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.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The "Boy Mechanic" Myth (OR IS IT? UPDATED!)

Edit: November, 2020. I've been in communication with a source that potentially calls into question the whole premise of this post, or most of it. But first, go ahead and read the original blogging below, and then take note of the update that immediately follows it.

Kind of a downer post, folks. Sorry about that. But it's time for someone to turn a KNOW into a NO.

If you're any kind of Mansion history nerd, one thing you know (or think you know) is that special effects whiz Yale Gracey was heavily influenced by a book called The Boy Mechanic, which came out in 1913 and gave him all kinds of neat-o mosquito, tough torpedo ideas he would later use to cook up illusions for the Haunted Mansion.

The example everyone points to is the "Pepper's Ghost" illusion on pages 52-53:

I'm sorry to report that Rolly Crump is the man chiefly responsible for promoting the Boy Mechanic myth. It was he who first pointed out the Pepper's Ghost chapter, implying that this is where Yale got the idea for this most convincing of all Haunted Mansion illusions.

I don't doubt Rolly's sincerity, but the simple fact is that there is virtually nothing in the book that looks to me like it might have served as inspiration for anything in the Mansion. Yes, I've read it. Nothing there. It's a compendium of projects contributed by a host of readers of Popular Mechanics magazine, with all sorts of "how to make this" and "how to do that" instruction, some of it extremely rudimentary and some of it remarkably sophisticated. It is true that there are lots of magic tricks in it, but they are mostly the kind of things you found in that first ever "magic set" you got as a kid. Coin, card, and handkerchief tricks. Think of the beloved Magic From the Haunted Mansion 1970 souvenir booklet. That level. Oddly enough, however, and at the other extreme, The Boy Mechanic also includes explanations of how some very professional stage tricks are done, and these go well beyond the scope of DYI at home even by adults, let alone boys. There's the levitating lady with hoops passed over her, and very sophisticated black boxes that require trained assistants and special lighting. You wonder why they're in there, except as spoilers. Nevertheless, I didn't find anything even among those that I could connect with something in the Mansion. (By the way, the books have thorough indices, making it easy to find all the "tricks," "magic," and "illusions.")

Did I say "books"? Yep, there are actually four volumes in the series, not just the one.

But what about that Pepper's Ghost chapter? Well, we've covered this ground before (HERE, and HERE), but to recap, Ken Anderson's plans for the Disneyland Haunted House featured several applications of Pepper's Ghost. You will remember that those plans date from 1957-58, and Yale's involvement in the project began in 1959, so it's not as if Ken's plans were lost in a file somewhere and forgotten over time.

But there's even more Pepper there than we knew. We've seen this Anderson sketch before:

What we didn't know until it was published recently is that Anderson did a second sketch of this scene,
this time included a diagram of how the illusion would be achieved, using classic Pepper's Ghost:


Ken's diagram is crystal clear and reminds me of 19th century specimens:

Turning to Yale, more complete and better quality copies of pages from Yale's notebooks have also been published recently, in
MDIHOW (421) and at Doombuggies . com. They provide good examples of how Yale would have used Pepper in the attraction:

Looks to me a heck of a lot more like Ken Anderson than Boy Mechanic.

And then there's the fact that the original '57 Sleeping Beauty walk-thru was absolutely loaded with extremely sophisticated examples of Pepper's Ghost, thanks to Anderson. Perhaps the best way to appreciate this is to get ahold of the Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD. In the Special Features is a fascinating history of the original walk-thru attraction (hosted by Tony Baxter and Chris Merritt). Everyone talks about what a special effects genius Yale Gracey was, but I'm telling ya, our boy Ken was not far behind.

It's perfectly possible that Ken's work stirred memories in Yale of seeing such an illusion in an old book he had
read as a kid, and perhaps he made some remarks to Rolly about it, and the whole thing grew out of that. Whatevv.


And now for the update. My source is a former WDI Imagineer who once worked with a couple of WDI guys who worked with Yale in earlier years. One of them was in fact Yale's assistant not long before Yale's retirement and took over the department as it moved into the EPCOT years. Anyway, according to my source, both of those guys told him that Yale worked on the Sleeping Beauty walk-thru, heavily implying that the sophisticated Peppers Ghost effects (and other effects) in the diorama were in fact the work of Yale Gracey, not Ken Anderson. The problem is that there is currently no hard evidence for his involvement, like his name on a project document. But as second-hand hearsay goes, this is much more solid evidence than usual, and it comes from excellent sources. If it's true, then we can imagine a scenario in which Yale first learned about Peppers from those famous pages in the original Boy Mechanic volume and was directly responsible for introducing that effect at WED, to Ken, Rolly, and others. It's still true that there is nothing else in the books that looks remotely like anything seen in the Mansion or elsewhere, so that part of the myth is indeed mythical, but the notion that it was the original source for the Peppers Ghost effect could well be true after all.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Squeaky Door Ghost


One of the oddest almost-ghosts in the Mansion was brought to light in 2017 by Chris Merritt while doing research for his magnum opus on Marc Davis (Mark Davis In His Own Words, which has come to be known in these parts as MDIHOW, so get used to it). Chris noticed something barely visible in the background of a photo of Imagineer Wathel Rogers and quickly recognized it as a figure previously known only from a Marc Davis sketch:

I had first seen that sketch in 2009, but only in a bad copy:

 Anyway, like everyone else I had assumed that it was just another one of the seemingly hundreds of Davis gag ideas that went
nowhere. But not so. Here is the relevant part of the photo Chris found. (That's a sliver of Wathel Rogers on the right.)

In MDIHOW Chris adds something new he's apparently managed to dig up:
a photo showing the above figure being made in the model shop.

Notice the artwork on the wall. The ghost needs a name, so I'm calling her the Squeaky Door Ghost. 

Mystery #1

What makes the SDG remarkable and worth a blog post is the fact that in every other case that your humble blogmeister is aware of, Marc's "bedsheet"-style ghosts were transformed by Blaine Gibson and his team of sculptors into something more realistic and human-looking. One could illustrate this process with any number of Davis characters, but perhaps the best-known example is Ezra the hitchhiker. As most of you probably know, in the original sketch and even the first maquette (dated 1967) he was a bedsheet ghost:

Soon afterwards Blaine Gibson produced his own maquette. The bedsheet
was gone and we had the familiar skeletal figure we all know and love.

Chris's book furnishes several quotes from Gibson in which he mentions his belief that Walt wanted all figures to be "believable," even if exaggerated or caricatured (MDIHOW 143, 144, 418), and accordingly, it does indeed seem to be the case that he routinely made Marc's human characters (whether dead or alive) less cartoony. Apparently he was able to do this without causing any kind of major fuss, which really doesn't surprise me since Blaine always struck me as a remarkably tactful and unassuming guy. Nevertheless, when it came to this, he always got his way; not one of Marc's goofball ghoulies or bedsheet ghosties made it into the finished ride intact. Marc himself sorta hints at a concession in this area when he explains why his sketches of Halloween witches and bedsheet ghosts whooping it up in the graveyard didn't go anywhere. "They're kind of, you know, cartoon-style ghosts and witches" (MDIHOW 400).

Which raises the question how Squeaky here made it all the way to a full-sized prototype without the slightest modification. It really is surprising. All I can think is that this one somehow managed to slide past Blaine under the radar while he was engaged elsewhere. I can't believe the full-sized Squeaky was the product of anyone in his crew.

The sketch dates from mid-1968, the foam model from early 1969, and the photo of Wathel with the prototype in the background dates from mid-1969, according to Merritt. Based on the provenance of the photo and some of its contents (Florida Tiki Room birds), it's likely that the SDG was intended for the WDW Mansion, and Chris thinks it may have been planned for the Corridor of Doors (MDIHOW 427).

The COD? I wonder. It is true that we don't really know when that immutable dictum, "No Ghost Shall Appear Before Leota" became canon law, but the whole point is that everyone seemed to instinctively understand that rule and abide by it, whether or not it was ever discussed openly, and that is, after all, how the rule came to be recognized as being there in the first place.

Wherever it may have been intended to go, Blaine would have and could have humanized the SDG before it went much further, so...why didn't it?

Mystery #2

There is another SDG mystery that is, to me, much more inexplicable. How did it get this far in development, even to the point of possible inclusion in the Orlando Mansion if Merritt is right, when it should have been obvious to everyone that the gag simply cannot be read in an instant, as all HM gags must be if they are to work. Davis explained the joke as a maid ghost trying to put the squeak INTO the hinges, transparently stepping back and forth through the door in the process. The latter element would require a Pepper's Ghost effect, but I imagine that part of it could probably have been sacrificed.

No, the real problem is that the joke would require several seconds of viewing, with a squeaking noise coming and going at appropriate intervals along with some way of signaling to the viewer exactly when the maid was applying oil and when not, so as to make it clear that the noise was being added to the door rather than eliminated. I'm surprised this concept made it off the drawing board, let alone all the way to full size prototype.

Squeaky, we hardly knew ye.

For an argument that Squeaky was directly inspired by the "Addams Family" television show, see HERE.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The 50th Year

And just like that . . . we're back.

The 50th has been quite a year for Mansionites. Among other things, it has brought to us at LF a treasure trove of new goodies, coming from no less than four different sources, given here in no particular order.

First, there is the "Happy Haunts Materialize"exhibit at the Opera House (where Lincoln is). All in all, it's a relatively modest affair, with just 11 maquettes and 28 graphic artworks on display, along with some informational posters. Much of this art has been seen before, but many of the maquettes have never been put on display previously; likewise, six of the graphic works have never been published and were unknown until now.

Regions Beyond via FB

Second, Chris Merritt and Pete Docter's magnum opus on Marc Davis has finally been published, Marc Davis in His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Parks (= "MDIHOW").Well worth the 100 bucks or so it'll set you back, consisting of two volumes that total about 750 pages. There is a wealth of Haunted Mansion material in the book. As you might expect, the vast majority of it is Marc Davis artwork, but there is also art from other Imagineers. Much of this has never been seen before. Some has, but only as blurry, washed out photos that often looked like poor quality screen grabs from poor quality videos (for the very good reason that that has frequently been what they were). Anyway, aside from the artwork, the text of MDIHOW requires a rewriting of many a Haunted Mansion meme, including some in circulation here at LF.  More on that later.

Third, Imagineer and Disney historian Tom Morris has been on the lecture circuit, telling tales and showing slides that overturn not a few notions about HM history and providing some fascinating new material. Mansion archaeology?? No wonder we're smiling!

me and he

Fourth, my friend Jeff Baham has finally been able to make good on his promise to give his website a complete overhaul, and the results are impressive. There is much that is new and different, so be sure to drop by DB dot C and check it out.

he and me

What to do with this embarrassment of riches? Well sir, there are so many posts here at LF that will be enriched with new or improved artwork that at this point it almost seems easier to name the posts that will not be disturbed than the other way around!

[Scratch the idea I originally described here. Won't work.]

What I'm going to do is continue to use the Refurbished Posts listing on the right but highlight the many 50th Anny changes by coloring the date bright green. That way y'all can see at a glance what posts have been affected by all this new stuff.

Friends, all of this is going to take some time. Which I'll have more of now, since I'm retiring! [Edit: It's November, and I've finished updating old posts with the new information, 30 posts altogether. I've also fixed bad links and malfunctioning GIFs and the like.]

The remainder of the present post has a modest goal. Since a great many of you will never get to see the 50th Anny exhibit in the Opera House, it seemed worthwhile to show you those artworks on display that have never been seen before. Photographing these things was a bear because the glass of the picture frames reflects light fixtures and—well, almost everything else in the room. My brother and I reduced the effects as best we could by having one of us stand behind the other to block some of the glare, and I also made liberal use of Youtube video footage of the same works shot by others in order to eliminate the reflected light fixtures and other noise via photoshop tricks. You can and should, of course, see some of the many Youtube videos of the whole exhibit, especially for the maquettes, but quite possibly you are not going to find any pictures of the six never-before-seen artworks as clean as you see here.

Three From Ken

Three of the new/old works previously unknown are from the "Father of the Haunted Mansion," Ken Anderson, and date to 1957-58, when he was busy at work on the fledgling attraction. This first one shows a floating head in the air:

"Whistle . Cold Wind" it says in the corner. It's not hard to see in this important work the ultimate prototype of such things as the organ banshees and the blast-up heads. One Mansion Imagineer duly impressed with Ken's idea was Claude Coats, as can be seen in his ballroom concept art (also on display at the exhibit, incidentally).

Another Imagineer much impressed with Anderson's concept
was X Atencio, as we shall presently see. On to the next...

You owe me big time for this one, folks. Its placement high on a wall made it all but impossible to photograph without reflected light fixtures all over the place. I used shots from lots of different angles and patched them together to form a single image.

What I think is going on is that people see their own reflections in a large mirror and are presumably horrified at how pale and ghostly they look. Anderson is here going all the way back to a nineteenth century trick used in the Cabaret du Néant. At one point the guests there saw their own reflection in a mirror in a coffin and were shocked by their appearance. The effect is easy to do. Just make sure the lighting is a sickly greenish-yellow color and people look appallingly cadaverous. They of course don't know that they look this way until they see a mirror.

Speaking of mirrors, Anderson knew all about two-way mirrors and their potential for ghostly effects. Here, the onlooker (inlooker?) is surprised to see her reflection overtaken by the visage of an old witch, accompanied by "Hysterical Laughter."

Here's a version you can add to your Ken Anderson HM artwork collection:

Three From X

Four sketches from X Atencio's "one-eyed black cat" concept artwork are at the exhibit. You can bone up on this chapter of Mansion history HERE. Suffice it to say that a mysterious eye appears, then a sparkle and an eye together, and then a cat's face, revealing that the eye is his and the sparkle is from his empty eye socket. This morphs into the visage of a rotting, screaming skull. The cat face sketch was published long ago, but the screaming skull sketch, I'm proud to say, was first published here at LF. However, the coloration was way off (not my fault; it came to me that way). The sparkle & eye sketch has now been seen for the first time in the Main Street display, plus an additional sketch of the screaming skull.

Here's the screaming skull sketch first seen here at Long-Forgotten:

Except that our version looked like this:

Curiously, there are quite a number of X Atencio and Ken Anderson artworks out and about and published in books and magazines over the years that are very, very blue, but when you see the originals the blue is actually light brown. Don't know why that is, unless the person who originally released them distorted the color intentionally so as to be able to prove that this or that reproduction is actually his, published without crediting him or getting his permission. That's a guess.

Here's the second screaming skull sketch, to my knowledge never seen before anywhere:

Yeah, that one came out good.

I thought it looked familiar, and sure enough, it turns out X is copying verbatim
a rotting skull prop created by Yale Gracey, which we've looked at before:

In 2017 it was discovered to everyone's astonishment that Yale's sons had actually saved this prop in a
box which labelled it as a Hatbox Ghost prototype. Jeff Baham actually got to handle it, the lucky bum.

It was on display at the Doombuggies "Sóiree" event held on August 9th of this
year, now kept safe from the unclean hands of us mortals in a plexiglass case:

Anyway, compare the eye sockets and especially the teeth with X's sketch:

I said X's SKETCH, you mundane noodle.
I swear, Siri hates me.

I don't think there's any question but that he directly copied Yale's prop. Incidentally, it's obvious to me that it's a real skull. They had no qualms about using real human bones back then. I'm sure that many of you know that they used real skeletons (eventually replaced with fake ones) when they built Pirates of the Caribbean. It's not an urban legend. [Edit: It occurs to me that the whole thing could be paper mâché, and also, it does look a little small, but... I don't know... those teeth....]

So, what does this mean? Did X envision using this prop when he developed his "one-eyed black cat" story idea? Was it going to float about like the head in the old Ken Anderson sketch we just looked at? Whatever the truth is, yet another layer of intrigue now surrounds this sacred relic.

Our last piece of previously unknown artwork is an X Atencio sketch of a miniature man in a bottle:

As it happens, this sketch from MDIHOW proves that this is another example of X taking an idea from Yale Gracey. Atencio was inspired
by a drawing found in one of Yale's sketchbooks. If there's any doubt in your minds about that claim, look at the shape of the bottle:


Yep, it's the old Pepper's Ghost illusion. This would have looked pretty cool, huh?


 More is coming, so it's very much "watch this space" at Long-Forgotten once again.