Making Christmas

Where can you find the perfect mix of Halloween and Christmas? Look no further than Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. The old New Orleans Square attraction gets a holiday overlay beginning in September and running through the Holidays.

Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is trying his hand at Christmas decorating. Jack O Lanterns with Santa hats, Wreaths with skulls and spider webs and Scarecrows impersonating the man in the red suit appear on the grounds of the deserted mansion.

Inside, the townspeople from Halloweentown are busy at work getting ready for Jack’s big holiday mash-up.

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Going to Dizzneyland

Do you like to go around and round? Getting dizzy in Disneyland is the perfect pastime. Especially after dark.

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Yo Ho Yo Ho, A Pirates Life For Me

Originally conceived as a walk through wax museum attraction, The Pirates Of The Caribbean has long been considered one of the most immersive dark rides in the world of Theme Parks.

When the attraction opened, Disney found the fake skeletons that the Imagineers had made to be missing “something”. It was then that they decided to use real human skeletons to represent the dead pirates. No one knows when these former cadaver skeletons from UCLA were swapped out with fake ones. But today, only one set of bones are the real thing (or so the legend goes.)

According to some longtime cast members, look for the skeleton in the big bed as you sail through the cavern. Behind his head is a skull and crossbones that is noticeably darker than the other bones in the attraction. This has never been acknowledged by Disney but one can only imagine.

Pirates of the Caribbean was the last attraction that Walt Disney worked on before he died in 1966. The cost to build it was over $8 million, coincidentally, this was the same amount the United States paid for acquiring New Orleans as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Over the year’s the attraction has has several updates. Actor Johnny Depp starred as Captain Jack Sparrow appeared in The Pirates Of The Caribbean films. Captain Jack appears in the attraction several times.

The Pirates themselves became more politically correct over time. The infamous Wench Auction scene now features the townsfolk bringing their valuables to the auction master to be sold.

Helping sell off the town’s prized possessions is Red. You may remember her as one of the brides up for auction. Now, she has joined the pirate raiders and is helping with the proceedings.

If you’d like to join this band of marauding pirates, just take a visit to Disneyland.

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Something So Familiar

One of my favorite parts of any film studio is the backlot. The Warner Bros. Studio saw many classic films produced in their backlot. From Spiderman to Annie, used the famous Hennessy Street set.

Originally called Tenement Street, it was renamed Hennessy Street after Art Director Dale Hennessy. Hennessy was the Art Director for John Huston’s movie “Annie”. He redesigned Tenement Street to represent Annie’s New York city and the Orphanage where she lived.

If you saw the Movie “Gremlins” then you may recognize these steps down to the basement store where Hoyt Axton buys his son Gizmo. Unfortunately, the magical shop doesn’t exist at the bottom of the stairs.

The many fire escapes set the scene for Tobey Maguire’s and Kirsten Dunst’s upside kiss in “Spiderman” and Prince’s “Purple Rain” cover.

Around the corner from Hennessy Street you may see Hazzard County from “The Dukes Of Hazzard” where the Bo and Luke Duke would raise cain.

Even the Tanner Family from “Full House” have a house on the backlot. If you expect to find Uncle Jessie or Kimmy Gibbler hanging out on the front steps you will disappointed. It was only used once for a photo shoot and never appeared in the original series or the new version “Fuller House”. Even star Candace Cameron featured the fake Tanner House on her own Instagram.

There’s so much more to explore at The Warner Bros. Studio. For more information on tours check out this link below.

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The World Of Harry Potter

Fans of The Harry Potter series will be excited to see some of the film’s iconic props up close and personal at The Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

The candy store, Honeydukes was full of wizarding world confections. Check out the detailed graphics on these candy packages.

Creatures from the films, costumes and concept art are in every corner of the gallery. The life size Dobby was made for the scene where Harry buries him at the seashell cottage. I wouldn’t recommend getting too close to Aragog.

Fantasic Beasts is also represented in the exhibit. You can take an up close look at Gellert Grindelwald, Johnny Depp’s wicked sorceror.

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The Prop Shop

Did you ever wonder where TV shows and Movies get all of the “Stuff” to make their sets look real? One of the stops on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour takes you through The Prop Department.

If you need a library full of leather bound books or a creepy skull, look no further. Propsmasters and Set Decorators comb through the stacks and stacks of things you never thought you needed. You can even rent the Samurai armor from “Inception” or President Bartlett’s desk from “The West Wing”. Keep your eyes open, because you never know what you might spy.

You can check out some of the items for rental at the link below.

https://property.warnerbros.com/

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Hooray For Hollywood

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Los Angeles is great way to get an up close at movie making from one of Hollywood’s legendary studios. It was Warner Bros. that released the first talkie, “The Jazz Singer” back in 1927. Since then, “Casablanca”, “The Music Man”, “Friends” and “ER” have all worn the Warner Bros. label.

Casablanca was filmed almost entirely on the backlots of Hollywood. The famous flashback scene of Bogie and Bergman looking out the window above Cafe Pierre lives on as the last standing set from the film.

Batman, my favorite super-hero has a strong presences on the lot. The facade for Police Headquarters in the 1960’s Adam West of Batman stands. There was only one shot of the facade taken and re-used for multiple episodes as the caped crusaders ran to Commisioner Gordon’s office.

The Batman garage features vehicles that span the history of the Batman franchise. Keep an eye out for Jared Leto’s Joker mobile, Christian Bale’s Tumbler, Batmobile’s from Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the Dark Knight.

Jason Momoa’s “Aquaman” is also featured on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. You can sit on the Throne of Atlantis and hold Aquaman’s trident.

You can also see original costumes worn by Gal Gadot and Chris Pine in “Wonder Woman”

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Marilyn Monroe’s Mirror

The four-star Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Blvd is one of the area’s most haunted hotels. It seems that some guests just refuse to leave. One such guest was the legendary, Marilyn Monroe.

The Roosevelt Hotel is named for President Teddy Roosevelt and was financed by Hollywood elite, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Louis B Mayer of MGM. Among the Hotels’ guests were Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Montgomery Clift (who still paces the halls of the 9th floor.)

Among the treasures of the Roosevelt is a particular mirror that used to be in Suite 1200 during the time that her modelling career was flourishing. Some believe that she comes back to the spot where she spent some of her happiest days. In the 80’s after a lengthy renovation, a mirror from the suite was relocated to an alcove off of the main lobby near the elevators.

One day as an employee was dusting the mirror, she noticed the reflection of a pretty blond woman. She turned around to say hello, but there was no one there. But, when she turned back to face the mirror, the woman was still there.

Marilyn is not the only spirit that haunts the halls of the Roosevelt Hotel. A ghostly apparition manifests on security cameras in the hotel pool. When security goes to investigate, there is no one there, yet the camera shows the swimmer standing next to the security guards.

Caroline is a five year old girl that likes to skip around the lobby singing and 2 gentlemen haunt The Blossom Room. One is seen wearing a tux, the other is heard playing the piano. Guests have been locked out of their rooms, the switchboard receives calls from empty rooms and yes, Montgomery Clift is heard practicing the trumpet he played in “From Here To Eternity” outside room 928.

The Roosevelt Hotel is operational today and, if you dare, you can book a room and discover if it’s haunted for yourself.

https://www.thehollywoodroosevelt.com/

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Spending the Afterlife in Key West

Looking for somewhere to spend Eternity? Look no further than the Key West Cemetery. If you’d like to preview your everlasting rest stop, start at the entrance at Passover Lane and Angela St. and pick up a free map at the office.

The cemetery was built in 1847 after the original cemetery was washed away in a hurricane a year earlier. Bodies were discharged from the sandy graves and drifted down the street. Some reported that even after the waters subsided, there were bodies stuck in trees around the city. To prevent the horrors of the flood, the new cemetery was built on the highest ground in Key West. Some of the new gravesites are above ground like in New Orleans.

Walking around the cemetery gives you the impression that this is it’s own little city. Populated by the dead, chickens and iguanas.

Here lie the graves of Key West’s famous residents. See if you can find “Sloppy Joe” Russell, Hemingway’s fishing guide and famous bartender. Popular epitaphs located around the grounds showcase the eccentricities of the Key West population.

If you “Remember the Maine” stop near the entrance where there is a fenced in area that contains the remains, known and unknown of many of the 260 sailors killed in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898. An explosion occurred by accident and not a Spanish mine, as was originally thought. William Randolph Hearst and other newspapers shouted ‘Remember the Maine!’ and was the beginning of US involvement in the Spanish-American War.

Visit the grave of Norm Taylor aka Captain Outrageous. He legally changed his name to run as mayor of Key West. Visitors to the gravesite often leave offerings of Mardi Gras beads to let him know that he is remembered.

A giant Florida Conch marks the grave of Sir Peter Anderson, Secretary General of The Conch Republic. Sir Peter was one of those colorful people that made Duval Street so much fun.

As you wander among the graves and enjoy the sun bleached marble headstones, look carefully and pick out your future spot.

The Friends of Key West Cemetery website has information on the famous and infamous buried here. Check it out below…

http://www.friendsofthekeywestcemetery.com/

A memorial to Captain Outrageous can be found here…

https://captainoutrageouskeywest.blogspot.com/

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My Ghost Story – Encounter in Key West

Francisco Marrero, a cigar maker from Cuba, built a beautiful home at 410 Fleming Street, Key West. He hoped that it would to lure his love, the beautiful Enriquetta to join him on the island. They lived happily married for many years having 8 children together. Unfortunately, Francisco had already been married in his home country. After his death, his first wife found out about the second marriage and the mansion in Key West. Six months later, she arrived on the island with her lawyers and Enriquetta was evicted from the mansion with her children. Standing on the street as she was thrown out she cried “Esta es mi casa para siempre y nunca me voy a ir” “I will always remain in spirit.” The first wife, Maria Ignacia Garcia de Marrero sold off the house and all its contents and returned to her home in Cuba. Within a few years of being tossed out on the street, Enriquetta and all 8 children died of Tuberculosis or diphtheria.

I stayed at the Guest House with a small group of friends, we had asked specifically for haunted rooms. I was in Room 18, Enriquetta’s old room and my friends were in the front room that had been the children’s nursery. A doorway between the two rooms had been plastered over and a large Armoire stood on my side of the wall. When I first entered the room, I noticed a strong smell of a very flowery perfume. The basket of potpourri on the dresser was old and had no scent left. I took this as a sign that I was welcome in her home.

My friends decided to hit the pool upon checking in and went to my room for a nap. It’s a long drive from Orlando to the Keys. The bed was comfortable and I fell asleep with no problem. When I awoke a short time later, the armoire at the end of the bed was standing wide open. It had been locked shut when I entered the room. Upon further inspection, I was locked in my room. The privacy lock wouldn’t open and the host was unable to unlock it from the outside. He ended up crawling across the small roof form the next room and climbing through the window. After forcing the door open I was able to join my friends downstairs on the porch.

We met the housekeeper who informed us that we had just missed a television crew. They had been filming a haunted travel documentary and Enriquetta was not happy about it. She told us that when Enriquetta is upset, she likes to walk through her. This feels like a freezing cold spasm through her body that only lasts a moment. The housekeeper had a special relationship with Enriquetta and was very careful to try and keep her happy at all costs.

On my last night in the room, after hearing the sound of empty bottles being dumped from a nearby bar, I drowsily looked up to see a figure standing in the window. I can only imagine that it was Enriquetta. The clattering bottles pouring into the dumpster had disturbed her and from the scowl on her face, she was pissed. I was still too sleepy to comprehend what I was seeing, but it didn’t strike me as odd at the time, that the woman in the room was only visible from the waist up. Even more so, when she dissolved into the early morning, I simply rolled over and went back to sleep.

Enriquetta’s spirit can be gentle and playful. Sometimes, playing pranks on her guests or softly brushing up against them. The sound of her children crying was also reported during our stay. I can safely say that, Marrero’s is HAUNTED. Check out these links for reservations and more of Enriquetta’s story.

http://marreros.com/

https://southernmostghosts.com/most-haunted-places-in-key-west-5-marreros-guest-mansion/

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