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.


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.


  1. I can't tell you how excited I was when my (almost) daily check in came up with a new (and fun) post! Welcome back! I'm looking forward to the new additions! By the way, X is probably my favorite imagineer, so the new material from him is very exciting! Congratulations on your retirement (I'm four years behind you, but it's getting close!) Have a great day!

  2. I'm not sure I understand the "50th tagging system" thing. Will the posts still show up in the "recently overhauled posts" sidebar, or not? If not, are we to look through the entire archive periodically for posts to whose title "50th" has been added? Seems suboptimal.

    1. I'll probably still make a notation in the "refurbished posts" sidebar, but the "50th" and "50th!" attachments to titles should serve as a kind of shorthand when looking through post titles in the "blog archive" sidebar.

  3. If it's a real skull, is it real skin? Or would he have manipulated the skull and "skinned" it with clay or latex or something?

    1. I'm guessing it was a bare skull and that everything else is latex/makeup/whatever.

    2. I should acknowledge that another possibility is that the whole thing is paper mâché. Think I'll add that to the post.

  4. I find that artwork of the group of guests seeing their ghostly selves in the mirror especially interesting, because I think that idea got recycled in the Tower of Terror--specifically the California, Paris, and Tokyo versions. All three of those attractions make a major deal of the guests all seeing themselves (and the ride car) reflected in a large rectangular mirror like the one in the artwork, only to have their reflections turn ghostly when the lightning strikes. The setup is so similar (and Tower borrowed so many tricks from Mansion) that I can't help but think that one of the Tower imagineers drew inspiration from it during that ride's development.

  5. An awesome post fitting for the 50th and Halloween. I am constantly amazed by all the undiscovered concepts and artwork that is still being found. The mansion is like an onion, or rather a mummy, with new treasures being found under each layer.

  6. Well, hey, nonny nonny! I was expecting a simple "Happy 50th" greeting, and here we are with this sumptuous feast of rare delicacies and I just don't even. You, sir, have truly made my night. And more to come, from regions beyond? How can there possibly be more? I'm on the edge of my coffin!

    (Love checking the dental records of the skull prop.)

  7. Welcome back and happy retirement.

    What a wealth of riches you bring back. Thank you.

    Just a note on the man-in-the-bottle trick. The concept of the manikin in a bottle is from an ancient Roman story. The Sibyl is imprisoned in a glass bottle, held captive and made to prophesy on command.

    T. S. Eliot references it in the quotation prelude to "The Waste Land" poem. Eliot quotes it in Latin and Greek; "Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi
    in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σιβυλλα
    τι θελεις; respondebat illa: αποθανειν θελω."

    The English translation is roughly "I saw with my own eyes the Sibyl of Cumae hanging in a jar, and when the boys said, Sibyl, what do you want? she replied I want to die."

    Not sure how or if the HM trick would have referenced this story, or if it would be another story altogether.

    I think there is a tiny echo of this in Tinkerbelle's imprisonment in Peter Pan, and perhaps a bit of the Ghost Hostess at the end of the Mansion ride.


    1. Good reference. Actually, the concept of a spirit held captive in a bottle is widespread. We are all familiar with the "genie in the lamp" tradition, which is simply the tradition as it has come down thru Islamic folklore, but it was a Jewish concept long before that. The idea that Solomon shut up demons in bottles is pervasive in The Testament of Solomon (1st-3rd c. AD) and elsewhere, and it's probably that the Aramaic "magic bowls" (Google 'em) from late antiquity were understood to be essentially demon traps.

    2. Ok, that's interesting to follow up, thanks. The twist on the Sibyl is grim, she bargained for eternal life, and received it. Forgot to ask for eternal youth though. The Eliot reference is from Petronius, so late Roman. I have no idea what source Petronius used. Funny that the genie in the bottle didn't occur to me at all. Much prefer Barbara Eden in that role to Robin Williams. Off to google solomon etc.