Illusions and Allusions:
Why the "Happy Haunts" Vocalize at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion
Before X. Atencio wrote the lyrics about "happy haunts" that "materialize and begin to vocalize," a happy haunt was customarily a frequented place, not a ghost. For example, "She loved to saunter through the happy haunts of childhood" (Amy Le Feuvre, "Not By Chance," The Quiver, 1906). Atencio wove his magic to transform a locational haunt's empty space into a ghostly sort of material. There is actually a literary tradition of pairing locational happy haunts with vocalizations. Such passages may have inspired Atencio's wording when he turned old haunts into old singing haunters. Five cases in point might suffice:
Our first example, a musical play, might have been in the possession of Disney's Cinderella team as reference/inspiration material. Morse & Robertson's Cinderella at School: A Musical Paraphrase in Two Acts (1881) features happy haunts alongside merry faces and light voices:
To our happy, happy haunts we go,
With our voices light and free;
And our merry, merry faces show,
That our hearts are ever filled with glee.
Similarly, in Mair Hydref's poem "Tell Me Not My Youth Is Over" (1883) we find "the happy haunts of childhood, / Where I gaily used to sing."
So, too, in The Carse of Stirling, An Elegy (1785): "the happy haunts of love and tranquility naturally lead the poetic mind to celebrate these beauties in song."
In Frances Sargent Osgood's poem "A Sermon" (1850), happy haunts are mentioned alongside woodland choirs. Other language in the poem recalls the Haunted Mansion, such as glistening smiles (if not technically grim grins), "wistful music," distorted faces, a "light-painted flower" (recalling fluorescent paints that glow in black light), and "marvellous mystery."
Finally, in Frederic William Louis Butterfield's The Battle of Maldon: And Other Renderings from the Anglo-Saxon (1900), we find happy haunts in conjunction with music, a graveyard, and the grim grinning liminality of gay laughter shifting to a dirge. (By the way, the reference to the Muses recalls the homage to the Haunted Mansion in Disney's Hercules, in which the Muses appear as singing busts.)
Poetry, Music, Eloquence,
O let your sorrow speak!
Let sister Muses weeping come;
Let all the graveyard seek:
Of happy haunts since you're deprived,
No more can blissful Hippocrene,
No more Castalian spring,
A rippled laughter gayly trill;
Instead, a dirge they sing—
Sad, tearful flow!—and joys of Earth fade
It was innovative for Atencio to distill a locational haunt into ectoplasm, even as associating haunts with vocalizations kept with time-honored tradition. Atencio's frame of reference enriched both his allusions and the Mansion's illusions.
[Note: for a great analysis of Atencio's song, see Long-Forgotten's post entitled "When the Spooks Have a Midnight Jamboree."]