Sunday, August 09, 2009
40th Anniversary of the Haunted Mansion
40 years ago today, the Disneyland Haunted Mansion finally opened to the public. Yes, there are those who dispute the date...August 12, some say August 7, etc. etc. I’ll leave the nit-picking to others and just celebrate the “approximate” 40th Anniversary. Shall we proceed, readers?
As attractions go, the Haunted Mansion was probably one of the most highly anticipated in the Disneyland history books. Construction on the exterior mansion (seen in the photo above) was completed by 1963, yet the Mansion didn’t open for another 6 years, leading to the rumor mill running rampant. Some of the most popular tales warned that the Mansion was SOOOOO scary that people died of heart attacks after having been on it, thus the delay in opening day. The truth was much less glamorous...the folks at Disney just weren’t quite sure what to put in the attraction. Here’s a teaser page from the 1965 Disneyland Souvenir book:
A this point, the attraction was still being envisioned as a walk-through, just like Pirates of the Caribbean was also originally intended to be. However, the ability to avoid human traffic jams with boats/vehicles quickly changed that idea. The New York World’s Fair provided a wealth of ideas and actual testing of some of these ideas, so the delay greatly benefitted both Pirates and The Mansion. And the extra publicity and sense of wonderment didn’t hurt either. Many photos exist of guests walking by the Mansion, wondering what was going on inside. Here’s one from November 1963:
The sign on the left was a Marty Sklar creation, and evoked the sense of humor and slightly dark nature of the attraction-to-be on the other side of the gates. This shot is from June 1965:
These pre-opening photos (and detailed closeups) also give an early peek into what was coming. Both are from 1966:
This February 1966 detailed aerial view shows construction in New Orleans Square as well as what I believe to be part of the attraction building behind the Mansion.
Achieving an almost cult-like status is the Hatbox Ghost. This tricky effect was supposed to show a scary skeleton whose head disappeared from the body and reappeared in the hatbox it was holding. The effect was not quite convincing enough and was removed early; only a handful of people ever saw it firsthand. It was located in the attic. If rumors are to be believed, the HBG will eventually be returning to its spot in the attic. Here is an approximation of what the effect was supposed to look like:
If you look closely, you can see more nosey guests pearing at the Mansion, looking for signs of life, circa December 1968:
Finally, on August 9, 1969, the Mansion doors were opened. Here is a photo from opening day:
For those of you who care to know my favorite part of this attraction, that’s an easy one: The Graveyard Sequence. I could listen to “Grim Grinning Ghosts” over and over again (unlike “small word”) and still not tire of it. The mixture of humor and darkness is perfectly blended, which is why i feel this attraction is such a success even 40 years later.
And what better way to end this post than a video-only of Little Leota, the scary figure at the end of the attraction who bids you to “hurry back”?
Yes, do hurry back...any way that you can!
For more 40ish Anniversary Haunted Mansion fun, visit my website.
As a note of business; I've added a Paypal Donation button to this blog. Please help the great images to keep coming! I’ll admit it, I’m cheap: $1, 50¢, 25¢...I’ll take it! You’ll have my semi-eternal gratitude as well.
See more vintage (and current) Haunted Mansion photos on my regular website.