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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Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Berm Graveyard and the Case of the Moving Tombstones

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The first part of this post is a sequel to a 2010 post, That's My Queue, and if you haven't read that one, I suggest you read it first.  That earlier post deals with the original "family plot" at Disneyland that lasted less than nine months before being replaced with additional queueing.  The Imagineers tried to make up for the loss by putting a new cemetery up on the berm.  That one lasted until 2000, then . . . poof.

proof of the poof

When I wrote the earlier post I didn't have very much information about the berm graveyard,
and I still can't give you anything like a complete history, but I've accumulated enough data to
at least put together something resembling a coherent narrative, even if it has some holes in it.


If this sort of thing smacks of trivia for trivia's sake to some of you, let me smack back:  (1) there are a lot of Mansion fans who would love to see the berm graveyard return, so it's still a live topic, and (2) this thing should be documented while it's still possible to do so, before the memories fade any further.  The berm graveyard has been gone now for fourteen years. If not now, when?  If not here, where?  Besides, there are whimsical twists at the end that will send us out in search of artistic influences, a Long-Forgotten staple, so fear not, oh ye right-brain-dominated readers.

But the left-brained discussion comes first. We begin with a montage of the twelve known berm tombstones, numbered for easy reference.


#1 and #2 were actual transplants from the original family plot.  #5 had the same epitaph as one of the originals,  .
but the stone itself was new and redesigned.

#3, #6, #9, and #12 were redesigned versions of four original DL stones, but with changes in the texts (#3 "Edgar" >
"Wathel"; #6 "Dodd" > "Claude"; #9 "Chauncey" > "Francis"; #12 "Mister West" > "Master Gracey").

#4, #7, and #11 were NOT part of the original DL plot and debuted on the berm.  The epitaphs are the same as      .
stones still to be found in the WDW graveyard, but the designs are different.

#8 and #10 were also new to DL and similar to WDW stones, but differently designed and with small variations in   .
the texts (#8 "Old Cousin Huett" > "Cousin Huet"; #11 "Borden" >"Gordon").

Gosh, already I feel so . . . so white-coat-and-clipboard-y.

As you can see, except for the two transplants (#1 and #2), all of the berm stones were reproductions of stones from either the DL or the WDW original cemeteries, but none of them was an exact replica and the names were altered on some of them.  It's been suggested that the alterations may have been for the purpose of paying tribute to other Imagineers, but I haven't (yet) come across a "Borden" or "West" or "Dodd" or "Edgar" who worked on the original HM.  And why did "Francis Xavier" became "Chauncey Xavier" and "Cousin Huet" became "Old Cousin Huett"?  I can't imagine.

pic by Allen Huffmann

During the Haunted Mansion Holiday the hillside is covered in jack o' lanterns, and for this reason there was a time when Jack Skellington was blamed for eliminating the berm graveyard, but we now know that it was removed a full year before the first HMH overlay, so he's off the hook
for that crime, anyway. Below, we'll discover the true reason for the disappearance.


The 1970s

The original family plot was removed in May of 1970, but precisely when the berm cemetery debuted I don't know.  It actually came in two stages, the first one brief and miniscule, the second one big and long-lasting.  That second stage is the one people are thinking about when they speak of the "berm graveyard."  This photo proves that it was there by December of 1977 at the latest:


But judging by this photo, it looks like it was there by 1974. That isn't a tree. 


The earliest photo I've seen that shows tombstones on the berm, however, is probably the one below, which you'll recognize from the earlier
post. That's #1 ("Wathel R. Bender") and #2 ("Phineas Pock") somewhere near the top of the ridge, sometime between 1972 and 1977.
(How do I know? The snapshot is from a batch of DL photos taken after Country Bears but before Big Thunder Mountain RR.)

Eric (Mrdisneyfanman)

It may not look like much to you, but it impressed the holy heck out of some photographer.



Incidentally, you may not realize it, but you've been looking at these two in
their original home at the family plot for as long as you've been reading this blog.


They were apparently the only two re-used in this manner, so I suspect that they were placed on the berm very soon after
the family plot was dismantled, perhaps immediately.  Also, this is probably when the names on the crypts first appeared.

pic by Keary Ingrum Jr.

However, there were apparently no plans to include stones #1 and #2 in the new graveyard being designed at that time, so their days on the berm were numbered. They were removed no earlier than 1972 and probably no later than the debut of the new cemetery (i.e. stones #3 — #12), which appears to have taken place sometime between 1972 and 1974.  Why do I assume that the two transplants were taken out before that debut? Because it hardly seems possible that #1 and #3 would ever have been on display at the same time, with both Wathel and Edgar surnamed "Bender" and both of them riding to glory on a fender.*

(*I suppose it should be noted that if by some freak chance #3 "Edgar" was not added until later, then it's conceivable that #1 and #2 hung around for awhile in the new graveyard.  Since our only photo of Edgar dates from 1989, such a possibility cannot be ruled out entirely, but currently there's no evidence in favor of it, and the simpler working assumption is that the new graveyard went in en masse, not piecemeal.  Furthermore, that 1989 photo shows Edgar in need of repair, suggesting that it had been there for awhile.)

So, if our analysis is correct, the berm graveyard that we all mean when we say "berm graveyard" made its debut in 1973, give or take one year.

Right now that's the best I can do with the 1970s, and it's not a lot of solid info, is it?  That's okay; wave bye-bye and say a rubber ducky to Wathel R. Bender and Phineas Pock, because they play no part in the rest of our story.


The 1980s

The earliest photo I've seen that includes most of the new graveyard in one shot is this one, probably taken in 1988, give or take one year.

(Haahti pic taken from Kennetti)

Before you get out your magnifying glass, here's a close-up of the far right.


The far left of the graveyard is out of frame in that one, but a fellow named Gary Carter took a
number of snapshots of the berm in 1989, and by cunningly stitching together a couple of them,
we can see what the left end looked like. Here's a montage of some of his separate photos.


Here's the stitch-together:


As for the far right, we are blessed with a splendid shot by Gordon Free, dated about 1986.  I've posted it before. It
is most welcome, because it's a little hard to make out the stones down there in the 1987-89 photo, let alone read them.


"Good Friend Borden" (#10) is out of frame on the left, but Carter also took a
couple of shots at this end of the berm, and a blurry Borden is in one of them.


Incidentally, with only a few very minor adjustments Carter's two photos of #9 and #12 can be combined for a nice 3D:


Okay, now we're in pretty good position to draw a layout of the graveyard.  These
are only eyeball estimates, so don't rely on them for exact scales or precise locations.


Notice how nicely perpendicular #11 and #12 are in the 1986 Free photo?  In the panoramic 1987-89 shot, however, those
front row tombstones are beginning to lean forward. I'm afraid there's trouble a-brewin' for our brave little graveyard.


.                The 1990s

                                                By 1990, the front row was tilting at an alarming pitch.

pic by Effie3

And so, sometime before May of 1991, they reshuffled the graveyard.  "Good Friend Borden" (#10) moved to the far left and displaced "Edgar R. Bender" (#3). "Mister West" (#12) was also relocated to the left, to an empty spot farther up the berm. "Brother Dave" (#11) was scooted over to #10's old spot, approximately.

(pics by Andrew Fazzi)

Here's the layout after The Big Shakeup:


There's no guesswork here; the stones can all be identified quite positively.  Here are some later shots clearly
showing #10, #11, and #12 in their new locations, once again standing at attention, straight and tall.  So inspiring.

gif made from videos by David Myers (1996) and Eric MrDisneyfanman (1994)

(pic by David Wight)


Long-Forgotten

The disappearance of "Edgar R. Bender" (#3) ensured that this headstone would sink into obscurity more quickly and deeply than the others. Carter's 1989 snapshot of "Edgar" is the only one I have ever seen, and even in that photo it looks like it's in trouble.  It appears to have swiveled awkwardly out of position on its base. That might explain why it was removed rather than repositioned in 1990-91, but who knows?  If any of you remember it, you're doing better than I am, because frankly, without Carter's photo, I wouldn't have known that this tombstone ever existed.

Reconstruction (right) based on Carter photo (left)

The Beginning of the End

After the shakeup, things remained stable for a year or two, or three at most.  But thenwhat's this?  By 1994, "Mister West"
(#12) and "Brother Dave" (#11) have disappeared.  Aww.  And here we all thought they were so happy in their new homes.


(pic by Jeff Lange. The stone was definitely gone by 1994.)

Why did they vanish?  Judging by the fact that #12 later turned up in the collectors market
looking like crap on a stick, one may suppose that they were taken out because they were
deteriorating.  (The "stones" were fiberglass and resin skins filled with polystyrene foam.)


So apparently it was a matter of pulling a couple of rotten teeth.  The remaining seven stones survived for several years, but eventually it was necessary to perform more hillside dentistry.  Au revoir, Grandpa (#5).  Adios, Chauncey (#9).  Good Friend Borden (#10) was moved for the second time and placed next to Martin (#4). We always knew he crossed the River Jordan, but it looks like he crossed an impressive stretch of dry land as well. Anyway, here we are in 1999, with only five stones left of the original ten in this layout.

(pic by Mina Hart)


In some late 90s photos you can see the same type of deterioration begin-
ning to eat away the remaining stones.  The handwriting was on the wall.



Epitaph for a Graveyard

And so, dear friends, you now know why the berm graveyard was removed in 2000:  It was falling apart.  Time and the elements took
their toll.  Aye, but in's prime, wasna it a bonny sight to see?  (I'm thinking how good "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes would sound here.)

A recreation of the graveyard at its apogee.

And the Tombstones Quake

Believe it or not, there are a couple of curious ironies (or ironic curiosities) nestled deep within that safe and sane history you have just read. First, it seems that between 1986 and 1990 the natural elements replicated outside in excruciatingly slow motion what the Imagineers did inside as a special effect. Second, between 1991 and 1999 the maintenance folks inadvertently replicated a "real" paranormal phenomenon in their attempts to deal with an utterly normal phenomenon. A happy accident, you might call it.  I prefer to think of it as extra value. Anyway, let us take up each of these oddities in turn.


1986 - 1990: Nature Imitates Art

As you know, some of the tombstones in the graveyard scene are animated.  There are actually two kinds, "jigglers" and "rumblers," and there are four of each.  The others behave themselves and stand still.  For you hypergeeks, here is a DL blueprint showing you exactly where they are, with jigglers in green, rumblers in red.


The jiggler variety is ingenious and ridiculously simple, probably another Yale Gracey invention.  The tombstone is very lightweight and suspended on a metal frame by means of springs.  A motor in the back spins an off-center weight around, and ta da, the tombstone rocks back and forth.  I've colored the weight red.



The rumblers are more complex, featuring a mechanized tombstone sticking up through a hole in the floor, rising, sinking, and rocking back and forth.  You can see one of these in the 1970 "Disneyland Showtime" TV special, still in the shop and bobbing up and down like a hyperactive five-year-old who really needs to find a restroom soon (notice also the pop-up spook). If Sigmund Freud were here, he'd probably have some things to say about it as well.


That gif is a little fast, but even at normal speed, it's clear that the rumblers were slowed down
for the ride.  One can also see some fore-and-aft movement along with the side-to-side rocking.


And now,
through the miracle of fake time-lapse photography, look what transpired
on the berm between 1986 and 1990.  Like I said,  it's Nature imitating Art!



Restless Bones

I'm not aware of any precise parallel in traditional ghost lore to supernaturally wobbling tombstones, but in England and elsewhere in the
Old World they've got hundreds, if not thousands of old churchyards showing how the markers do indeed move, tilting in different directions.
Plenty of examples can be seen in the older cemeteries of New England as well.


This is, of course, simply what happens over a long period of time as the stones settle, but to someone scouting around for haunted house ideas,
a sight like this might give rise in the imagination to restless spirits below pushing upwards.  We're back to Art imitating Nature.  Beyond this conjecture, can we find anything specific that may have served more directly as a genuine inspiration?  Perhaps.

The first thing to note is that the jigglers and rumblers are part of a larger chorus of animated grave markers.  There are three crypts with bulging stonework, plus a couple of sarcophagi with moving lids.

Those are pretty realistic-looking sarcophagi, by the way.
The top one is real; the bottom two are from the Mansion.


While the idea that ghosts might wiggle grave markers has no exact parallel that I know of, one might nevertheless consider the notorious mystery of the moving coffins of Barbados.  We know that the Imagineers researched all manner of ghostly and paranormal phenomena, looking for ideas, and it's very hard for me to believe that this item wasn't part of that research at some point.  It's too well-known.  At least I think so, but if perchance you've never heard of it, well, look HERE or HERE. Or you can be satisfied with this thumbnail sketch: For a few decades early in the 19th c., the Chase family would find the heavy lead coffins in the family vault all helter-skelter every time they opened the crypt for a new occupant.  After the first few occurrences, the vault was carefully sealed each time, but in vain.  No trace of human activity in the vault nor any other satisfactory natural explanation for the disturbance was ever discovered.  Conceptually, this isn't too far distant from the Mansion's muscular ghosts pushing around inside crypts and sarcophagi.  Tottering tombstones are simply more of the same, evidence of coffin occupants below growing impatient and starting to push up something a bit more substantial than daisies.  It's not a direct inspiration, but I think the animate grave markers in the Haunted Mansion may very well owe something to the intriguing Chase vault mystery.


No word yet on whether the crypt doors creaked.



1991 - 1999: The Normal Parrots the Paranormal

Or, "The Merely Mundane Merrily Mirrors the Miraculous." Or... go make up your own title. As we have seen, Disneyland guests showed up one day in 1991 and found that several graves had suddenly and inexplicably switched places or moved to different locations. We have also learned that this phenomenon recurred several times over the course of the next decade. Tombstones disappeared and shifted around. It wasn't supposed to be an "effect"; it was repair work intended to keep the hillside cemetery from falling apart . . .

. . . or is that only what they would LIKE us to believe?

I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear that many cemeteries in the U.S. are reputedly haunted, but it may not be so well known that some of these graveyards include among their reported supernatural activity "moving tombstones." And when I say "moving tombstones," friends, I'm not talking about tear-jerking epitaphs. Let's look at the facts.

FACT:


FACT:
There are rumors of tombstones that glow and others that move by themselves at the Silver Terrace cemeteries outside of Virginia City, Nevada.


FACT:
Some say that Bachelor's Grove cemetery in Chicago, reputedly one of the most haunted places in the country, is another good place to find restless tombstones:



FACT:
There are some mighty strange (but by now familiar) things reported at Hazel Ridge Cemetery in Brunswick, Missouri:






INESCAPABLE CONCLUSIONS:

We have argued before that any changes to the building and grounds at a haunted house attraction tend to get sucked into its imaginary world. It's the nature of the beast: the building itself is part of the show. In the present case, however, supposedly innocent repair operations outside the Haunted Mansion bear an eerie resemblance to a ghostly phenomenon, and not just any ghostly phenomenon but a ghostly phenomenon which has been authenticated by statements which are indisputably reported and absolutely genuine, and you just can't argue with evidence like that.




24 comments:

  1. Sigh. I wish that I had taken more photos of the graveyard back in '86. The one photo is a bit grainy because I loaded up my Canon AE1 with 1600 ASA film in the hopes of taking some interior shots of the mansion (very limited success there). I'm thrilled that you have found this one photo so useful.

    -- Gordon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's heaps better than many another photo. You can read 'em clearly, and that's a major plus.

      Delete
  2. Well, sir, I come from a long line of gravediggers, and what I says is that berm cemetery ought to have been terraced. We've got two cemeteries on steep hills here in town, both terraced, and we don't seem to lose a lot of stones to tippage. I mean, the thin limestone ones from the early 1800's break off like Club Crackers, but they do that on flat ground, too.

    Hey, maybe Edgar Bender is the Hatbox Ghost's name!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Naw, if anyone should ask me, I'd say his name is Shipley Lydecker.

      Delete
  3. HBG2, is that a spoiler for an upcoming article? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. I just think the name of the house that inspired the look of the DL HM would make a terrific name. It has a subtly "Snidely Whiplash" ring to it.

      Delete
  4. By the way, the zoom-in GIF on Borden's grave is pants-spoilingly scary!

    ReplyDelete
  5. So, the question is, why would they just remove the tombstones without replicating the originals? Or, just replace it with the pet cemetery? I've always been bothered by the (2nd) pet cemetery being plopped into the front yard of the mansion, when they could have incorporated it into all that empty space in the back...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Pet Cemetery did not replace the Berm Graveyard. They co-existed for six or seven years. Both served the same purpose: to make the queue more entertaining. After removing the deteriorating BG, they decided not to replace it. By then the PC was well-established and popular, so they may have thought it provided graveyard entertainment enough. Also, the HMH debuted in 2001, and it uses the hillside as a pumpkin patch, and it's less work if they leave it blank in between.

      Delete
  6. Quite an interesting history :)
    Great article as always.
    At least the Disneyland HM doesn't have to deal with the Pepe Le Queue madness we have at the WDW Mansion...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ah! now i see,,
    Tombstones on trampolines

    ReplyDelete
  8. i don't want to stray from the subject of shifting tomb stones but
    i miss the peek--a-boo guys Derby hat.
    you know,
    the twin of the organist peeking over the table in the Grand Hall.
    and they gave the King a Haircut.

    I remember also when the haunted mansion opened at WDW in 1971 the organist had no hat..
    can you explain these anomalies sometime?

    i asked Dave Stewart in a letter once and he blamed wardrobe.
    But the peek-a-boo dude's missing Derby seems to be a coordinated effort between all the Mansions,,
    I thought of this because he is depicted in the "" Haunted mansion song and story"" LP
    peeking out from a tombstone in Collins painting with his Derby.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That derby vanished very, very early and has never come back. I don't know why. As for variations from Mansion to Mansion, yes, it's wardrobe. They have a certain amount of leeway. Once the look is established, however, it tends to stay put. I really dislike the headgear on the AA's in Florida. The hats are too goofy, bordering on Dr. Seuss.

      Delete
  9. Yes I noticed that the first time i went to DL HM.
    The Musicians Hats were Ship Admiral hats like the Visiting Captain's
    attire in the Ball Room.
    The WDW Mansion , The Harpist's headgear was unidentifiable,,
    to me anyway.

    Well i always felt the Derby
    hat made Kilroy a little more noticeable when you're zipping by in the DB because of the broader light reflecting surface
    plus it gave him more personally,, Like the Lost in Space robot when he wore one once.
    "WARNING WARNING,,"
    WARDROBE MALFORMATION!!""

    Well HBG,, thanks for addressing this for me.
    Your blog helps me keep these things fresh in my mind.
    I first encountered the Haunted Mansion watching the 1970 Disneyland Showcase and became hooked ever since.
    Finally saw it in the flesh in1971 at WDW
    and then went to CAL. DL and rode the Haunted Mansion 47 times.
    I believe the same year the Ballroom Glass was shot because I remember telling One of the Attendants
    "hey,, You Know that there is a bullet hole in the Glass in the Grand hall?""
    The look on her face became a look of Panic and she answered
    " no i didn't know"
    I'm 55 Now but i still remember that like it was ten minutes ago..
    But some things are beginning to fade.
    so thank you for this extensive in depth blog.
    looking forward to the next.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Just fyi, the shooting incident was in the summer of 1974.

      Delete
  10. You know, that was the year I was there.
    in July or August can't be sure but I remember I went to DL for two days.
    the first day with my Grand Parents
    and the second day by myself.
    Yeah, It was 74 because I just turned 15.

    You had to buy the tickets then.
    I used them up on the Haunted Mansion and kept buying more.
    I remember the Girl that worked there said to me"" Boy you really like this ride don't you?""
    I felt like an idiot but said something like "" yes , I've never experienced anything like it!''

    and being a Kid from Kansas, I was easily HOOKED!

    anyway it was the second time i spoke to her that I mentioned the Glass.

    and I do remember the first day I went, the hole was there.
    I mentioned it the second day.
    and I Knew it wasn't a BB hole and that it had to be a pistol of significant caliber.

    I also remember it made me kinda nervous.

    The reason I noticed it was I was trying to confirm my suspicion that the only way the Grand hall illusion could feasibly be pulled off was by a reflection!

    and that Bullet hole confirmed it.
    I'd doubt anyone else noticed it because back then most people actually thought it was done with Holograms.

    HA ha HA ha!
    It was really so simple.



    ReplyDelete
  11. I love this post.

    Two things of note: I'm a bit surprised by the style of the DL tombs. There's obvious text size variations to allow for the fact that they're up on a hill, but I'm rather charmed that these recreate the look of early American gravestones rather closely. While the text and scroll work on the 1969 and 1971 gravestones is, to my eye, quite beautiful, they're also much more overtly fantasy creations. Last place, in my mind, goes to Tokyo here, where their use of consistent fonts on all of their gravestones and exit crypts makes these look a bit too modern for my taste. I love the irregular, weird text on the FL exit courtyard crypts in particular.

    The other is my surprise that the DL graveyard began to deteriorate at all. That Southern California weather is much more forgiving than the Florida weather. It took me years to figure out that the WDW graves were painted shells; when I was going to WDW most often in the late 90s-early 00s those graves were so beaten up and mold-patched that I thought they were made of cement. Here's a photo from 2002: https://flic.kr/p/nHtKQ1

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm always interested in the materials used to to Build WDW HM.
    you touch some of the pillars there in the front line and everything has a veneer/ plasitic-y feel to it.
    seems very durable.
    Would like to coat my own Florida house with it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "veneer/plastic-y feel" = fiberglass. Half the Disney universe is made of fiberglass.

      Delete
  13. Thanks HBG.

    Hey,, it 's almost the end of the month,,
    closing in on new Blog day

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hey HBG,
    before I go
    I have a question about the Floating Candelabrum's and my Question is:

    How does the candelabra Light UP?
    I guess what I'm trying to say is I know the thing is held by wires but in visible House maintenance lights,
    i see no power source supplying the candles.
    Now-a-days we've ALL seen the little battery powered LED Tea candles
    But I'm thinking in 1969 those did not exist
    ( or if they did were not widely Known)
    and It's seems that this being a prominent visual effect,
    it would have to rely on an AC power source to insure non stop function.
    just something i remember to enquirer about,

    Thanks

    BV

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are lIttle electric light bulbs in the candle tips, and power is supplied by a long thin cord, like any lamp. The candelabra doesn't move around all that much, and the cord just goes up along with the wires holding the candelabra.

      Delete
  15. I suspected that.
    . I remember a while back you posted the blue prints for the rig but don't remember a power cord in the details.
    just a curiosity i had.

    Thank you for your Confirmation.

    BV

    ReplyDelete