used as the tour route). The guide's response was that too many visitors were frightened by the shipboard ghosts. Spirits of the sailors who died in that attack were trapped in the ship and tried to keep people away from the site of the crash. I was never more scared in my life AFTER hearing that story.

    So, for all my education and so-called rationality, I am firmly in the camp that there are things we can't see, that they can see us and react to us, and we should not try to change that relationship.


  6. Heh. My Mom used to randomly break out with, "Who knows what evil lurks behind that door/in the basement/under that refrigerator/behind the shed... ONLY THE SHADOW KNOWS!" when we were little.

  7. With everyone sharing their thoughts, I thought I might chime in too. Like JG, I've never seen anything, though trusted family members have. I most definately have felt something though. I'm glad religion has also been brought up, because mine dleves into that realm.

    Several years ago, while a young missionary, a member of our congregation asked us to help a friend of hers who was having some weird things going on at her home. Not really knowing what we were getting into, we went to the home. The feeling from just walking in is difficult to describe. Physically, the temperature was bordering on hot as the furnace was stoked for winter, but inside, spiritually, the place felt like a meat locker. As the woman described her intense and frightening experiences in the home, the room became more and more uncomfortable. This feeling was so bad that I had to fight the urge to walk out the door and never turn back.

    While not exactly trained in or authorized to "cast out demons", we did what we could by leaving a prayer & blessing on the home that it would be a place where the power & influence of God might dwell and that the family might be at peace. As this prayer was said, you could feel the atmosphere in the home change immediately. It was completely comfortable and all felt right. Until I moved on to a new area a couple of months later, the family had not had any further problems.

    Some reading this might scoff and claim that it was all psychological and in my head, that things don't work that way. Think what you may. But for me, I know that there are powers for both good & evil and that this case is merely one example proving to me that God is the stronger of the two.


    1. Some may indeed scoff, but not I. I've heard many very similar stories from people I consider credible sources. I don't know why anyone who believes in an unseen world should think that things are morally simpler over there, or that detecting bad characters is any easier over there than it is here.

  8. LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!! Love all things HM (Disneyland especially). Loved the post and I remember watching that episode from the Twilight Zone Series as a little kid and not sleeping well that night.
    On another note, could you do a post on the Stormy Windows in the corridor of changing portraits. Over the years I have been able to make out several scenes on those Disneyland HM windows (a town in the distance) but never seen what those scenes are really like, how they do it, etc. and clear pictures which would be almost impossible but perhaps there is info on the plans, some old pictures, etc. Here is the best one I have seen so far on the topic:

    1. Actually, Foxxy made that video at least in part because I had expressed the wish that someone would try to capture it, and she came through with flying colors. As for the sort of details you mention, I must admit that I have little specific information about the landscapes in the cycloramas.

  9. Saticon from Lost in Space are shadow creaures Saticon,are Shadow People,my Zhatakhons are also similar

  10. I saw it, the hat man, while watching disney Wizard of Oz at 3:30 ish am. I wasn't having an episode of sleep paralysis, but I was paralyzed and unable to breathe when he appeared at the door of my bedroom, evil grin and red eyes.

  11. I've had many run-ins with these things throughout my life. I've seen them, felt them and heard them. They feed on negative energy like hate, misery, anger and fear. This is why they are often seen in places of historic suffering like hospitals, asylums, prisons and old battle grounds. They also target people going through a hard time. Sleep paralysis is supposed to stop us from acting out our dreams but these things can force us into it in order to make us more vulnerable to attack. They can make us feel as if we can't breath in order to feed off of our fear.