Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Disneyland - Haunted Mansion - The "Real" Ghost

I was a Sweeper in 1985. Late one summer night I was assigned to Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square on a closing shift. This meant I was responsible for a final sweep of the Mansion queue and to clean out its bordering flower beds.

Now when Disneyland closed the guests were slowly, but surely, escorted from the back areas of the Park and herded toward Main Street by Security. As closing hour approached, most guests had long headed for the exits anyway, but the few stragglers were evenutally walked out (encouraged no doubt by the closing announcement: "Disneyland has now ended its normal operating day...").

It was dark.
The area music was still on, but there was a strange quiet nonetheless.
The other sweepers in New Orleans/Bear Country were far off doing their own closing routine.
I was alone.

There I stood in the large bullpen near the east side of the Mansion, with my ever-present pan and broom in one hand and my trusty black flashlight in the other.

A breeze lifted the branch of a nearby tree as I stooped over a flower bed in search of old napkins, cigarette butts, guidebooks, cups and other such castaways. The tiny leaves of the branch ran along the back of my neck like fine fingers. I started and stood up straight.

Then I saw it.
I had been going to Disneyland for umpty years and had been working there for almost two.
I had never seen it before.

My eye caught what looked like a yellowish ball of light bobbing gently past the inside of one of the upper story windows of the Mansion. As soon as I saw it, it was gone.
I blinked, looked away, then glanced back up.

Well...I decided I'd better finish up my flower bed, sweep the queue and get out of there. I didn't even have a radio with me.
Just me.

And the Mansion.

I directed the beam of my flashlight back into the dark flower bed and gingerly picked out more debris with my pan and broom. I was pretty sure I had seen something, but tried to push it away as the reflection of an airplane in the window panes, or maybe one of my fellow cast members had shined their flashlight up there.

Needless to say, I picked up the pace of my work. I looked forward to heading back to the area locker. I was working near the brick wall of the queue and meandering along the bullpen (that's what we lovingly call the area where guests line up) toward the porch of the Haunted Mansion. As I dumped my pan into one of the trash cans of the queue, my eye wandered up the Mansion's facade toward those upper windows again.
There it was.

The ghost.

A flickering light moved across the inside of one of the windows again.
There was NO mistaking it this time!


...it moved on to the NEXT window!

When it proceeded to pass in front of the NEXT window, then I knew.

Darn Imagineers!

This special effect was clearly an intended part of the attraction and could only be seen in the dark of night. What appeared to be the ghostly light of a candle moved along inside each of the windows, as though the widowed bride were marching around inside her home, waiting for the return of her captain.

The effect was well done, with a slowly bouncing, flickering light moving past the opaque curtains of the windows. It moved slowly from window to window, with a slight pause in between.
When I had first glanced up, the light had reached one of the corner windows, so that it proceeded around the corner to the next window (where I couldn't see it). That is why I caught a glimpse and then it had appeared to vanish.

Another smart part of the illusion was that the "walking light" paused for some time between cycles, so that the windows would return to their darkened state and, if you didn't stare up at them for a few moments, you might not notice the light when it began moving again.

Now I'm not saying that there aren't ghosts in the Mansion, but I almost became a true believer on that summer evening! I kept that little effect under my hat, sharing it only with a few family members on evening trips to the Park. I have not been out there after dark at any time in the recent past. I wonder if the haunted candle is still pacing around the old house's windows...

Check it out for yourself next time you're there. I will close by sharing with you this excerpt from The Haunted Mansion album:

"It's a house that people avoid walking past at night. Strange sounds come from within the walls, and it's said that eerie lights have been seen both in the attic windows, and in the graveyard at the side of the house."

Hurry Baaack. Hurry Baaa-AA-aack!


Anonymous said...

Sadly, I think this may have been removed. I've been a zillion times over the years and I haven't seen it. Then again, I've never focused on the top story windows...I'll be sure to check next time. It's a nice touch, if it's still there.

Anonymous said...
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Unknown said...

Great tale.

Did any other CM's talk about it after?

Kurt Miller said...

Any idea if this is in the WDW version? I'll check next time I go (may be a while :)

Westcot2000 said...

What's even better is that this effect is so simple: just a can with a hole in it, a motor to turn the can, and a light bulb in the can.

Steve said...

One of these years I've got to do the Mansion.... when I was a kid I was too scared to go in.

Cool blog you have here.


Okie said...

Very cool. When we were there in the spring, the kids tired early so we were only in the park after dark one night and we were in Tomorrowland that night. As they get older, I look forward to pushing to closing time again and again.

I'm constantly impressed with the attention to small details like that. Thinking about things that can only be seen a few hours of each day. Crazy cool.

Mike said...

Many CMs and I checked out the Mansion lights.

I appreciate everyone's input.

Given that we're heading into October and the global economy is terrifying at the moment, I thought a little ghost story fit the bill nicely.


Ashley said...


Unknown said...

I love your blog!
You make me wish I worked at Disneyland.

kinz said...

hehe made me chuckle :)

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Great story, I could feel your vibe, kinda spooky all alone at the Mansion. I will have to check this out next time I am at the Park at Night. That's a great album too!

Leanne ~ Book Lover said...

Love your blog, I visited Disneyland and Disney World in 1983. I'm in Australia, so it was the trip of a lifetime and your blog and photos caused me to dig out my old photo albums.

Namowal (Jennifer Bourne) said...

I spent so much time Disneyland in my teens that I boasted I knew it like the back of my hand,including the "Disneyland has now ended its normal operating day" when they shooed out us stranglers. Never noticed the light before. I agree it's those little touches that make Disneyland so charming.

Amazon Belle said...

Westcot 2000 nailed it. Very simple effect. Don't forget to put wax paper against the window pane so the light won't bounce off the glass.

Hope said...

I grew up with Disneyland (born in L.A. in 1956, and went to the park at least once a year until 1975), so when your 'blog of note' showed up, I'm happy to go back with some memories!

Thanks for a cute blog about the happiest place on earth!

Tanya said...

I'm so glad you were made a blog of note-I never would have found you otherwise-great blog! My first visit to Disneyland was 1967. My best friend Ginny threw up in one of the gardens on Main Street-a combination of excitement and hot weather. Sorry about that! anyway, I still love the park and Hubby and I visit every year. Thanks for the behind the scenes peek!

fraizerbaz said...

I grew up in LA, and when I was about 10 years old, I can recall going through the Haunted Mansion with my parents. Riding though it, I became SO FREAKED OUT that I refused to open my eyes. I remember my mother sitting next to me, laughing at my silliness. I can laugh about it now, but man, back then it was the stuff that nightmares were made of!

Caroline said...

Ooohhh ... spooky!

I have to say that since finding your blog (through blogs of note, of course) I can't stop coming to read your posts and look at the AWESOME pictures you have.

Disneyland was where my family went every year to vacation when we lived in Nevada, and I do everything in my power to go back when I can (I currently am living in the Midwest). I LOVE your blog.

CharmCityChica said...

I'm really liking your blog...very informative,

FoxxFur said...

The "traveling candle" effect at Disneyland was reduced down to just a few windows towards the end and has been broken for years now. It's a 1971 Walt Disney World effect which was brought over to the Mansion sometime in the 80's. Walt Disney World's one still (mostly) is in operation, with all of the windows being illuminated one at a time and a light even passing through the Conservatory, illuminating a bunch of dead plants.

xxbored-brilliantxx said...

this is a great story! i'd love for something like that to happen to me, but i'd be really freaked at the time

Mike said...


Thanks for the input. Learned something new. Hope all is well back in sunny Florida! I'm a big fan of WDW's Mansion and Jungle Cruise. Looks like you are, too!


Everyone has a story to tell, especially if you live long enough. I've still got a few to share...

Tashai said...

That's so cool! I was the last one out of the the mansion in FL this past Dec. I wish I would have known to look for it.

Stacey the Hippie said...

Im a WDW Skip, and I wait, much to my party members dismay, in the outside queue at the WDW Mansion every time I go there at night just to watch the Lantern walk through the Conservatory. Its kinda really awesome. Ive waited for 5 mins for the lamp, and its always there!! The Mansion is by far one of the greats attractions ever created!!!

Mike said...

Stacey the Hippie:

Thanks for stopping by! We love our compadres over at the World. Without a doubt, Disney World's Jungle Cruise and Adventureland is tropical theming to the max! Of course, we at Disneyland will always have Walt's (and Harper Goff's) original Jungle Cruise attraction. I see that you are a Jungle Skip. Mark well the words of this blog. Dig through the old posts. You might find a gem or two that will come in handy during your next trip around the Jungle!

Be well! Do good work! Spread the Disney magic! Don't take any wooden shrunken heads. To thine ownself be true. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Never give a sucker an even break. Semper ubi sub ubi (famous Latin literalist translation meaning "always where under where"). Smile: it confuses people who know you, charms those who don't and irks the ones who don't like you. Plant a tree; write a book; send flowers; obfuscate when necessary; deny plausibly when possible; floss regularly; follow the food pyramid---but don't slip on the way up; never drink Jungle water; always say never when you mean sometimes, but never say always when rendering advice to others; alarm sleeping teenagers; and walk softly in a mine field, but, better yet, take the long way around.


Connie Moreno said...

Cool story!

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing this as a kid waiting in line. I was the only one who caught it and it freaked me out so much I refused to go in, and waited it out in the side garden with my mom! I was only five at the time, but the scare stayed with me, and it took five more years for me to brave going in.