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.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Rap on a Table

(That's rap, kids, like, you know, when hippies say "rap."      Never mind. Boomer thing.)

The germ of this post actually goes back to October of 2012. At the time I didn't think it was worth an independent post, so I tabled it. Since then enough new interest and new information has accumulated to change my mind.

This is one of those studies that focuses on an insignificant detail in the Mansion which, upon examination, turns out to be . . . okay, an insignificant detail. Actually I prefer to think of it as the tip of an interesting iceberg. The detail in question is a small table in the Séance Circle, located on the same levitating carpet occupied by Leota's table, chair, and (since 2005) spell book stand. It's always been there.

(Close up from a Daveland photo found here)

In the past, I've usually referred to it as a "scrying table," which is probably not the most accurate description.  While it isn't exactly wrong, it isn't exactly right either. You'll soon see why. And speaking of "why" questions . . .

Why is it there? and Why is it there?

I suspect that its original purpose was to house the projector for the "Leota effect." I don't have any proof of this, but the reason I tend to think so is that it looks like the little table originally stood almost directly in front of her, to judge by these old photos:


You will recall that up until just a few months before opening day, the plan was to have Leota facing the opposite direction. You would see her face as you entered the room, and her projector was going to be in the cabinet directly behind her, which is still there. As we've pointed out before, you can see this earlier arrangement in photos of the scale model the Imagineers made:

When the plans were changed (a big improvement, I think), the immediate question must have
been, Where do we put the projector now? It ended up well out in front of her, below the railing.

(It's that black thing sticking up out of the floor.)

The thing to bear in mind is that all of these arrangements were incredibly rushed during the chaotic months of spring and early summer 1969, and it may well be that at first they expected to put the projector closer to the Madame, in which case they would need a piece of furniture to hide it in. Otherwise, I can't see any reason for including the little table to begin with, nor placing it where they did. I don't see it in any of the scale model photos.

If I'm wrong about this, it doesn't matter all that much. It could be that the only answer to the "why" question is that they found the little table somewhere, thought it looked cool, and plopped it in.

It does have a function in that it's got a candle on it, but for most of its existence the table top was bare. The candle only appeared in January of 2005, when they put in the Spell Book and some fancy new candles on the main table. That's also when its legs were lengthened, presumably because it now has something inside of it.  A speaker, I imagine.

Okay, but what is it, exactly? It's a relic from the Victorian era, an antique, like many of the incidental furnishings in the Mansion. Antique dealers refer to them as "Moroccan side tables" (or "end tables"). They also call them "Moorish," "Turkish," "Ottoman," "Syrian," "Anglo Indian" and "Arabesque." Google any of those terms plus either "end" or "side" table, and you'll find hundreds of examples. It turns out that the one in the Disneyland Mansion is actually one of the most common varieties, although there are myriads of differences between them.

I'm sure the Halloween colors didn't hurt.

Here, I did all the work for you.  Feast your eyes.

More Rockin' Side Tables

The sun never set on the Union Jack back in the days of Queen Victoria, and there was a bottomless appetite for quaint and curious items drawn from the farthest reaches of the British Empire, including and perhaps especially the "mysterious East." These handsome little tables, with their inlaid mother-of-pearl and intricate geometry, were charming conversation pieces, exotic imports from remote "Mahometan lands." You can spot them in paintings and photos of oh-so-artsy Victorian interiors:

So you're looking at a piece of authentic Victoriana, something you might find in any well-to-do house of the era, especially if the owners had a taste for the exotic and mysterious, so it's hardly surprising to find something like that in the Haunted Mansion.  In the middle of 1969, someone probably found it in a local antique store for a decent price and grabbed it for the Séance Circle projector cover (if my guess is correct). When they decided not to project the Leota image from such close range, they kept the table anyway.

Do You Believe in Magic?

It's got something else going for it, making it an appropriate choice for the Séance room. If you looked carefully at the examples above, I'm sure you noticed that many of them have hexagrams on their tops, including the one in the Mansion.

I imagine that any Victorian interested in spiritualism and magic might have associated this six-pointed star with the "Seal of Solomon"—a symbol
well-known to students of the occult—and so would have coveted one of these babies that much more, perhaps for use as a scrying table.

Some readers may be smiling sardonically at this point. Surely these hexagrams and other polygonal shapes are merely examples of the sort of geometrical decoration found everywhere in Islamic architecture? Part of what makes these tables look like little buildings, in fact? And besides, look how many of these tables don't have a hexagram on them. In fact, look how many of the them are not hexagonal at all, but octagonal.

I hear you, but I wouldn't be too quick to label someone who sees the "Seal of Solomon" here as over-imaginative. The Muslim world, from whence these tables came, was just as agreeable to supernaturalism as the parlor of any 19th century Spiritualist, and strange as it may seem, the "Seal of Solomon" enjoyed and continues to enjoy a far more conspicuous presence in Islam than in Judaism or Christianity. Although there is plenty of evidence for decorative use of the hexagram in pre-Islamic Jewish and Christian sources, its use as a magical symbol, including its association with Solomon, is thought by most scholars to be a medieval import from the Arab world. You find it all over the place in Islamic iconography, on rings, medallions, talismans, coins, and even in architecture.

There are a gazillion rings like this one out there.

A talisman

Moroccan coin from 1873/4; that's the same time and place that many of these tables come from.

(Many of our tables have a distinctive decoration in the center. It's probably something
written in heavily stylized Arabic calligraphy. Sure would be fun to know what it says.)

In other words, it is not at all ridiculous to suppose that at least some of these table makers saw a spiritual and even magical significance in their designs. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that it may be nothing more than Western prejudice to assume that hexagrams and other polygonal forms were ever "merely geometrical decoration" within the world view of these Middle Eastern craftsmen.

It's all academic anyway, since we have evidence that the tables did indeed have a vaguely magical aura about them in the eyes of Victorians, and Edwardians too, and they continue to be regarded that way even by some people today, regardless of whether anybody "should" so see them.

Meet Frederick Bancroft (1867-1897), a dentist and life insurance agent who decided to chuck it all 
and become a stage magician, only to die very young, before his new career had a chance to take off.

Hey, if they're good enough for the Prince of Magicians, I say they're good enough for Madame Leota.

October 1972 (From a photo at Davelandweb)

As for Edwardians, there was a short story in the Oct 2, 1909 issue of the Saturday Evening Post called "The Nth Power," by Arthur Train, about a mysterious gentleman who was a master clairvoyant, telepath, and hypnotist. He's even got a crystal ball hanging over his dining room table, but all of it is quite "scientific." At one point he places a candle on a small table between himself and the narrator and so begins the process of putting him into a bizarre and nearly disastrous trance. When illustrator Alonzo Kimball rendered the scene, he knew what kind of table to draw:

Hat Tip: Craig Conley

And if you want evidence that these tables still look magical to modern eyes,
I will point out that you can buy new "scrying tables" and altars online . . .

. . . that are transparently modeled after Moroccan designs from the Victorian era:

In the end, the point is quite simple. These side tables from the Victorian era kinda sorta have a magical feel to them, and apparently always have, and that's probably why it just felt right to put one at Madame Leota's disposal. I mean, really, has anyone ever said that it looks out of place? And as a fan of the Haunted Mansion and admirer of its detailed artistry, you'll never look at this particular item in quite the same way again, now will you? I rest my case.

The Others

It remains to give some account of the tables found in the other Mansions. For some reason, the WDW HM also had a small table in its Séance Circle from the beginning, even though by 1971 there was surely no thought of putting a projector in it. In contrast to DL, it was a modest, normal-looking table, with flowers:

During the 2007 "Rehaunting," the table was traded out for a Moroccan side table like the one in Anaheim.
According to production designer Neil Engel, who installed it, they found the table at a swap meet.

Another example of unnecessary Disneylandification in the Orlando Mansion, some would say.

Tokyo Disneyland, with characteristic conservatism, continues to utilize a very ordinary table in their Séance:

tokyo seance

Phantom Manor, on the other hand, has always had a Moroccan end table. Like Orlando's,
it's a different type, but pretty close Victorian counterparts to it are not hard to find:

That's more than enough about that topic, I should think.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Footsteps into the Unknown

Updated June 19, 2020

The highlight of the 2007 "Rehaunting" of the WDW Haunted Mansion (as it was called) was the addition of the "Grand Staircase" (as it was called):

steps martins video
Martin's Videos

It was the first time a "phantom footprints" effect had been incorporated into any of the Mansions, even though there had been plenty of interest in this sort of ghostly effect in the earliest years of the ride's development. A previously unknown example of exactly this interest has recently come to light. More about that later. First, some typical LF background...

     Mysterious Footprints

Mysterious footprints come in a variety of flavors, of course. There are the sort known as
"the Devil's hoof prints," such as appeared perhaps most famously in Devon, in 1855:  

Then there are anomalous human footprints, appearing where they shouldn't be . . .  

Then there are cryptozoological examples, like Bigfoot.
Bigfoot prints are . . . well, big footprints.

The Devil's footprints in Devon defied natural law, going up to walls and continuing on the other side as if the wall wasn't there, and going up and down steep rooflines (as in the illustration above). That feature will be significant in the discussion to follow.

But what about GHOSTS?

I was getting to that. Within ghost lore, inexplicable footsteps are a long-standing feature (or should we say, "long-walking feature"?). Footprints are less common than footfalls; that is, the sound of footsteps. As we have seen (well, heard), an elaborate "ghostly footsteps" effect was planned for the Endless Hallway and Corridor of Doors area, but they gave it the boot, mere months before opening. It's not surprising that they wanted to include such an effect, as phantom footfalls are VERY common in the literature on hauntings and poltergeist activity. They are often among the first of many strange occurrences, the opening movement to a symphony of the bizarre.

Still, visible prints are also common enough. If you Google "ghosts" or "haunted" and add "wet footprints" or "strange footprints," you'll get a lot of hits. I especially like the report of a security guard quitting his job in the middle of the night after witnessing wet footprints appear, walking into the lobby of a (very, very) haunted Gap warehouse in Groveport, Ohio.

Like I say, there are plenty of more-or-less credible-sounding reports of anomalous footprints (e.g. HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE). The prints are usually watery or dirty, but sometimes bloody, and yes, sometimes glowing. The closest account I've seen to something resembling the effect found in the Mansion's "Grand Staircase" is this one on Reddit, posted in 2013:
Glowing footprints....has anyone else ever seen them?

I am submitting this question on behalf of my roommate. He is now thirty years old and about 20 years ago, while on a class trip to a campsite in NJ, he witnessed glowing footprints standing right next to his bed. The lights were off and he just happened to look down on the floor and saw two glowing footprints next to his bed. They were positioned as if someone was standing over him. He at first thought that his boots were glowing (he was ten years old and couldn't fathom any other explanation). After he stared at them for a minute though, he realized that they were indeed glowing footprints standing next to his bed.
He kind of freaked out and called his classmates attention to it (there were about 10 other kids sleeping in the same cabin). ALL of the other students witnessed the same thing and they got scared and turned the lights on. The footprints were not visible with the lights on but as soon as they turned the lights out, they reappeared. And to make it even stranger, throughout the night, the footprints made their way to a wall and eventually disappeared (apparently through the wall?).
My roommate is NOT the type to imagine things and is not into the paranormal at all. He is 100% sure of what he and the other students saw that night. When he talks about it he only says, "you know how you run through all of your life experiences in your head right before you die? Well, that experience is bookmarked as one of the strangest, most inexplicable things in my entire life."
So yeah, Im just wondering if anyone else has ever experienced anything similar?
EDIT: Thanks for the input guys. He is quite sure that it was not anything that anyone tracked into the cabin. They were two perfectly formed footprints standing right next to his bed. As the night went on, they changed positions gradually until they were literally standing in front of the wall. And then....they just disappeared as though they walked right through the wall. The footprints were always only in one spot at a time.

In the Philippines people have been freaking out over a child's dirty footprint that keeps appearing in shopping malls:

Why a small child, you ask?  Because even the ghosts are trying to reduce their carbon footprint on the planet. Ba-da-bing.

Plenty of photos out there. Decide for yourself what to make of the whole business.
The point is, ghost footprints are still very much a part of paranormal phenomena.

I don't pretend to know what's going on, but clearly something strange is afoot.

The tread of the dead?  Toes of those in repose?  Tootsies of the kaputsies?

Freshly made by an unshod shade?

What's creepy is that these appeared when there wasn't a sole around.

Okay, I'll stop.

I really like this next one. Reminds me of the Anderson sketches below.

Although these are all contemporary accounts, I think it's safe enough to assume that similar stories were around in the days of the Haunted Mansion's development. Ghostly footprints can be found in old films and literature as well. A particularly good example can be seen in the schlocky 1960 horror film, Tormented, featuring the vengeful ghost of a murdered woman. (Those are such a pain in the ass.)

tor clip

I'll cite one literary example, early enough to have been known to the Mansion Imagineers and especially relevant because of where the prints appear (as you'll see presently). Back in the 30's and 40's a magician and author named Clayton Rawson published a series of mystery novels featuring a magician-cum-detective named The Great Merlini. (Same basic premise as this short-lived TV series.) A couple of the books were even made into movies. Anyway, one of them is a locked room, haunted house mystery called The Footprints on the Ceiling:

Of course the footprints are hoaxed, as you would expect in a detective story. But this still demonstrates indirectly the presence of the "ghostly footprints" motif in pop culture. After all, if a literary or cinematic criminal hoaxes something like this in order to scare off investigators, it must be the case that such footprints are a recognized element of ghost lore, no?  The inference is obvious enough for a Scooby Doo cartoon.


Blueprints for Yellow, White, and Green Prints

Let us now turn our steps back toward the Haunted Mansion. As we have seen before, the theme of ghostly footprints begins with Ken Anderson, as with so many other ideas. Ken was rather fond of phantom feet, and we see them in several of his concept sketches. Unlike all the Imagineers who followed in his footsteps, Ken favored bare feet, which is actually closer to reports of the genuine phenomenon.

Claude Coats included ghostly footprints in his 1966 concept art for the Grand Ballroom, but we know he was mostly just copying Ken:

UPDATE (6-20-20): An overlooked detail in Anderson's "Bloodmere Manor" script, dated Sept 17, 1957, is highly relevant here. At the climax of the show, the wedding scene in the "Great Hall," the ghost groom lifts off his bride's head to kiss it, she slaps him, and all hell breaks loose. One detail in the turbulent cacophony that follows is rarely reported: Footprints run all around the floor and even up the walls. This anticipates the 1961 document discussed below.

When Anderson was taken off the project in 1958, it was handed over to Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey,
and the footprint idea was retained. When Yale drew up a list of 89 ideas for the Mansion,
"Footsteps" was #15, and he came up with two different ways to achieve the effect:

Until recently, the next steps in this historical review would have taken
us to Coats '66 and from there to the WDW Grand Staircase in '07.

A Fleeting Haunted House Meeting

As mentioned earlier, some newly discovered evidence sheds unexpected light on this topic. This is the real reason for doing this post!

The document is a set of notes from a "Haunted House Meeting" on November 22, 1961, and it contains an outline of the attraction as it was conceived at that very early date. As we saw in the Marc Davis post, the first two rooms of the attraction were already established in 1964: The Elongating Room and the Portrait Hall. You might think that those rooms were determined because, after all, the elevators and breezeway under the railroad tracks had already been constructed by 1964, but thanks to this new evidence we now know that even in 1961, before the existing façade building had been built, that was the case. After those two rooms, however, the show was up for grabs. As we have seen, the third room in Davis's 1964 outline was the séance room. Interestingly, the '61 "Meeting" notes do not include a séance room per se, but on the other hand, the third room is called the "Ectoplasm Room" and is expected to possibly have a "drawing room decor," so it may not be a coincidence that the actual séance room does indeed feature a parlor-like decor and an ectoplasm effect (at least until recently; the effect vanished between 2017 and 18).

The 1969 "effects" blueprints explicitly refer to the wandering blob as "ectoplasm."

An old WDW shot:

The "Meeting" notes are actually very brief at this point and describe only one effect in the "Ectoplasm Room." You guessed it, ghostly footprints. Lots of them. On the walls. On the ceiling. Leaving "fanny marks" when the footprints show that the ghosts have apparently bumped into each other and have fallen down (or fallen up, I guess, since it's "on the ceiling"). I imagine the "fanny marks" were a pair of ovals?

As we now know, this effect was largely anticipated in a 1957 Ken Anderson
script, which mentions footprints on the floor and walls but not the ceiling.

Curiously, the Ghost Host chooses this moment to give us the number of ghosts hereabouts. Not 13, as in the movie that probably inspired such enumerations, and not 1001, as in some early publicity. Not 999, either. It's 485! The significance of the number, if there is any, escapes me.

1961, Meet 2007

I don't know if the Imagineering crew for WDW's "Rehaunting" in 2007 was aware of this 1961 document. Obviously there are differences, like the stairs themselves of course, but nothing I've seen in any other HM historical material sounds closer to a description of what they did: a room full of glowing footprints walking about, defying gravity, moving sideways and even upside down.

There have been a number of conjectures as to how they did the footsteps. Fibre optics and embedded LED lighting are often mentioned. The truth is that the footprints are simply projections, not terribly different in principle from what Yale Gracey came up with many decades ago.

We've often been told that WDI never throws an idea away, meaning that something in the dead files may yet come to life years later. This newly uncovered document provides us with another good example of an old idea stepping out of the shadows at a much later date and becoming a visible reality. Ken Anderson conceived it, Yale Gracey figured out how to do it, the 1961 team figured out how to use it, and the 2007 team finally did it.