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13 Facts About Disney’s Haunted Mansion

Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion opened on August 9, 1969, and quickly became one of the park’s most beloved attractions. Every Magic Kingdom built since then, from Florida to Tokyo and beyond, has included some version of the Haunted Mansion. To celebrate all these years of grim, grinning ghosts, here are 13 facts about the spookiest ride ever devised by Walt Disney and his team of “Imagineers.”

1. In the Beginning

Disney first approached Imagineer Ken Anderson about the idea for a haunted attraction in 1957. Originally planned as a walk-through attraction, it would have involved maids or butlers guiding guests through the mansion and telling them about the tragic tale of a sea captain and his bride. Also planned was a “Museum of the Weird,” which would have showcased strange creatures and odd, interactive illusions.

2. An Empty House

Construction of the Haunted Mansion’s façade began in 1962 and was finished in 1963. The building sat empty after Disney and his Imagineers focused on the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. It remained that way following Disney’s death in 1966 as Imagineers, now left to their own devices, struggled to decide what to do with the attraction.

3. From Baltimore to New Orleans

Although the Haunted Mansion is located in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square and appears to be a typical antebellum manse, it was inspired by a home almost 999 miles to the north—Baltimore. The Shipley-Lydecker House was built in Baltimore in 1803.

4. Movie Influences

Many Haunted Mansion experts think that three films were major inspirations for the Imagineers as they completed the attraction—La Belle et La Bete, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of Beauty and the Beast; The Haunting, Robert Wise’s 1963 adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House; and the 1927 version of The Cat and the Canary. Design elements from all three movies can be seen in the ride itself.

5. Expensive Ghosts

According to an official Disneyland press release from 1969, the Haunted Mansion cost $7 million to develop and build. That translates to roughly $45 million today.

6. 999 Happy Haunts

From the very beginning, Disneyland press materials touted that 999 ghosts resided in the mansion. While the number of actual ghostly figures in the attraction has never been officially tallied, it is generally acknowledged that there’s always room for one more.

7. Different Lands

The Haunted Mansion is the only Disney attraction to be featured in different lands at each of the five Magic Kingdoms. In Disneyland, it’s in New Orleans Square. At Walt Disney World, it’s located in Liberty Square. It resides in Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland and in Frontierland at Disneyland Paris, where it’s known as Phantom Manor. At Hong Kong Disneyland, a completely different attraction known as Mystic Manor is located in Mystic Point.

8. Up or Down?

The world-famous stretching rooms, in which guests are introduced to the attraction’s “Ghost Host,” descend at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and at Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris. At Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland, the ceiling rises while guests remain on the same level.

9. Familiar Voices

The voice of the Ghost Host was provided by actor Paul Frees, who was also the voice of Boris Badenov on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and the Disney character Professor Ludwig von Drake. The voice of the main singing bust in the graveyard scene belongs to Thurl Ravenscroft, who voiced Tony the Tiger. Madame Leota, the disembodied head inside the crystal ball, is the voice of Eleanor Audley, who also provided the voices of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella.

10. Dancing Ghosts

The dancing ghosts in the ballroom are created using a theatrical effect that’s been around since the early 1800s. Called the Pepper’s Ghost illusion, it’s a relatively simple trick in which illuminated objects are reflected onto a pane of glass, making them appear translucent. It’s named after John Henry Pepper, who popularized the effect.

11. Nemo’s Organ

 

At Disneyland, the pipe organ played by a spectral musician in the ballroom scene is the same organ used by James Mason as Captain Nemo in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The prop was modified for use in the Haunted Mansion. The organs used in other versions of the ride are replicas of the original.

12. Hitching a Ride

The names of the three hitchhiking ghosts guests encounter at the end of the ride are Gus, Ezra, and Phineas. Gus is the short one with the ball and chain, Ezra is the tall, skeletal one with the bowler hat, and Phineas is the one carrying the carpet bag.

13. Pet Cemetery

Both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World versions of the ride have a small pet cemetery located outside the mansion. In Walt Disney World, one can see a tombstone for J. Thaddeus Toad, the hero of the park’s long-gone attraction Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

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The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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This 1940 Film on Road Maps Will Make You Appreciate Map Apps Like Never Before
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Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images

In the modern era, we take for granted having constantly updated, largely accurate maps of just about every road in the world at our fingertips. If you need to find your way through a city or across a country, Google Maps has your back. You no longer have to go out and buy a paper map.

But to appreciate just what a monstrous task making road maps and keeping them updated was in decades past, take a look at this vintage short film, "Caught Mapping," spotted at the Internet Archive by National Geographic.

The 1940 film, produced by the educational and promotional company Jam Handy Organization (which created films for corporations like Chevrolet), spotlights the difficult task of producing and revising maps to keep up with new road construction and repair.

The film is a major booster of the mapmaking industry, and those involved in it come off as near-miracle workers. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.

Once those maps were printed, they were "ready to give folks a good steer," as the film's narrator puts it, quietly determining the success of any road trip in the country.

"Presto! and right at their fingertips, modern motorists can have [information] on any road they wish to take." A modern marvel, really.

[h/t National Geographic]

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