Updated March 13, 2018
Before we get started, here's a gorgeous example of a green-and-purple color scheme used to spooky effect (a topic previously explored HERE). This is a background painting from The Adventures of Ichabod Crane (Disney's adaptation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"). I'll probably stick it into that old post, but it's simply too nice to bury that way without calling attention to it.
One of our favorite Long-Forgotten exercises is tracing the inspiration for things that wound up in (or in some cases almost wound up in) the Haunted Mansion. We do it gleefully, despite the hazards of claiming inspiration where perhaps all that is operating is coincidence. The key to retaining your self-respect, as we know, is to tread lightly in making any claims, resisting the temptation to push possibilities until they look like plausibilities, or plausibilities until they look like probabilities, or probabilities until they look like certainties. Today we have a couple more shots in the dark, things that could have been inspirations but . . . well, you decide.
"A Comedy of Terrors"
This 1964 horror-comedy is the sort of film the Mansion Imagineers would have wanted to see, and it falls neatly within the time-period we know they were doing such research. We know, for example, that a group of them had a private screening of the 1963 film, The Haunting, in 1965:
Furthermore, this is from the opening scene of the movie, so no story has unfolded yet, and it goes on for quite some time, so the atmosphere is pretty much all you're getting. At this early point in the film, then, it isn't hard to imagine someone like Claude Coats making a mental note of the colors and the set design, since there's little else to notice. But I'm not going to press the possibility of influence any harder than that. Filed as another "solid maybe."
The late 50's—early 60's was the golden age of anthology shows on TV that featured the odd, the frightening, and the unexplainable. You've got The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. One show in this group that I didn't even know existed until relatively recently was Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff. The show ran just two seasons (1960-61 and 1961-62) but still produced 67 episodes. If you've never heard of the show, get thee to youtube, where most of the episodes can be seen. Like all of the other shows named, there are some real clunkers as well as gems in the batch. I'm impressed with the production values and the often very intelligent scripts. The cinematography in particular often rivals what you might expect from a big-budget film produced at a major movie studio. Robert Bloch (he of Psycho fame) wrote a lot of the stories. Plus there's Boris as your host, and the man is simply irresistible.
So anyway, as I'm wending my way through all these Thrillers, my eye is ever on the lookout for Mansion inspirations. Can't help myself; it's what I do. And yeah, sometimes something pops up that's worth a second look. One such moment occurred during the episode called "The Weird Tailor" (which is excellent, btw). In one scene, a medium is looking into her crystal ball, and a death's head gradually appears.
But beware. Here's a cautionary tale from another Thriller episode, "The Hungry Glass" (worth watching just for the fun of seeing The Professor and Captain Kirk chumming around while Elly May Clampett admires herself in the mirror). There's a creepy old attic in the house that looked familiar to me:
seems too much for coincidence . . . keep staring . . . feel that needle a-twitching?
Well, turn off the machine and sit down. There's virtually no possibility of influence here. See, I cheated. The top photo is actually my combination of several consecutive screen grabs. The attic is only revealed a bit at a time via the beam of a flashlight. At no one moment is the entirety of the scene visible: