Disneyland History 1969 - Mystery of the Hatbox Ghost

Uploaded by DisneyHistory on 09.07.2011

(Creepy voice) Something new is waiting for you at Disneyland.
It looks rather innocent. Just a big old mansion with a twist.
You see, this mansion is haunted... Hahahahaha... (fades out)
Todd: One of the most famous attractions in
the world is the original Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.
Back in the late 1960's, as the attraction was being developed,
the park posted this promotional sign.
Notice! All Ghosts And Restless Spirits
Post-lifetime leases are now available in this Haunted Mansion
In the months leading up to the great opening, Disneyland released photos
of it's effects designer, Yale Gracey, posing with mockups
of various ghosts. The most widely circulated of these photos was
of an early prototype of the Hatbox Ghost.
Now, what exactly does a Hatbox Ghost do? Well, according to this
internal memo, the evil grinning face of a cloaked figure disappears from
body, and reappears glowing hideously in a hatbox.
More or less, like this. A lighting effect.
Illuminating one area, and darkening another.
But there was a problem. Though the lighting effect worked
at the testing facility in Glendale, it didn't always work well in the
actual Mansion in Disneyland.
Tony Baxter: The story is, is even more convoluted
because in this spot when Disneyland opened was a notorious Hatbox Ghost.
If you look at some of the publicity around that time you will see the
effects designer, Yale Gracey, posing with this ghost. And the way he
stood was about like this, and he was kind of a mean guy,
and his head disappeared and then appeared in a box that was for
holding hats here.
So this head came here, and this one went away. And evidently, when they
ran this at WDI, or WED at the time, it worked great in a controlled room.
But here inside of a ride where guests go by and see it from all
different angles, evidently it didn't meet expectations. Plus, it was also
pretty grisly. So as a ride operator I was given an opportunity to ride
the ride about a week before opening. We were able to go around for two
two hours. Each time we would get to the seance area, we would yell across
to other friends saying, "Did you see that? Next time look for this",
so forth. And I remember distinctly that this is where it was.
Before the ride opened, that figure was gone.
Nobody knows the where-abouts, none of the molds exist,
None of the characters exist, it completely vanished.
So, the where-abouts of the Hatbox Ghost, as to this day, is a mystery.
But I can attest to, that I saw it in this very spot.
Todd: Even though the Hatbox Ghost wasn't
in the Mansion, he was included in books and records that the company
sold for years.
Voice from record: There was a cloaked figure with
an evil grinning face. A hatbox hung from his hand.
Todd: And perhaps that lead to some
of the confusion. When the internet got going in the
1990's, dozens of regular park guests claimed that they had seen
"Old Hattie" when the Mansion first opened back in August of 1969.
There were discussion forums, and more discussion forums.
Web pages about the Hatbox Ghost. He even had a Facebook page.
But oddly, no photos of the Hatbox Ghost in the Mansion.
Those photos included here, those are promotional mockups and
reference photos. Not photos of the Hatbox Ghost in the attraction.
Was the Hatbox Ghost removed before the attraction opened?
Was it there for a few days? Did any guests ever really see it?
And then, forty years after opening day,
one photo finally appeared.
A flash photo. Most likely taken by a guest.
But still, just one photo.
And then last month, while going though some old home movies, I came
across something unusual. Home movies from a day at Disneyland.
The Submarine Voyage.
And there's the Sea Monster.
And then, were in a different attraction. Some place dark.
Let's freeze that.
That there is the chandelier in the Ball Room.
Freeze frame.
That there is the Bride. So, we're in the attic scene.
With film dated August 1969, when the Mansion opened.
Remember, the Hatbox Ghost was positioned really close to the ride
vehicles. Here we go.
Let's slow that down.
Then, I retransferred it.
Freeze. Then let's bring in that other photo.
And so, the most famous ghost in the Mansion really did live in the
attic, if only for a few days.