A cemetery or graveyard is where we retire when we’re done; a final memorial to our life and loved ones. These peaceful burial grounds are home to a diverse dedication of birth and death dates, photos, and other ways we remember those who have left us behind. Prior to the Civil War, many cemeteries were little more than family’s burial plots, located on the family homestead.
Given The Walt Disney Company’s attention to detail, it should come as no surprise that The Walt Disney Company included this representation of history at its Haunted Mansion attractions. Move over Hidden Mickeys, the tombstones in this cemetery serve a different purpose with hidden references to Imagineers hidden in plain sight. Most of the epithets engraved on the Haunted Mansion tombstones are a tribute to the Imagineers who worked on the attraction; much the same way an artist signs a painting. Shall we take a tour of these tombstones?
Our tour begins here in this cemetery (graveyards are attached to churches) where you see tributes to several artisans who paid their respects to the Haunted Mansion. Subtle, sometimes silly, statements that leave a final mark on this retirement home for ghosts can be found among the markers just outside the Haunted Mansion.
Originally these tributes took their place just to the right of the queue, taking advantage of the river view. Offering a few fiendishly fun inscriptions, by way playful rhymes, the fate of those buried is forever recorded. This small cemetery was removed in 2011 to make way for a new, interactive queue area. Not to worry though, some of the more prominent headstones were included in the new queue area. New tombs, markers, and walls were installed to accommodate the added eerie interactive elements.
Those markers that did not make into the new queue were placed just beyond the enhancements, along with additional tombstones and a few shovels. This new cemetery seems to have a few more residents. Other original tombstones can still be found in this new hillside resting place which can be seen to the left of the attraction’s entrance.
Imagineers “interred” at the Haunted Mansion
The first headstone is for Imagineer Marc Davis who worked on both the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Yale Gracey (along with Rolly Crump) crafted and tested many of the effects seen in the Mansion. His effects skills earned him the title of “Master” Gracey as you see on this haunted tombstone.
Animator turned Imagineer, Xavier “X” Atencio worked on many classic Disney attractions and co-wrote “Grim Grinning Ghosts” His voice still “haunts” the mansion.
Animator turned audio-animatronic expert, Wathel Rogers is responsible for many of the iconic life-like figures at Disney attractions.
Disney background artist Claude Coats became a show designer for the company and helped to design the Mansion’s many environments.
Set designer Fred Joerger crafted many of the attraction models used in planning. He also created a lot of the rock work (plaster) seen at Disney parks.
WED’s architect Cliff Huet was the interior designer for the Haunted Mansion.
Bob Sewell was head of the WED model shop and was responsible for show instillation.
VP of Design at WED, Bill Martin crafted the tunnels (utilidors) at the Magic Kingdom
Chuck Myall worked for WED as an art director and project designer.
Harriet Burns was the first female Imagineer at WED, she was a model maker and scenic designer.
Model maker Dave Burkhart not only worked on the Haunted Mansion but also 20000 Leagues under the Sea and the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse at Walt Disney World.
The sound effects haunting the Mansion were designed by Gordon Williams.
The model and face of Madame Leota, Leota Tombs was an artist for WED. Her tombstone, at the entrance to the Haunted Mansion, is quite unique – blink and you might miss her doing the same.
Animator turned Imagineer, Roland “Rolly” Crump has worked on several animated movies and attractions for the Walt Disney Company, he contributed heavily to the Haunted Mansion.
Paul Frees’ voice is easily recognized as the Ghost Host, he was also the voice Professor Ludwick Von Drake and narrator for several Disney attractions (as well as scores of animated features and product characters like the Pillsbury Dough Boy).
Disney writer and art director Ken Anderson came up with the wedding concept for the Haunted Mansion.
Blaine Gibson was a legendary artist and sculptor for Disney. In addition to many of the leaders found in the Hall of Presidents, he also sculpted many of the pirates for the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction (which were also used as ghosts in the Haunted Mansion).
“Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion” was illustrated by Imagineer Collin Campbell.
Thurl Ravenscroft, whose deep voice can be heard belting out the Mansion’s theme song, “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” is tuned into the spirit realm via the large “Ravenscroft” organ in the interactive queue.
999 Happy Haunts. . .
These tombstones have no “official” story but are believed to be tied to a few of the Mansion’s ghostly inhabitants.
“Cousin Algernon” – the derby wearing member of the quartet of signing busts
Ezra – tall, skinny hitchhiking ghost also known as the “skeleton”
Gus – forever weighed down by ball and chain, this hitchhiking ghost is also known as the “Prisoner.”
Beauregard – a character created by Ken Anderson to be the living butler/tour guide of the Mansion
Ned Nub – another of the singing busts (first on the left)
Phineas Pock – possibly Phineas P Pock, another of the singing busts
Additional crypts can be found at the attraction’s exit. Aside from hauntingly humorous puns and ghostly gags, the “occupants,” have little significance in the creation or story of the attraction, short of possibly being part of the 999 ghosts that inhabit the Haunted Mansion.
The aforementioned crypts and a few of the prominent placeholders found in the Mansion’s cemetery can be reproduced at home, thanks to the free paper models that can be found on the Haunted Dimensions by Ray Keim website. Good Old Fred’s tombstone, Master Gracey’s Tombstone, Leota’s Tombstone, the Crypts, and the just added Francis Xavier (plus many more models) are all available for download on the site.
A creepy clever collection of who’s who in Haunted Mansion and Disney Imagineering, the tombstones at the Haunted Mansion are more than just another pretty (paranormal) set dressing. These sometimes silly, slightly spooky macabre markers of magic makers are a haunting homage to the significant sprits “buried” in the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion cemetery.