Ghost Bride 3

To see more effects and video, click here.


My favorite ride of all time is the Disney Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. As a kid, I longed for the day that I could recreate some of the classic effects seen there. After much research and experimentation, I have begun to perfect this art. Every Halloween I put my effects out for people to enjoy and they are met with great enthusiasm. In order to move on to the next challenge, I am offering up my used special effect to carry on the enjoyment.

An interesting note regarding this Ghost Bride. It was one of the displays at the Marvelous Mechanized Magic Kingdom celebration at the Disneyland Grand Hotel Ballroom. This effect was seen and complimented by two of my most admired Disney Pioneers, Bob Gurr (who designed every ride on wheels in Disneyland, including the Monorail) and X Atencio, the genius behind the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.


The dress is a beautiful and ornate Victorian gown and she has the original, custom-made video with the sweet face that turns gruesome when no one is expecting it.

The mannequin is 6 feet tall, so as you can see, she can be quite imposing.


The video covers the head and surrounding veil and most of the upper torso. The torso shows the chest ribs in green with a red heart beating from behind. The bottom half is a small flood light I purchased from a hardware store with a green gel.

The Ghost Bride is the main focus of the story behind the Haunted Mansion. I hope I have faithfully reproduced her here and did justice to this fascinating character.


To watch the Ghost Bride in action, click here.

Poe Bust & Mausoleum

To see more effects and video, click here.

This year is going to see a fantastic set piece and brand new effect. Last year I successfully created a statue bust where the head seemed to move and watch you. I then took this effect one step beyond what even Imagineering has yet to do, and that is to add a video projection to the moving head! The results were creepy beyond description. To add some class to this effect, I had the bust recite the entire text of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven.


To house this effect, I built my own mausoleum. Made of stretched and painted muslin, wood, and plaster cast decorations, this beautiful set piece. Here is what the mausoleum looks like when it is disassembled.

 Here is a short video that shows my wife and I setting it up in the backyard.

Once assembled, it looks ominous, even during the daylight hours!

The base of the mausoleum sits at 5' wide by 5' long. The height is a menacing 9' high. It comes with a Haunted Mansion-like torch on the side with two flicker-lamps, 6' columns, angel pediment decoration, and 2 large urns (not shown in above, but can be seen below) that house spotlights and gels for creepy lighting.




To watch the Poe Bust in action, click here.

Haunted Mansion Effect - Q&A

You can reach me for questions at rickonline@verizon.net
How far does the projector have to be from the heads?

The provided projector has a zoom, and this will help in placement. The minimum distance is 4 feet. The maximum distance is 5 feet. Now that does not sound like much play, but remember, we are not projecting on to a screen where we can have a grand amount of size possibilities. The heads are only so big, and so must your picture. The advantage to having a close proximity is increase in light falling on the heads.


I am not mechanically inclined. can I set this effect up myself?
It is very easy. You just need to hook up a couple of cords. It will come with setup instructions to walk you through, and I will help you along via email on your first setup. The only real difficulty is getting all four heads aligned.

How much is insurance?
I believe insurance at the PO is $7.70 plus $1.00 per $100.00 or fraction thereof over $600.00 in declared value. It's up to you, but I would highly recommend it. I will pack it all up nice and padded, but we are still talking about some heavy handed delivery people.

What if it rains?

The heads and should be OK, however the special matte paint used is water soluble. A little water is fine since it is cured, but prolong exposure might loosen it. Your projector is another matter. Plan for rain when laying out your electrical connections. Make sure you plug in to a GFI receptacle for safety-sake. Remember, rain happens--so be ready. If it begins to rain, I would shut it down and take everything in or cover with a plastic tarp.

Will people see the projector and DVD player?
Your projector should be in an enclosure that matches the environment. It can fit behind a large tombstone, for example. Make sure that there is ample ventilation in the front and back of the projector or it will overheat.

Does it have to be very dark?
I started the show at dusk. You lose a little contrast on the heads, but it still looks great--albeit, it is better at night.

Do I place the projector low or high?
The video was distorted to accommodate a low projector pointing up. If you plan on using the heads inside and wish to use the projector on a ceiling mount, you may be able to adjust the keystone of the projector to adjust for this.

Outside, keep it on the ground and focus it upward. For best results, keep the angle of the projection toward the head as shallow as possible or else you may get shadows off of the nose.

Is it a big hassle to setup?
To initially setup? Somewhat, but after that you are good to go. The trick is aligning everything perfectly so that the effect is flawless and people stand awestruck. It may take a few minutes to setup, so give yourself some time before dusk if you are outside. Practice before opening night to get the hang of it.

I've tried something like this. How did you make it look so good?
I watched some old specials on the Haunted Mansion construction and effects. I took careful notes, did other research and a large amount of experimentation. Much depends on the actual head surface. The trick is to have a good 3D space to project on When done correctly, your mind immediately sees it is a 3D surface. By far, the modification of the video footage was everything. When you project at an angle, you need to warp your footage to counteract the keystone errors. Also, a technique was used to wrap the head around a 3D surface. It looks very weird in 2D, but excellent on the busts.

The Decapitated Dans




How far does the projector have to be from the heads?

Most projectors have a zoom, and this will help in placement. I pulled the heads out of storage and did a quick test. The minimum distance is 4 feet. The maximum distance is 5 feet. Now that does not sound like much play, but remember, we are not projecting on to a screen where we can have a grand amount of size possibilities. The heads are only so big, and so must your picture. The advantage to having a close proximity is increase in light falling on the heads.



What if it rains?

The heads and hats should be OK, however the special matte paint used is water soluble. A little water is fine since it is cured, but prolong exposure might loosen it. Your projector is another matter. Plan for rain when laying out your electrical connections. Make sure you plug in to a GFI receptacle for safety-sake.
Your projector should be in an enclosure that matches the environment. It can fit behind a large tombstone, for example. Elevate the projector off of the ground, and make sure there is something over it. Make sure that there is ample ventilation in the front and back of the projector or it will overheat. Remember, rain happens--so be ready. If it begins to rain, I would shut it down and take everything in or cover with a plastic tarp.

Does it have to be very dark?
I started the show at dusk. You lose a little contrast on the heads, but hey, it still looks great--albeit, it is better at night. The video and still photos provided above were taken at dusk, and it looked even better at night, but dusk allowed the video to capture the surrounding area.

Do I place the projector low or high?
Treat the heads like a movie screen. If you plan on using the heads inside, I would mount the projector on a ceiling mount. Outside, you may want to keep it on the ground and focus it upward toward the heads. For best results, keep the angle of the projection toward the head as shallow as possible or else you may get shadows off of the nose.

Is it a big hassle to setup?
Not really. The only real trick is that you have to get the four guys very close together and at the right height. This may require some shim work or spacers under the heads. It may take a few minutes to setup, so give yourself some time before dusk if you are outside. The DVD includes a layout grid to aid you in rough alignment. Also, if you are going to use columns, make sure they are very narrow.

Can I use a cheap DVD player?
Sure, no problem. My only caveat is that the DVD player needs a loop or continuous repeat function so you do not have to restart the DVD. Most have this ability, and it is usually found on the remote control. Sometimes labeled as A>B. Read the manual regarding how to do this.

How long is the DVD loop?
The four songs total to 9-10 minutes of play. This was important for those watching for long periods of time or returning for another look.

How do I hookup for sound?
Your DVD player usually has a stereo RCA audio output (red and white). You will need to connect this output somehow to some powered computer speakers. Go to Radio Shack or another stereo store, and purchase adapters from RCA to what ever input is required for the speakers. Place the speakers near or behind where the heads are. This is important so that you increase the illusion that the heads are singing.

I've tried something like this. How did you make it look so good?
I watched some old specials on the Haunted Mansion construction and effects. I took careful notes, did other research and a large amount of experimentation. Much depends on the actual head surface. One mistake I made was using the cheaper mannequin heads that have no facial feature. This is a major error seeing that you lose the effect of 3D space. Your mind immediately sees it is a flat surface. A few modifications to the the more expensive head features and it worked perfect. However, by far, the modification of the video footage was everything. When you project at an angle, you need to warp your footage to counteract the keystone errors. Also, a technique was used to wrap the head around a 3D surface. It looks very weird in 2D, but excellent on the busts.

Where did you get the video footage?
I hired some theater people to pantomime the music. This required memorization of each part of the four part harmony. A real chore, let me tell you! It was not easy and required several takes for some of the more complex songs! It required a bit of doing to get the footage to work right. As I mentioned above, I have developed a method of wrapping the light around the surface of the head, yet still keep the facial features in the right position-even the ears! Something that took months of editing to perfect.

What ever happened to last year's Grim Grinning Ghosts singing busts?
I chose not to sell that effect bundle due to getting a cease and desist letter from the Disney Company. If I ever get an OK in writing from them, I will offer it. My best solution, however, was to come up with my own, custom version. Hence, the Decapitated Dans.