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, June 3, 2020

The Mystery of the "Original Bride" Photo (UPDATED!)

                         Shrouded in mystery,
                           Newly discovered
                             Mansion history . . . 

This post has been entirely redone as of June 9, 2020, thanks to a veritable avalanche of new data that has come out in the past week.

As mentioned in the old Beating Heart post, there is a shocking lack of photo evidence for the original attic bride in the WDW Haunted Mansion. To date we have three snapshots and one blurry film clip for her first 18 years of existence.

Or is there more? I'm referring to another photo, perhaps the most famous and mysterious of all attic bride photos. If you're a long-time Mansion freak, this is geeky, fascinating stuff, but if all of this is brand new to you, well, I can understand it if this little chapter of Mansion history doesn't really grab you, so go ahead and skip this post if you want. It's okay. I won't be hurt. 'Course, you're now off my Christmas card list.

                       The "Slit-Eyed Bride"

This is the curious photograph that has long been one of those seemingly unsolvable Mansion mysteries.

Here's some background. Foxxy Hooves, of the Passport to Dreams Old and New blog and one of the best historians of the WDW Mansion, tells me that the photo may have made its first appearance in 1986, in Walt Disney World, a souvenir book celebrating the park's 15th anniversary. It continued to appear in subsequent editions of (essentially) the same book, and it can also be found, oddly enough, in a 1992 Euro-Disney souvenir book, evidence that its specific connection to the Orlando attraction may have been slipping away.

(hat tip: Kathryn Romano and Cole Walker)

The photo has been reprinted and circulated widely, often accompanied by the claim (implicit or explicit) that it is "the original 1969 bride" at Disneyland. The oddest thing about it is the slit-like eyes. No other bride photo seems to show anything like that. We also know now that the original DL attic ghost was the "Corpse Bride" model, not this blank-faced one. And where's her head veil? And why does she look so junky? I mean, look at that bouquet and the hand holding it.

Foxxy has floated the theory that this might have been a prototype, not the production figure actually used in the ride, an explanation that has enjoyed a degree of support among those who actually care about such things. But no one knew for sure.

                       Another One

And then, out of the blue, a second photo came to light in May of 2020, found by
Brandon Hardy buried at an old, abandoned fan site not touched since 2002:

(Hat tip: Brandon Hardy)

My mysterious but highly reliable source, Lonesome Ghost, took note of the conversation and forwarded to me
some beautiful, high-rez versions of that one, plus the original photo, informing me that they are dated 1973.

Close examination has shown that they are two different photos. It's not a case of the same photo with eyes and heart added to one copy. It does seem to be the case that they were taken with the same camera at the same session, however. Also, from the furniture in the room and the light fixture on the floor, there is now no doubt that this is some permutation of the Walt Disney World figure, in the correct and final position of the bride in the attic scene.

Wait, Another One? And Another?

As if that weren't enough, as I began to look through my pictures of the slit-eyed model, I discovered that even they are not all identical. The two below may look the same, but if you do the "magic eye" thing you'll see not a flat photo (which is what would happen if they were in fact identical) but a three-dimensional figure. It's very shallow, very subtle, and a little distorted, but unmistakable. That indicates a very slight and probably inadvertent movement either of the camera or the figure between shots. If you blow up certain areas you can see slight but real variation.

As I continued to compare copies, I came to the conclusion that I may in fact have three different versions of Ol' Slit Eye on my hands, plus the new blank faced one. Previously, I assumed like everyone else that they were all the same photo and was inclined to put down the obvious differences in the eye slits to the hazards of transmission to print. Now that I can see other differences between the photos, I'm inclined to think these eye-slit variations are genuine.

              Enter the 1974-ish Model

In the middle of all this craziness, what should pop up but a brand new shot of the bride.
My source for this nice copy thinks it should probably be dated 1974-76:

Wait a sec. She looks just like the bride as she appeared in the 1980s and 90s! This is getting confusing.

The History of the Walt Disney World Bride, 1971-1973

Our best clue for sorting out this mess is staring right at us: the props. In the above photo there's an oval basket, a "Huck Finn"-type statuette, and a metal hatbox on top of the desk next to the bride. It's amazing how stable those props remained. They are there, exactly like that, in photos of the bride from the 1970s right up into the 1990s. About 15 years separate these photos:

I've only seen two outliers. In the undated "Daveland" photo we see a bell jar instead of the basket:

That same bell jar can be seen in our 1973 "blank-faced" photo:

What we need is the simplest explanation that accounts for all the known evidence.
That's Occam's razor, dude, and that's how we operate around here.

The Daveland photo is likely the oldest photo of the WDW attic bride that we currently possess, showing that she was originally the "Corpse Bride" model, albeit a much milder version than the DL version. She probably had thin, slit-like eyes. The Imagineers must not have liked the look very well, because as early as 1973 they revisited and revised her. They opened up her eyes quite a bit and got rid of the Corpse look entirely in favor of a black, featureless visage. In doing so, they anticipated the changes made to the DL bride by several years. (It may be that they thought the reflections in the bell jar were distracting and replaced it with a basket at this same time, but that's pure speculation.)

At any rate, what we've probably got in these "Slit-eyed Bride" photos are pictures taken by WDI (then WED) in 1973 while they were reworking the bride's appearance. They set up a camera on a tripod, but that wasn't enough to ensure that very subtle movements might take place between shots, enough so you can tell that these pix are not all copies of a single shot. It looks like they darkened her face and experimented with how wide to make her eyes, click click click, eventually going for a fairly wide-open look. All of our other early photos of the bride date from after this, and there will be few if any further changes until Smurfette shows up in 1997, just some minor fiddling with her veil, her bouquet, and small details of her dress from time to time.

Despite the fact that the figure is obviously in an incomplete state in the "Slit-eye" photos, with her head veil missing and her bouquet out of position, to say nothing of the now-obsolete eye slits, some of the photos taken during the 1973 revision process were nevertheless appropriated for publicity purposes, and out into the world they went, baffling us ever since.

For an alternate view, see now Foxxfur's remarks in the Comments.

No One Will Notice

There's nothing weird about this, by the way. While they were building the Florida attraction, for example, the publicity people didn't always wait for stuff to be finished before grabbing pictures the Imagineers were taking and putting them in the papers. Hence, a number of widely used photos show unfinished figures. My favorite is a ballroom photo showing Granny still missing her wig. She's also got a piece of cardboard or something across her chest. Maybe she was missing more than her hair!

Birthday Gal is bald too.

Other characters are not fully dressed. Pickwick, on the chandelier, is missing his hat. So is the
 Organist, in a shot that nevertheless became a postcard. No cobwebs are a dead giveaway that this is
 pre-opening. These and other pix got out and about before the figures were ready for prime-time.

So there's nothing strange to the idea that photos of a figure not quite show-worthy but of professional quality
and unquestionably creepy-looking should find service as publicity shots. After all, who's going to notice?

The Eyes Have It

If my historical reconstruction is correct, the WDW bride had slit-like eyes for approximately the first two years of her existence. Perhaps this design feature simply reflects the maquette figure, which also had slit-like eyes:

As it happens, the mechanical design of the lighted eyes allowed for any amount of manipulation of their shape.  You just mask the WALL -E eye box in her head (well, that's what it reminds me of) in any way you think appropriate and get any shape eye you want.

Beating Heart in Florida probably squinted at us in the early days.



  1. Fantastic post as always, HBG! I've been wondering, what are your thoughts on the (somewhat) recent changes to Phantom Manor?

  2. The first time I saw the WDW bride was the summer of 1981 on my first trip. I can't remember anything soecific about her other than she was creepy. I don't remember her heart being heart-shaped, but rather being a red blob. You'd think I'd remember more, considering I drug my poor aunt on with me at least five times...

    1. What kind of drug did you give her?

    2. The kind that would make her ride over and over and over....

  3. The maquette figure - is that one of Blane's or one of Rolly's? It looks like it has some of the more chaotic touches that Rolly had done for some of the figures he made for the Museum of the Weird prototype, rather than Blane's more perfect human figures that he's known for.

    1. Lots of people did maquettes, so you can never be sure, but Rolly did very few of them. His "Museum" maquettes were done by Jack Ferges. The slit-eyed attic ghostette maquette could very well have been done by Marc Davis himself. Or Gibson. Or someone else. I'd say it's no more surreal than the Davis "Moving Lights" ghost sketches, upon which it's based.

  4. It annoys me waaay more than it should that there are probably former Imagineers/CM's out there who have the definite answers we try to piece together like some kind of talking Great Dane and his meddling friends!

    1. Yeah, but we do have some fun going the Sherlock Holmes route.

  5. Fascinating stuff, thanks.


  6. I wonder if the difference in the eyes from one photo to the next means that the figure "blinked" in operation.

    1. I was wondering the same thing! It seems plausible, doesn't it?

    2. But the eyes are not the only difference between the photos, so other things were done to the figures between shots.

  7. This is a fantastic discovery and really cool considering that this has always been my favorite version of the bride, and WDW was my "home" Disney theme park. With this recent revelation about what the original WDW figure looked like, is there any good theory/explanation for why it is drastically different from what the original DL "Corpse Bride" supposedly looked like? Why would WED decide to change the appearance of the bride so much for the new version of the Mansion? Were there complaints about the "Corpse Bride" being too scary?

    1. No idea. The WDW HM team was led by Claude Coats, and he may have been of the opinion that a blanker face looked better than a "corpesy" face. It's impossible to say at this point if the 1973 tinkering was for the purpose of making her blanker or if she was less "corpsey" right from the beginning. Whether it happened in 1971 or 1973, however, DL eventually caught up with that same line of thinking and both HMs probably had the blank, black-faced bride by the late 70s.

  8. I still think there's too many weird things about that photo for me to be 100% convinced it's from 1973. I've handled enough materials from inside WED/WDI to know that their dates are not always entirely accurate. 1973 could have been when the prints were made, or when they were finally sorted and filed.

    I still think the lack of lighting inside the figure's body, arm, and candle requires an explanation. As far as I can tell from the diagram, they're on a daisy-chained sequence. To me it makes more sense that they haven't yet been installed. If this shot were from 1973, I have to believe the final show bouquet for the bride would have been available, and even if they wanted to remove it for some reason, it makes more sense that they would put it back for the photo than go get some random flowers from somewhere to half-stick in her hand.

    Also notice at the bottom of the photo, there's a bunched up rug in the foreground. This was carefully laid out and cut around the bride figure's feet so it looked like she was standing on top of it to hide the base of the platform that you can see clearly. If WED were doing work on the figure's face in 1973, why would they bother to pull out the carpet? Why would they remove most of the set dressing around and on top of the desk-thing behind her? Even when WDW switched to the "Smurfette" bride, they kept that same carpet in place below her. I think it's an easier explanation that her face is blank because it's incomplete, that her lights are only partially on because the figure is still being installed, and that her veil and bouquet and all of the set dressing around her is messed up because they haven't been put into place yet. And as all of the photos show, once that stuff was in place it didn't move for 20+ years despite the figure being periodically refreshed. I still think this is a construction shot. I accept the possibility that it could also be from 1973, but I think the incomplete nature of the figure argues against it.

    Throughout 1973, Magic Kingdom closed regularly at 6 or 7 pm. It's possible that the Mansion was down for a few days or that even an overnight crew did all of the destructive work they did in order to fix some large-scale problem where they had to move furniture, pull out lights, pull up the show carpet, and more. Assuming they got to work at 8 pm after a 7pm close, they could have had 12 hours to do it. But in 1973, Magic Kingdom already wasn't operating the Jungle Cruise due to needing to rebuild the queue, the WDW Railroad due to building Pirates of the Caribbean, both Riverboats due to building Tom Sawyer Island, which also removed the Keelboats and Canoes from service. This means that on the entire West side of the park the only operating attractions were the Treehouse, Tiki Room, Country Bears, Hall of Presidents and Haunted Mansion. MK spent most of 1973 and 1974 building as much stuff as possible to get ready for the huge promo push of the Bicentennial from 75-76, which was a huge draw. And I just can't see the park giving the go-ahead to WED to come in and fuss around with one figure in the highest capacity attraction on the West side of the park. Better to save that for a refurb.

    1. I will certainly direct readers of the post to this comment, as it is a plausible alternate reading of the evidence from a knowledgeable source. I do think some of your points are stronger than others. Here are some possible counterpoints, for what they're worth. Merely scooting the rug over does not seem to me like a big deal, and there could be any number of reasons why they did it. They may have left some things turned off (or even disconnected them) at this point in the work because they were not relevant to what they were concentrating on and would make the photography more difficult. (Perhaps they turned them on as part of the next step?) I don't see a big problem with the bouquet, either. It could be the real deal but got bumped and is slumping down, and it simply looks pretty bad at that angle. The amount of time they thought this exercise might take — can it be known? Might they have thought it would only take a day or so? And how much set dressing is actually missing? We also need to contend with the fact that a new photo from 1974-76 has popped up, and she looks just like the bride of the 80s and 90s, suggesting that the original "Corpse Bride" was already history by that point. So if not 1973, when did that change happen? These points notwithstanding, I still think that cumulatively you make a case worth considering.

    2. Forgot to add: Some of the looser clutter of set dressing would certainly have been scooted out of the way temporarily if they were going to do any work on the figure.

    3. Yeah I agree we'll probably never know. Two last thoughts on this: it seems to me pretty unlikely that Disney would bother to extensively document a figure refurb in '73; by that point WED East was up and running and Chuck Myall could have directed the refurb from the field. Since we do know WED had a small army of photographers documenting literally everything during construction, that fits. Finally, there's a conspicuous lack of dust and grime on that desk behind her, almost as if it had just been put in place...

    4. I think Foxx makes the most compelling point yet by directing our attention to the state of the desk behind the bride, something I don't think we had considered. It looks rather new in the photo. By opening day, that desk was covered in the customary fake dust and grime, as seen in all of the other photos. I'm with Foxx in that these are likely construction photos.

  9. Hey, Its not necessarily related to this post, but I've been looking through this fantastic blog, and it seems clear to me you have access to some blueprints of the Haunted Mansion I've never seen anywhere else on the web. I've been working on reconstructing architectural plans, and designing a 3D model of the ride lately, and I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for finding the sets of plans you have. Of course, I'm a huge fan of your blog, and I'm glad to see you're still posting.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! As for blueprints, they're from many sources. Some I've bought (ebay and the like), some have been sent me by anonymous sources (better: anony-mouse sources), and they would generally prefer to remain that way. Some can be found online with a little diligent searching. There are tons of blueprints, many that I don't have.

    2. Thanks, people trying to stay anony-mouse makes sense, considering Disney's understandable efforts to uphold the adage that a good magician never reveals their tricks. I've found a site that claims to have a set available for $40, but being a college student, I'm a bit strapped for cash, and I'd like to make sure I'm not buying something useless. I'm wondering if you've seen the plans at ? and if so, would you say they're accurate? I've been considering buying them, but I've definitely got cold feet.
      Finally, of course, if you're interested in seeing my project, I'd love to share it with you.

    3. That set is probably a good one.
      I can't leave an email here, obviously, but if you're a member at Micechat you can private-message me there. I'd be happy to see what you're doing.

  10. When riding the WDW Haunted Mansion in the late 70's and early 80's, my family never thought of this figure as "a bride" we always called her "The Banshee" because the way the original's face was painted looked exactly like the banshee from Disney's film "Darby O'Gill and the Little People", plus her original clear plastic robes never look like a bridal gown, the sparkling light effect inside her body implied something more supernatural, and the fact that she was surrounded by the "pop up ghosts" who "screamed like banshees"? ...the general impression you got from what you saw in the ride, lead us to believe she was a banshee.

    The original 70's face was definitely scary though, I know it bothered me as a little kid as I'm sure it bothered lots of other kids, and that's probably why this "Slit Eye Bride" appeared in WDW around 1986 for the resorts 15th Anniversary. I think that "slit eye effect" came from simply putting 2 pieces of tape over the eyes of the original banshee bride's eyes, then just spray painting the face black and removing the tape. That's how it appeared to me in the ride back around 1986... it was "less scary" but it was also "kinda dumb". It didn't last more than a few years before "Slit Eyes" was then covered with what appeared to be "the head of the son from the Carousel of Progress, painted blue with a long flowing curly wig", I'm going say around 1989 when The Disney MGM Studios opened. At that point it seemed to me she had gone from being "a banshee" to "a bride" and that may have been when the "bridal march music" was added in WDW as well, but I don't remember exactly when that music showed up

    1. Interesting, but there is no doubt whatsoever that the figure was intended as a bride, right from the very beginning. The DL bride is described as such in materials predating the opening, and there is no reason to think the duplicate at WDW was conceived differently.

    2. I know the Story and Song books and what not describe it as a "bride" but without being aware of any of that, and simply going of what you experienced in the ride, we got the impression it was a banshee... that and "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" being very popular in our Irish family maybe made us a bit bias toward seeing it being a banshee