Today’s Spooktacular post is brought to you by Jenn aka Dis Savvy. She has some thrilling information to share with you. Be sure to check her out over on her Facebook page called Dis Savvy.
As you exploreLiberty Square, you will notice a spooky corner reserved for only the bravest of mortals. As you approach the black iron gates, you might hear the howl of a lone wolf in the distance. Welcome, foolish mortals, to theHauntedMansion. Guests may tour the mansion – but you won’t be walking through the front door.
As you follow the walkway to the left, you will notice a graveyard. Each poor soul has a headstone with epithets describing how each met his or her doom. But, there’s no need to be frightened.
Each headstone was carefully selected and personalized to pay homage to Disney Legends or Imagineers that lent his or her talents to creating the magical experiences we have come to love about Disney.
Since the introduction of the interactive queue option at the home of 999 Happy Haunts, many might miss a lot of these headstones in favor of a shorter wait. However, they are a whimsical reminder of those that have lent their talents and might be part of the Haunted Mansion back story.
Some of my personal favorites include:
“Dear Departed Brother Dave
He chased a bear into a cave.”
So simple – obviously he never came out of the cave. I always remember this one. The Dave in question is Dave Burkhart. He started in 1967 as a model maker. He worked on The Haunted Mansion, Swiss Family Treehouse and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Another favorite is:
“Here lies good old Fred
A great big rock fell on his head”
Again with simple endings. You don’t tend to survive rocks falling on your head. Fred has a great history. He started with the company in 1953 as a set designer and model builder. He is famous for making rockwork out of plaster that looks very realistic. You will see his work on the Jungle Cruise (though most people might take it for granite), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and at the Polynesian’s atrium waterfall. He actually was called “resident rock expert” by his fellow imaginers.
The last two headstones are very story specific. The first is the stone for Yale Gracey. In Mansion legend, it is indeed his home we are visiting. There are many versions of the Mansion story but let’s stay on topic and discuss his headstone:
“Master Gracey laid to rest
No mourning please at his request.
Yale Gracey was an extremely creative man who created many of the special effects inside theHauntedMansion. His success was attributed to the fact that he didn’t accept the idea that something couldn’t be done. He just kept working at it until it worked. He joined Disney in 1939 and stayed with the company until 1975!
The last stone to discuss is of Leota. It was added in WDW in 2002. Interesting story about Leota’s headstone. On family vacation, we were standing near the graveyard waiting for the double doors to open and I was reading headstones like always. At one moment, I saw the eyes on Leota’s headstone open, look around and close. No one else saw it. No one in my party believed me. I even asked strangers around me. So I made everyone watch…and watch…and watch…and the double doors opened and it was time to drag our wretched bodies inside.
After a few more ride throughs, the eye cycle was timed correctly and others realized I wasn’t hallucinating. AND at the beginning, the motion was on a 2 minute cycle so it took a LONG time for her to do anything thus making you look like a crazy person!
So Leota’s impressive tombstone reads:
“Dear Sweet Leota
Loved by all
In regions beyond now,
But having a ball”
The headstone makes a direct reference to her part in our haunted tour. In the séance room, Madame Leota’s head hovers in the center calling on ghosts wherever they’re at.
Leota was a real person – Leota Toombs (Super appropriate huh?) worked in the Ink and Paint Department and then moved on to work on Haunted Mansion. Yale Gracey met her and found her appearance to be most gypsy-like and asked her to be the model for the floating head illusion!
Next time you’re in line – the graveyard side or the straight through side, take a moment and check out these and other Haunted Mansion Headstones. They are more than just a whimsical epithet!