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.


Sunday, May 9, 2021

"Regions Beyond" Identified!

They're in . . .  Czechoslovakia.   You're welcome.

Or, they might be in Czechoslovakia. Or could be. There's a non-zero chance that they are.

(There's also a chance they're in Jeannie's bottle.)


Theory #1: Dvorak

We dedicated a (very popular) post to the musical roots of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" some years back, but it all had to do with the history of comic ghost songs, with the genre, in other words, and the results were fascinating. We did not try to find possible inspiration for the melody itself. In fact, nobody has, to my knowledge. Barring the discovery of a document somewhere in which Buddy Baker declares that this or that piece of music inspired his tune, we are not likely to ever establish such influences with anything close to certainty. But that doesn't mean we can't search for possibilities, or maybe even plausibilities, right? I mean, what else is there to do?


With all those qualifiers in mind, I think there is indeed one particular piece of music that may have consciously or unconsciously inspired "Grim Grinning Ghosts": Dvorak's Symphonic Variations for Large Orchestra, Opus 78 (1877).

Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) was a Czechoslovakian composer who enjoyed great success during his lifetime, a refreshing change from all those, you know, "He died a penniless alcoholic" stories we've almost come to expect when it comes to great artists.

He reminds me a little of Orson Welles...

The story goes that a friend challenged him to incorporate musical themes into a symphony that ordinarily would have been thought impossible to adapt to such a genre. His Symphonic Variations was the result, successfully incorporating things like Moravian folk tunes. No problem, it turned out.

Opus #78 in the series is built around a short musical phrase, the first part of which sounds exactly like the first notes of "Grim Grinning Ghosts." You have to wonder whether echoes of this piece were bouncing around somewhere inside Buddy Baker's head when he composed his immortal tune. (Yes, that's right, you have to wonder. If you don't wonder we'll have to send someone over there with a stick.) Wonder away, because we'll never know. The musical phrase in question is especially noticeable during the first few minutes of Symphonic Variations 78.

Go ahead and give it a listen. 

The opening movement:

 Or if you want to hear the entire thing:


Theory #2: Jeannie

Reader "Anonymous" points us to a performance by Barbara Eden in 1967, singing a song called "Beautiful Things" (an old Bobby Darin number). This tune is also vaguely suggestive of GGG. And if it's not, well, I wasted your time making you stare at 1967 Barbara Eden for a minute or two. Sue me.

The consensus seems to be that in such cases we are dealing with pure coincidence, and I have no quarrel with that, provided the window is open a crack to allow for a "just possibly not" in the equation.





  1. Most interesting find! I was not familiar with this Dvorak piece. It certainly seems possible there was a connection. Do you know anything about Buddy Baker’s musical “education”/training. Did he have a particular fondness for Dvorak?
    Although those opening notes ring very very close to GGG, it could just be coincidence. These kinds of independent coincidences happen in writing/storytelling not uncommonly.

    1. I have no knowledge of Buddy's musical training beyond Wikipedia etc.

  2. As a Music Theory/Composition major (Stetson University, 1997) I don't think it is anything but a coincidence. The mood is different and the harmonic progression beneath the melody is completely different. The only melodic similarity is the first four notes (not even that, actually, if you consider the lyric version of GGG) and the length of the longer melody is a different length, without the same meter found in GGG.

    If I were asked to write a spooky tune I might immediately turn to that old chestnut, the Dies Irae. I'm sure glad Baker didn't, because GGG has become such a beloved classic for theme park aficionados and guests alike whether musically inclined or not. It contains a well-structured harmonic sequence that relies on several non-standard progressions to create that eerie, off-putting feel, while resolving neatly in a 5-4-3-2-1 melodic line with a V/i resolution that puts you at ease. Until it modulates to perk your interest when it repeats. That modulation is KEY to keeping the tune fresh because it is so relatable and easy to stick in the ear.

    Is it possible Baker was noodling on the piano with those first four notes, and created GGG? Sure. Likely? I don't know. He was such a talented songwriter and knew how to write a hook that could catch a whale. Right up there with the Sherman brothers.

  3. Certainly coincidence, but I find it amusing that after the four Haunted Mansion notes, the next few notes sound a mite like the “Dark Crystal” theme song. Interesting find, anyhow, though it may well be a coincidence.

  4. Several years ago I heard a recording of Barbara Eden (of I Dream of Jeannie fame) singing "Beautiful Things" and immediately thought of GGG.

    I found the video of it here:

    The video is from 1967. The song is from Bobby Darin's 1967 album "Bobby Darin Sings Doctor Dolittle." I don't know when Baker wrote the melody for GGG, but this could have inspired it. Then again, Wikipedia says the album sold poorly, so it could just be a coincidence.

    Here's the original, for reference:

    1. Thanks for that! I'll probably put the video up in the post itself. True, that'll force readers to look at 1967 Barbara Eden for four minutes, but c'est la vie.

  5. We humans look for patterns in everything and we often find them. Music is one of the areas where similarities have lined the pockets of lawyers for decades but those perceived patterns are often BS. There just aren't that many notes in western music, so this sort of thing happens all the time.

  6. Wow! Barbara Eden!! I've never seen that before (if you want to see something interesting, check out her rendition of "Spinning Wheel," I digress). Maybe it was a thing about 1967 but another one that comes to mind with some similarity is the Beatles "Benefit of Mr. Kite," from the Sgt Pepper album. I'm sure it too was a coincidence, but the song, with it's odd meter and key, diverge into a peculiar waltz time after the line "and of course Henry the horse dances the waltz!" Played on a circus calliope and an organ, the sound is somewhat similar to what you get in the ballroom though the melody is different. More than anything, organs fit will with haunted houses and funeral parlors, and the Hammmond organs (in particular) lent a spooky hue to a lot of late 60's songs (Procal Harem's "Whiter Shade of Pale," The Animals "House of the Rising Sun," "Time of the Season," by the Zombies etc all have rather mysterious organ sounds--thanks to the good old Hammond B3, which I think is also what they used in the mansion.

    1. No, the organ music in the mansion was recorded by Gaylord Carter on an old Robert Morton theater organ.

  7. These are wonderful finds - Thanks!

  8. With music from the Haunted Mansion and Doctor Doolittle, I'm surprised no-one has pulled the obvious thread that ties this all together - Eddie Murphy. ;-)

    Interesting musical observations, HBG2. I always find it fascinating when composers are able to get away with recycling their own melodies, like Mark Rose speeding up and reusing some incidental music from a Bonanza episode as the end title theme for Little House on the Prairie or George Bruns grabbing an exotic theme ("Serengeti Serenade") he'd written for the International Gardens at the 1964 NY World's Fair and slapping it into The Jungle Book as the Overture. If they are consciously borrowing from themselves, I think it highly likely that they are borrowing from others, either consciously or unconsciously. I think that's just part of how inspiration works, and the continual back-and-forth and blending of ideas is part of the human experience of building culture and advancing knowledge.

    As always, thanks for sharing what you've discovered!

    1. Thanks. And yes, I think you're right about self-plagiarization. My favorite film soundtrack composer, James Horner, was often criticized for exactly that, and correctly so. Finally, some critics started saying, "Look, you just have to accept that borrowing from himself was part of his style," and let it go at that!

  9. Replies
    1. You need to switch to the black background. If you don't know how, maybe you can find someone who can walk you through it.