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, Doombuggies.com. 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).

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.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

On the Web


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I'm reluctant to blog on this topic. It's strictly an Orlando story, and I usually leave WDW history to someone with direct experience of that park, like Foxxy. Not only that, but I have very little to add to what is already known about the subject, and most of what I do have that's new I owe to, well, Foxxy. But the Man in the Web, as he is usually called, is exactly the sort of thing this blog is about. Many of you have probably never heard of him, and for those who have, you may discover that some of what you thought you knew is wrong. At a minimum, it may be convenient to gather into one place all that is currently known about him, plus a wee bit more.


Very Long-Forgotten Indeed

I'm going to call this character "Webster" for short, and "Web" for shorter. Web is a bona fide Mansion mystery, far more obscure than his Disneyland twin, the Hatbox Ghost. Here's the skinny: Webster either was or was not in the WDW Mansion when it opened. If he was, he was quickly removed, leaving behind no photos, and if he was not, he almost was. Sources disagree over whether he was ever seen by guests, or even whether he was installed. Some say he was canceled (or removed) because he was too scary. That description, down to the last detail, could have been applied to the Disneyland Hatbox Ghost prior to 1999. That was when Imagineer Chris Merritt published archived photos of the HBG in The "E" Ticket magazine. Unlike Webster, however, the HBG had never been completely forgotten, since he appeared in the narrative and artwork for souvenir record albums and in prototype photos used by Disney for publicity purposes. Nowadays, we even have film footage and maintenance records proving once and for all that the HBG was in the ride for a brief time. But Webster has never enjoyed any such luck and remains today an enigmatic figure.

Since the WDW Mansion opened in 1971, there have been only two significant discoveries about Webster. First, it was long-rumored that a piece of concept art by X Atencio existed, but the sketch was not published until 2009. You'll find it in the second edition of Jason Surrell's The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies. Thank you, Jason.


We owe the second discovery to Brandon Champlin, a Mansionologist of standing. While looking through an old WDW maintenance
manual, Champ discovered a reference to Webster in a diagram of the Grand Staircase area (i.e. right after the music room):


Web's figure number and location are on the diagram. He's P(6).


Brandon posted his findings at his now-defunct Ghost Relations Department blog in 2006. It was the first hard evidence that Webster once existed.

Anything else? Not really. There is, unfortunately, some faulty data about Web floating around. There are two quotes from former WDW Butlers that have been widely circulated. The first is from "Shawn Potts":

Long ago, when the Magic Kingdom first opened, there was a man trapped in the spider web to the right of the Doom Buggy path, near the Grand Staircase. However, it was felt that this effect was too scary, which was probably due mostly to the fact that there was a hideous screaming sound that accompanied the effect. The man's figure was stashed under an Omnimover motor in the graveyard and was often used to scare maintenance men. By the way ... scaring each other was a very common pastime for Cast Members at the Haunted Mansion.

The second is from a former Butler who goes by "Robotwolf." On the Doombuggies.com chatboards he claimed that the Man in the Web ...

... did indeed make it to the grounds at WDW, but according to my trainer he was never installed. He was still there when I worked there - circa '86, stashed in one of the concrete pits beneath an Omnimover motor. A neat bit of trivia, to be sure. But I, personally, am glad that he was never used ... wrong type of gag for a Disney attraction.

You may now purge at least some of this from your memory banks.

First, Shawn IS Robotwolf, so there's only one voice speaking here, not two. Second, Shawn tells me that he is now certain that whatever his trainer showed him, and whatever the trainer thought it was, it wasn't Webster, so kiss that story goodbye. The other details are also "misinformation and conjecture" passed down from trainer to trainee, according to Shawn. He feels that the only real takeaway from his Butler experience (ca 1987) is that the figure was remembered and discussed, and something genuine must have inspired this to begin with. Webster existed, in other words.

Edit, Aug 2016: We can add here testimony from another former WDW butler, Ken Harrington :

 I worked at the WDW Mansion and Magic Kingdom West attractions from '81-'85. When I learned the HM, my trainer took us on a grand tour underneath the Doombuggy track. Between the Grand Staircase and Seance Circle, there were a lot of square pits. Not really sure why they were there. My trainer said that the man in the web was stored in one of the pits for a long time, and they used to try to spook new butlers and maids by handing them a flashlight and saying, "Look in there." My guess, by my trainer's 5 year pin, was that he [the figure] was finally taken away from storage between '76 and '80. No idea how long he was on the ride itself.

So . . . who knows what that figure really was?

Anyway, to use Shawn's terms, I think the blood-curdling scream is "misinformation" and the idea that he was removed because he was too scary is "conjecture." There's an old listing of all the audio tracks used at the WDW HM, and according to those who have seen it, this scream is not on it. Also, think of the Ghost Host's monologue during this part of the journey. This is the segment where he's talking about the 999 ghosts and the retirement home and informing you that if you would like to sign up, a "charming ghostess" will be waiting at the end of the tour. Then he starts the spiel about finding it delightfully unlivable here and blah blah. Pray tell, how would blood-curdling screams fit in with that part of the show?

EDIT: As several commentators have pointed out, there ARE screams here in the Tokyo Mansion, so it must be conceded that this piece of information may possibly be correct after all. (They sound to me like some of the tamer COD screams, and they aren't terribly loud. My blood remained uncurdled.) As for "too scary," that sounds like your typical HM hokum. They said the same thing about the Hatbox Ghost, incorrectly. And besides, a more reliable explanation is available, as long as we . . . 


Proceed Gingerly

According to Foxxy, the person most responsible for keeping the memory of Webster alive is Ginger Honetor. She worked at the Studio in Walt's era and was around for the opening of WDW and Epcot, and she was a Maid at the Mansion for over 30 years. It was she who nicknamed the hitchhiking ghosts Phineas, Ezra, and Gus, names that eventually received official sanction. Ginger routinely mentioned the Man in the Web during her walking tours with new employees. 


Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971, but all through September there were previews which were open to company employees, executives, and construction crews. Webster may well have been in the HM at that time and therefore was seen by many people, but he was probably removed before opening day and in that case would not have been seen by the general public. (Edit 1-19-17: Another credible eyewitness testimony from opening day tells me he saw no Man in a Web, that he certainly would have remembered him if he had been there.)

Why was he removed? According to Ginger, he was taken out at someone's insistence not because he was too scary but because he looked "stupid." Foxxy is of the opinion that this "someone" may well have been Dick Nunis, who was in charge of both Disney parks at the time and who had a reputation for this sort of thing. For example, he ordered the removal of these frogs from the Jungle Cruise ride just because he thought they looked dumb:


Similarly, Nunis may have decreed the removal of Webster during the September preview period. That's a conjecture, but it's the only theory I know of that accounts neatly and plausibly for all the data.

If you were ever in the WDW Mansion before 2007, you've at least seen the "Web" part of "Man in the Web." The Man was removed, but the roughly triangular web in which he had hung was spared. I'm told that usually you could barely see it, so dimly was it lit, but it was there.

Then and Now


Inspirations, Parallels . . . The Usual LF Stuff

The Man in the Web has ample precedent in pop culture. Everyone who has ever seen the film remembers the ending of The Fly (1958).


And here's a nice example from 1952:


Hey, look. There's even a skeleton in the web. It took awhile before I noticed it.

Foxxy points out to me a tableau in the now-extinct Snow White ride at WDW that contains
all of the individual elements of the Webster tableau. The resemblance is stronger, of course,
if we assume that Web had a spider right there with him, but that's something we don't know.


The difference, of course, is that the skeleton is chained up, not trapped in the web. The spider did move downward in this scene, but nothing suggests that he is responsible for the poor sap's demise. That is generally what happens if you're chained up somewhere and then forgotten. Nevertheless, Foxxy could have a point when she says that this Snow White tableau may have made the Webster tableau seem a little redundant, particularly, one supposes, to people like Dick Nunis.


What is Waiting for You Behind the Wall?

There were actually three related tableaux in the original Grand Staircase scene: The Man in the Web on the left, a large web with a giant spider in it on the right, and a second web with a second large spider on the left, past Webster, hidden from view by a wall jutting out between it and Webster, so that this second web was only revealed as you came up to it.


That wall is today cleverly mirrored on one side so as to visually expand the complex of staircases. Before 2007 it was "invisible" (painted flat black). The idea was apparently this: You see the grisly remains of a victim in a web on the left and slowly pass by another such web on your right. Just as you think you're in the clear, you swerve leftward toward yet another web + spider previously unseen, momentarily threatening you with the same fate as poor old Webster.


The second spider web in 2003. Tokyo still has theirs.
Coming out of that speaker below were the kinds of noises spiders make.

This whole area serves as a sort of counterpart to Disneyland's load area. There, the chain of empty
doombuggies descended through a giant spider web (complete with spider) from 1969 until 2000.



Someday, perhaps, someone will come forward with a photo of the Man in the Web, and hopefully it will also settle once and for all whether he was ever seen by the general public. But you know, it won't bother me too much if such evidence never materializes. With the crass commercialization and nauseating overexposure of the Hatbox Ghost that we've seen in recent years [Edit: plus the fact that he has returned in style, with much fanfare], I take comfort in knowing that there is still a genuinely mysterious haunt far back in the mists of Mansion history, an unsolved riddle, a ghost known today only to a few. We have to ask . . . 

Is the Man in the Web the new Hatbox Ghost?


36 comments:

  1. A giant web in DL's Load area? This is the first I'm hearing of it. All the photos of the area I've seen only show more ordinary-looking, dusty webs on light fixtures, bannisters, etc., and nothing on the wall to the right of the load belt other than a projected cloud effect, which I presume was meant to be the area of "boundless mist and decay".

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    1. Yup, it was there from opening day until the first HMH.

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  2. Terrific as always, thanks for gathering up this info in one place. :)

    I'm warming up to the idea that there may have only been initially one spider when the skeleton was in place - hidden behind the wall, you'd come upon it unexpectedly as answer to the question raised by the huge webs. Since Florida has had webs on everything though the whole facility from day one compared to DL's slightly more circumspect front few rooms - when I was a kid even the gargoyles in the stretch room were webbed - the spider could act as the climax of the house's "web motif". The spider on the rightmost web could've been a fix to give you something to look at in a barren area.

    Also, upon reading this, I realized that the idea of seeing a physical threat to you safety at this point in the form of an apparently carnivorous giant spider works well with the Ghost Host's dialouge of "Any volunteers, hrm? If you should decide to join us, final arrangements may be made at the end of the tour." It's an interesting little twist on the idea that you may be physically in real danger in the old place as well as the idea that the house is trying to "trap" you. Interesting ideas to toss into play right before all hell breaks loose when you get to the upstairs corridors.

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  3. The entangle in web effect is at Tokyo Disneyland.Tokyo Disneyland Haunted Mansion 2014 Full Comple…: http://youtu.be/4QDfn_AXV_0

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    1. They still have the screaming voices on the stairs in Tokyo too... I love the Tokyo HM though, it's still like WDW in the 70's there. They have the original psychedelic lighting in the CoD, the spooky white instruments in Leota's room and in the graveyard, the bats and original bride in the attic, I just wish they had Tokyo's queue in WDW as well, it makes the mansion seem huge

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    2. I've edited the post to include this information. Thanks!

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    3. I would not want to go on that Mansion due to the bats, I am TERRIFIED of bats.

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  4. In WDW's HM the Ghost Host didn't used to talk so much on the staircase, and up until the early/mid 90's you could hear the Man in the Web's voice screaming and saying things like "oh no, don't" on the staircase, but it really didn't make much sense on the ride, and most of the Ghost Host's dialogue about "if you should decide to join us, final arrangements can may be made at the end of the tour" was heard at the end of the ride between Little Leota and the extended WDW HM exit.

    It was this way though out the 1980's until there was a referb in the 1990's, where they changed the bride from "rectangle eyes" to the "blue faced bride", they changed the gold and brown striped wall paper in the stretching rooms to the red white and blue that's there now (Tokyo DL still has the original gold and brown striped walls in there stretching rooms though) and the web man's voice was replaced with the "if you should decide to join us" lines on the staircase which is where it's always been heard in Disneyland

    I first started visting WDW in the early 1980's, what the HM was like prior to that I can't say

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  5. Anonymous, you're WRONG. I've been visiting WDW since 1972 and the Ghost Host's spiel has ALWAYS been the same as it is today. I don't know where you got your "information" or if you're simply trying to get attention, but as a huge mansion fan, I had the entire Gh's spiel memorized by the mid-70's. NOTHING has changed.

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    1. I welcome debate in the comments section, but please, let's stick to the content of the arguments and try to avoid personal attacks. THX

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    2. My info is simply my own experiences riding the ride from around 1979 up until today, but in the mid 80's when DL was experimenting with their "Live Knight" in the Corridor of Doors to try and "randomize the experience for guests" WDW apparently tried a few tweaks to the ride of their own.

      Around this time, mid 1980's I guess, for maybe 1 year you went down the WDW CoD facing forward, after the Endless Hallway the Doom Buggies would make a right hand/clock wise turn to face the Coffin, and as you passed that it made another right hand/clock wise turn facing forward down the CoD, and then turned again at the Grandfather clock to enter Leota's room. They also added additional Ghost Host dialogue at the end of the ride as you passed under little Leota's arch way, this audio was made up edited together Paul Frees outtakes and went something like this... "Lurking at you side is an unseen ghost urging you to stay, if you should decide to join us final arrangements may be made at the end of the tour. I will remain behind to prepare suitable epitaphs for those of you faint hearted guests who are already feeling a certain detachment from you mortal being... now I will raise the safety bar for you and a ghost will follow you home, (laugh) ...bone voyage as we say and rest in peace"

      But it was around this time they added in this additional audio to the stair case scene of a man's voice that would "scream", say "oh-no, oh-no" do another "scream", then do another variety of "oh-no oh-no's" which faded out as reached the top of the stairs making the left turn passed the last giant spider. I don't know if this voice was left over from the alleged "Man in the Web" scene but I mainly remember it because it was really annoying, and these "random experiences" in general weren't great and didn't last long. If you can find some way verify or disprove what I'm claiming be my guest, because I would like know what exactly was going in the mid 80's I only remember experiencing this stuff one time

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    3. Sorry, Anon, but that's a bunch of hooey.

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    4. Honest to god it's really not, it was around the time they switched out the original skull faced bride with the one that had the small rectangular eyes, and that seemed to be some kind of mask they just put over the original skull bride because it scared children, and eventually rectangle eyes was replace with the smiling blue faced bride because she was supposed to be the "family friendly bride"
      But in the mid 80's while they were doing the "Live Kinght" thing in DL at in the Magic Kingdom they began retooling all their original attractions. This is when the Country Bears got the Summer and Christmas shows, The Mickey Mouse Revue whet to Tokyo, Snow White's Adventures became Snow White's Scary Adventures but the made the actual ride less scary, the Pirates and Jungle Cruise where changed to be more politically correct, all the boat rides went away because they weren't ADA compliant, as did 20,000 Leagues, and the Diamond Horseshoe revenue got retired probably because it's bawdy humor wasn't so family friendly anymore, and in the midst of all this at the Haunted Mansion they played some old audio and spun the Doom Buggies 180 degrees for about one summer, and considering what they've done to it since then really isn't that big a deal, but I can't possibly be the only person in the world that remembers seeing it this way

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    5. "Memory is the most convincing of all liars." Turning the doombuggies around as you describe would have been VERY difficult and expensive. It would certainly NOT be done as an experiment or on a whim, and if it had happened, you would definitely not be the only one in the world who remembers it. But it seems you are.

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    6. Also, they've never had a bride with rectangular eyes.

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  6. Actually, the Ghost Host spiel *has* changed at WDW. They now have the Spanish safety spiel, the load area spiel at the table is gone (as is the table, lamp, and book where the speaker was), and an alternate take of "Kindly watch your step, please. Watch your step." is now being used.

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  7. A skeleton trapped in a web was considered as too scary and tasteless for the Haunted Mansion by some? How about the remains (a skeleton) of a suicide victim hanging from an attic?

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  8. when I went to WDW in December 1971
    I don't recall seeing the man in the web,,
    only the spiders.

    And I agree Matt S.
    There are several figures in various stages of Rot throughout the HM.

    I don't think that the Man in the web would have made any difference.

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  9. I'm Glad you put the spot light on this HBG,,
    Years ago I got this WDW Haunted mansion blueprint sent to me from the Reedy Creek improvement district.

    And all those years I thought that corner behind the Spider web was an enclosed room utilizing the corner space of the show building not realizing I was actually looking at the top of left railing on the grand staircase.

    You solved the mystery of the hidden room that never was!

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  10. Personally I think the man in the web (if he exists/existed) is kind of dumb as a concept within the universe of the Mansion. This is a house haunted by ethereal spirits that have possessed the house and its contents. Why the heck would there be giant man-eating spiders in this place? This is not the Museum of the Weird and we're not in some '50's Sci-fi movie. This is one ghost of an idea that should rest in peace.

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    1. Yeah. To me it has the feel of something they stumbled into. Back at DL, the plan in the mid-60s was for an oversized environment (YOU have shrunk somehow), as I argued in "Does Size Matter?" The giant spider and web in the Limbo area was part and parcel of that concept. They dumped the concept but kept the spider. Now we go to Orlando, and they put giant spiders in there, because after all the Grand Staircase is the counterpart to DL's Limbo. DL's Limbo is deliberately underplayed, because you need to concentrate on loading into the Buggies without a lot of distraction. That's not the case with the Grand Staircase, so it needs more than just a few webs and spiders. So they come up with Webster. Et cetera. DL finally discards the spider in 2001. At WDW, not until 2007 do they come up with a well thought out, thematically appropriate use for the obviously underutilized space, and the last vestiges of the Oversizing concept are finally gone from the American HMs.

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    2. Utterly meaningless, but...
      The Omnimover debuted as part of an illusion of audience shrinkage (ATIS). The next time they use it (HM), it signals a final rejection of exactly that concept.

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  11. HBG!

    When are ya gonna put up a new Blog??

    IT'S ALMOST HALLOWEEN!

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  12. Thanks for reminding me, I do distinctly remember the web and the giant spider at the DL Mansion. I had a long hiatus of 20+ years before returning to the park as an adult and that missing detail escaped me.

    JG

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    1. Yes. I have my own 16-year DL hiatus to deal with (1989-2005). Plenty of things happened during that period (Indy, CA Adventure, '98 Tomorrowland). Not too terribly much at the HM, fortunately. I managed to see the pre-Connie, "I do" attic exactly once.

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  13. Does anyone else see the similarities between the Ghost Host's attire and Webster's? Such as the burgundy inner-shirt and the white undershirt? Is there anything that could possibly connect the two, or is it just coincidence?

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    1. Hmm. Hadn't thought of it, but there seem to me to be as many differences as similarities. For one thing, that's a red (hardly burgundy) coat the skeleton is wearing in X's concept sketch. Look carefully alongside his head and you can see the left lapel clearly.

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    2. Oh, so is that what that yellow-ish dot is? I suppose it makes a bit more sense that it's a jacket. Thank you for being patient with me.

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  14. Oh, okay. I think I see it now. Do you think there is any correlation? Even if it's small?

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    1. It wouldn't make much sense to show the same character meeting death in two different ways, so no.

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  15. I suppose that wouldn't make much sense. Hm. Were the pieces made around the same time? I'm fairly new to the mansion, and I want to be able to be a part of the process.

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    1. X's concept of the hanging Ghost Host resembled the figure as he eventually appeared, in terms of costuming and coloration, and this likely preceded X's Man in the Web artwork:

      http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y32/danolson/Blog%20stuff/Blog%20stuff011/Screen%20Shot%202016-10-18%20at%2010.05.22%20PM_zpsec2nez8k.png

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  16. Interesting. I don't think I've seen that piece before. Also, what was the costume of Webster on the ride? Or what was his custome was he supposed to have, I suppose.

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    1. No one knows. All we have is X's concept sketch.

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  17. I see. Is that the only evidence, besides the webs and such at WDW? I don't remember seeing any spiders there, not even small ones, at my last visit. That was this summer.

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  18. Hi, This is Ken Harrington. Thank you for the mention in your blog. I went for another search today to find photos of" The Man in the Web" and found this page. Thank you for talking about Ginger as well, I think I may have been one of her trainers before i left attractions and moved over to entertainment.I do know we both worked together for a few years. Thank you again for the information and now I'm off to my searching. :)

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