Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Park Mysteries #5

For many years my main method of revisiting Walt Disney World was a thick tan hardcover book with a big color picture of fireworks over Cinderella Castle pasted into the center of gilt-line drawings of fleeting images from around the resort: Spaceship Earth here, Discovery Island there. Although it's badly dog eared I still have it and love it dearly, and it is perhaps a testament to my early fixations that it opens naturally and neatly to a two page full color spread on The Haunted Mansion. Those seven or eight photos are forever burned into my mind, and one of them, in particular, haunted me for many nights before my memory of what exactly was inside the old brick house was fully firmed up.

This photo is much circulated around the internet, and is featured on both Doombugies.com and Walt Dated World as pictures of the "original bride" from the Haunted Mansion. And how spooky she is! Little yellow slits for eyes and a graphical heart with the crack running down the center. Despite all of WED's and WDI's trying over the years, this may be the scariest bride of them all. The problem is that I'm not sure she was ever installed in the ride.

Why? Well, first of all I may point out that there are an awful lot of things wrong with the figure, especially her hands. They're clearly just dummy rubber hands, not even actually clutching her candle or bouquet of roses. Furthermore, that's a real candle, not the light-up, "show" version WED would've used in 1969. And finally, those flowers aren't even in her hand - they're weirdly tacked to her body. But most importantly: it's just a badly made figure which WED would never have actually installed in the attraction.

What we're looking at, I wager, is an early mock-up of the bride figure, perhaps to go along with her other famous, much reprinted mate:

Thanks to Chris Merritt and Jeff at Doombuggies, we now know that these "only known photographs"of "the ghost too scary to be in the ride" are actually publicity photographs of an early, non-operable mock-up of the figure. We know that WED was building these in certain situations in this era - not only because of this famous photo of the hatbox ghost which looks quite different from the photos of the final figure, but that Daveland has posted over at his Pirates of the Caribbean blog a photo of what appears to be a full-scale mockup of the Auction Scene.

We also have a set of blueprints from Haunted Portraits clearly showing a blueprint schematic of the original bride figure, complete with a wire visibly running up inside her candle to keep it lit. Moreover, this figure clearly has a face i.e. a head, which the mockup version clearly does not.

The blocking of the figures and effects in the attic must have been quite difficult to gauge on paper, so it makes sense that WED would've built cheap dummies to see the scene in real space before going ahead and starting on the real thing. I therefore posit that the popular myth that this photo constitutes the original bride is both true and false: true in that she does represent the first ever Haunted Mansion bride ever built, but false in that this crude figure was never (and would never pass WED's show quality standards to be) installed in the actual Haunted Mansion attraction.

So there's one less Haunted Mansion mystery to resolve!