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Disney World's Haunted Mansion Tombstone Secrets

At Disney World's much loved Haunted Mansion attraction in the Magic Kingdom there is more than meets the eye to the Tombstones that you find outside the entrance.  Each Tombstone is actually a tribute to the Disney Imagineers that played prominent roles in designing and building the Haunted Mansion.  The secret is being able to unlock the clues found in the Epitaphs on the Tombstones.

Haunted Mansion Tombstone Secrets Unlocked
While the casual observer only notices the humorous epitaphs on the tombstones, the Disney World fans know that each epitaph provides clues to unlock the secret tributes to Disney Legends and Imagineers who help create this legendary attraction.

Here Rests Wathel R. Bender. He rode to glory on a fender.  Peaceful Rest

This tombstone refers to Disney Legend Wathel Rogers who was an innovator in the field of audio animatronics.  He contributed to some of the early Disney audio animatronics like the Abraham Lincoln Figure for the 1964 - 1965 New York World's Fair, as well as, figures for the Carousel of Progress. Later he became the Art Director for the Magic Kingdom, as one of his many roles. 

In the above picture we find 3 tombstones.  The first one declares: "In Memory Of Our Patriarch Dear Departed Grandpa Marc."

This refers to Marc Davis.  Davis was known for creating the ideas and stories that went into many of the Disney attractions, such as: The Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion.  He had a knack for creating sight gags that gave these attractions their lasting charm.

The next tombstone says: "Requiscat Francis Xavier, No time off for good behavior. RIP"

Disney legend Xavier (X.) Atencio was an animator that was best known for his contribution to many of the classic songs within Disney attractions.  He started writing these songs because Walt Disney himself told him he would be good at it and assigned him to do so.  X. Atencio is best known for writing "Grim, Grinning Ghosts" &  "Yo Ho A Pirates Life For Me."

The 3rd tombstone is states: "Here Lies A Man Named Martin.  The lights went out on this old Spartan."

Note: Martin is actually credited to 2 different Disney Imagineers in different books and references.

1. Bud Martin was the head of the WDI Special Effects Department working with Yale Gracey when the Haunted Mansion was developed.

2. Bill Martin was an art director and set designer when he join Disney in 1953.  He was a key planner for both Disneyland and Disney World.  In 1971 he became the Vice President of Design at WED Enterprises (the precursor of Disney Imagineering.)

The tombstone on the left says: "Dear Departed Brother Dave.  He chased a bear into a cave."

Dave Burkhart started his career at Disney in 1967 serving as an artist model maker  He built architecture and show models.  Later he became became a show designer and field art producer.  He biggest projects at Disney World  included:  The Haunted Mansion, Swiss Family Treehouse and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The next Tombstone is one of the most prominent stating: "Master Gracey  Laid To Rest. No Mourning Please At His Request. Farewell."

Master Gracey is named after none other than Yale Gracey.  Yale joined Disney in 1939 as a layout artist.  He developed a talent for creating illusions and Walt Disney tabbed him to be part of his team working on the new "Disneyland" project.  Yale is credited with coming up with many of the illusions that you see in the Haunted Mansion.

The tombstone on the left states: " RIP Good Friend Gordon.  Now you've crossed the River Jordan."

The Gordon mention here refers to Gordon Williams, who was an audio designer and Audio-Animatronics expert who worked on many classic attractions at Disney World.

The tombstone on the right declares: "In Memorium Uncle Myall, Here You'll Lie For Quite Awhile."

Uncle Myall is really Chuck Myall, who was an Art Director and Master Planner at the Magic Kingdom.

Hidden on the right, the tombstone reads: "Rest In Peace Cousin Huet. We All Know You Didn't Do It."

Cliff Huet was an architect and a Lead Interior Designer for Disney and involved with the creation of The Haunted Mansion.

The other tombstone reads: "Here Lies Good Old Fred.  A Great Big Rock Fell On His Head.  RIP

Fred Joerger started with Disney in 1953 as a model builder.  He was involved in such classic attractions as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, Swiss Family Tree House, and Tom Sawyer Island.

On the left you find the tombstone that says " RIP Mister Sewell The Victim of a Dirty Duel.  Peaceful Rest."

Bob Sewell was recognized for his model making talent and the work that he did with the Haunted Mansion.

On the right is the tombstone that reads "At Peaceful Rest Lies Brother Claude.  Planted Here Beneath This Sod." 

The Claude in mind was none other than Claude Coats.  Claude started at Disney in 1935 as an Animation Background Painter.  Claude Coats, along with Marc Davis, was instrumental in coming up with the story for the Haunted Mansion and creating the track layout.  In contrast to Marc's sight gags, Claude provided some of the darker elements for the Mansion.

Last, but not least is the special Tombstone for Madame Leota that reads "Dear Sweet Leota, Loved By All.  In Regions Beyond Now, But Having A Ball."  The epitaph certainly refers to the fact that Madame Leota is the one performing the seance with the Crystal Ball within the Haunted Mansion.

Madame Leota is a tribute to Disney Imagineer Leota Toombs.  Leota began her tenure at Disney in 1940 in the Ink & Paint Department.  After becoming part of WED in the 1960's she became involved in the Haunted Mansion project.  Yale Gracey thought her appearance had Gypsy like qualities and asked her to be the model for the floating head Illusion.

Appropriate To Honor These Disney Imagineers
All to often the creative people involved in creating the Disney World attractions are not household names.  Fortunately with the advent of the internet and fan groups like D23, these talented people are starting to get some of the recognition that they deserve.  Credit the Imagineers to have the foresight to add these talented people into the attraction itself through the creation of these Tombstones.

2 comments to "Disney World's Haunted Mansion Tombstone Secrets"

  1. Unknown says:

    Great! Always love the behind the magic - I hate that they're removing them from the attraction! Maybe that's just rumor and they'll go back!? please? :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was wondering where you may have received you information. I knew someone who was there when the words were written on some of the tombstones and their stories are a little different.
    Mr. Sewell's daughter

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