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Disney Memories: Haunted Mansion – March 1970

Here’s how I remember it: For my fifth birthday, my parents took me and my three year old brother to Disneyland. (This was my first trip to the Magic Kingdom). My memories of that day are bookmarked in my head by two glossy black and white photographs with crinkly edges adhered to a black construction paper page in a long lost photo album that had a deep red cover. In one photo, taken on the Dumbo the Flying Elephant Ride, is my mother and my little brother in the elephant directly behind me and my dad. In the other photo, taken by my mother, is me and my dad in our elephant.

Another memory returned to me the other night while I was remembering being on Tom Sawyer Island: my first trip through the Haunted Mansion.

This is what the front of the Haunted Mansion looked like, circa 1970. A huge thank you to Dave (“Major Pepperidge”), author of Gorillas Don’t Blog, who graciously allowed me to use his personal Haunted Mansion photo.

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Haunted Mansion, Disneyland, circa 1970 – photo courtesy of Dave, Gorillas Don’t Blog

Imagine if you will, a five year old girl entering a large, dark foyer, holding her father’s hand. A wall in the foyer opens and a very solemn host ushers a large group of people from the dark foyer into a even darker octagonal-shaped room with four portraits hanging way up high. Keep in mind that the little girl stands about buttocks high to many of the other guests in the tightly packed room. (I think my dad might have picked me up – I had my hands over my eyes for most of this ride.) Then the wall closes again and that deep, resonating voice tells it’s tale while the walls stretch to reveal some unusual portraits: “And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows and no doors. Which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! [laughter] Of course, there’s always my way.” And with that, lighting cracks, thunder rumbles, and the ceiling reveals a body hanging from a noose.

That was IT for me – I was completely terrified. And we hadn’t even gotten out of the elevator yet. Then we walked down that long, dark hall leading us to our fate, me taking in the paintings that changed with the lightening. The busts at the end of that hall following us with their eyes as we walked by. We climbed into the aptly named Doom Buggy and rode the ride, me and my dad, and I held my hands over my eyes, with my head against my dad’s chest, for most of it. (I do remembering peeking a FEW times. Once down the hall of doors, but a glimpse of the breathing door stopped that nonsense. But curiosity got the best of me a few more times:  Another peek while passing through Madame Leota’s seance. I’m also pretty sure I peeked during the dining room scene – Hamilton and Burr in a duel, I remember that. And once during the graveyard scene: a ghoul popped up from behind a headstone and that was the end of peeking for me!)

I’ve ridden that ride at least a hundred or so times since that first time, and I love it every time. It’s never the same – I see things I missed during the last ride, and I really enjoy the holiday overlays for Halloween and Christmas. But that first time, whew! Still surprised we got out alive.

That’s all for now. Until later, remember to look for the magic!