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!

See more 40ish Anniversary Disneyland Haunted Mansion photos at my website.


Unknown said...


I will have to go with August 12 for the opening!

Since I was born on that date a year later. Do you have a post ready for my 39th anniversary?


TokyoMagic! said...

Great photos! I can read Little Leota's lips in your looping clip! Although it seems like there are a couple extra words in there before the "Hurry back" part that I can't make out. Question...why did they remove the eyeballs of the hitchhiking ghost on the far left? They have been missing for years now, but I always notice it.

Thanks for the comment on my post today, Dave. I agree with you about both brides, but the current one REALLY misses the mark. Was there only one additional version before those two or have there been even more? Oh, and I only like the "floating Leota head" when you can't see the wires....which is almost never!

Major Pepperidge said...

I do love this attraction, though there is a part of me that wishes they went for more "scary" and less "funny". But Disneyland is a family park, so I think they achieved a good balance.

Daveland said...

George - Just send me a few photos and I'll put one together for you! Chris - I'm not sure how many brides there were, but agree that the current one sticks out like a very sore thumb. Leota belongs sitting on the table...too distracting when she is floating! Major - you could be onto something...2 versions of the for adults and one for the kiddies!

Kevin Kidney said...

Wonderful post, Dave. I couldn't make it to the park today, but I'm celebrating in "spirit."

Incidentally, I too dislike the current bride. (She's a television set in a dress.) Bring back the Hat Box Ghost!

Daveland said...

Kevin - That is the best (and funniest) description of Constance that i have heard!

Katella Gate said...

LOL @ K.K.

Anonymous said...

That is indeed construction of the backstage building now housing the Mansion attraction. I can recall the Mansion being open to employees prior to the general public for a couple days (this could be the reason why there is some confusion over its opening). In my particular case, small groups of us went over on a long break, in costume, to see it. I was in foods at Hill's Bros. There was A LOT of excitement. We even had our own Mansion party after hours.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, I too dislike the current bride. (She's a television set in a dress.) Bring back the Hat Box Ghost!

Sorry, Kevin "Stuck-in-the-Past" Kidney, but I like the current bride and think she's waaaaay better, and more ghostly, than the old one, who was really not much more than a mannequin with extremely limited animation.

I'm especially pissed at your "TV ser in a dress" remark. By criticizing that, you're also criticizing the other characters that use digital projectors to create their faces (the Leotas, the Busts, etc.).

The Hatbox Ghost is not coming back, so get used to it.

Your merchandise work is great, Kevin, but your attitude towards Disney's newer endeavors stinks!

Daveland said...

Anonymous: Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but no point in being an ass about it. Not only is Kevin's merchandise great, he is a very talented creative genius and a nice guy to boot.

Major Pepperidge said...

WOW, Anonymous needs a nap or something. Kevin's opinion is perfectly valid... I am astonished that Anonymous is "especially pissed" about any comment, much less Mr. Kidney's.

WHO CARES if somebody criticizes the other characters that use digital projectors? It's just a opinion, fer crissakes.

And Anonymous, don't be so sure about the Hatbox Ghost not coming back.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Kevin's merchandise is great, but, as I said, his attitude stinks.

I tend to feel that he's just as negative and hateful towards almost every new thing that Disney does or has done within the last 10-plus years as the people at MiceAge, the Re-Imagineering blog, etc. can be.

That's my opinion.

Daveland said...

Anonymous: Kevin may be many things, but hateful is not one of them. I very much respect your opinion, but your attitude (and I quote) "stinks."