Disney Imagineers Tested the Haunted Mansion Special Effects on the Unsuspecting Night Time Cleaning Crew

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It took twenty years for Walt Disney to create the Haunted Mansion. The whole thing actually began well before Disneyland came into being. Disney had always wanted a spooky haunted house attraction for the theme park (he even commissioned Disney Legend Harper Goff to draw some sketches), but Disneyland opened in 1955 without it.

Three years later, Disney decided to expand Disneyland and the effort to create the Haunted Mansion began in earnest. The first plan for the mansion called for an old New Orleans-style antebellum manor with boarded doors and windows and overgrown with weeds and dead trees. Disney, however, didn't like the idea of a run-down building in his park and said, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside."

Neatorama Facts: Haunted Mansion

Disney put Imagineers Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey in charge of building the Haunted Mansion special effects. The two had plenty of ideas and apparently often left the special effects running all night long. The night cleaning crew were spooked and complained to the management, who in turn, asked Crump and Gracey not to scare them off.

But instead of leaving the lights on and the special effects off, Crump and Gracey decided to connect their "spectral effects" to a motion-detector switch. When the duo came in the morning, they found a broom hastily left in the middle of their studios. The Imagineers had to clean their studios by themselves from that point on, as management told them that the night cleaning crew were never coming back.

Bonus Fact: The Real Ghost that Visited Haunted Mansion Creator Yale Gracey

When they were working on the Haunted Mansion special effects, Crump asked Gracey whether he had any experience with the supernatural. "Oh yeah, I had a ghost read to me when I was 10 years old," Yale replied without hesitation, as reported by Disney History Institute.

Crump told the story, which went like this: When Gracey was a child, he and his mother went to visit relatives on the East Coast for the summer. They lived in a big old house, and Gracey and his cousins would sleep together in a large bedroom, with an old lady who lived in the closet. The lady would come out and read stories to the kids, under the condition that the children do not talk about the lady to the grownups or she'd disappear forever.

At the end of the summer, Gracey's mother asked him what he liked best about the vacation and the small boy replied, "The little lady that lives in the closet that reads to us every night." Gracey's mom was surprised and the children were mad at him, saying "No, no, Yale, she'll never come back."

Crump said that Gracey's mother was so concerned that she went to the local history society and found a photo of the woman who lived there. When she showed it to the kids, they said that she was the lady that lived in the closet.

Did Gracey make the whole thing up? Disney History Institute reported that Crump swore that this was exactly as Gracey had told him. "Yale would never make anything up. He was about as straight as they come," Crump added, "As far as I'm concerned it's true. It can't be any truer than that."


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