The Haunted Mansion, the Haunting, and "Boo" vs "Brr" in spook-house design

Long Forgotten, the very best Haunted Mansion blog on the net, has a stellar piece on the influences that went into the Haunted Mansion's scary corridor of doors, and the delicate balance the corridor strikes between two different kinds of scariness, called "Boo" and "Brr." The piece starts from the premise that the Imagineers who designed the Haunted Mansion were heavily influenced by the 1963 classic horror film The Haunting (the film adaptation of Shirley Jackson's horror novel The Haunted of Hill House, later remade as a 1999 film with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Liam Neeson). This isn't a very controversial idea, as there are many parallels between the Mansion and The Haunting, though Long Forgotten finds some particularly subtle and fascinating lifts I'd never seen mentioned before.

More interesting, though, is the way the corridor — and the Mansion itself — slides from "Boo" to "Brr" as you pass through it, and the ways that subsequent fine-tunings and renovations have changed this calculus. As with all of Long Forgotten's pieces, it's a very well-argued and illuminating piece of design criticism that made me rethink something with which I'm very familiar in a totally new light.

My purpose in returning to The Haunting was to underscore not only the breadth but the depth of the influence of that film on the Corridor of Doors. What I mean is that the COD is indebted to the film in both small details and grand concepts. We have documentary proof that a number of HM Imagineers saw the film together in a private screening, so you might be tempted to conclude that here is a case where the source material went almost straight into the ride without a ripple of dissent. But resist that temptation, because it's wrong. Marc Davis was not sold on using The Haunting as a template.

It's obviously a concept sketch for the COD. What's interesting is that it was done after they had all seen The Haunting and after they had started pulling ideas from it for the ride. The design of the door gives that away. This is, of course, a Boo. You're suddenly frightened by the sight of an immanent threat posed by a dangerous Thing you can see right in front of you. Other than the great strength of said Thing, there isn't even anything supernatural here. It's impossible to imagine this door in The Haunting. It looks more like something from the Addam's Family, albeit without the camp.

That sketch was only one in a series. I don't suppose that many of you have ever seen these. Until now. Who loves ya, baby?

Unseen Twists and Turns in the Corridor of Doors