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Disneyland Article
There Is A Secret Cemetery At Haunted Mansion And It Is Not The One You Are Thinking Of
Julie Tremaine
The Matterhorn Bobsleds may have a hidden basketball court, but there’s no other ride in Disneyland that has more secrets than the Haunted Mansion. The 1969 ride, one of the last overseen (at least in part) by Walt Disney himself, is full of surprises and strange legends.

But a secret cemetery? That was a new one, even for me.

There’s a secret “servant’s entrance” that lets you skip the stretching room and instead descend a set of stairs full of Disney Easter eggs.

There’s a secret room inside that has a whole different kind of Disney history attached to it. Donny Osmond wrote on Instagram that when he was filming a special with his brothers and Kurt Russell at Disneyland in 1970, he and his teacher used it as 12-year-old Donny’s school room.

“There was a room on the second floor of The Haunted Mansion in a small corner that was not being used for the ride,” Osmond wrote. “That was where I had school with my teacher during filming. I'm pretty sure that I'm the only person that can claim that The Haunted Mansion was my schoolhouse, and that's why it is still my favorite ride.”

There was even a counterpart to the Haunted Mansion, Museum of the Weird, so creepy that it was scrapped by Imagineers — though you can still see some of that artwork on display in the gallery outside Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln on Main Street in Disneyland.

I’ve been on the ride hundreds of times and love it so much that I used Haunted Mansion ride-through videos as my primary coping mechanism during lockdown, but I had never even seen a hint of a hidden show component outside the ride building. Nevertheless, I kept hearing rumors about a pet cemetery on the grounds, one that if you asked the right cast member on the right day, you could see for yourself.

So, I set out to find it. And I will tell you right now, friends: I failed.

Legend has it that the first pet cemetery at the Haunted Mansion appeared in the early 1980s on the west side of the building. The cemetery was reportedly dreamed up by Imagineer Kim Irvine, daughter of Disney Legend Leota Toombs, who provided the face and the voice of Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion ride.

In the secret cemetery, there are memorials to peculiar pets, like a skunk named Stripey. "In loving memory of our pet Stripey,” the epitaph reads, “You may be departed but your scent will linger on," and many other curious animals, like Penny the Elephant. "Where Pachyderms reside with worms within a tomb most elegant,” her grave says, “You'll find long gone our mastodon Beloved Penny, the elephant."

It became so popular that it inspired other Disney parks to create their own pet cemeteries. Walt Disney World has one by their Haunted Mansion ride exit (and reportedly has a tongue-in-cheek ode to Mr. Toad within it, a nod to the Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride attraction that was replaced by a Winnie the Pooh ride in Magic Kingdom).

The view of Disneyland's original pet cemetery was blocked by the gate around the ride — unless you used the wheelchair-accessible ramp to enter — but it became so popular a more visible one was installed in 1993 as part of the main ride queue. That 1993 cemetery is the one most Disneyland visitors remember. It has tributes to dearly departed pets like Lilac, the skunk, whose epitaph reads ,“Long on curiosity, short on common scents,” and Rosie the pig who, according to her tombstone, “was a poor little pig but she bought the farm.”

But the old cemetery was never removed, and the internet is full of tales of people getting a sprinkle of Disney magic and being allowed to see it. So I set out to see it for myself — and I knew, as soon as I rounded the bend into New Orleans Square and saw the enormous line of people waiting 85 minutes to get on the ride, that it wasn’t going to work.

It was just a few days before Halloween, the busiest week of the year for the Haunted Mansion ride, which gets its “Nightmare Before Christmas” makeover for the season and sees a huge increase in wait times because of the refresh. I walked up to the cast member at the accessible entrance by the ride’s exit, and waited in line to ask her. She must have helped five parties in the five minutes I waited, and she was busy. But it was my only day in the park for all of October, and I had to ask.

“I heard that there’s a secret cemetery you can see if you come in this way,” I asked her. “Is there any way I could see it?”

She looked exactly like you’d expect someone to look who’s busy with more important things, but still trying to be polite as possible. “No,” she said. “We don’t have that anymore.”

So I went on my merry way and enjoyed the rest of my Disneyland day, and then went home to find out everything I could about whether the cemetery really does still exist. Honestly, I don’t know. But I think it does, and that if I had asked at a less busy time on a significantly less busy day, I might have gotten a different answer.

Disney vlogger Live Fast Die Poor managed to get into the secret cemetery, and did a walkthrough of it

The only issue with that video is that it was made in 2014, so it’s hard to determine whether that old cemetery is still there and whether my instinct about being able to see it under different circumstances is right. It could be that too many people asked to see it, and it became too much of a demand on cast members’ time. But it could just be that on another, significantly less busy day, you might be able to have a run-in with a piece of hidden Disney lore.

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