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"The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion"

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Myths and Legends

Disney's Haunted Mansion Inspires Wild Stories, Urban Myths

The mystery that surrounds the Haunted Mansion to this day is a testimony to the wit and creativity of the designers of the attraction. There have been myths and rumors about the Haunted Mansion floating around since the early 1960s... long before the ride was even completely designed and built. In fact, by 1965 there was a persistent rumor among fans of Disneyland which claimed that "test-audiences" to the upcoming haunted house attraction (for which the facade had been erected in 1963) had reacted so strongly to the shock of the horrors inside the doors of the house that the ride had to be recreated from top to bottom to make the terror more bearable! Of course, this was impossible, since as we now know, the scenes inside of the ride take place in a large show building, not the tiny facade... and the show building wasn't even constructed when this rumor started circulating. Yet the story persists.

Many Cast Members, such as Tina Michael (at left) get into the spirit at the Haunted Mansion, inspiring guests to try to learn more about the history and rumors surrounding the attraction. Click here to read an interview with Tina from the Spring 1998 issue of Disney Magazine about being a hostess for the attraction.

R.C Loveland, who worked the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion for many years, is responsible for some of the rumors and myths surrounding the characters inside the mysterious Mansion. He and his crew used to make up "biographies" for all of the characters in the Haunted Mansion to pass some of the "dead" time on their shifts. The stories Loveland and his crew put together, which they called their "Ghost Gallery," were bolstered when Tina Michael referenced the collection in the interview with Disney Magazine noted above. In the next issue's "Reader Forum," the editors of Disney Magazine wrote: "We've gotten several letters from Haunted Mansion fans 'desperately' looking for a copy of the Ghost Gallery book that Haunted Mansion Hostess Tina Michael mentioned... We're sorry to report that only one copy of this book (which is actually a loose-leaf notebook) exists, and it is for cast members' eyes only."

Having thus guaranteed the collection's intrigue, the stories were eventually posted online by an anonymous cast member for the public to enjoy. Though there is no one "official" story behind the characters written about in this collection, the book of tales is notable as it was written by folks who knew the ride thoroughly, inside and out. Click here to read more.

Have you heard any good rumors or Cast Member stories? Or have you had any behind-the-scenes experiences? Let us know!

Disney is Going to Tear Down the Haunted Mansion!

We at DoomBuggies have heard various forms of this claim for years, and to date, it's always been an unfounded rumor. The truth is that the Haunted Mansion, long a Disney theme park favorite, is not in danger of being torn down or removed. Nor are there plans underway to scrap the "Ghost Host" narrative track by Paul Frees and replace it with a track by another vocal talent, another long-standing rumor. (The Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay DOES use a new narration soundtrack, though the vocal talent responsible (Corey Burton) actually was hired to sound as much like Paul Frees as possible - so rather than being seen as a replacement, the holiday narration seems more of an homage.)

Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota.

The Haunted Mansion movie starring Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Tilly (pictured at left) managed to add a bit of fuel to the fire, as rumors flew that the ride would be fitted with characters from that film. Disney does see fit to retrofit some of its attractions with stars from its films (such as the recent addition of Johnny Depp's "Jack Sparrow" character to the venerable Pirates of the Caribbean attraction), so this rumor was not completely unfounded.

Furthermore, Jennifer Tilly (who played the role of the body-less Madame Leota in the film) has been quoted in TV Guide as saying:

"If the movie's really successful, Disney's gonna revamp the ride and I'll be the head in the ball at the beginning of it! They're gonna totally update it. So that's why I wanted to do this movie - I want to be a bigshot at Disneyland. I'm hoping I'll become another American icon."

As it turns out, the Haunted Mansion film, while not a box office failure by any means, didn't prove to be the cultural flashpoint that the Pirates film franchise has become, so the attraction was never in any danger of being altered or updated with characters from the movie.

Proposed mid-'80s Haunted Mansion enhancements.

However, this doesn't mean that the Walt Disney Imagineers and the park engineers don't revisit the Haunted Mansion from time to time, and consider how it is aging and what might be done to keep it fresh. The 2001 Nightmare Before Christmas "Haunted Mansion Holiday" makeover is an example of this. The pet cemetery in the queue, added in the early '90s, is another example of this. And in the mid-'80s, WDI went a little further in examing potential improvements to the Disneyland version of the ride, sketching out some ideas that were on the drawing board. Some of these are pictured here, such as a greenhouse which guests would walk through as part of the queue; a special effect to be positioned after the ballroom and before the attic, in which a young lady appears and disappears, "trapped" inside an antique mirror; and new portraits in the Corridor of Doors which would be overshadowed by a appearing and disappearing image of a skull. These concepts were used in modifed forms in Disneyland Paris' Phantom Manor.

Proposed mid-'80s Haunted Mansion enhancements.

In the mid to late '90s, Walt Disney Imagineering spent some time brainstorming ideas for possible attraction enhancements for the upcoming 50th birthday of Disneyland, which would be held in 2005. In terms of conceptualization, the ideas were radical, and involved completely re-imagining some of the park's famed "E-Ticket" attractions for a perceived future audience. For instance, according to an inside source, one idea tossed around for the Haunted Mansion included a completely redesigned ride system, in which guests would be introduced to the Mansion somewhere central to the show building (such as on the ballroom floor) and sent off on separate tracks to explore the Mansion in different directions.

It should be noted that brainstorming sessions such as this don't represent a disrespect for the achievement or integrity of the original attraction - this type of "outside the box" idea is a starting point for the flow of creative juices. As it turned out, both WDI and Disneyland Park went through some radical changes in management and direction throughout the period of time leading up to DIsneyland's 50th, and while it appeared for a time that almost nothing (save a few fresh coats of paint) would be done to enhance the park for the 2005 celebration, WDI ended up adding some subtle but effective enhancements to many of the classic rides at the last minute, while maintaining the heart of the original attractions. For the Haunted Mansion, this included a new Madame Leota effect and a new attic scene, both of which have been largely (but not unanimously) praised by Disneyland's guests.

Haunted Mansion Comic No. 1 - the Bride

Ghostly Biographies?
Many characters from the Haunted Mansion have been given new backgrounds and histories courtesy of SLG Publishing's "Haunted Mansion" comic. Licensed by Disney, the artists at SLG have come up with many new stories that serve as potential biographies and explanations for the familiar characters (such as the attic Bride, as illustrated above by artist and Haunted-Mansion-fan Roman Dirge). While wildly entertaining and worthwhile reading, the stories are best viewed as an "alternate reality" rather than an authorized history of the actual characters in the attraction.

Tales from the Attic:
A Ghostly Bride

One of the most perplexing scenes for guests to the Haunted Mansion is the attic, and its eternal denizen, the Bride. Who is this mysterious bride, and where did she come from? Having gone through many cosmetic changes through the years - from horrific, to eerie, to comical, to, well, animated - the attic Bride has remained an enigma. In one of her earliest states, the attic Bride was given a blackened, skull-like visage that was barely visible in the dim lighting of the room. Not too long after that, her face was completely blanked out in the darkness, save for two spots of light shining out from where her eyes would have been. Later versions of the attic Bride would give her a crazed white hairdo with a comical, blue-skinned grin, which was more (or less) hidden behind a translucent veil.

For Disneyland's 50th birthday, WDI completely overhauled the attic scene at Disneyland, again updating the appearance of the Bride. But rather than simply changing her appearance, the Bride was moved in the attic and given both animation and a voice. Furthermore, the Bride's backstory is now officially hinted at via props in the attic scene. Continue reading to learn more about the history of the attic, the Bride, and their secrets.

Scary Monsters #61

Scary Monsters, which rightfully bills itself as "a REAL monster magazine like you remember from the '60s," runs a regular column by Professor Anton Griffith of The Midnight Shadow Show. In this issue, the Professor looks at the history of the Haunted Mansion Bride, putting her into the context of the attraction's history as well as the infamous "Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion" record album. The Professor details the 2006 changes to the attic as well, which he calls "a bold and slightly edgy departure for a Disney theme park." Click here to read the article.


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