So, on August 9, 2009, our adventure began.
The prize we won was:
• A night in the Haunted Mansion – from 12am – 6am
• 2 nights at the Disneyland Hotel
• A family 4 pack of 3-day park hopper tickets
• A $250 gift card
We met Cindy and TC from Disneyland as well as Roxane and Michael from KLOS at the main gates of the Haunted Mansion a few minutes before Midnight. We had to wait a few minutes for them to cycle the last remaining guests through the ride, including the last three who were hanging around to be the very last to ride the ride on the 40th Anniversary. After the last guests entered, the gates were closed. This gave us the chance to take a few photos.
A few moments passed until a commotion started at the front doors of the mansion. Our host emerged, with a photographer and video crew in tow. These were internal Disneyland communications Cast Members (CM’s).
Our host opened the gates and welcomed us to the Haunted Mansion. We took a very leisurely tour of the graveyard.
This is where I was most uncomfortable because my place is BEHIND the camera, not in front of it. The tour lasted about 10 minutes at which time we proceeded to the hearse.
As soon as we reached the hearse, we were approached by the Butler, who introduced himself, welcomed us and presented us with keys to the mansion, to be used to return to the mansion in the “afterlife”.
The Butler escorted us inside the mansion. We took the left hand Stretching Room to the portrait hallway….with the cameras in tow. Our host allowed us to stop here for a few moments to admire the artwork, then we rode the ride, though at roughly ¼ speed.
I think the reason they ran the ride so slow was to buy them setup time. While we got to see a lot of detail that we’ve never seen before, the real end result ended up being an extremely psychological ride. The ride stopped three or four times, at which point we were CERTAIN something scary was going happen. We thought for sure that things were going to jump out at us at any time. A couple of times the Butler showed up, but never in a manner that would scare us. He was just making sure we were having a good time.
Once we exited the ride, the Host escorted us back to the entrance to the ride. As we entered the Foyer, we were greeted by the Butler, as well as two new CM’s, These were our Disneyland friends that would stay with us for the night.
Also in the Foyer was a large round table with a VERY LARGE centerpiece. The table was BEAUTIFUL!
At each of the four seats was a chocolate casket with our names written in chocolate and sprinkled with edible gold shimmery dust on the lid. Cyndi immediately asked that nobody eat their lids. I’m wondering how she’s going to scrapbook those, but that’s her deal! Each casket was filled with a white mousse, chocolate cake with a raspberry sauce and gummy worms. Also at each place setting was a chocolate mousse martini with brownie bites.
HUGE DISCLAIMER. I TOOK THESE SHOTS OVER A WEEK AFTER THE EVENT, AND THEY TOOK A TOUR AROUND DISNEYLAND ON MONDAY AND THEN A COURIER RIDE TO OUR HOUSE. THE COURIER HAD TO MAKE A SERIOUS EVASIVE MANEUVER TO AVOID AN ACCIDENT, WHICH SENT ALL THE DESSERTS TO THE FLOOR OF HIS CAR. I AM DOING A COMPLETE DISSERVICE TO THE DESSERTS AND DISNEY BY POSTING THEM. THEY WERE FAR MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THE IMAGES SHOW!!!
Once we finished those, we were shown a wreath in the corner of the Foyer. It was beautiful. As a matter of fact, it was fit for a funeral. Uh, oh! On it was a banner saying “In Loving Memory of the Sutton Family”. It also had the Haunted Mansion logo along with the KLOS logo.
The door in the corner opened and two new cast members entered. They looked as if she had been dead since Walt built this place.
They entered carrying eyeballs for us, which were DELICIOUS! They were made of a white chocolate round base and filled with a rounded ball of vanilla cheesecake. Decorated to look like an eyeball, they had to be the best eyeballs I’ve ever eaten.
Well, in true Disneyland fashion, you can’t end an evening of desserts with eyeballs. So, in she came with another dessert. This time, it was brain….with a very tasty bloody raspberry filling.
But wait, you can’t have brain unless you push it down with fingers, which were made of macadamia cookies with a white mouse filling….uh, sorry….white MOUSSE filling. Ooops.
We actually couldn’t finish all of the deserts, so the CM’s asked if we wanted some bags. We thought they meant to pack up the remaining desserts. They came in with three tote bags for the ladies and a Nightmare backpack for me. Inside were a variety of gifts, including the green Ezra-Mickey, scarves, pins, shot glasses for the adults, coffee cups and some other toys.
The Butler entered, pulled up a chair, and opened his big book of stories. He is a phenomenal story teller and told us the story of Master Gracey, his ship and his wife. This story was not recoreded, but he talked about how Master Gracey loved the sea and loved the mermaid on the front of his ship so much it made his wife jealous. So one night, when the boat was in port, his wife snuck down and spread kerosene all over the boat. She then set the boat ablaze. She realized that there was no escape for her and took the helm as the boat sank. What she didn’t realize is that the mermaid didn’t sink because wood floats. Well without his ship, Master Gracey was confined to his mansion and could not return to the sea. So in an effort to escape he hung himself from the rafters of the mansion. He is now the “Ghost Host” of the mansion.
At this point we were over an hour into our adventure, and having a blast. All of the CM’s were great. They were mostly from Guest Services and when asked how they drew the short stick requiring them to work, they were very gracious and explained that based on the historical significance of someone sleeping in a Disneyland attraction, which has NEVER happened, they were excited to have the opportunity to hang out for the event.
The doors to the left hand stretching room opened and sure enough, there was the video crew and photographer again. The Butler let us in and we headed downstairs. We had some fun following along with the soundtrack, of course, emphasizing the “nooo windows and noooo doors…….” section for the cameras.
As we exited the stretching room, we got our first look at our new home, at least for the next 5’ish hours. It was amazing.
The right hand stretching room was converted into a bedroom with four twin beds, one of which was in the shape of a coffin. Jess immediately volunteered for that one. So the coffin/bed was to the right, then a RIP sign, flowers and candles, then Stephie’s bed. The DL photographer asked her to jump on the bed for a fun shot.
Next to that was a bookshelf with a webcam then Cyndi’s bed. Continuing around to the left were 2 end tables. The one next top Cyndi’s bed had a water pitcher/basin. The next one had a lampand then Tim’s bed.
To the left of Tim’s bed was a fireplace with the portrait above it.
Wrapping it up was a desk with Mickey’s laptop and another webcam, along with a load of snacks, including Ding Dongs (arranged in the shape of a Mickey), Twinkies, Zingers, Dorritos, Chewie bars and bananas.
TC and Cindy knew I had posted about the contest on the forums and I think it is the board members’ overwhelming interest in this event, and the fact that I’m active on the boards that gave them the idea to give us a laptop so I could interact with those following along. It really was fun chatting with people and answering some questions as they came in. I do wish I had done a better job of MC’ing the night on the webcams. I could have described the room better, the characters, etc.
The Butler told us that the room was decorated with a mix of general Disney props, some antiques, as well as some antiques that Walt himself selected and purchased. We were in “overwhelmed” mode, so we didn’t think to ask which ones Walt selected. Wish we had.
We were shown where the cast restrooms are, which are located behind the door to the right of the portraits in the portrait hallway. They had the hallways blocked off so that we could not see anything behind the scenes except the bathroom. They had even decorated the bathroom with paper on the wall, a basket with toiletries for us and even stamped the toilet paper with the Disney logo.
We settled in, got into our PJ’s and climbed onto our beds. What was coming? The soundtrack in the hallway played all night. You know the one…..the rain and the thunder. Yup…all night long. Actually, in thinking about it, without that soundtrack, I think it would have been lacking in ambiance.
The Butler came into the room and announced that a scorpion was loose in the mansion and the only way to scare it away was to stomp on the floor. Jess was more than willing to oblige. The Butler excused himself, leaving us alone….with a “scorpion” on the loose.
We waited for a few moments, but nothing happened. More psychological warfare from those diabolical Disney deviants who held our sanity in their hands. Not knowing what we were supposed to do, or what was coming next, the girls started playing Go Fish, (though it was tough to see the cards) while I got my “forum fix”. A few minutes passed when the crew threw a few sound effects at us, which sent Steph into Cyndi’s arms. At this point, Jess was sitting at the computer when one loud thunder clap hit. She jumped up, then 5 feet to the bed, without ever touching the ground. I’ll tell ya, it was pretty loud in there at times. They can really push those sound effects. We found out later that there was a speaker under Cyndi’s bed….the one she and Steph were cuddling on when things got dicey. Nice plan, huh?
The butler entered and announced we were safe from the scorpion…all thanks to the bunch of rats they released into the mansion.
Before the Butler left, we heard a commotion from the hallway. In came the Hitchhiking Ghosts. They looked great. They greeted us and immediately broke out into song (along with the Butler), singing the Grim Grinning Ghosts song. Those ghouls can sing!!!! Their preference is to sing in the key of skeleton. From what I’ve seen on the Mark and Brian webcam footage, they sounded good for everyone. Let me tell you, they were far better in person! Amazing! Once completed, they all excused themselves and disappeared.
The girls played some Go Fish while I blogged a bit. I then hopped onto my bed. As I pulled back the covers, I found a big black spider. Don’t think I jumped or anything. U..uh…knew it was there…really! Uh-huh! This started me exploring. I found 10 or so in my bed and pulled most of them out of Steph’s bed. I did leave a few for her to find. I also found a rat in her bed. It was a very fuzzy, life-like replica.
A few minutes later, we heard another commotion coming. The Butler re-appeared, pulled up the chair from the computer desk. Under his arm was the now-familiar story book. At this point, Steph wasn’t sure whether to be afraid of the stories or not. The rest of us thoroughly enjoyed them.
This story was about the man on the top of the stack of men in the quicksand photo. The story was as follows:
Hub Snigly took the train to and from work every day. He enjoyed riding the rails, watching the scenery and having a chance to read the newspaper.
On this particular evening, he got off the train, walked up the station steps and out into the moonlight, looked around …. Something was different. At first he thought he’d gotten off at the wrong stop. Everything looked strangely unfamiliar. He couldn’t remember where we was going or why he was there. And to top it all off, if he made eye contact with anyone, they reacted very strangely.
He asked one woman the time. She screamed and ran in the opposite direction.
He asked one vendor “Where am I?” The vendor turned and fled, leaving his cart behind.
“There must be something wrong with me” Hub reasoned. All he wanted to do was get home. So he hailed a cab. He was just about to take his seat in the back of the cab when, suddenly, the driver looked at him and sped away.
“What on earth is going on?” Hub wondered. He could not understand what was happening and it was beginning to frighten him.
“I know it’s late,” he thought, “but perhaps I should call my wife and ask her to come pick me up.”
He found a nearby telephone and called her, but did not recognize the voice on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” Hub asked. “Is Mrs. Snigly there?”
“No,” the mystery voice replied. “She’s not in a t the moment.”
“Well where is she?” Hub demanded.
“She’s at a funeral.”
“Funeral!” Hub responded. “I don’t know about any funeral. Who died?”
“Her husband”, the voice answered. “Hub Snigly was killed in a train accident on his way home from work.”
And at that moment … everything went black.
Someone on the forums noted that it seemed like things happened at the 13’s, like 3:13am or 3:43am. We had not caught on to that, but then again, we weren’t watching the clock.
The sound effects continued. The Butler returned after a while to inform us that the scorpion was gone because of all the rats they released, then left as quickly as he appeared.
Again, more sound effects, including a VERY loud cat. Steph didn’t like that much either.
I may have some of the timeline off, but at one point, Jessie needed to use the restroom, so she walked out into the hallway and startled the poor Disney Concierge. She must have jumped 5 feet out of her chair. I was glad to hear we weren’t the only ones that all the sound effects and darkness were getting to!
Ezra, Phineas and Gus reappeared to cap this session off with “Take Me Out to the Graveyard”. Another great performance. The song went as follows:
Take me out to the graveyard
Take me out with the ghouls
Buy me some warm blood and human flesh
I don’t care if it’s rancid or fresh
So it route, route route, for the undeaded
Whe daylight comes it’s a shame
For it’s one, two, three ???? gone
At the graveyard games
At this point, Cyndi asked if we could get their autographs. They kindly obliged and autographed her special book, though they claimed it was “invisible ink”.
The Butler then returned to tell another story…
The 7th Inning Stretch.
Earl and Ned are a couple of good ole’ boys who loved baseball. And they were pretty good. Back when they were kids, they’d been in Little League together. Earl was always the pitcher and Ned played second base. Pretty good. In fact, when Earl was in his 20’s he tried out for the minor leagues and after an arm injury his sports career came to a halt.
They hung out together all the time. So it seemed only natural that Earl and Ned would eventually go into business together. They opened a garage and spent their lives repairing automobiles. And in between oil changes and brake jobs, they always chatted about baseball.
They lived baseball, talked baseball and, when time allowed, watched baseball on their portable black and white television with a bent coat hanger as an antennae.
By the time they were in their 30’s they were both married and their wives referred to themselves as baseball widows because the boys were always watching or going to baseball games.
The years went by, the wives passed and the garage eventually closed. As for the two baseball fanatics … well, they retried to a quiet, little place called the Happy Diamond Retirement Home. At the home, Earl and Ned lived next to one another and still met each afternoon to relive their favorite baseball memories. Their favorite time of year was fall when the World Series was on because this guaranteed that the entire population of Happy Diamond Retirement Home gathered in the media room to watch the series. And even in their later years, they quoted stats, player information and scores.
“Do you think there’ll be baseball in Heaven?” Earl asked Ned one day
“I don’t know,” replied Ned. “I hope so.”
He then had an idea.
“Hey, whoever gets there first should come back and let the other one know.”
Well as it turned out, Ned was the first to get to Heaven. Early waited patiently, day after day, to hear from his old buddy. One day Earl found Ned sitting in his room waiting for him, looking young all over again and wearing a baseball uniform. Earl was so excited to see him.
“What’s it like up there?” he wanted to know. “Do they play baseball?”
“Well Earl, I have some good news and some bad news,” Ned replied. “The good news is, yes, we do play baseball in Heaven. Well, I play second base just like the old days.”
“Well that’s great news Ned! What’s the bad news?” Earl asked.
“The bad news,” replied Ned, “you are scheduled to pitch tomorrow.”
Of course, the scary sounds continued.
The Butler returned to announce that the rat problem was taken care of by the very loud cats, though the cat had left all the rats on the front porch for the Butler to find. And again, he retired out of sight.
Yup, more sound effects. By now, it was somewhere around 4am. I was determined to sleep for two reasons. One, so I could say I slept in the Haunted Mansion. Two, to egg on the spirits of the sound effects button. Mission accomplished, on both accounts. Cyndi was the only one to not sleep. The rest o f us got about 15 minutes sleep.
During the night, the bloggers were active, not only on my blog, but also on a variety of Disney-based forums. One poster suggested that the Butler wake us up and talk to them on the web cam. He was happy to oblige. It turns out there was a group of about 10 people behind the scenes making all the magic, and they were following all of the online action, as well. The Butler entered the room, looked into the camera as said “Hello folks at home. Do you think we should wake them up? I think we should wake them up. Let’s wake them up.” Howling sounds immediately boomed from every direction.
The Hitchhiking Ghosts rejoined the party and the foursome sang “This is Halloween” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.
Again, they all retreated and left us alone with the noises, and our imagination.
A few minutes passed before the butler returned with a midnight snack. He set the silver platter with the requisite silver lid on the coffin bed and left us alone. Cyndi worked up the nerve to lift the lid, fully expecting some sort of spring loaded snakes to fly out. Well, we should have known better. That’s not Disney’s style. Now, what we got was a dead rat on a bed of tomatoes. OK, the rat wasn’t real, but in the dark, the fuzzy pseudo-rodent sure looked real. The best part of it was that as soon as Cyndi lifted the lid, the ghoul on the sound effect machine let out a very loud scream. She jumped, giving the Disney crew exactly what they were looking for. (The computer made a great photo light!)
The Butler returned with his book and read us the following story entitled, Good Shot:
Gern Hunk was a life- long hunter. He lived on a farm out in the country and prided himself on being an excellent marksman with any rifle. Deer, rabbits, even squirrels, were not match for Gern’s gun. Gern’s wife, Sherryl, supported this past time. In fact, it was Sherryl who found Gern his finest firearms and who waited up patiently while Gern was out tracking animals late into the night. Gern didn’t kill for pleasure, he was a true hunter. He ate the animals he shot. What’s more, he cured the meat in his very own barn. He started putting the meat up more than a year ago, but Hunk found bones on the floor, gnawed by fangs. A wild animal hungrily tore the meat to pieces. Hunk decided to hide out in the shed one night, gun in hand, and waited for the intruder.
“I’m gonna get it,” he vowed.
There was no moon in the sky. The shed was pitch black. Gern huddled in the corner, strangely nervous. He tried to reassure himself.
“Why should I be nervous with a shotgun in my hand? I can take down anything.”
And so he waited… and waited. And the night wore on. Well, he must have dozed off because the next thing he knew, he heard growling. Well, not growling, exactly, more like an angry, hungry, snarling wild cat. A very large wild cat. What was it? A cougar? Perhaps a coyote. It was impossible to see in the dark. All he had to go on was the snarling sound and the chewing noises that the strange creature was making.
“That thing’s gonna get my prized buck,” Gern thought to himself. And he aimed his gun into the dark shed, dead center toward the greedy hungry noises. And then he pulled the trigger. BOOM! The noise was deafening in the small shed. And there was a yelp of pain, surprise and fear as the wounded animal, whatever it was, flung itself around the room and finally lunged for the door.
“It ain’t dead, but it sure is wounded,” Gern said to himself. And he rose from his hiding place. That’s when he slipped. He lit a match to see that he was standing in small puddle of the animal’s blood. What’s more, he saw that his expert aim, even in the dark, had blasted off a paw, and a large paw, like that of a giant panther. Well, at that moment he heard a blood curling scream coming from the house. It was his wife, Sherryl.
“No” he shouted! “That critter’s in the house and it’s gonna get her.” Well Gern raced up the stairs taking them three at a time. He reached the bedroom door and flung it open and stopped cold. There she lay, his beautiful wife with her hand shot off at the wrist. He quickly looked into her fading eyes, he thought he saw a pair of fangs receding, just disappearing in her mouth. As he stared at her, unbelieving, Gern swore he heard her make a little growling sound……(they then played cats howling over the speakers)
The Butler asked us to join him in the hallway to view the portrait of Sherryl, putting the exclamation point on his story. We then returned to our chamber.
Then, after things were quiet for a while, the voices came alive again. We were treated to a very disturbing rendition of Ring Around the Rosie. All went quiet for a few minutes, then they chanted again, this time Red Rover, asking us to send Jessica over. I DON’T THINK SO!!!
Again, all went quiet, except the rain and thunder in the hallway. Things were exceptionally quiet for a while, then another very loud sound effect. I don’t remember if it was thunder or a scream, or a cat, but it made Jessie jump, big time. Well, it was at that point that the walls started to laugh. Until then, we didn’t know exactly where the Disney peeps were, but the genuine laughter that emanated from that wall behind our headboards gave it away. This moment was one of my favorites because it made it clear that the Disney people who had to stay up with us all night were having as much fun freaking us out as we were having being freaked out.
Our hosts reappeared once again, carrying a personalized tombstone for us to enjoy until the day we need it for real. It is very cool, and done in the true Disney fashion, with all the detail I would expect on a piece for their graveyard at the attraction.
For reference, it stands about two feet tall and has a ton of detail. The face and wings extrude and all the text is carved. Typical Disney quality.
Around 5:30, the Hitchhiking Ghosts came running in, very agitated. They were begging us to take them home. Cyndi, for some reason, was very eager to comply! The Butler entered and warned us about taking home hitchhiking ghosts.
Again, they left us alone, though the Butler returned a few moments later with personalized death certificates. Are they trying to tell us something? Maybe there will be 1,003 happy haunts sooner than we all thought!
Six O’clock came entirely too soon. We definitely did not want it to end, but we had to be out right on time so they could get the HM cleaned up and ready for the park opening. Jon for the Guest Services team had a Suburban right outside the HM. He gave us a very nice backstage tour, but also took us down Main Street and allowed us to take a family picture in front of the Castle with absolutely nobody else in the picture. That was very nice of him to allow us to do that.
We returned to our room on the second floor of the Wonder tower at the Disneyland hotel just as room service was delivering breakfast. I thought the poor room service lady had come to the wrong room. She had enough food for a small convention. Again, Disney pulled out all the stops. Mickey waffles, bacon, sausage, eggs, oatmeal, fruit, milk, coffee and tea. And I’m pretty sure I missed something. And it was all really good.
We showered, and met Michelle from the Guest Services team in the lobby. She gave us a backstage tour on the way back to the park. Now that the park was open, we stopped at the gate by Splash Mountain and walked to the Dream Suite. We didn’t get to see the living quarters of the Dream Suite, but we sat in the Blue Room, meeting a few more people from Disneyland and KLOS, then we went out on the balcony overlooking the Rivers of America where we were interviewed by Mark and Brian on their syndicated morning show. This was a blast. They were both very gracious and seemed to have fun with us. Brian is a big kid at heart. During the interview, he wadded up a piece of paper and threw it as Stephanie. I was so proud of Steph. She picked it up and threw it right back at him. He then repeated the process with Jessie. At another point, Brian gave Jessie a playful shove on the shoulder. Being respectful, Jessie looked to me with the “What do I do with that?” look. I gave her the nod and smile, and she responded. Brian got a good, firm, playful shove back. She may have pushed him into Mark, I’m not sure. During the interview, Mark mentioned that the Sutton family is now the answer to a trivia question and will be part of Disney history. We had never considered that and, quite honestly, is a tad overwhelming.
The guest on the show just before us, then again after us was Stacia Martin, the Disneyland Historian and artist. She sketched us an original pencil sketch as she we being interviewed by Mark and Brian. Amazing talent, and there was no stumping her on Disneyland trivia! It was great listening to her tell stories about Walt and how Disneyland came to be.
A VERY special thanks to DanYoung from MousePlanet for recording the M&B show, editing it down and emailing it to me. If it weren’t for you, we would have never heard the program we were on! THANKS!
Much of the webcam can be seen at http://www.MarkandBrian.com. I’m not sure how long that will be available, though. Thanks to NotTheQuietType of MiceChat, you can see much of the night on YouTube.
WHAT A NIGHT!
Once done with the interview, our great Haunted Mansion Sleepover adventure was over.
This was an incredible opportunity and the memories will be with us forever. A very sincere THANK YOU to Disneyland, Mark and Brian and KLOS for an absolutely amazing experience!
Thanks to all the forum members and bloggers that stayed up with us all night. You helped add to the fun. I think the most active forums for the night were (in a completely random order!):
Inside the Magic
And a couple of Podcasts we were interviewed for:
Inside the Magic Show 227
DIS Unplugged – Click on the 8/12/09 show and it’s about 1/2 way through.