There’s a legend about a bride who lived up in that old mansion, before its residents were ghosts and the grounds a cemetery. On her wedding day she waited by the window for her groom, but he never arrived. Heartbroken, she threw her engagement ring into the garden below. It’s said that the ring stayed where it fell, and that if you know where to look you can still find it somewhere among the headstones…
That story may be fiction, but the ring is real, and it’s embedded in the ground near the Haunted Mansion attraction. It’s also just one of many fun secrets hidden away in the interactive queue. Some of these expand upon the story, while others are nods to the ride’s creators and its history. So sit back and relax, foolish mortals, as we take a tour through the Haunted Mansion’s interactive queue and I reveal some (but probably not all) of the mysteries within.
Riddle Me This
We start with a series of five busts that can be found as you first enter the queue. On each one there’s a plaque with a rhyme. These poetic epitaphs explain how each person died, but there’s more to it than that. Each rhyme not only reveals the cause of death, but indicates who caused it, and if you follow the riddle you’ll find that they all killed each other! It’s like an episode of CSI: Magic Kingdom (which isn’t a thing, but totally should be) as you follow the clues:
The riddle starts here, because poor Uncle Jacob “went first” and his plaque invites guests to solve the mystery. He was poisoned, according to the epitaph. But who did it?
Bertie is next up, and he’s the one who killed Uncle Jacob. Look at what’s above his name: a bottle of poison. Uncle Jacob was poisoned. See the pattern? Now, Bertie (who, by the looks of him, moonlighted as a Jungle Cruise skipper) was shot. Ouch.
The dastardly Aunt Florence is the one who sent Bertie to the great beyond. Check out the pistol on her plaque, which answers the question of Bertie’s killer. But poor Aunt Florence herself was “found face down in canary seed”.
Those twins don’t look like cheerful children, and that bird on their plaque indicates that they were the one who offed Aunt Florence. That was before (I’m assuming) they were found dead “with identical bumps on identical heads”. Man, the family reunions around here are murder…
Finally we come to Cousin Maude and her hammer, which I’d bet matches those bumps on the twins’ heads. But, who killed Maude?
If you circle around to the back of Cousin Maude’s bust and look in her hair, you’ll find matches. Looks like she’s the one who “sent her dreams up in smoke”.
Along the way towards the mansion you’ll see a lot of headstones with funny epitaphs, but these are more than just set dressing. In fact, these graves are the ‘credits’ for the Haunted Mansion as they feature the names of Imagineers who worked on the attraction.
Master Gracey refers to Imagineer Yale Gracey, who designed many of the special effects seen in the Haunted Mansion. The mansion, because of the “master” part, is often referred to as Gracey Manor, though this is mostly a fan thing. X. Atencio (who wrote the epitaph) states that it’s actually just a reference to someone too young to be called ‘mister’.
Francis Xavier is a reference to X. Atencio. He scripted the ride, wrote the song “Grim Grinning Ghosts” (also “A Pirate’s Life For Me” and a bunch of others) and he’s the one who wrote the cute epitaphs on the ‘graves’ of the Imagineers.
Marc Davis was a legendary animator and Imagineer, one of Walt Disney’s core “Nine Old Men” and he was responsible for not only animating many beloved movie characters (like Tinkerbell) but he designed many characters for lots of Disneyland attractions.
Dave Burkhart (model maker), Chuck Myall (WDW master planner, project designer), Gordon Williams (audio effects), and Harriet Burns (model maker) all helped to bring the Haunted Mansion to life. Harriet Burns also holds the distinction of being the first female Imagineer. (photo by Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot)
Claude Coats is a legendary Imagineer who worked on several Disney animated movies as well as Disneyland attractions, including the Haunted Mansion. He advocated for a spookier mansion, rather than the more comic style imagined by Marc Davis. Bob Sewell created a lot of the models for the Haunted Mansion. (photo by Herb Leibacher)
“Good Old Fred” refers to Fred Joerger, a set designer. He created models of attractions prior to their construction, and designed much of Walt Disney World’s rock work. Which makes the epitaph an extra little nod. (photo by Brett Brayman)
Cousin Huet refers to interior designer Cliff Huet, Wathel Rogers helped Walt create some of the first audio-animatronic figures, and Bill Martin was one of the original Disneyland designers. (photo by Herb Leibacher)
Collin Campbell was an Imagineer and artist who worked on backgrounds for movies (like Lady and the Tramp) as well as concepts for various attractions, including the Haunted Mansion. (photo by Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot)
Imagineer Dorothea Redmond created concept art for the Haunted Mansion and is honored with her own grave in the cemetery. Which is a pretty cool way to honor someone. (photo by Herb Leibacher)
The Salty Sea Captain
The early concepts for the Haunted Mansion had a sea captain as a central character, but as the attraction evolved his role was cut back. Prior to the 2007 renovation “the Mariner” could be seen on a portrait, his eyes following guests as they went by; during the renovation the portrait (without the moving eye effect) was moved to a wall in the doom buggy loading area.
When the interactive queue was built in 2011, The Mariner was finally given a new name, Captain Culpepper Clyne, as well as a proper crypt. Well, a proper crypt that squirts water from its barnacles…
The salty sailor has always been a part of the Haunted Mansion in one form or another. If you stand by his crypt and listen, you can occasionally hear him sing.
According to the book The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies by former Imagineer Jason Surrell, an early name of the sea captain was Bartholomew Gore. This bit of history is immortalized in a headstone on the hill. (photo by Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot)
With This Ring…
The real saga of the now-legendary ring started with a simple pole located at the exit of the ride. The pole was eventually removed, but left a small silver circle embedded in the cement. There was a small metal square on top of the circle which could be mistaken for a stone’s setting, making it look a bit like an engagement ring. Guests noticed it, and a whole bunch of tales were created by fans to explain how this ring fit within the narrative of the Haunted Mansion. Eventually the piece of metal was paved over, but later an actual ring was hidden in the queue and was given an official story (which I told above) to explain its presence.
The ring, from a distance for location purposes. If you’re facing Captain Clyne’s crypt, there’ll be a trash can to your right and the ring is in the corner near that.
A closer shot of the ring. Interestingly, it’s a different ring than the one I took a picture of a couple years earlier (that pic can be seen in my Grim Grinning Ghosts post). No idea why they changed it.
Make Mine Music
As you walk through the queue, you’ll find a wall of musical instruments. It looks like just a neat display, but it is actually interactive. Touch any of the instruments, and you’ll hear music playing from that instrument. It can be tough to hear on a really busy day when there’s a lot of crowd noise, but each one does sound different. On one side there’s ‘normal’ instruments, while the other has their more haunted counterparts. You’ll also find the pipe organ on one end of the crypt, and you can make music by touching its keys.
While the music for “Grim Grinning Ghosts” was actually composed by Buddy Baker, in the ride’s story it was actually created by a character called simply the Composer. This interactive element of the queue is known as the Composer’s Crypt. (photo by Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot).
This side may be a reference to the band of ghosts playing in the ride’s cemetery scene, and the spooky instruments on this side of the crypt are supposedly inspired by Rolly Crumps’s designs.
Touch the keys and, even though they don’t move, music will play. This haunted instrument does have a special nod, too…
The name etched onto the pipe organ, Ravenscroft, is a reference to voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft. He’s the lead voice of the singing busts in the mansion’s cemetery scene as they perform “Grim Grinning Ghosts”. He also, for the record, has one of the coolest last names ever.
The History of the Pock Family
There’s a crypt in the queue, which according to its plaque is the final resting place of poetess Prudence Pock. While Prudence herself is unique to the interactive queue, the Pock family name is not. Phineas Pock has appeared multiple times in Haunted Mansion history.
It’s unclear what the relationship between Prudence and Phineas may be, but the Pock family does have a long history within the Haunted Mansion attraction.
Phineas Pock is one of the singing busts in the ride’s graveyard scene, and the character was used for various promotional materials around the debut of the original Disneyland mansion. Paul Frees voiced him in early radio commercials, and a souvenir book sold at Disneyland in the 1970s was ‘authored’ by Phineas. So Prudence may just be in the interactive queue, but her ‘family’ has long been a part of Haunted Mansion history!
Epitaph-less graves for Phineas Pock, Cousin Algernon, and Uncle Theodore (and, not pictured, Rollo Rumkin and Ned Nub) can be can be found outside the mansion. These are the names of the singing busts in the ride’s graveyard scene. (photo by Herb Leibacher)
Roses are Red, Violets are Blue
Behind metal bars in Prudence Pock’s crypt sits a book, and the poetess continues to write her rhymes from beyond the grave. As she composes her poems the words appear on the pages, but she’ll occasionally need help. Say the next word that she needs into the nearby speaker, and that too will appear in the book. Then all of the words disappear, and a new poem is written.
This fun activity is actually easy to miss as it’s one of the last interactive elements before you get to the front door of the mansion, and the way it’s set into the tomb makes it easy to walk by. I’ve also heard rumors of it breaking frequently and guests just seeing (and subsequently ignoring) a blank book. (photo by Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot)
This microphone next to Prudence’s poetry book includes a nod to Harper Goff, an art director who worked on early concepts for the original Disneyland park. He also worked on one of my favorite Disney movies, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The Strange Secret of the Bookcase
This one blew my mind.
To the casual observer, the bookcase is just a fun toy: push one book in, and another will slide partway out. Some of the spines have strange symbols carved into them, like an axe or a candelabra, which all just seems like cute window dressing.
But, according to Inside the Magic, those symbols are much more. They’re actually an elaborate cryptogram which, when solved, spells out a haunted riddle.
Inside the Magic already has a great exclusive report which you can read here. I definitely recommend heading over (once you’re done here, of course) and checking it out.
I’m still wrapping my head around Inside the Magic’s revelation. Unfortunately, I read their post after my last visit, so I couldn’t check this incredible secret out myself. (photo by Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot)
Named for, and modeled after, Leota Toombs (though the voice was provided by actress Eleanor Audley), Madame Leota is one of the most popular characters in the Haunted Mansion. Her tombstone appears right before the front door, her disembodied head is casting spells from within a crystal ball in the ride’s seance scene, and she’s appeared on lots of merchandise as well as in related media (such as the movie and video game). Plus, ‘Leota Toombs’ is a great name for an Imagineer, especially one who worked on the Haunted Mansion.
If you get the chance before being ushered into the mansion’s foyer, watch Leota’s tombstone. Every few minutes her eyes will open, her head will move, and she’ll look around before returning to rest.
Epitaphs at the Exit
Like the graves along the queue, these tombs at the ride’s exit also reference people who helped create the Haunted Mansion.
Paul Frees (voice of the Ghost Host) and Imagineers Ken Anderson, Roland “Rolly” Crump, and Blaine Gibson are all immortalized as a part of the attraction. (photo by Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot)
Bluebeard is a character in a French folktale who had a penchant for murdering his wives and, according to Jason Surrell’s book, his crypt is an “apparent tie-in to the early sea captain/bloodthirsty pirate story line”. (photo by Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot)
The Pet Cemetery’s Esteemed Resident
You’ll pass the pet cemetery as you leave the mansion and head back towards Liberty Square, and if you stop and check it out you’ll see the graves of a variety of animals. There’s even a special resident interred in there:
The pet cemetery is something that you can easily walk by as you’re exiting the building, but if you stop to take a look, check up in the top left corner…
Tucked away in the back is none other than Mr. Toad! This grave is a nod to the passing of his attraction, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which was replaced (in Florida, anyway) with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
More than just an interactive way to kill time in line, the queue at the Haunted Mansion is an extension of the story and a treasure trove of nods and secrets; full of references to the attraction’s history as well as tributes to the Imagineers that helped create it. Like most things at Disney, there’s more than meets the eyes, and for those who really look they’ll find that seemingly ordinary details could have a hidden meaning.
Our tour may conclude here, but as Little Leota (who was voiced by Leota Toombs) says at the end of the ride… “Hurry baa–aack”…
Some special notes: Check out the World of Walt podcast (on which I was a guest) about some of the interactive queues in the Magic Kingdom! Follow this link to get there, and check out my other guest appearances by following this. Also, I’ve written about Haunted Mansion trivia before in a post entitled Grim Grinning Ghosts. Some of the info does repeat, but there’s lots of other fun facts to be found there.
Special thanks to Benjamin ‘Van’ Druhot, Herb Leibacher, and Brett Brayman for supplying many of the photos for this post.