Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that its 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, Doombuggies.com. After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY: Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009).

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.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

This is a Bust

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This post is a sequel of sorts to our earlier post about the stretching gallery gargoyles. There, we discussed some of the plans once laid for the foyer, that all-important first room. In the Anaheim HM, there is nothing supernatural in the foyer other than the disembodied voice of the Ghost Host. Not so elsewhere. Orlando and Tokyo have the "Master Gracey" changing portrait . . .


 . . . and Phantom Manor has a mirror in which the face of Melanie appears . . .



We learned in the Gargoyles post that at one point the Anaheim foyer was going to play host to a very different kind of manifestation:
It was going to have a raven sitting on a cornice in the corner. This was back when the bird was going to serve as a narrator for the ride.


We mentioned also the concept of a talking bust that preceded the raven. We knew about the bust because of (1) this Marc Davis concept art . . .


. . . and because (2) the HM "Story and Song" record album has Mike and Karen first encountering the Ghost Host in the foyer as a voice coming from a marble statue, and we know that the S&S narrative is based on a 1968 show script.

So much by way of review.


"Dick, Here's the Latest, Hot off the Xerox"

Since that earlier post, further information has come to light about the talking bust effect originally planned for the foyer.  Last year the D23 website posted an unpublished memo from show writer X Atencio to his boss Dick Irvine, dated July 19, 1968. In it, X provides a "continuity and narrative concept" for the foyer and stretching room(s):

The patrons enter the foyer of the Haunted Mansion to the dismal tolling of a church bell. A ghostly voice is heard from a talking marble bust (projection) in a niche high in the corner of the room opposite the entrance. This would be designed to attract those in the front of the line to the far corner making room for those at the rear of the queue. This opening statement would have no pertinent relation to the show so those who might miss the first part would not be slighted.

One thing I like to do from time to time around here is try to supply some sort of visual image of unused concepts, like this one.  Here's my attempt, complete with the "opening statement" X scripted for the talking bust.

For a bigger copy, click HERE

The spiel isn't terrible, but I don't think it holds a (flickering) candle to the classic "When hinges creak...."  X's efforts over the next few months to improve what he had written paid off.

The memo describes how the Ghost Host's voice is heard inside the stretching gallery after the elevator door opens, calling the guests in with words to us both familiar and unfamiliar:

Welcome, foolish mortals - welcome to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host, your invisible ghost host. Our tour will begin here in the ghostly gallery - so kindly step all the the way in, please, and make room for everyone. .... There's no turning back now!

The stretching gallery is then described. The most interesting detail is that X says it is "richly decorated but gloomily lit." Now, the actual gallery we ended up with is handsomely designed, no question, but it is not what I would call "richly decorated." X's language suggests to me that something like the fancy-pants stretchroom we see in Marc Davis's concept art may still have been the plan as late as one year before opening day. We saw in the Gargoyles post that the gargoyle candle sconces were a very last minute replacement for the gryphons originally planned, but now we learn that perhaps the entire design of the room was not revamped until surprisingly late in the game as well.


The other interesting thing revealed by the memo is the sheer length of time that having a talking bust in the foyer was the going idea.
Marc Davis's concept sketch is visible in the background in the January 1965 "Tencenniel" program, so it dates back at least to 1964.


Assuming that Marc's idea was at least provisionally accepted as the way the Ghost Host would first communicate with guests, it follows that a foyer bust was the plan for three-and-a-half to four years at the very least. It wasn't dumped in favor of the raven until sometime between X's memo and the first week of February, 1969. Within three months, the raven proposal was also scrapped. Compared to the talking bust, the foyer raven was a flash in the pan.

We can see from Marc's ambitious artwork that various proposals were made for what the bust would say and do. The fact that X has the Ghost Host shift to an explicitly "invisible" status after the elevator doors open shows that the concept at that point was temporary possession of an artwork by a ghost, manipulating it before your very eyes to give an illusion of life. The bust would undoubtedly have fallen still and silent before the second speech. This would more or less dictate how we should read the stretching portraits and the changing portraits that follow: instances of temporary spirit possession, creating sensory illusions.

Why did they decide against the bust? My first thought was that perhaps there wasn't any good way to position a projector in the room without guests seeing it from certain vantage points. However, if they had used a light fixture of a different type than the crystal chandelier—for example, a large shallow bowl design—one supposes they could have concealed the projector above it easily enough. I don't think hiding the projector was the biggest problem.

A more likely reason for axing the gag is that everyone agreed that yes, the "Leota effect" looks great, but it doesn't look all that great if you're only a couple of feet away. Another problem was that the projector was probably too noisy for a small, confined space like the foyer. Those "Leota effect" projectors featured 16mm film loops in special cartridges, and I have a hunch they weren't exactly silent when running.


Whatever the specific problem, if the projector was the
issue, then the audio-animatronic raven cleanly eliminated it.


Excursus: The Raven's Fate

Meanwhile, the raven's role in these first rooms is a complex story in its own right. If we can trust the  "Story and Song" narrative as an accurate reflection of a 1968 script, there was going to be a talking bust in the foyer and a raven in the stretching gallery, sitting on a bookcase. Bookcase? What bookcase? I tried to find some way to visualize such a thing in an earlier post:


But when the foyer bust was scrapped in favor of an AA raven, this arrangement could not have worked. You'd see both ravens while moving from the foyer to the gallery, and they're supposed to represent a single bird. It would have been at this point that the raven was kicked upstairs in the stretching room. As late as the middle of May, 1969 (less than three months before opening day!), a raven was going to be seen up in the cupola along with the hanging corpse, squawking at us below that "he chose the coward's way." You can even hear this included in stretchroom audio files from the spring of '69:

"The Coward's Way"


That way, the raven could easily be understood as the same one you had seen a little earlier in the foyer, but even after the foyer raven had been scrapped, the stretchroom raven was still alive. The bird was not altogether evicted from these early rooms until sometime within the last two-and-a-half months before the ride opened.


Talking Statues, Walking Statues

pic by Jeff Baham

We still have the singing busts in the graveyard, of course. Does this phenomenon have a background in ghost lore?  Oh yes.  Even if we eliminate religious manifestations like weeping icons or bleeding statues and concentrate more specifically on haunted statues that move and speak, there is no shortage of examples, not in fictional ghost stories so much as in urban legends and unconfirmed reports involving real-world statuary.

There's the haunted statue of Blithewood Mansion. The spirit of a young girl who died in a fall from an upper floor window (murder? accident?) is said to roam the grounds and gardens in the form of the statue of her erected by her father. It is missing from its pedestal, so there's your proof.


They say a ghost haunts Stow Lake in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. When the ghost is active, they say, this statue of a Pioneer Woman
and Children has been seen to move and change position. It's been reported that it sometimes seems to be missing its head or arms. Weird.


Then there's Black Aggie, a locally famous haunted statue originally installed in a Maryland cemetery, then given
to the Smithsonian, and now located behind the Dolley Madison House in Washington D.C. Very creepy, this one.


There's "The Cenotaph" in Ontario, a war memorial erected in 1922. They say it's
haunted.  No one seems to claim that it moves, but does the soldier open his eyes?


And for a final example, there's the statue of Inez Clarke in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. Stories vary, but all agree she died by a lightning strike. Her statue is encased in glass. People say they have heard the sound of a child crying nearby, or moaning. They say her statue has sometimes been seen to be missing from its case during thunderstorm activity, and her ghost has been seen wandering about. There are also those who say there never was an Inez Clarke, that it's all a hoax. You have to watch out for those kinds of people. I have found that unless you are firm with them right from the beginning, they'll waste your time with facts and information.


Oh, there are many, many more. The only certainty in looking though the reports 
is that haunted statues that move and vocalize are part and parcel of ghost lore.