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.


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.



  1. Excellent post! Out of all the 2007 changes, the Grand Staircase is my favorite because it's based on original ideas and really makes the mansion feel like a boundless realm.

  2. Agreed, particularly with the echoing piano chords. The time between each chord allows the chords to echo through the room and really drives home the effect. The staircase scene and stretching room audio are the only things I actually like from the re-haunting, though. The interactive queue, Constance, and video hitchhikers need to go ASAP, and I wish they hadn’t moved the sinister 11 out of their original, claustrophobic location.

    1. Actually,the interactive queue and the video hitchhikers were not part of the '07 Rehaunting. They came in four years later.

  3. I will never heel from all those foot puns!

  4. Fascinating stuff as always. However, while the exploration of preexisting "footsteps in the ceiling" material is interesting, I wonder if you mightn't be barking up the wrong staircase. Something else is (if you'll pass the expression) afoot in the Grand Staircase that you didn't touch upon here, namely the Escher-like architecture of the stairways themselves. An exploration of the relationship between ghost lore and "non-Euclidean geometry", to borrow the common phrase — would be interesting. But for now my point is simply that it may be the Imagineers decided to mix the "flowing footprints" idea with Escher-esque imagery, and thus the footprints appearing upside-down was a consequence of their deciding to have upside-down stairs in the first place, for non-footprint-related reasons.

    1. There's no doubt at all that Escher's famous sketch was a primary influence on the "Grand Staircase." As I said in the post, I don't know whether or not the '07 crew were aware of the '61 document, but if they were, it's a case of influence/inspiration in addition to Escher; if not, it's a case of fascinating coincidence.

  5. I think that the staircases extend the idea that the mansion's interior really has no relation to "reality." It uses its own physics. The only one that has a problem with that, however, is you the Foolish Mortal. The ghosts can clearly travel around with no problem. Of course, as has been discussed before, the ghost reality interior is a nifty workaround for a house who's interior is much larger than its exterior...

  6. At the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-485 is the "Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status"! Don't know if the form was around in the 1960's though.

  7. My gut impression is that there is no special significance to the number 485--rather, that lack of significance is what gives it its significance. It sounds like the sort of number you would come to if you *actually counted* the ghosts in a profoundly haunted building. Since there is no inherent symbolism or "magic" to 485, it can only be a "real" number. For better or worse, you can't really say that about 999. That's an advertising copy number. It's not meant to be taken literally.