My favorite ride at Disneyland is the Haunted Mansion. This is the story behind how my wife and I created our own version of the Haunted Mansion at home.
Things you will need before you start a project of this magnatude. First, a very, very understanding, patient and supportive spouse. Without this you will head down a road you will wish you hadn't. This is a project that has grown beyond my wildest expectations (and budget)! Second, imagination backed with determination. Afterall, that is what really built the greatest themepark in the world! Oh yeah, and an empty room waiting for a makeover.
I have collected Haunted Mansion items for years but have never had a way to display them, until recently. We have dedicated one bedroom in our house to that collection. It is a small 10'x10' room but has a 11' tall vaulted ceiling. I built a shelf, 7' from the floor, on two walls and light boxes on the other two. This divides the room vertically and allows me to display a lot more items as well as creating separate scenes. The two large shelves display the front of the mansion with the hitchhiking ghosts and entrance columns. I built the columns using real brick veneer and mortar. Everything else that I looked at looked too fake. They weigh a ton! The background photo was taken early one morning just after it had rained. I was the first one at the gate when the mansion opened and was able to get good high res. photos with no one in it, except for a cast member who quickly ducted behind a pillar after she saw me take the first photo. The photo with her in it is the one I ended up using. Took the photo to Kinkos and had it enlarged and printed to a 4'x6' poster which I mounted to a piece of masonite and strengthened with some 1"x2" material. I ended up going back to the mansion to get shots on either side of the pillars and had those blown up as well. I am amazed at how well the detail held up enlarging it to that size. We wallpapered 3 walls, lower portion only, with blue stripped wallpaper that resembled the original wallpaper in the stretching portrait room. Yes, it used to be blue and I have the photos to prove it. The HitchHiking Ghosts came from Disney.com as did the arm wall sconces and the stretching room tapestries. Most everything else came from many, many hours of searching on E-bay.
The most difficult and time consuming was re-creating the scary face wallpaper. I looked into having actual wallpaper made and for one 8'x10' wall was going to be around $1000. That did not fit the budget! Thought about stenciling but it seemed too complicated. Then an idea came to me. Buy a realatively inexpensive vinyl cutter, on E-bay, and make vinyl cutouts. This was a lot more work than I had originally imagined but in the end the result was great! My wife took on the job of hand painting all the white eyes. Each one took two coats because of the dark background of the wall. Then I got another bright idea. Let's have the eyes glow in the dark. She then had to apply two more coats of glow-in-the-dark paint to each eye. We have estimated that she painted more than 1400 scary eyes!
The other big project that was equally time consuming both in design and execution was the door that reveals my Haunted Mansion pin collection. Since we began with a bedroom, the closet doors were bypass doors that took up approx. 42 square foot of unusable space. You couldn't hang anything on them because they need to bypass in order to gain access to the closet.....or could you! Showcasing Disney pins, lots of Disney pins, is difficult to do and more so in a small space. What I decided to do was to utilize the outer sliding closet door to create a display for my pins. I bought a six panel door blank and attached a 1"x2" wood frame to the closet door and to the six panel door. This frame would create a 3" deep recess when the doors were put together. I used a 6' piano hinge to put the two doors together. The piano hinge added strength and stability to the doors. Next, I tapped a template to our living room floor to create the layout that would be for my boxed pin sets. These would be separated by 1x2 strips of wood to form their own shadow boxes. The layout took days to accomplish. Trying to get each boxed set positioned to use up just the right space. In the end, some spaces would be larger than the boxed set just because that is the way the puzzle worked out. All of the 1x2 material was painted black and nailed to the closet door inside of the 1x2 framework that I had previously attached. The areas that were bigger than the boxed set going into it was treated with a background photo of the scary face wallpaper. The same treatment was used for the lower section of that door where I store all of our lanyards. The pin boxes are all held in place with velcro to make them easier to remove. The next process was way more difficult than the boxed sets. I went through all of my individual pins and grouped them as themes, stretching portraits room etc. I then had to come up with appropriate background photos to apply them to and figure out a way to apply them that would not damage the pin and still make them easily removable. Yikes!!! It practically made my head explode but I did come up with a solution that work. I applied photos to masonite board and drilled holes for the pins to go through. Then the problem is that there is not enough of the pin coming through to put a pin back on so I went back to attaching with velcro which worked very well. As I finished each themed set. I created a frame for it, just as I did for the closet door, and attached it to the 6 panel door. This worked really well because I couls adjust each board to fit the available space. Not all boards with pictures were themed perfectly but it still made for a nice display. I even created a few boards that were multiple thicknesses so that I could create a void to mount my spinners to and actually have them spin. You might think the worst of it was over but it wasn't. The door combo looked weird hanging out in space. I told my wife I was going o have to take it to the next level to make it look good. She always gets scared when I say that! Time to make the whole thing look like a real door that goes somewhere (but actually doesn't). I began framing the door as if it were one of the doors in the corridor of doors at the Haunted Mansion. I couldn't match what they have because of the detail and my limited skills but I at least put my version of the scary face mouldings in the corners and used as fancy of molding as I could find at Home Depot. The next problem, I was framing a door, which normally swings open on the hinge side, that had to do both swing and slide. It needed to slide to the right to gain access to the closet but it also had to swing open at least 90 degrees to show off the pin collection. The column on the left and the header piece are attached to the wall and do not move. The column on the right is attached to the door so that when the door slides the column will slide with it but the column also has to rotate 90 degrees to allow the door to open 90 degrees! That's right, if the column is attached in a stationary position on the door, the door will only be able to open to 45 degrees before the column hits the edge of the closet door soooo the column has to rotate 90 degrees as the door swings open. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull this off and have it look/work properly but with the use of another 6' piano hinge and a lot of fudging here and there it works great! My wife added the finishing touch by painting the door faux wood grain. It came out perfect! I really wanted to put the dragon handle on it but have not been able to come up with that as of yet. I'm not giving up on that though. The other closet door got adorned with the scary face wallpaper design and glow-in-the-dark eyes. It truly ended up looking like a door that should go somewhere but really doesn't.
We have a working Madame Leota projection and I am working on the singing busts but that is probably several months away. There is also a motorized 92" projection screen that drops down from the ceiling. Add in a 5.1 surround sound stereo system and a video of the complete Haunted Mansion ride through both standard version and the Nightmare version and that little room rocks! So anytime I get to missing the Mansion I can get a good dose of it right at home.
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"The Build"
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