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.


Friday, November 15, 2019

With Each Beat of His Bride's Heart

No big deal, but I have sometimes wondered just how quickly the original Hatbox Ghost's head was supposed to flash back and forth between his shoulders and his hatbox.  It seemed to me that there were two realistic possibilities: a faster pace and a slower pace.

The Fast One (Options A and B)

The heart beats  LUB-DUB . . . LUB-DUB . . . LUB-DUB . . .  It could be that each LUB and each DUB signaled a switch. So the head appeared in the box every LUB, and on every DUB it appeared on his shoulders. That's Fast One Option A. It could be reversed, of course: With Fast One Option B, you get LUB (shoulders), DUB (box), but that one has never seemed likely to me. The heartbeat tempo is of course uneven, so the time between DUB and the next LUB is longer than the time between LUB and DUB.  It's always seemed more natural for the head-on-shoulders phase to be the longer one:

   box-and-back . . . pause . . . box-and-back . . . pause . . . etc.
   LUB      DUB                           LUB      DUB

The Slow One

Does that sequence seem too quick?  Sometimes I have wondered whether the swap occurred only once with each LUB-DUB.
You get a kind of swinging rhythm that way:

LUB-DUB (head is in the box) . . . LUB-DUB (head is on his shoulders) . . .

Like I said, it's not exactly a burning issue. But still, for what it's worth, is there any way to decide the question? The other day I was looking again at the now-famous film of the original HBG, taken in August of 1969, footage I've watched who knows how many times, and I noticed for the first time that you CAN see the head inside the hatbox flashing on and off. (Maybe some of you noticed it long ago?) Look very closely at the upper-back part of the hatbox, which is darker, and at one point you can clearly see a light spot turning on and off. Gotta be the head lighting up. You can see the back-and-forth at least twice, just enough to determine that the hatbox head was indeed off longer than it was on. The home movie film seen in its entirety shows people walking around. Judging from that and other considerations we may be confident that the speed of the film is correct, so it's definitely not the Slow option.

Verdict: The head in the box flashed on with each LUB and off with each DUB.

hbg film

Fast One, Option A it is.

LUB                                               DUB

Another cool thing is that you can actually (but just barely) make out the head in the hatbox at one point:

What about the head on the shoulders? That light seems to be turned off altogether, which jibes with the memories of some eyewitnesses. According to "Todd Hackett":

The hatbox ghost was probably my favorite figure in the HM. I got into a lively debate with Jack Janzen of the E Ticket trying to convince him that the HG existed. He even published a letter I wrote about it in the E Ticket years ago. Fortunately Chris Merritt found those pics to confirm it. The HG was positioned just right of the exit of the attic. The first time I saw the HG his face would disappear then would flash into the hatbox. The next time I saw it the effect didn't work right and I remember at one point his face was lit and the head in the hatbox flashed on and off. Then they painted his head black, and the other head in the hatbox flashed on and off  (our emphasis).
I wonder whether they actually painted the face black or simply doused the lights on it. In any event, my own memory from August 14 matches Todd's second description: head on shoulders lit continuously, hatbox head flashing on and off. All the available evidence suggests that they were frequently fiddling around with him during his short sojourn in the attic. 

(Maintenance record uncovered by Tony Baxter proving that the figure
was in use long enough to be a check-off item for the maintenance guys.)


Nothin' fancy, folks, just squeezing some old lemons and finding out that there is still juice in there.


  1. The Hatbox Ghost is a real superhero, a real honest to goodness gem. He just keeps giving and giving. What a selfless guy.

  2. Very interesting. I would have bet on the slow option. It just seems creepier to me. I guess I would have lost money on that one! This is why I never bet...

  3. This is one of the first posts that I think you may have been staring at something just too long. I rewatched the video about 10 times just now and I honestly can't see anything that would indicate a light turning off and on. The whole thing is too obscured by whatvever is in front of it and the film is just too grainy and washed out. And where are these people you're saying you can see walking?

    1. The people are there in the film seen in its entirety, going up the escalator and exiting from the crypt. They are not in the clip here or even in the clip on the Hatbox Ghost as presented in the DHI video. As for whether the flash is really there, I think it is clear once your attention is called to it. Compare the left and right sides of the block of four stills I've included in the post. The white blob you see on the "lub" side definitely comes and goes rhythmically.

    2. Ok, I can kind of see it now. Right at the end Lub, dub, lub.

  4. I see it in the film, yeah, pretty fast huh? Makes you wonder if the HBG was deemed ineffectual not only because they couldn't hide the fact that the head on the body was still there, but also because the head in the box looked like it never left either! With the light changing that fast, it could come off as a slow flicker - like an attempt to make something seem scarier than it really was. Or worse, a faulty lightbulb.