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When it comes to the Haunted Mansion, theming is a matter of grave importance

When it comes to the Haunted Mansion, theming is a matter of grave importance

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Though it's supposedly the "Happiest Place on Earth," Disneyland has more than its share of ghoulish spots. Take -- for example -- the graveyard out behind Fort Wilderness on Tom Sawyer Island ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... or -- for that matter -- the Boot Hill section of the Frontierland Shootin' Exposition.


Photo by Jeff Lange

But if you really want to take a walk on the weird side while you're visiting this Anaheim theme park, you have to drop by the Haunted Mansion.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Ever since this New Orleans Square favorite first opened back in August of 1969, the Haunted Mansion has set the standard for all Disney theme park attractions that followed. Both for its elaborate special effects as well as its epic storytelling.

Of course, what's great about the Haunted Mansion is the storytelling actually starts before you enter the show building. Take -- for example -- those comical gravestones on the hillside that overlook the attraction's queue ...  


Photo by Jeff Lange

The black humor that guests find in the inscriptions on these headstones are the first real indication that the Haunted Mansion will be a skillful mix of frights & fun.

Mind you, this aspect of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion may have been a little too successful for its own good. DL visitors who were waiting in line to ride this New Orleans Square attraction back in the late 1960s / early 1970s reportedly got so interested in reading all of these humorous inscriptions that they'd actually slow down the flow of guests through the queue.

Which is why -- when Walt Disney World's version of the Haunted Mansion opened back in October of 1971 -- ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... the Imagineers made a point of rearranging the way these comical headstones were displayed. So that -- in order to read all of the inscriptions -- guests at the Magic Kingdom had to continually move forward through the queue.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Whereas -- in order to improve guest flow through the queue area of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion -- the Imagineers actually had to remove the comical headstones from that New Orleans Square hillside. That then prevented DL guests from dawdling in the line.

Now where this gets interesting is -- while the Haunted Mansion's first graveyard disappeared for a number of years -- a second set of stones suddenly appeared  next to the attraction's handicap access entrance.


Photo by Jeff Lange

As I understand it, this second graveyard at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion was actually created  so that guests in wheelchairs who were waiting to be loaded into this New Orleans Square ride would then have something entertaining to look at while they waited.

Now I know that this pet cemetery looks kind of .. Well ... bare bones. But there's a good reason for that.


Photo by Jeff Lange

You see, the statues on these pedestals weren't actually sculpted by the artists at WED ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... But -- rather -- were purchased at local area gardening supply stores. (Don't believe me? Then check out the mouth of that concrete toad. See that tiny hole? That's there because this statue was originally designed to be an ornamental fixture for a backyard fountain.)

Still, the Haunted Mansion's pet cemetery proved to be so popular with Disneyland visitors that the Imagineers eventually built a much more elaborate version in 1993 and then folded this one into the attraction's pre-existing queue.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Though -- having learned a few things about how to keep guests moving through a queue in those intervening years -- WDI deliberately set up the Haunted Mansion's second pet cemetery so that (just as the comical headstones do at WDW's version of this attraction) guests would have to keep moving forward in line in order to read all of the humorous inscriptions.


Photos by Jeff Lange

And given how popular this pet cemetery turned out to be with Disneyland visitors, it was only a matter of time 'til WDW's Haunted Mansion got one of its very own.


Photo by Jeff Lange

This pattern would continue well into the 1990s. First Disneyland's Haunted Mansion got a hearse that seemed to be drawn by an invisible horse ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... Then a few years later, Disney World's version of this attraction would receive a similar enhancement.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Mind you, the Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion has yet to receive the seasonal overlay that's been delighting Disneyland guests since October of 2001.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Which continues to be a sore spot with "The Nightmare Before Christmas" fans who frequent the Walt Disney World Resort. Though WDW's Haunted Mansion did receive a cool enhancement of its very own back in 2002 when the Leota headstone was added to the attraction's outside graveyard.


Photo by Jeff Lange

"What's so special about this particular headstone?," you ask. Well, I suggest that you keep an eye on Leota the next time you're standing in line at this attraction.


Photo by Jeff Lange

And speaking of things that you might want to keep an eye on ...

In addition to being JHM's official photographer & archivist, Jeff Lange also operates an online store where he sells his best-selling series of Disney theme park DVDs. Where -- for the week leading up to Halloween -- Lange's now holding a special seasonal sale. Which will allow Disney DVD fans to purchase both his new 3-disc "Trick or Treat" set  AND "Jeff Lange Remembers ... Haunted Mansion Holiday" for one low price.

For further information on this week's sale as well as all of the other titles in Jeff's catalog, please follow this link.

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  • Man... the tombstones are just so perfect...  HM may (perhaps) have the best slow build to a ride of any themed attraction... the graveyard to the foyer to the stretching room to the load area... even more than INDY (which is amazing que, but still a que), HM is an experience from the moment you approach... thanks for the pix!!!
  • I've never been to Disneyland, but I never even knew that WDW had a pet cemetary!  I think it's so funny how the animal statues were bought at a garden store.  That's great!  The Haunted Mansion Holiday looks so fun!  I agree with bhb007- thanks for the pics!
  • How about Mr. Toad in the pet cemetary at the exit of the mansion at WDW?  I thought that was pretty cool.  I miss the old fella.
  • I also never saw the pet cemetary at WDW. I'll have to look for it next time!
  • I'm a little saddened you didn't mention the addition of the Mr. Toad statue at the back of the pet cemetary in WDW.  A cast member pointed that out on a tour we went on of the mansion and I thought it was cute
  • I've got a photo of the Mr. Toad statue that I'd be happy to e-mail you for inclusion into this article if you send me a note at [email protected]!
  • The Haunted Mansion is one of my favorite rides in the magic Kingdom.

    For some reason the Queue is always a short wait.

    There's barely time to read the tombstones
  • The last time I entered the Mansion, I enjoyed it, but it sure likes the place could use a fixing up. The speakers in my doom buggy barely worked and there was a LOT of static. Jim, have you heard anything about a possible refurbishment for the place? I'd hate to see such a classic ride fall into disrepair. I hope there's good news coming...
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