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.
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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.


  1. When I fist saw Squeaky, I read her two ways. My first instinct was she that was a maid who had passed on but still took her job of silencing the squeaks seriously. My second instinct was the "adding the squeak" idea. Hence, I think your second point is well founded. Even with sound effects and maybe limited animation on Squeaky's part, it would be difficult to read the intent. The squeak is either there or it isn't, and it would be almost impossible to tell what started or stopped it. In addition, the COD is LOUD. It would be almost impossible to pick up which sound we are supposed to be listening to. All in all, I think it was a cute idea, but one that was fairly unworkable. The big mystery is how did it get so far along in development to begin with? I would say that we'll probably never know, except that Mansion detectives (read "you") are extremely good at ferreting out such things...

  2. Some of the gags in the Mansion I only got afterwards when reading explanations of them (The Birthday Girl being the biggie- never noticed that all the guests disappear in time to the candles). I was always plenty entertained with just seeing the ghosts! Even if Squeaky's gag doesn't quite work, it would've been neat to see Pepper's Ghost outside the ballroom. Now all I can imagine is a Mansion where, just as the first half of the ride builds to Leota, the second half starts with several Pepper's Ghost showscenes, each growing in size, complexity and number of figures. In that way, visitors would have more time to understand the 'rules' of the ghosts, allowing more complicated gags. Neat to think about.

  3. I wonder if there was one particular person who just really liked the gag and wouldn't let go of it until they saw for themselves how poorly it would fit.

  4. I just love the cartoonish look of Squeaky. I think that she would have made a great addition to the attic, possibly adding the squeak to a dormer window, where the squeak from the oil can could have been heard between the pop-up shrieks. I continue to be amazed at how great the original imagineers were at the look and design of even potential characters. Brilliant stuff.

  5. I love Squeaky! And I love seeing knew posts here. I'm watching a youtube video about the Oven Crypts of New Orleans and it made me think of this blog (that's a compliment, I assure you).

  6. Wow, this is fascinating! I love that they actually built the full-sized figure. As much as I love the idea of the Squeaky Door Ghost, I have to admit that her cartoony design doesn't fit with the rest of the mansion's more realistic sculpts. She wouldn't look out of place in the 1937 animated short, "Lonesome Ghosts".

    I'm happy that we are still getting the occasional article from you, thanks!

  7. I enjoy the concept but I can't see where she would even fit into the mansion. The most logical place would be in in the Endless Hallway with a tweak of the line "wall to wall SQUEAKS" so the narrative would give context to the joke. However, that area is already crowed with gags like the candelabra, knight and blowing curtain. The rest of the COD is much too busy and confined to have it.

    She would be out of place in the Ballroom (staff wouldn't do that at a party) and she ruins the narrative of the Attic.

    Her gag IMO is for the inside of the mansion so she would be out of place in the graveyard or even crypt.

    The opening line of in the Foyer would also make sense only it is much too soon as well as tramples all over the changing portrait effect.

    So although she is a delightful spook, there is no real place for her in the mansion.

  8. I agree that the outright cartoon nature of this ghost definitely was a good reason that she was cut. As far as the ability to read the joke at a glance... someone mentioned that they didn't notice the birthday girl gag at first either. My understanding is that one of the things Walt liked about what he saw of Pirates of the Caribbean was that there was so much to see that you would want to go on it again and again to keep seeing new things. I think in that way SDG would have worked as a gag, but her addition to the corridor of doors would have plunged a frankly goofy joke in the middle of a strong setting. It would be like watching "Jaws" the first time, and in the middle of an intense scene, throwing a cartoon character with googly eyes for no reason.