by Paul F. Anderson
Early Sam McKim concept for the Omnimover ride system–a Ghostly Tug O’War.


In one of my favorite Disney films “Song of the South” Uncle Remus sings to us a folk tale of how various things came to be. He sings about how the leopard got his spots, and how the camel got those humps, and even how the pig got a curly tail. This song should be the official tune of Disney Historians everywhere! You see, it always gets me to thinking about all the wonderful details in Disney history and how it all came to be; like there was so much more that Uncle Remus could tell us. Like why does Mickey Mouse have three fingers instead of four? Why does Mickey wear pants and Donald doesn’t? You know important historical questions like these. 

One question I always wondered was how did the Doom Buggy get its name?  Like all good Disney historians (and believe me, there are a lot of them out there), I got to thinking about this and began to research and search for an answer. I had a good mentor when it comes to the Mansion, as my near and dear adopted father Ken Anderson was, of course, also “father” of the first Mansion incarnation, done at the behest of Walt Disney himself. It was wonderful to have Ken around and be able to ask him these Uncle Remus type of questions. I would often call him a dozen times a week with obscure Disney inquiries. I do miss him. So, if you ever wondered where Doom Buggy came from, then you are in the right place, at the right time, and all in honor of Halloween (and Ken, too).

The odd thing about how the iconic name Doom Buggy came to be, is that it was a last-minute decision. With work feverishly underway to get the Haunted Mansion up and running, little thought was given to the actual conveyance in which you would travel. It’s given name for the Haunted Mansion was simply the Omnimover, the name of the ride system. And with previous history where the Pirates of the Caribbean ride vehicle was simply called a “boat” or the Skyway ride vehicle was called a “bucket” the naming of the Mansion’s ride vehicle was apparently not a high priority, if even a thought at all; that is, until four days before the official opening of the Mansion.

On August 5, 1969, a memo was sent to Dick Irvine from Marty Sklar. In that, Sklar states “we have not as yet given this car an appropriate name and I would like to send one to the Park as soon as possible.” Attached to the memo was a list, prepared by Imagineer Bob White, of possible names for the Omnimover. Apparently the various names were collected throughout the hallowed halls of WED, and when you have a group of talented Walt Disney designers and artists that were responsible for the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean, Small World, Carousel of Progress, and so many more, well, they can come up with quite a few creative names for the carriage that will take guests on their ghostly tour.

Some of the more obvious names submitted were the likes of: Ghostmobile, Ghost Coach, and Phantomobile. Several had pretty cool literation: Banshee Buggy, Seance Conveyance, and Ghostly Hostmobile. Some were just way out there, like: Awe-Two-Mobile and One Hearse Shay. A personal favorite would be: The Underground Railroad (freed the spooks).

Out of the list of the nearly twenty suggestions, just three were checked as finalists. They were: Omniusmover, Ghostmobile, and Doom Buggy. We all know the winner. But why? Historians always ask that question. It is not just enough to know the answer, but what is important are the reasons behind it. Well, one need look no further than the period (sixties) and one of the predominant Southern California cultures (the beach culture). Marty Sklar explained in the August 5, 1969 memo the reasoning behind the selection, that Doom Buggy “would have an immediate connotation to the kids relating to ‘dune buggy.’” 

And now, you know the rest of the story! Happy Halloween.


This brief history of Halloween is from “Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club Magazine” fall 1956 (coinciding with the television show of the same name). Happy to report that Jeremy just finished scanning the complete run of this publication from the Institute’s collection, so there will be much to share. The truly amazing thing about this publication is the art and graphic design. The fifties were kind of up and down with the Studio and particularly in the animation department. The result is that during a lot of the down time Walt would have some of his top artists do illustrations and art for this magazine. So inside the run of the publication you’ll find art by Eyvind Earle, Bill Peet, Peter Ellenshaw, Bill Justice, Al Bertino, Bill Evans, and so many more. This particular article features some great, stylized art by Paul Hartley. Enjoy!


Haunted Mansion construction, circa late 1962.
The anticipation for Disneyland guests for the Haunted Mansion attraction after the structure sat in the Park for nearly seven years must have hit the same feverish pitch as my two boys who are in anxious anticipation of going trick or treating on this Halloween Day! As such, have a wonderful, safe, and Happy Halloween!

Pin It on Pinterest

Enjoy this?

Then, share this post with your friends!