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The Magic Years
Disney through the eyes of teens
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Adrienne Krock, editor
The History of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion. Some of us can't wait until we can go on it again.  Some of us will only go on it if someone goes with us. And some of us haven't yet mustered up the courage to get in line. Thousands of people get on and off of this ride every day, but how many of them know its story?

It all started around 1955. When Walt Disney had the idea to build a walk-through "spook house." He asked Ken Anderson, an Imagineer, to work on this project for him. To this day, many of Ken Anderson's ideas can be seen in the Haunted Mansion. Now, you may be thinking, "A haunted house?  Big deal. There's one down the street every Halloween!" However, this was not going to be a typical haunted house. This was Walt Disney's haunted house.

Walt didn't want the everyday Frankenstein and mummy act. He wanted beautiful pictures that turned to horrors right before your very eyes. He wanted marble busts (statues of heads) that watched you with an evil eye.  He wanted them to sing. Walt assigned the difficult job of special effects to Yale Gracey.

By this time, a crew of Imagineers had created a whole mess of ghostly effects and audioanimatronics. (Animatronics are robots that can be programmed to look and act human. There are lots of them in Pirates of the Caribbean.) The haunted house was still going to possibly be a walk-through, though other ideas had occurred to Walt and the Imagineers.

Here is a funny story about the Imagineers before the ghosts moved into the Haunted Mansion. One day, Yale Gracey and Rolly Crump (another Imagineer) got a call from personnel asking them to leave the lights on in the room that they were using to design the ghosts and audioanimatronics. They wanted the lights left on because the janitors that cleaned the room at night were gettin' spooked. The janitors didn't want to go in there when it was dark and late at night! Well, Rolly and Yale gladly granted their request. However... they also installed motion detectors. When the janitors walked into the lighted room, they would trigger the motion detectors. When these were triggered, the lights would turn off and all the ghosts, spirits, sounds and audioanimatronics would come to life!! The next morning, Rolly and Yale walked into the room and found a janitor's broom lying on the floor. They received another call from personnel stating that the janitors would not be back. I love it! Of course, those janitors probably had nightmares for a long time after that!!

OK. Now back to the serious stuff.

Rolly Crump had started to work on some "imagined dark discoveries." These bizarre fantasies were to be gathered up and called the "Museum of the Weird." The Museum was supposed to be included in the haunted house, but for some reason never made it to Disneyland.

The Mansion at Disneyland today
The Mansion at Disneyland today

It was now the early 60's, and the outside of the haunted house was built in Disneyland to prepare Guests for the exciting new attraction. Even though the house was built, it was empty for most of the decade. The Imagineers and Guests alike were growing anxious. Everyone was itching to get on the new ride.  But there was still much work to be done. The effects and storyline of the house were still undecided and, although "Haunted Mansion" was a possible choice, so was the name of the attraction. Paul Frees (better known to Mansion Guests as "your Ghost Host") had recorded some sample dialogue referring to the ride as the "Haunted House", but that was just not right. Something about it just didn't fit.

In the mid-60's, Disneyland put a sign up in front of the Haunted Mansion that stated that it was set to open in 1969. By now, people were getting really antsy about the Mansion. The Imagineers had been working on it as well as on attractions for the World's Fair. This kept them busy and kept the Mansion unoccupied for a full six years!

In 1966, Walt Disney passed away. This was a sad time for many people, but a devastating time for Walt's family, friends, and the Imagineers working on the Haunted Mansion. Many of the designers had a very hard and emotional time with Walt's death. Many of them were very close to him. Plus, he had never made up his mind about a few things regarding the Mansion. At this point, Marc Davis came on the scene to help bring the whole thing together.

Eventually, the Haunted Mansion was completed. On August 7 and 8, 1969, the Mansion was opened to Cast Members from 7:00 pm to Midnight. On August 9, the Haunted Mansion was introduced to the public. Since then, the Mansion has housed 999 "happy haunts" and has thrilled millions of Guests from all over the world. So the next time you're at Disneyland, join the Happy Haunts... and beware of hitchiking ghosts!!



Jewel's FastFact: In some cultures, it is considered rude to point with one finger. Therefore, when a Cast Member at Disneyland points, they are asked to point with two fingers


My name is Jewel.

I am almost 13 years old, and a typical junior high student. I live with my mom, dad, and little brother. My family and I have annual passes to Disneyland so we go quite often. I love school, and science has always been a favorite subject of mine. I am in band and hope to be involved in music for the rest of my life.

Right now, my career goal is to become a deejay. In my mind, that is the coolest job in the world! My hobbies include: listening to and playing music, reading, writing, messing around on the computer and hanging out at Disneyland. We have seven cats (four of them found us), a black Labrador, and I have a goldfish.

Autopia photos courtesy of Al Lutz

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